A “Pick a Pal” scheme offering cash rewards, using stock actor photos and paid actors in videos are the latest continuing attempts by Victoria Cruises Line to get its world cruise launched.

Despite owing existing customers across the globe hundreds of thousands of dollars, including half a dozen Australians, Victoria Cruises Line and its cohorts is continue to encourage sign ups, despite the fact they have not signed a lease on a ship.

In our last report, Victoria Cruises Line Vice President Marcell Herold said capacity was well below the 80 per cent required to launch the “world’s first affordable residential ship”. It then sat at 53 per cent.

Art Williams portrait
‘Principal resident’ of VCL Art Williams has been pushing a cash reward scheme.

Reward scheme under investigation

VCL “brand ambassador” Lyn Alspaugh and “Principal Resident” Art Williams are now pushing a new sign-up “referral” scheme on social media. It encourages existing customers – at least those who haven’t asked for a refund – to sign up friends and family.

They receive a “$2500 cash reward”. But only after a ships sails.

“A. Any Resident (A) who refers another cabin resident or residents (B) will be paid $2,500 upon sailing AND that cabin’s referral is onboard.

“B. If that newly referred resident (B) in turn recruits an additional cabin’s residents (C) $2,500 will be paid to the referrer (B) AND $1,250 will be paid to YOU (A).

“C. If the (C) referral recruits one or more cabins’ residents, resident (C) will be paid $2,500, Resident (B) will be paid $1,250, and Resident (A) will be paid $625.”

The Utah Consumer Protection Division is formally investigating self-described “facepainter” and US-based VCL brand ambassador Alspaugh who spruiks the “Pick a Pal” scheme on social media.

VCL is now using paid actors, who are not VCL customers, for video testimonials. Stock photos of actors from image libraries are also being used to illustrate passenger testimonials. There are no disclaimers saying the images or videos are of paid actors.

Victoria Cruises Line uses paid actors in its testimonials
“John and Mary” in a testimonial for VCL (left) the same couple a US law firm ad.

Almost half a million owed in refunds

Cruise Passenger has seen a list of more than 30 passengers who are owed their deposit back. Some refunds are more than 260 days past their request date and 180 days past their due date. VCL had promised on its website to return deposits within 90 days.

Just three passengers on the list have received their refunds on time. One received a refund more than 70 days after the due date. That leaves almost 30 passengers from that list alone still awaiting the refund of their US$10,000 deposits. That’s almost US$300,000 or close to half a million Australian dollars.

The are several reasons behind the delays, according to VCL’s Herold. They include a “Google bug”, lost or undecipherable SWIFT bank transfer codes and missing paperwork.

“We paid over AU$2500 in January to a Budapest lawyer to send a letter of demand,” said VCL passenger Taryna Wawn who handed over a US$10,000 deposit last year.

“The letter of demand wasn’t collected from VCL’s letterbox by a specified time (early Feb). This gave the lawyer the right to email the letter’s contents to VCL.

“The letter asked for a refund of our US$10,000 and the AU$9043 we’d paid in flights to get us to Fort Lauderdale for the December 1 departure.

“Our lawyer received a reply from Marcell’s lawyer with (the translation) pretty much laughing at our attempt and throwing nonsensical threats our way regarding their alleged police report and impending lawsuit against us. No papers have been served since their first threat January 2.

“Anyway, the lawyer advised us that the next step would cost another 750EURO (another letter) and we decided to stop throwing good money after bad.”

Crucial questions remain unanswered

A Victoria Cruises Line Resident’s Group on Facebook now has 241 members. It is open to residents whose refund has not been paid (and is overdue), people doing their due diligence and contemplating Victoria Cruises Line LLC as a viable entity and residents with current deposits.

Cruise Passenger has sent Herold another list of questions asking for an update. That includes, most importantly, the return of refunds, the leasing of any ship and the proposed departure date.

At last report that was supposed to be in June, which is unlikely given Victoria Cruises Line has no ship.

The cash reward scheme is pushed by Art Williams in this poor-quality YouTube video.