A Sydney Harbour cruise ship operator that left its passengers stranded on New Year's Eve has been ordered to pay over $35,000 in compensation and fines.
Eve Harbour Cruises had promoted a night of food, wine, music and a spectacular vantage point for the midnight fireworks but up to 150 people were left stranded at Darling Harbour and $450 out of pocket when the boat failed to show.
The operators of the MV Eve then went to ground, refusing to answer calls or emails.
Fair Trading NSW began investigating the company following a Fairfax Media investigation, which also revealed teachers at a special needs school had been left stranded on the night of their work Christmas party only a fortnight earlier.
In Parramatta Local Court on Thursday, Eve Harbour Cruises was forced to pay $17,412.51 in compensation to its victims and $17,000 in fines. The court also ordered Eve Harbour Cruises to pay $2595 in costs for the victims and Fair Trading.
Ticket holders for the New Year's Eve cruise were told to meet at King Street Wharf 7 by 6.30pm for a six-hour cruise that was supposed to include a DJ and unlimited food and drink.
Tickets were sold from as early as July and some who had bought their tickets early even telephoned the operators after Christmas to confirm that the cruise was still on schedule.
By 8.30pm the group realised their planned evening would not be going ahead. Repeated calls were made to the mobile phone and office numbers that Eve Harbour Cruises had supplied, but no one answered. No one from Eve Harbour Cruises had been contacted in the time since.
Police and NSW Fair Trading inspectors began an investigation after staff at a special needs school in Sydney's north-west came forward saying they experienced a similar incident for their work Christmas party on December 15.
They said the operator called at 4.30pm on the day of the party and asked them to postpone their event. They next contacted the school offering them a full refund within two days but the teachers have not seen the money.
Marina operators also contacted Fairfax Media to say the boat's owner, Allen Yousef, 39, had also failed to pay them for the mooring of his boat.