Windjammer Barefoot Cruises - The Wind Is Sucked Out Of Passengers' Dreams on August 30, 2007
Taking a cruise aboard a ship that has unhappy employees is never a good experience. But, take away the earnings of those crew members for three months straight and it is a pretty safe bet, the wind is going to get sucked right out of the warm fuzzy passengers were expecting from their voyage.
This is what passengers are saying about the financially troubled and much too ambitious Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. The firm is being bought out by a private equity, TAG Virgin Islands (TAGVI).
TAGVI is purchasing the troubled Windjammer Barefoot Cruises (WBC) home based in Miami, Florida from the investment trust that administers it on behalf of the Burke family who founded the company in 1947.
The company tried to expand far beyond their reach with a failed plan that included expansion of their fleet through the purchasing and refurbishing of a vessel called The Discoverer, renamed the La Mer, and selling timeshares of the vessel to customers.
The timeshare scheme was a flop, but that didn't stop WBC from taking money for timeshares that investors say gave them back nothing in return. The timeshare turned into a money pit and WBC had no choice but to try to make those angry timeshare buyers who had invested in the scheme happy. This resulted in a cash flow problem to normal operations.
More miffed, are the crew members waiting to get paid. TAGVI has publicly stated it would pay the workers, but the Wall Street Journal reported on August 23, 2007 that many crew members had yet to be paid fully.
Some crew members have simply left, unable to endure any more time without a salary, and that has contributed to the grounding of the vessels with no crew to sail the ships. Other crew members have stuck it out, hoping to get one big check when things are settled up.
Add to the list an enraged passenger base, some of them long time loyalists and things don't get any worst. Labor disputes grounded two of the four ships in the company's fleet over the past week, leaving vacationers stranded and out thousands of dollars for vacations they can't take, or forced to put up with substandard conditions and shortened vacation times. It would seem their cash went to float the timeshare investors.
Passengers say they arrived to board and the ship was not there. They were forced into substandard land accommodations and had the voyage that they eventually got to take cut short by days. Some passengers, flew to Aruba to take their cruise, and were left stranded there, with no voyage at all. They had paid for their cruise, and were not prepared to keep themselves on the tiny island.
Angry passengers flooded online sailing and cruise forums with tales of shoddy ship maintenance, lack of food and amenities, and crew members who were very vocal about not being paid for several months.
Even if things get straightened out, the loss of crew members trained and experienced on that particular type of vessel, being replaced by new crew members, can not be a good thing for customer satisfaction in the coming months.
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