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JoeyandDavid

Struggling cruise line's clients left stranded

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Stephanie Clarner was looking forward to seeing her extended family on a Windjammer Barefoot Cruise in February. She already had invested $5,000 in cruise and flight reservations.

But word on the Caribbean Sea is that the line is sinking in financial waters. This week it temporarily canceled its cruises.

"We have no one telling us what to do," said Clarner, a manager at a Northeastside Kroger. "The toll-free number is gone. The Web site is gone. They just disappeared into the night.

"Thank God I bought trip insurance."

Windjammer is a 55-year-old sailing cruise line popular for its casual approach and stops at lesser-known ports of call. It has four ships (64 passengers on the smallest and 130 on the largest) and a loyal following.

"When you Windjam, you become part of the club. . . . It's like an extended family," said Clarner, who planned to make her third trip with her husband.

The Wall Street Journal and the Miami Herald reported Windjammer's predicament in August. But the Web site now is disabled, and no one at company headquarters in Miami Beach returned repeated phone calls from The Indianapolis Star.

The Herald reported Tuesday that the family trust that owns Windjammer has been searching for a financial partner.

Suzanne DeCellis, vice president of travel at Indianapolis-based AAA Hoosier Motor Club, sent an e-mail to Indiana AAA agencies advising them of the problem.

"Windjammer is not one of our preferred vendors, and we normally would not sell them because of their instability," DeCellis said. "And certainly right now, we would do our best to steer you away from it."

The four Indianapolis Carlson Wagonlit Travel agencies, which have sold Windjammer trips, also have suspended bookings.

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Sure a great reason to have travel insurance huh?

Interestingly, many travel insurance companies have "watch lists" and "Will not insure" lists that can be a good resource in this area. The most common companies being "watched" or not insured are airlines in financial trouble. US Air, for example, has been on and off the Travelguard list several times.

Cruise lines are rarely on these lists (Ok, NCL comes close from time to time) but this story brings up a more important concern. Sure, one may be covered for the financial loss and that's good. But what about the ruined vacation itself? It would have been nice to know, before all the planning, that cruising on Barefoot might not have been possible. They could have made other plans.

I guess that's a risk you take when booking little niche cruise lines though.

:rolleyes2:

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Ouch! IIRC the Renaissance line or perhaps some other one went chapter 13 in the middle of a cruise. Passengers were stranded while on a port stop and the ship was seized in port. :sad2:

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I think that was Premier (the Big Red Boat people). They stranded people in Halifax when the ship was seized. I don't beleive Ren stranded anyone, but it's been a while so I may have forgot those details.

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I am not sure but I recall a co-worker telling me about her being stranded in the Carribean or the Bahamas but that was quite a while ago. Maybe it was Premier then as well.

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