CruiseMates newsletter


This picture shows the actual Windjammer Legacy bowsprit carving of Captain Burke, founder of Windjammer, at the wheel of a ship and holding a bottle of beer.
11.22.2007


Investigative Cruise Journalism?

In looking at the Windjammer Barefoot Cruises debacle, we were overwhelmed by the rapid decline of this popular company. Sadly, the liability for lost cruise deposits could reach into the millions of dollars,
and all because no one was paying attention to this little cruise line that preferred to "sail under the radar."

And so we feel it is our duty to examine what happened, so we know what to look out for when buying cruises in the future.

The story of Captain Burke and Windjammer Barefoot Cruises begins with a claim that he won his first cruise ship in a card game, and that is just the first little white lie used to build the company. Within two decades, he was at the helm of a six ship, multi-million dollar cruise line. Windjammer is the only cruise line to lose an in-service cruise ship catering to North American passengers in the last 30 years. Their Flagship, the Fantome, sank during Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and has never been sighted. Fortunately, all of the passengers had been let off two days before it went down. Sadly, some 31 beloved crewmembers went down with the ship.

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After this tragic loss the cruise line was struggling, but the family came up with unique and clever ideas to save the company. They successfully to pre-sold cruises to hundreds of vacationers by buying a dilapidated cruise ship and showing people plans to turn it into a beautiful timeshare cruise ship. Unfortunately, the ship was never built although millions of dollars were invested by people paying for timeshares. Yes, these sales were very possibly illegal, but many of these customers will very likely never collect on the cruises they paid for because Windjammer no longer has any ships at all in service.

And what is the kicker to all of this? Windjammer is still selling cruises, or so their web site says. You can plan a cruise on any of four different ships. The only thing they fail to mention is that none of the ships are currently operating. Most of them are actually currently non-certified to carry passengers and even "under arrest" for non-payment of fees and bills.

This is the story of a prominent Florida family who lived a dream life growing in their father's castle with live sharks swimming in the moat. There were trips around the world on their father's ships, and as they grew up they carved out their own companies within Windjammer Cruises and piled up enough money for homes in the best Miami neighborhoods.

The cruise line is still "operating!" But in just the last six months, since their father was declared mentally incompetent, they have lost millions of dollars, and sadly, there was even a death of one of the acting company presidents as he disappeared for nine days and ended up in the Miami morgue.

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People reading these articles report hearing the theme song from "Dallas" playing in their mind. It reads like a novel, but it is all true.

And you can only read this entire story in CruiseMates. We took the time to investigate what happened, starting out by writing just enough to create a rough sketch of what we could find out. Eventually enough people read what we had written and contacted us to fill in the blanks. Now we have the most complete picture of happened with Windjammer that you will find on the Internet, and it truly reads like a novel.

Start your reading here: Windjammer Cruises -- the End of an Empire, and don't miss the final chapter, Windjammer: The Deal That Got Away.

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new feature articles

Windjammer: The Deal That Got Away
How Windjammer went from a viable cruise line to a band of brother (and sisters) on the run in the space of three months. blue arrows

Windjammer Cruises: the End of an Empire
Here is the complete story on the rise and fall of a cruise legend, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. blue arrows

Windjammer Cruises: The Saga Continues
As Part Two is revealed we see that Windjammer continues to fight despite all odds, while sources updating this story for us give us less hope of a revival than ever. blue arrows

Putting Things Into Perspective
Are all the reports of mishaps involving cruise ships and their passengers really as bad as they would seem? blue arrows

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Reader Contributed Cruise Reviews!
We have thousands of cruise reviews written by people like you. This week's review:
Windjammer Barefoot Cruises S/V Legacy by Lee Wurschmidt. I would insist on written confirmation of everything I was told by anyone in their Miami office as they do not seem to value their word!
- - We also wants articles by aspiring travel writers. Get More information.
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