Around the world, mostly in North America but including a whole bunch of countries on six(?) continents, people are sad, freaking out, hopeful, angry, desperate, poor, judgmental, warm-hearted, condescending, self-righteous, understanding, resolute, upbeat, and soooo many other things. All because of one thing.
The “Life At Sea Cruise” is over before it even launched: kaput, acabado, termine’, owarimashita, bitti”, etc. A message that was “as close to an official announcement as is ever likely to happen” was sent to us, yesterday. I’m not going to try to tell the entire story here, it would take too long and my daughter is here for Thanksgiving so I’m going to post the “news” and leave the color commentary, and details, for later, probably much later. Sorry – family first.
Here’s how it appears at this point, and let’s be clear that I don’t know “facts” that won’t possibly change. But what is in this post is my take on the best we know now based on very few objective facts and a lot on what we’re told. The opinions I include below (and there are many) are based on comments from the Residents only “Portal” (forum) and a hastily formed “Seeking Legal Advice” group on WhatsApp (I despise WhatsApp/Meta) from the ex-Residents and on a few individual contacts.
When the time came to actually pay for the MV Lara for the trip, the investors who had agreed to back the project “backed” all right, but they backed off. The “situation” in the Middle East was stated as the reason for their decision. Lots of speculation on other possible reasons, especially by a few residents commenting with inexplicable certainty in the lack of any real facts to depend on. In some cases, their derogatory declarations of what “must have” happened, or blame, are based on self-righteous hallucinations turned into belief. (If you missed it, that was opinion.) With some people, that usually takes over from reasoned analysis in times of stress. (I consider that as fact.)
There is most definitely genuine and understandable stress, in abundance. People have sold, rented, or mortgaged their homes to be able to take this trip – which isn’t going to happen now. Some of them are still at home and are minimally affected, some of them are couch-surfing on friends’ couches or spare bedrooms, some of them are in Istanbul waiting for a ship, any ship, that (almost without question) will not show up, one says they are in Istanbul without the financial resources to fly themselves home, some are planning other cruises as close to NOW as they can possibly make it, others are despondent and have no idea what to do, and the rest are in situations that pretty much cover the universe of possible outcomes and feelings. At least one is relatively unstressed, disappointed of course, but comfortably situated in Middle America taking care of his health and starting to envision what might take the place of the Life At Sea Cruise. That particularly fortunate (in some ways) individual is sitting behind my keyboard.
What all of us have in common is that a significant amount of money, a very significant amount that varies by individual, was deposited with a cruise-that-isn’t-happening company that has promised, in writing, to return all of it. We’ll have to wait and see, companies being companies. People being people, some of them are seeking some kind of guarantee (which will simply not be there) of getting all of their money back, with various degrees of decorum and logic behind their demands.
My personal reaction is to understand the anxiousness but to be exasperated with the inevitable few who create disaster scenarios in the face of hypothetical futures and express their frustrations by being mean and spewing absurdities behind the safety of the internet. Anyone who has engaged in a “discussion” with varying opinions or understandings of fact knows it is impossible to do that through comments on the internet. Doh. (That was also an opinion if you missed it.) I know it is entirely human to do this, it happens all the time. And, personally, I don’t like or have much patience with that part of what it is to be human. I don’t think it’s necessary. It, for sure, doesn’t help, and my strengths are not in being endlessly understanding and accepting. I also have what appears to be an unusually high tolerance for ambiguity. That’s me, live with it.
Which is also what “they” are also saying when challenged on their statements, of course. So the rest of us are suffering through relatively few individuals’ reactions, most of which try to masquerade as legitimate strategizing. My hardship is a pittance compared to some, of course, and there are those who would fault me for having an opinion, at all. But it doesn’t matter what glasses one looks through, bullshit is bullshit, self-delusion is painfully obvious unless you’re the perpetrator, and the contributions made by the great number of extraordinarily understanding and caring people are unfortunately almost always in danger of being drowned out by the few with less generous outlooks that feel entitled to having the last word.
Thanks for listening to my rant. Now, moving on.
The CEO of the cruise product has parted company with the cruise-that-isn’t-happening company and has already set up a preliminary arrangement with another company that may, I repeat MAY, be able to produce a ship and a cruise departing in March or April. She, and the Board of the new company, are working very hard to make that happen. In the midst of the turmoil, she is also doing her best to inform and communicate with what seems to be about 150+ participants in the Residents-only website forum for the now-defunct cruise and to handle their collective angst while setting up an entirely new cruise. I’m not sure it is even possible. But she has my unqualified personal admiration and support. She is doing her best to simultaneously have empathy for very real effects of the cancellation on people’s lives, having to deal with the mean-spirited and worst sides of the relatively few people who just want someone else to take responsibility for their own actions in signing up for what was known to be a first-time, therefore risky, venture to begin with, and trying to set up an entirely new company and cruise that needs to find a ship that will cost more than $100 M with a new Board of Directors and investors that will be driven by potential profits, not empathy. As I said, I admire her — without reservation. She, like everyone, is a human being and has made some mistakes and owns up to having done so. I will help her out in any way I can. She is an admirable and nice person. Things are sometimes harder for people with those two traits.
At this point, she is the most likely entity I can find who might actually create a venture that I signed up for, even if it doesn’t happen when I was expecting it to. The “Cruise” aspect of this trip was never what attracted me to it. It was seeing how people would react and create a community in the face of a new adventure, the inevitable challenges of the unknowns, and life together in a relatively confined space for a long time. And it would (will?) give me the privacy (my own cabin) and time to write.
I’ve already made some good acquaintances who may become good friends. I’ve already found a large group of like-minded people I’d like to get to know better. (Also a few that I know, now, to avoid.) That was the whole point for me. The trip is already a success without even departing. It doesn’t look like what I expected it would look like, of course. But, at this point, until most or all of the money invested is actually returned, it’s been an expensive success. But a success. nonetheless.