Here's the "truth about this mess" as I believe it. This bear cruise--regardless of who was selling it-DID start out at Rita Olwell travel as I believe this Paul guy worked there at the time. When you work for someone else and sell an idea through them, it should and does become their idea-because you work for them. For whatever reason, Paul left Rita Olwell travel and wanted to take his ideas with him. I don't know of any business where it works like that. To see him write that he doesnt want to get involved in all this mess is a joke. You never see or hear the Rita Olwell people saying negative things about the other group but every where I look, Paul or Chumley are saying bad things about Rita Olwell. It's all about the money. I have been involved in the bear community for several years here in Fort Lauderdale and don't know nor do I know anyone that has ever met Paul at ANY bear activities here. And there is a very strong bear club here--The Bears of South Florida. Seems like if Paul was involved in the bear community, someone would have heard of him outside this cruise-not so in my case. And I have talked to many many people to see if they recognize his name and none did. There was also mention in one other post that someone went through their regular travel agent to book the cruise. According to what I have been told by the Chumley group--if you don't book through them, you can't go to their parties. I have been told by the Rita Olwell group that they are going to try and make it so that anyone that wants to attend one of their parties can-of course there might be a fee but at least they are trying to incorporate the different groups. Maybe I am wrong which I hope I am. But I have to believe someone is not telling the truth about "their numbers". It should be about fun guys. And I intend on having fun regardless of the different groups. I just hate to see some one or some groups try to divide my bear brothers. We dont need this. Think about it--we are a small group of gay men on a large mostly straight cruise and to divide this group into other groups pisses me off. Thats all I have to say.
Well here is how I see it....Yes, Rita did sell the first cruise, HOWEVER, Chumley who lives in Philadelphia HIRED Paul in Ft. Lauderdale to book the first cruise. Paul worked for Rita. Paul no longer works at Rita. Chumley decided to do this again, contacted Paul who is selling the cruise from the new agency. Why would Rita own rights to the name of the cruise.....If that can't be seen, I totally give up.....Why should Paul attend bear events? He's a travel agent working under the person who HIRED him for the 2nd year in a row. He's doing his job.
This should not continue here, this is a new string, no sense subjecting these nice people here on Cruisemates to TWO strings of nonsense. Please go back to the original string.
This is the first time I have come across your posting, so I thought I would try to clear up some of the facts that seem to be missing.
I contacted Paul Stalbaum last year, someone I have known for many years and with whom I had booked previous cruise groups in recent years. As of this time last year he was working for a Ft Lauderdale-based travel agency.
Again this year, I contacted Paul to book our group, and he told me he had left that company, which frankly was fine with me- it was his work that I had been satisfied with, certainly not the agency, who frankly, other than making a considerable amount of money off of my group, I had had no contact with at all.
A few months after we had booked the October 31st sailing and about 2 1/2 months after promoting it, we were informed that someone else had also booked space on the very same sailing, and was promoting it as their '2nd annual Bear Cruise'.
Following the success of our group, quite a few new '"bear cruises" have popped up, which is to be expected, and I welcome as many positive bear/bear-friendly events as possible. Only one actually booked the very same ship and sailing, guess who? That said, you might imagine that if you had put the amount of hard work and energy into presenting a quality product and someone came along and apparently tried to confuse people into thinking they were selling the same product, I imagine you might want to protect what you had created as well.
When contacted by a representative from that agency, I suggested that we might in fact be able to work something out, but was rebuffed with threatening language and remarks.
As for saying "negative" things about the other group, we have simply attempted to make sure the word got out that there was another group that LOOKED like us, but was not us. We have never said anything negative about this or any other agency; although we have clearly tried to make it clear to anyone interested in joining our cruise that we can only cater to our group: although we are planning quite a few on-board events that will be open to anyone who wishes to attend, some will in fact be specifically for those in our group... I wonder how you might think I would be able to plan for someone else's group, not knowing their numbers or interests, or even their names? My goal is to provide the very best cruise possible for the men who sign up with us. As for anyone else on the same sailing, that is great, the more the merrier, but we have exhausted our attempts to make this an amiable situation, as the representative from the other side seems determined to "ruin this cruise for everyone involved" (a direct quote from one of his bizarre e-mails to me).
As for Paul, you probably wouldn't know him from the bear community down there, and there is a good chance you wouldn't know me either, as I am in Philadelphia. Apparently there is also a misconception that this is a Fort Lauderdale-based event, but our group represents men from more than 30 states and at least 3 other countries. We appreciate the hospitality from bars, resorts, and other Ft. Lauderdale venues, but we market nationwide, not just regionally.
With regard to someone not telling the truth about "numbers", I can assure you that we are currently at 155 men signed onto our group as of mid-July, and we have never advertised any number that was not already under deposit. The last profile I saw for the other group was listed as 160. If that is true than we can expect more than 300 bears on the ship, which would be a great thing for all concerned. On October 31st we will all see what the actual numbers are.
It is unfortunate that you seem to be so upset about the current situation, but the fact is that it is not one which I have created. I am proud of my past events, all of them, and in particular the amazing men who sailed with us last year. I invite you to ask any of them about their experience with myself or our cruise in general.
It is my guess that you have, at some point, worked with a travel agent for a vacation? If so, I would hope that following your trip that agent or agency might have contacted you, sent a postcard or made a phone call, to ask how your experience was? Being an Event producer, I know the value of contacting those I work with and making sure everything was satisfactory, that is, in fact, what the travel business is all about, isn't it? If not, then what is the purpose of a travel agent in this day and age, simply to make money off of you? Last year I brought more than 100 people in our group on the ms Volendam, and I had never even hear of anyone else from that travel agency until this garbage about Paul taking business away. That's right, not a phone call, not a Thank-You note card, nothing... not for me, or for any of those men that sailed with me.
Ultimately, Chumley's BearCruises is booked with whatever travel agent I decide to book with, and that is never a given. Who I choose to work with will always be determined by who I decide will provide the best service and price to my guests.
Thanks for your interest,
-Mark Chumley Singer, Philadelphia (BearCruise@aol.com)