This was my 4th trip aboard an Aggressor/Dancer fleet boat, and about my 20th liveaboard trip. By far it was one of my best to date. The diving was eye-poppingly amazing, the crew was fabulous, and the overall experience was one I find hard to match in all my previous diving.
I flew into the international airport on September 24th, and was met outside the arrival terminal by Karim, one of the dive guides on the boat. Note: if you fly business class, your bags will be marked to be taken out first, and should wind up on the carousel ahead of the rest. After waiting for 4 other people, we got on a van and drove for about 20 minutes into Belize City, to the Radisson Hotel Fort George dock, immediately behind the hotel.
Our bags were hauled to the boat by the crew. Once on board, I grabbed my personal gear and found my stateroom (the number was printed on a sheet on the bulletin board, right inside the main deck door). My room was small but functional, with 2 single beds side by side. A small closet sat at the foot of 1 bed, with hangers supplied. I shared it with a solo German diver, who was very fond of his Speedo swimsuits. On the plus side, good towels were supplied, as was hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, and liquid shower soap. There was even a small hair dryer provided.
Aboard the ship, footwear is really optional. I brought sandals, but only for shore trips. The rest of the time I was barefoot, as were most of the passengers & crew. Setting up the gear was straightforward. I got my assigned tank slot from a crew member, and had plenty of room to put all my gear together on the stern dive deck. During the trip, the nitrox fills varied from 26-30%. I was offered a reduced nitrox rate to make up for the lower percentages. This was a nice touch, and considering the workout that the nitrox blending equipment gets, it was reasonable.
Diving in Belize in September was awesome. After a few years of doing trips to the Socorro Islands off Mexico, in water 77F/25C, I was really happy to be recording temps of 82-85F/27-29C! A 3mm wetsuit was fine, and several people were using shorties. One guy actually went with just a rash guard shirt and shorts, and was fine. Underwater, the scenery was amazing. Visibility was generally good, and we had lots of animal encounters, with moray eels, spotted eagle rays, sharks, and turtles. I especially like rising up to the top of a wall and coming nose to nose with an eagle ray swimming off the sand flats over the edge of the same wall! Dolphins were reported underwater, but I never saw them. We did see quite a few riding the bow wake of the boat. During the night dives, many people reported seeing octopus, small transparent squid (I saw several of these), slipper lobsters, and a few crabs. Large tarpon often cruised around us, using our lights to hunt by. We even saw a few sharks on the night dives, which was pretty thrilling! After doing a checkout dive or two, we were left pretty much alone by the dive guides, once they judged that we weren't going to kill ourselves underwater. Buddy diving was strongly encouraged. We spent almost all the trip cruising around Lighthouse Reef. As mentioned above, lots of fish to see, with common sharks and eagle rays. There was abundant soft coral, which looked to be in good shape. Turtles showed up now & then too. We did a couple dives around the Turneffe Islands, which I passed on, due to the strong appeal of a nap. The trip favourites for dive sites seemed to be Half Moon Cay & Long Cay. We also did a trip to the Blue Hole, which is weather dependent. It’s really a unique dive, and well worth seeing. One afternoon a shore trip to Half Moon Cay was offered. I declined, favouring a long nap instead.
The food was very good, in my opinion. Buffet style for breakfast, lunch, and a couple of dinners. Otherwise, dinner was table service, on tablecloths. I packed a nicer collared shirt for dinner, just for a change. Our chef Gerry, and assistant Jean, did a great job during the trip.
I got an ear infection during the trip, which put a crimp on my diving for a day. Be sure to take whatever medications you need for the trip and the diving. I was without any meds, stupid me. Some good advice would be to bring ear drops, motion sickness meds, pain killers, and anti-inflammatory meds. Also some waterproof medical tape for binding toes and fingers
Something good to do when the trip ends, is to leave spare batteries on the boat. I left some odd-sized batteries, CR2 and CR123 sizes, in case other people after me came up short for cameras or dive computers. You never know.
Overall I had a fantastic time aboard the ship. The captain, Megan, seemed to have a bottomless well of energy, and was always ready with a smile and good advice. The rest of the crew were friendly but seemed tired. Considering that this was the 2nd of 2 back-to-back 10 day trips, I can't say I blame them! My best compliments to Captain Megan, First Mate John, guides Karim & Conway, engineer Simon, chef Gerry, and assistants Jean and Alia.
I would definitely go back on this boat for another trip. Overall, it was one of the best and most scenic trips I’ve been on in the Caribbean. Belize has never failed to impress me underwater.