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Dive Review of Peter Hughes -- Star Dancer in
Papua New Guinea/Milne Bay

Peter Hughes -- Star Dancer, Aug, 2012,

by Maria Chapman, TX, US (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 6677.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving PNG, Galapagos, Indonesia, Caribbean, Canada
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather rainy, cloudy Seas calm, choppy, currents
Water Temp 78 to 81 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 15 to 30 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Own computers, no deco.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas 1 or
Dolphins 1 or Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 2 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 2 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments This is an old boat that has a small two tier camera table on the dive deck with two small battery charging shelves at one of the corners. On this trip the facilities were adequate as there were only four divers with large housings, the rest of the divers either point and shoot set ups or no cameras at all. Otherwise the camera table and charging facilities would have been completely inadequate.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 2 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 1 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 1 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments This boat should not be operating at all. On this trip there were six crew for 11 passengers (cook, steward, night watchman, engineer/dive guide, new photo pro, captain). We had hot water for one day (our group leader brought the spare part used for the one day before it broke). There was no Nitrox and upon inspection we found the compressor casing was cracked. The captain stated they were working on it but had no parts to fix it. The desalination plant was not working properly and we drank slightly salty water until the last day of the trip. All these are problems that should no appear on a 4-5 star hotel, which the Dancer is compared to on the Dancer Fleet website and brochures.

The most important thing is this dive boat is UNSAFE and severely under staffed. Safety current line is taken out when the last crew member surfaces, not when the last diver is out, occurring during moderate to very strong currents. In most cases, the engine on the chase boat is inadequate to fetch more than one diver that may have been swept by the current, specially if they are separated. There is no board on the deck to account for divers, the only means is when they ask each diver for time and depth; this is done long after surfacing and sometimes not at all. The engineer/dive guide chews betelnut through the day and is mostly in his own world under water and while watching for divers on the dive deck. As divers, we were offered to try betel nut several times by our captain. Several times we woke up late into the night to find locals on the dive deck drinking and eating with the night watchman. While we were told that sometimes the Village Chief is invited to partake with crew and guests (and this happened a couple of times), it is very unsettling to know that thousands of dollars in equipment are easily accessible. The photo pro was new to the boat so we could not expect much, but nevertheless she acted as if on vacations.

The Captain acted as dive guide on most dives having to do several jobs onboard just to attempt to provide what was expected and paid for. This leaves the question: on a boat so understaffed and with so many dives conducted with current on the bommies, what happens if the boat becomes un moored and both captain and engineer are underwater? At the beginning of the trip we were told that the current safety line was to be used for our safety while descending or ascending with current, but it was taken out by the last crew to surface because this is what we always do per the Captain. There was never a crew member u/w until the last diver surfaced and we were never told that taking the current safety line with divers still down was their practice.

We stopped diving altogether after the afternoon of the fourth dive, when we found no current line at the mooring to ascend (with pretty strong current). We hung unto the mooring line at the surface with 3 plus swells until one of the customers heard us and told us the chase boat was being used to get another diver that was swept by the current. Knowing we could not count on the engineer/dive master to help or even keen an eye on us, we decided the safest choice was to hang unto the line until the boat became available to pick us up.

We have been passengers on this same boat on their Kimbe Bay itinerary and on the Komodo Dancer and we never encoutered any of these problems. Both the cook and the steward did a great job during this trip, and their attitude was exactly what we expected from the Dancer Fleet. We understand that the Captain did more than his share of jobs during this trip, but at the same time mistakes -sometimes grave mistakes- will happen when the person entrusted with our safety is overworked.

This is unforgivable and unacceptable.
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Subscriber's Comments

By Alice Ribbens in MN, US at Sep 04, 2012 16:17 EST  
Yikes--this is the boat that is supposed to become the new Thailand Aggressor. Hope they overhaul it before it moves to Thailand... (or maybe the crew is why they are moving it.)
By Maria Chapman in TX, US at Sep 04, 2012 18:16 EST  
I believe the new owner will do that. The Captain is just overworked and trying to do too many jobs in an understaffed boat with no spares, and the crew will probably change with the location. The Dancer used to be a very good boat and hopefully will be again. My wish is for the company to take customer's input seriously and change/repair/review so their reputation and product remains high in this competitive industry.
By Holly Bent in HI, US at Oct 04, 2012 12:34 EST  
It appears dancer/aggressor have lost the ability to maintain their standards. Such a shame as they were a great. Quality and caring about the consumer is no longer a priority.
By thomas j dwyer in HI, US at Jul 04, 2013 19:53 EST  
I was on The Star Dancer in April, 2012. I found the conditions to be extremely disappointing. I have been diving with Peter Hughes since 1986, I could not believe what I was experiencing.... broken shower with little or no hot water, No nitrox, slightly salty drinking water. Just a mess, never again!!
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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