8/14/99 – 8/21/99
This was my 3rd trip with Peter Hughes liveaboards and it was again a very interesting experience and a lot of diving. I just returned and have a hellufa schedule ahead this week, so right now I will just have to write my first thoughts together and will do a spellcheck and re-write maybe next weekend. And there are a lot of interesting pictures coming up. Buddy Susan must have filled 4-5 rolls of film underwater.
Trip Report Peter Hughes’ cruise on the Wave Dancer around the Belizian Atolls 8/14 – 8/21 1999
Travel, or “Houston, we have a problem”
Why does my luggage only get lost in Houston, and only on the way down, when I actually need my divegear ? Well, to start, Terminal C at Newark Airport Saturday morning at 8 is not really a beautiful sight. I have never encountered lines like that, in front of the check-in inside and all curbside check-ins outside. There was virtually not enough space to accomodate all these people… nightmare I dare say. But to my surprise, the flight was on time, we arrived in Houston on time, where i had a 1.5 h layover, enough time for Continental Airlines to lose my gearbag. I arrived also in Belize City on time, but it took a while to figure out that it was of course my bag that was missing. To make a long stroy short, gear arrived 48 hours later by speedboat and i have a couple of neat T-shirts and shorts now, paid by Continental.
The more you go on liveaboards, the more you compare among the boats. This one is somewhere between the Seadancer and the Winddancer, making the Winddancer IMHO the nicest boat (setup wise). The cabins were spacey enough, I enjoyed the single 6’2″ berths and mine was not squeezed between walls so I could let my feet dangle. The diving area is professional as usual, the dining area I found a little obstructed by a bar / buffet console right in the middle. The boat looks a little worn out, which is probably why they are getting it refitted in October. Some new rugs and new paint (and new deck chairs and it will look perfect again. While the “TV/VCR” in each room is a great neat creature feature, it also made social life a little “non excistent” …. many people would just grab a movie and go watch … we did the very same thing …
As to the food, outstanding as I am used to from a PH boat. I have never head such a great (huge) lobster steak. It is hard to compare among the boats, but I still rate Stan on the Seadancer the best, though I guess on the Wavedancer they may have a slightly higher budget to work with. This was by the way the only time that I slightly felt that the trip was 500$ more than all the other trips I have taken before…
Slightly dissapointing ! After all the great stuff you read about Belize, I expected more … here some quotes from 8/99’s RDS magazine: “… from countless wild dolphins to massive reefsharks.” – I only saw 2 dolphins (quite countable) at the surface, no shark on that trip at all. Another qoute “You’ll actually have to stop pointing out wild dolphins to your buddy after the first dozen or so.” – hmmmm, I would have loved to get started with that at all. What we actually saw a couple of times were beautiful spotted eagle rays. Then the occasional Baracuda, some morays, big Tarpons, tons of jawfish in the sand, a lovesick grey angel who actually tried to kiss my mask 4 times (no kiddin) and one small turtle.
Some of the wall structure reminded me of Habitat Curacao’s Housereef Nos Kas lacking the abundance of fish. Other walls were just “dramatic”, really breathtaking. As to the viz, no complaints, some dives in the 50-80 ft range, but some very well exceeding 100 ft.
I actually liked the blue hole and would do it again (he, would I miss any dive possible at all ???). The temp was nice 82-85 F, good enough for a 2 mil shorty, though as soon as my gear arrived, i changed to my 5 mil shorty, I just lost all body insulation :). I was wondering at times why we were going to the same dive sites again and again … 23 dives in total but only 10 different sites.
Rants ? Any ?
Hmmm, actually, no, none really. Just some little things. The problem is, that with each and every trip one gets more and more spoiled and sets the standard higher. So, dive crew was great, but did not outperform themselves, there were moments when I missed something, like with my lost luggage, I had no idea who was really in charge with that, it was not clear who was the “hotelmanager” of the operation. Let’s say it was overall a good solid a little over the average (like 105%) where you just got used to getting 150%.
Summary Well, first of all, as said before, I never really saw, why I paid 500$ more then for the Seadancer, the WindDancer or the Caribexplorer. Actually the diving fell a little short compared to T&C e.g. (well, I am a wall-junkie :). One thing that also bugged me a little (which is nothing that PH can do about) was our group chemistry. Like on the Caribexplorer, when you have a large group of people who already know each other, and who change table arrangements to sit together, you get an overall lower amount of interpersonal dynamics. This and in addition the “each cabin VCR”.
Comparison time: best boat: the wind dancer, I have to do the GDT tour on it one day. Best crew: Seadancer, I am still amazed how they got all that stuff done with only 5 people. Best group: The Seadancer whackos It was just a fantastic group interaction. Best Diving: T&C. Best food: see above, tie on all 3 dancers I have been too, but the whole dinner setting and everything (a “real” bar) was great on the Winddancer. I would love to give a “best of” to the wavedancer, I just cannot comeup with one right now, but I really enjoyed the time…
would I do it again ? Yeah, after I did the Wind and the Seadancer again, but definatly before the Caribexplorer.
On a sidenote, we had a rather sad incident on board but respecting the people involved I will not get into detail. I just have to say that the crew as well as all participating guests dealt with the situation professionally, competent and disciplined. I don’t think that more could have been done. Anyway, my heart goes out to Cook, it was nice diving with you and chatting with you guys over dinner.