Cruising Aboard M/V Sea Dancer
Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
by Tina Robinette-Miller - Island Dreams Travel
Copyright © Island Dreams
Island Dreams' excellent Manager, Ms. Tina Robinette-Miller, provides this report. A widely traveled diver, with almost twenty years in the travel industry, Tina is a bona fide expert. We hope you find her first-hand report to be value. As Tina is not an underwater photographer, the photos accompanying this report are kindly provided by Joe Mihm. His contribution is greatly appreciated.
The Turks and Caicos island chain consists of seven inhabited islands plus 30 small cays. With small colorful umbrellas adding a hint of color along the sandy white strand that meets azure waters, the beaches are picturesque beyond belief.
My journey began in Providenciales, the International entry point for these picturesque islands. The M/V Sea Dancer was my home away from home live-aboard for the week. Though not the latest vessel in Peter Hughes' excellent fleet, Sea Dancer is a very comfortable boat providing easy access between the dining salon, dive platform and cabins. It is also equipped with a unique salon area that can offer either fresh air or air conditioning. We boarded Saturday afternoon and were immediately shown to our respective cabins.
My cabin (Owner's Suite #6) was equipped with two twin beds that provided storage under each bed. (Other cabins have one queen bed or an upper/lower configuration.) Although the space was more than I needed for my clothing I would highly recommend the use of soft-sided luggage. The shower stall was small but adequate and although we didn't have climate control in our cabins it was totally comfortable. The staff is more than willing to assist you with adjusting the air conditioning in your cabin... all you have to do is ask.
Throughout the week I was aboard, the staff did a phenomenal job. Not only were they knowledgeable in their area of expertise but also full of good humor and very enjoyable to be around. The staff consisted of Ben the boat captain, Stan the chef of 16 years, Franklin our steward, Nina in the boutique and dive deck and Darren our photo pro and resident comic. A delightful crew!
Four or five dives were scheduled each day. Night dives were offered on four of the mid-week nights. Typically, this cruise would have offered an abundance of Caribbean Reef Sharks and Eagle Rays. We saw plenty of sharks, but no Eagle Rays, though on the cruise prior to mine, the guests had seen as many as 14 Eagles Ray on a single dive. The dive sites started at Provo's Northwest Point, proceeding to West Caicos, and then on to French Cay before returning to Provo. The diving is primarily walls beginning at about 60 plus feet with some good shallows in the 40 - 50 foot range. It's easy diving - 90% of our dives were without current. A few mini-walls provided a good shallow dive option with an abundance of cracks and crannies to be investigated.
Northwest Point was the location of one of my favorite dives called Thunder Dome. A metal structure in 40 feet of water placed there by the French in the 70's for a reality-based predecessor to our Survivor TV show. The "dome" was one of the tests of endurance and was abandoned with the show. Since that time two sides have fallen down and lay on their sides and the other two sides remain. Totally encrusted now it has become part of the reef and home to numerous critters. We did this dive twice and I thoroughly enjoyed it both times. The opportunity to dive a spot more than once allowed us to converse with our fellow divers about their findings, get a good idea of their location and then return for advanced "critter spotting."
French Cay is the location for Caribbean Reef Sharks. Upon arrival at the first dive site three sharks greeted us, all at least 5-6 feet in length. They circled the boat the entire duration of our mooring there. Although curious they were set in their purpose of circling the boat allowing each of us plenty of time to observe them and obtain a close up look. After a few such dives we took them for granted... a real shame as this is the first Caribbean dive destination I can think of to get an almost guaranteed up close and personal with a Caribbean Reef Shark.
Diving off the back of the boat was easy. Gear up at your station, step down the stairs backwards, collect your fins from the dive deck staff and proceed into the water. The boat is also equipped with a Deco Bar at 15 feet for a comfortable safety stop. A warm shower was a nice touch for those just getting out of the water. It was an extra luxury when we were wrapped in a warm towel by one of the staff after the shower.
The last dive day was Friday, and a 24-hour rule of diving before flying is strictly observed. Because many of the guests depart early on Saturday morning, only two morning dives are offered on Friday, at 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. If you are taking the 7:45 a.m. flight out on Saturday morning they will allow you only the first dive. The second dive is only for those flying out in the afternoon.
We were back at the Marina by 1:00 p.m. on Friday, leaving plenty of time for shore options. I took advantage of the spa services at the Marina Hotel on the hilltop with Spa Tropique. A European facial was my choice but they offer a wide variety of treatments on their menu... massage, hot stone treatments, mud wraps, reflexology, scalp massage and manicure or pedicure or even some "packages". It seemed too good to be true to do a few dives in the morning and then immerse myself in the luxury of a facial in the afternoon. Yes, it's a difficult life but someone has to do it!
For more information, and value packages for divers and non-divers alike, contact your Adventure Experts at Island Dreams Travel. It is our pleasure to serve you. Best regards, Tina
Copyright © Island Dreams