Eventually, this post may end up under “theship>history” but as of the moment, the status of, and future of, the ship we’ll be living on for the next three years or so is unknown to most of us—including it seems (unfortunately), the staff of Miray Cruises. This post is a combination of an explanation for those who may not have been part of the saga but are considering joining us, and my impressions of the as-yet-unknown specifics or how it will all turn out.
A brief history. When announced on 1 March 2023, this cruise was going to be on the MV Gemini, a ship owned by, and doing Mediterranean cruises for, Miray Cruises, the owner of the Life At Sea Cruises brand. When the management team changed in May 2023, Miray decided to obtain a new ship expressly for this voyage. They described it as being larger, much nicer, and with much more room per passenger, but couldn’t give us the name of the ship they were buying due to cruise industry/maritime and business norms, probably even legal requirements, of not releasing that information until the deal was final. I wrote a quick note to the Team expressing that I LIKED MV Gemini as a smaller and probably more “cozy” vessel for a three-year trip with a community to be built. Oh well. Maybe we’re better off this way. Time will tell.
As an aside, when I say “the Team” from this point forward, I refer to Kendra Holmes (CEO of Life At Sea Cruises), Ethem Bayramoglu (VP Marine & Port Operations), Natalka Brodnik (Sales Director), and Robert Dixon (Itinerary Planner, and lots of “other stuff” but I’m not sure of his title.). I will also specifically mention Vedat Ugurlu, the owner of Miray, but do not include other members of the Miray team listed on their website only because I have not seen as much of them on webinars, emails, etc. Only because I am not as personally familiar with other members of this hard-working team (my apologies to some of these folks (Deniz Bayram, Fuat Guven, and I’m sure some others) for not specifically including them in the discussions, below. Since this is my personal blog, and my viewpoint, and not a Miray or LASC publicity piece, it would seem inappropriate for me to include them. But I’m certain they are as deeply involved as the ”Team” described above and are as deeply affected. I am sure this “situation” has been extremely difficult for all of them, especially with the time and effort they have been putting into this high-visibility venture.
At the end of June, the Team was able to tell us that the name of the new ship was going to be MV Lara (“MV” stands for Motor Vessel, by the way). A photoshopped picture of the new ship with Miray colors was published on their cruise website, LifeAtSeaCruises.Com.
There was much speculation (amongst us plebians, errrr. Residents) and based on the stuff Miray could “legally” say, we were pretty sure it was either the AIDAaura, or the AIDAvita, sister (almost identical) ships built in Germany and at the time owned by German cruise line AIDA Cruises, which is in turn owned by Carnival Cruise Line. Time, and details online, pointed to the AIDAaura, which is still the presumed previous name of the ship (actually “current” since the ownership has not yet been made official).
The photo here,, and on the HOME page of this blog, is of a photoshopped AIDAaura in the colors of Miray Cruises so it looks like the MV Lara. The photo was identified as such when published.
Much chatter, speculation, and preparation ensued on the part of residents as we excitedly prepared for departure from Istanbul, Türkiye, on 1 Nov. Time passed—one of the few things about life that is certain.
The Residents started to notice that the Team had stopped communicating about the time it was becoming obvious that the 1 Nov departure date was in jeopardy. The announced ownership transfer date came and went with no official announcement of the delay, then it became painfully obvious that we would NOT be able to launch on 1 Nov, and FINALLY (belatedly) Vedat published a nicely worded regretful announcement that the new launch date was 11 November. By that point, it was unavoidable to realize we weren’t going to make the 1 Nov date, and the Residents were starting to grumble (IMO appropriately) much more vehemently (IMO a few very inappropriately). Many of them (which would have included me if I hadn’t had to delay joining the cruise for my own reasons) had already made non-cancelable airline and hotel reservations in Istanbul. Real consequences, not just irritations, were becoming a significant factor.
More silence from the Team, followed by many more relevant questions and concerns, and a few absurd comments from the Residents. A few too many days/weeks later came another message from Vedat saying the launch date had been moved to 30 Nov, from an as yet uncertain port but possibly Amsterdam, or Bremerhaven, or some other place. I don’t recall for sure and didn’t go back to research it since it changed anyway and still isn’t firm.
