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Old April 2nd, 2008, 12:36 PM
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Paul Motter Paul Motter is offline
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Default Who are the Burkes, Really?

Windjammer Cruises had an incredible following in terms of loyal repeat passengers. On my last cruise, a sail ship somewhat similar in looks to a Windjammer ship (because it used sails) I met some past Windjammer cruisers who described their love of Windjammer ships to me.

The onboard atmosphere at Windjammer was descrbed to me by members of the message board "Flotilla" and the ones I met as like no other.

The reason, simply enough, was the crew. The boats were actually in ramshackle shape, needing paint and the sails repaired. But everyone loved the crewmembers. At cocktail hour free rum was dispensed, along with wine at dinner. After dinner, entertainment was free-form, but it often centered around the crew.

The crew would be on deck to interact with the passengers - there were presumably no rules requiring them to stay in their quarters. Some people on my last cruise told me the crew would come out and sell their own handicrafts to the passengers, for example.

But this is the Windjammer people remember. Meanwhile I personally never sailed on one. So my recollection only has to do with my dealings with the owners of the company - the Burkes, and my interviews with people who knew them directly.

The Burkes took this cruise line and used it as a front to convince hundreds of people to part with their hard earned dollars; pre-paying for cruises in blocks of five and ten, which they were never to receive.

First of all - pre-paying for cruises five or ten at a time is NOT a standard practice at all. I had never heard of it before. I am not even sure it is legal (I heard from one expert it is not).

Even worse, they convinced many of these people to do this with a glossy brochure of a time-share ship they were "in the process" of building, but they never even started to build it. The ship hull they bought to make this vessel is rotting away in Trinidad.

So, bottom line. While the cruisers loved Windjammer the experience, the people running this company took full advantage of this "love" to take lots of money from these people which they have never paid back. Research shows that as much as $10 million was taken in as pre-paid cruises, and that possibly $3 to $4 million worth of those cruises are probably still outstanding and will never be fulfilled.

So, my question to people who were bilked out of your money is, how do you feel about the Burkes? Are you in the mood for "healing," as described by the webmaster of the Flotilla, presumably mourning your loss on the way to letting it go?

Or are you more in the mood for seeing the Burkes brought to justice and getting at least the satisfaction that they will in some way have to pay for what they did?
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