Kaya FM cruise sails into treacherous seas

2012-11-03 19:16

Radio station seems to be on a face-saving mission after listeners smell a rat.

Kaya FM’s five-star celebrity cruise to Mozambique this December has sailed into a storm that has found the radio station and a travel agent washed up in court before they even set sail.

City Press has learned that some listeners who booked early for the glamorous Soul & Jazz Cruise have paid a much higher fee than is currently being charged and – according to sources – Kaya FM doesn’t know who they are and has had to resort to the courts to find out.

The luxury four-day cruise aboard the MSC Opera will sail from Durban Harbour on December 10. Providing entertainment on the cruise liner will be South African-born jazz fusion star Jonathan Butler; house music supremo Louie Vega; his singer, songwriter, producer wife Anané; and soul house legend Josh Milan.

The outing is in essence a floating version of Kaya FM’s annual Dance Ritual Live Experience party and tickets are a much coveted commodity – for those who can afford them.

The problem, however, is that when bookings first opened, the cruise was being handled by Gats Leisure, a Pretoria travel agent hired by Kaya FM.

Tickets went on sale at astronomical prices – ranging from R7 900 to R12 980 per person sharing.

The trouble started, according to a well-placed source, when a caller phoned the station and complained that Kaya was ripping off listeners.

She had called the cruise line company directly and found out that normal prices were much lower.

This week Kaya FM’s MD, Greg Maloka, did not respond to questions about who set the original price, but said that the radio station “cancelled its agreements with Gats, as did MSC Cruises, the official agents for the ship owners” because “Gats had obligations to Kaya that they failed to keep. They also had certain financial commitments to MSC that they were unable to keep”.

MSC Cruises then took over the bookings, offering radically lower rates – from R3 399 to R7 644 per person sharing.

The problem, it seems, is that Gats Leisure then refused to hand over the list of who had already booked for the cruise.

Maloka said this week: “Gats responded by withholding information and funds. This conduct was unlawful and despite several attempts to persuade Gats to provide the information and funds, they failed to do so, which necessitated an application to the High Court to compel them.”

A ruling is expected soon as the matter has been declared urgent.

Instead of coming clean with listeners, Kaya FM appears to have embarked on a face-saving strategy.

Maloka did the voice-over himself on the station’s “Be In It To Win It” competition, in which those who have already booked for the cruise stand to win Carducci clothing or beauty hampers – if they provide their booking information.

Insiders say Kaya FM is using the competition to find out who booked for the cruise with Gats.

Meanwhile, the MSC Cruises website has launched a “Secret Cabin Rate Structure” in order, it seems, to leave their options open in case Gats is not compelled by the court to hand over the booking list.

“You request either an inside or an outside cabin, which we will confirm to you … but ... your cabin number, category, deck and position will only be confirmed by MSC Starlight Cruises on relatively short notice. If we can’t accommodate you as booked, we will upgrade you, but we will never downgrade you,” reads the website.

Kaya FM has not told City Press how it will respond when some cruise members discover they have paid double what others have paid for their four days of luxury and entertainment.

Gats said they could not comment while the matter was still before the court.

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