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.
|Be Sure to Check Out CruiseMates' Royal Caribbean Bargains Just for you!|
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.
New SeaMiles Credit Card
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.
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.
Windjammer Cruises: the End of an Empire
Here is the complete story on the rise and fall of a cruise legend, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises.
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.
Putting Things Into Perspective
Are all the reports of mishaps involving cruise ships and their passengers really as bad as they would seem?
NEW YORK TIMES:
"Many sites that offer reviews are selling cruises, which raises questions about impartiality. An exceptions is CruiseMates."
"The Web's best site for articles, advice, or chatting with Cruise People. Self-financed and run independently of the industry, so their opinions are impartial"
7 nights in the Eastern Caribbean.
Carnival Freedom, Thanksgiving, 2007.
John Heald Blogger Cruise
Carnival Freedom, January 19, 2008.
We have the best prices available, from $532 pp plus a $100 shipboard credit and CruiseMates cocktail party. Click in for details!
A 14-night transatlantic cruise.
April 2008, from Florida to the Caribbean then to Europe including the Canary Islands, Spain, Florence Italy and ending in Rome - starting as low as $699 per person. This one is filling up fast!
Celebrity Solstice - New Ship!
Sail on Celebrity's next generation ship, Celebrity Solstice, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl on Jan. 11/ 09, with all your CruiseMates friends and your host, Kuki. Calling on San Juan, Puerto Rico - St. Kitts, St. Maarten, and returning to Ft. Lauderdale.
Kiplinger's Magazine named CruiseMates to its
Top 25 Best Value Travel Sites for 2006
CruiseMates is the most useful cruise-review site. We especially like its advice columns, which are written for people of different ages and interests.