Then Kendra sent a very welcomed message to everyone that was chock full of one of the things that make her a great CEO for this venture—undiluted apologies, undeniably authentic regret, and acknowledgment that even the Team was frustrated and was not being told much. The only reason for the delays given by anyone, including Vedat (who is where the buck stops) was, and is, “… a financial transaction delay.” My favorite part of Kendra’s message is “Quite frankly, I am pissed.” Atta girl, Kendra. Tell the truth and we’ll be behind you.
That’s as much detail as will be given in this post, but if you’re someone trying to figure out what’s going on, it should suffice. Details won’t help you know what’s going to happen—apparently, no one knows. I said in an earlier post, and I stand by the assertion, that the Team is terrific, and I have total confidence in them if not in the cruise itself. I also stand by my opinion that I just don’t know about Vedat. That is NOT a statement that he is at fault or is part of the problem, only a true statement that I just don’t know. Through friends with much better personal contact with the Team than I have, I understand Vedat to be just as high quality, but I can’t temper that opinion with personal experience as I can with my own limited interactions with other members of the Team. I also stand by the assertion that Vedat would improve things if he would show up to the Residents as more of an individual and a member of the community, and less as a distant Owner trying to be appropriate. I trust the man, and the Team, and just feel they’ve made a serious error in how to best handle communications about the delay. Perhaps they had no choice, that is certainly possible.
I don’t mean this post as a rant but as an answer to what a lot of people are asking who are not Residents and therefore not privy to the Resident communications. Also, I hear from a few prospective Residents who have contacted me on this blog that many people are only holding off deposits/contracts until we know we have the ship and departure date. Not only can I understand that but think it’s probably wise.
(Note: be sure and read the “Postscript” to this paragraph added on 29 November 2023.)
But don’t depend on Facebook (yuk) or “competitor cruise” websites for reliable information. Especially don’t depend on CNN articles. All of the following comments about CNN are in my opinion, of course. CNN reporting, particularly the reporter most responsible for recent articles, is heavily biased and while they can self-servingly say they are only stating facts, their interview list, types of comments, and general journalistic approach is that of titillating an audience with how crappy things are, how there is a potential fraud (!!!) in the making, and not even trying to portray an inkling of the challenges that may be driving this uncertainty. I, and many people I know, have no trouble coming up with plausible and unfortunately possible-to-probable causes for the delay. I wish CNN was helping to educate the public, not trying to inflame them to sell more eyeballs on their coverage based on some of the worst, and unfortunately common, preferences of “the public” that are attracted to partial and misleading coverage. My opinion of CNN is markedly diminished, and I will actively work to spread that word. Again, this is based on my opinion.
(**** Postscript, added 29 November 2023. ****
I just got off the phone with the CNN reporter who is doing an “in-depth” [my words, not hers] report on the history of Life At Sea Cruises and resident reactions. I was frankly encouraged by her questions and the entire interview, and want to add to the previous excoriating comments I made about the articles from CNN. Given what I knew I stand by what I said. To her credit, she helped me understand that while she had reached out to numerous people, including some of the senior executives of the Miray Life At Sea Cruise experience at that time, none of them called her back even to say “Sorry, I have no comment.” There was no response. So, the only thing she had to go on were the opinions of people she did talk with. The most negative people are usually the most vocal ones, unfortunately. And her comments helped me to expand my pitifully small experience level in understanding how hard it is to be an objective journalist. She was understandably a bit defensive but raised some valid points that deserved mention, here. They also serve to accentuate my point that one thing Kendra, Vedat, et. al, did very poorly was to communicate enough. They screwed that up, and have at least given lip service to admitting it post-facto. We’ll see what changes in the future plans for Kendra’s cruise-in-planning with HLC, and with Vedat’s cruise-in-planning for Nov 2024. I will most likely (but not with certainty) be on one of them. It all depends on what happens from here!)
What is true, and is clear, is that this situation is providing an opportunity for people to show the worst of themselves, and that others are proving to be Residents and community members I really look forward to meeting! Shit happens. Live with it. Particularly in business.
What differences this makes to our lives will be up to each of us individually, whether it launches or not (and I think it will). The people I pay attention to want to help make it a positive experience regardless of when/if/where the ship (whatever it turns out to be) embarks on this incredible opportunity. I’m almost sure some of the Residents and Team members I have already met through emails, video chats, etc. will become valued friends for many years to come. I like the risk, I like the potential rewards, I like the Team, and am on board with whatever happens. This is a “thing” worth my time, and it is a fantastic life experience … regardless of the outcome.