PortandTerminal.com, May 4, 2019
According to the church, the Freewinds is less a vacation and more of a floating religious retreat center.
When we first heard about a cruise ship with 300 passengers being quarantined in St. Lucia last week because of a measles outbreak we didn’t take much notice. “Score another one for the vaxxers” was about all we were thinking at the time.
Then we heard that the ship in question is a Scientology cruise ship and that definitely caught our attention. Daniel Burke at CNN gave voice to what most of the world was thinking when he asked: “Wait, why does Scientology have a cruise ship?”
Wait, why does Scientology have a cruise ship?Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor
So why does Scientology have a cruise ship?
Think of the Freewind as a party cruise and prize for the rich, hardcore Scientologists who want to make it to the top level of their expensive, religious journey as Scientologists.
The Freewind is essentially a floating church in which preparatory courses are conducted exclusively for OT VIII, the highest level of the Church of Scientology. OT VIII stands for Operating Thetan Level 8 and apparently is only delivered to members of the Church of Scientology in one place—you guessed it, onboard the Freewinds.
The church describes OT VIII “the pinnacle of a deeply spiritual journey.” Reaching OT VIII isn’t cheap though. OT VII, the next level down, costs approximately $30,000 — $40,000 per year, according to Leah Rinder who is an ex (and disgruntled) Scientologist. Church members spend literally decades working on that reaching level. Reaching OT VIII takes serious Tom Cruise levels of cash.
As cruise ships go, the Panama registered Freewinds (IMO: 6810811) is an old vessel. It was built in Germany by Wallenius Wilhelmsen in 1968 and measures just 439 feet in length. Small by today’s standards.
The ship started its life out as the Boheme and changed hands multiple times until it was purchased in 1986 by a Panamanian registered company called San Donato Properties, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Church of Scientology. Today, the Freewind is operated by another Panamanian company called Majestic Cruise Lines. Majestic Cruise Lines sole purpose is to operate the Freewinds and it too is a subsidiary of the Church of Scientology.
The Sea Org
The crew situation is weird. Scientology once had a fleet of ships, the church says, which were manned by its Sea Organization or Sea Org for short. The ships and crew helped Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard with “research” and supervised church functions around the world, according to the church (source: Daniel Burke, CNN).
Scientologists compare the “Sea Org” to members of a religious order, like monks and nuns, who devote their lives to the faith, often working long hours for no pay and living communally.
In 2011, an Australian woman named Valeska Paris said she was taken aboard the ship for what she thought was a two-week vacation. But it turned into a 12-year-long form of indentured servitude, she alleged. She said that her passport was confiscated, and that, until she was 24, she was prevented from setting foot on dry land without an escort.
Among the landmark events of Valeska Paris’ on board was the 2004 birthday party of the actor Tom Cruise. In an with the Village Voice newspaper, Ms Paris recalled helping to decorate the ship but claims she “wasn’t allowed” to attend, because she was suffering from a cold sore.
Where is the Freewinds now?
The Freewinds left St. Lucia on Friday, May 3rd with about 300 people aboard the ship, according to authorities in St. Lucia.
As of May 5, 2019, MarineTraffic.com positions the SMV Freewinds safely docked at its home port in the Dutch territory of Curacao, a small Caribbean island off of the Venezuelan coast. The vessel is moored in an area inaccessible to the public.
Authorities in Curacao said Saturday it would do what was needed to prevent measles spreading from a Scientology cruise ship after a crew member came down with the disease.
It appears as if the 300 Scientologists onboard the Freewinds will have plenty of extra time to work on achieving Operating Thetan Level 8.
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