It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime: four months on a luxury cruise ship, motoring from Miami through the Caribbean before stops in Barcelona, Athens, St. Tropez and beyond.
Barry Shulman, and his wife, Allyn Jaffrey Shulman, spent six figures for their top-tier cabin on the Crystal Serenity.
But the first wave of bad news came fast.
“On the third day, [the staff] announced that they’re going broke and dropping us off in Aruba,” said Barry, the 75-year-old owner of Card Player magazine in Las Vegas. “The captain got on [the intercom] to say it was the end of the cruise. It was the end of everything.”
According to The Post, on Friday, the boat was seized from Bahamian waters by US Marshals over an unpaid $4.6 million gas bill — four days after the Crystal Cruises liner had unceremoniously dumped its 450 or so passengers.
“A lot of people were panicking; some were crying,” said Shulman of being kicked off the Serenity. “We’re talking about senior citizens, on a boat, who didn’t know what was going on … this was disturbing.
“There were people who did not know how they would get home from Aruba. They’re used to being pampered and they were getting dropped off near the tip of South America. It was a shit show.”
Things got even weirder that night, when the crew slipped a sheet of paper under each room door.
“It reported that Aruba won’t take us,” said Barry, adding that no specific reason was given. “There was a lot of stress and a million rumors. Some said it was because of COVID. Other people thought it was because Aruba didn’t want to get involved in the lawsuit or the taking of the boat.”
The ship was then rerouted to Bimini, where passengers were to board a two-hour ferry ride that would drop them off in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“Luckily we had decent seas for the ferry trip. A couple weeks earlier, a Crystal ship [offloaded its passengers to Bimini] and everyone was throwing up on the ferry. It was a mess,” said Barry.
Once arriving, “We had to stay on the boat for another hour. Then they let everybody off all at once, instead of by section, and there was pandemonium,” he said. “We got to the terminal and there were, initially, two customs guys. It took hours to get through there. Then there were no carts, no porters … People couldn’t find their bags. It was completely disorganized.”
As Allyn, a former attorney, wrote on Facebook: “We get off the ferry only to find all the luggage dumped everywhere, colors and numbers NOT together, luggage falling down, no porters and NO CRYSTAL REPS. NONE. No one giving instructions. No one helping the older folks. It was a shameful sight.”
Finally, as midnight neared, exhausted passengers boarded buses that would take them to hotels in Miami, almost an hour away.
“But nobody had a manifest,” said Barry. “A lot of people didn’t check ahead of time. They wound up at the Intercontinental but had rooms at the Hilton. It was past midnight and they were getting yelled at for being in the wrong place.”
He and his wife are confused, and angry, about why the ship left Port of Miami in the first place.
“They knew something was going on before they took off and they should have said, ‘Sorry we can’t leave Miami.’ But they began the cruise because this way they can keep money from the first segment of the trip.”
And that’s the next big worry — getting refunds.
“There were people who had saved up for this one-time cruise,” Barry said. “We were all told not to worry, that there would be a pro-rated refund, the cruise-line would handle it. But you can’t even trust these guys now.”
Still, the bummer of a trip didn’t completely take the wind out of the Shulmans’ sails.
“We’re on a Regent cruise right now; I booked it while [things were going south] on the Serenity,” Barry said, adding that his wife was reprimanded and eventually banished from Serenity’s website for posting details on the replacement cruise that they had found.
Of their current adventure, which goes through the Caribbean, down to the Amazon and up to San Francisco, he added, “This is a delightful itinerary — and I don’t feel that Regent will go broke while we are at sea.”