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Dive Review of Dancer Fleet/Star Dancer in
Papua New Guinea/Milne Bay

October, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Michael Judd, OR, US
Sr. Reviewer   (11 reports)
Report Number 6289
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Indonesia, Caribbean, Cocos, Red Sea, Palau, Philippines, Coral Sea,
Seattle
Closest Airport
Getting There

		

Dive Conditions

Weather
sunny, cloudy  
Seas
calm  
Water Temp
80   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
2
Water Visibility
40   to 80    Feet  
 
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
yes  
 
Enforced diving restrictions  
No deco - Nitrox depth limits  
Liveaboard?
yes 
Nitrox Available?
yes 
What I saw
Sharks
1 or 2 
Mantas
None 
Dolphins
None 
Whale Sharks
None 
Turtles
1 or 2 
Whales
None 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Corals
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
 
 
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
N/A  
Boat Facilities
N/A
Overall rating for UWP's  
N/A  
Shore Facilities  
N/A  
Comments
[None]
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Accommodations
3 stars
Food
3 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
3 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
N/A  
Snorkeling
N/A  
 
 

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
Beginners
2 stars   
Advanced
4 stars    
Comments  
Bottom line at the top - Area great, boat and operator just OK.
It's a long and expensive trip to get to the boat, which leaves from Alotau
on Milne Bay, PNG.  Figure a full two days travel each way, and around
$3000 airfare from the US (the leg to and from Port Moresby, where Air
Niugini has a virtual monopoly, is the expensive piece).  There are only
one or two flights a day from Port Moresby to Alotau, on either Air Niugini
or Airlines PNG, so don't plan on easy connections.  The good news was that
neither airline charged the "excess" baggage fee their rules
provide for the local trips (anything over 16 kg) - the reason wasn't
clear, but I didn't argue.
The Star Dancer is not too impressive.  On the good side, the cabins were
large and the air conditioning worked well.  A lot of little things could
have used repair, however, such as the rocking toilet and the drip from the
ceiling (fortunately just water, and not over either bed).  The worst
mechanical problem was the malfunctioning fresh water system (apparently
not a new problem) - we drank salty water for much of the trip, although
for the last few days there was good water in the dining room, but not in
the cabins. 
Overall, the food situation was mediocre.  While the food was prepared
well, the selection and quantity were limited (big eaters would not have
been happy).  For those who like snacks between meals, the only option was
a cookie jar.  On the positive side, the galley ladies never forgot to
provide alternatives to those of us who are picky eaters (no fish for me,
no beef for my buddy).
The majority of dives were strides from the water-level dive platform at
the stern of the big boat, which worked fine.  The dive stations were a bit
crowded for the 16 divers on board.  For some reason (we heard various
explanations) it took a few days to consistently get nitrox at 32%.  Divers
could either follow one of the local dive guides (there were usually two in
the water) or venture on their own.  The guides were generally helpful and
considerate both above and under water.  Briefings were generally adequate,
although a few times there were wrong guesses on the expected current.  The
biggest complaint, heard from most of the divers, was the itinerary.  The
pattern was to do two morning dives at one mooring, then move to another
nearby for the two afternoon and one evening dive.  In addition, the
majority of dives on the ten day trip were in the same small area.  We did
not go to a number of the locations specified on the Dancer website, and
there was no rough weather to blame for this.  (There were also none of the
village trips mentioned in the on-line "Planning Guide").  The
result was that while the dive locations were generally good, it sometimes
got a bit boring repeating the same or almost the same dive on many days
(although it certainly cuts down on the fuel expense).  Many of the sites
had at least moderate current, and some drift dives would have been
appropriate - with only one small outboard boat, however, this could not be
done.
Under the water, Milne Bay provides very good diving.  We regularly saw
pipefish, seahorses, octopi, anthias, anemonaefish, a wide variety of angel
and butterfly fish, plus a few cuttlefish and scorpionfish.  There wasn't
as much for those of us who like the big guys:  a few whitetip sharks, a
couple of grey reef and the occasional epaulet shark at night;  two
mid-size manta came by to check out the boat at one location, providing a
swimming opportunity, but I saw none on any dive; once in a while a small
group of barracuda.  Unfortunately, at least some of the residents of the
area are evidently in the shark finning business to make some cash.
Finally, something hardly unique to Star Dancer: the Captain refused to
tell us the split of the tip money.  This almost invariably means that the
"officers" (three Americans in this case) are getting a bigger
slice of the pie than the rest of the crew (in the interest of political
correctness, we'll call them "the locals").  It's not a secret
when there is an even split.  Enough said.
In summary, Milne Bay is a great place to dive, but the Star Dancer could
make it much better.  Our overall impression was that unfortunately the
focus was as much on saving money as enhancing the guests' experience.
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Subscriber's Comments

By tdwyer at Jul 01, 2012 16:57 EST  
I reported on my trip in April, 2012, why wasn't my report posted. The boat
was awful!!! No nitrox working, shower sprayed all over!!! Desalinator not
working properly, drank slightly salty water all week. Crew did their best.
Boat should not be in the water!!
By eagleray at Jul 01, 2012 20:08 EST  
Thomas, We never received any trip report from you.  Perhaps you didn't
finish the submission process after your entry is presented for review.  
You can submit your trip report again. Dave Eagleray, Undercurrent
webmaster
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