ON OFFER was the ''ultimate'' cruise on Sydney Harbour: a night of food, wine, music and a spectacular vantage point at midnight for the New Year's Eve fireworks display.
Instead, up to 150 people found themselves stranded on a Darling Harbour ferry wharf and $450 out of pocket when the boat they had bought tickets for, the MV Eve, failed to show.
Now the vessel's operators, Eve Harbour Cruises, have gone to ground, not answering calls or emails. Those who bought tickets feel they have been victims of a scam.
''It spoilt our New Year's Eve,'' said ticket holder Anirban Banerjee, who came from Canberra for the cruise.
''All the other boats came and picked up people but Eve cruises never showed up. We all stood there looking like fools.''
Ticket holders 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 theirs 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 has been contactable since.
David Avery bought six tickets to entertain friends who were visiting from Britain and to celebrate a marriage proposal made earlier that day.
''I went from being excited, then, when I realised it wasn't going to turn up, it was sickening, most of all for my friends who had just got engaged earlier that day and who should have been out there celebrating by watching the fireworks in the harbour,'' Mr Avery said.
The company was registered by Allen Yousef, 39, at an address at a Castle Hill industrial estate in March last year. Mr Yousef, who has also owned tiling and timber businesses, did not return calls on Wednesday.
Tickets for an Australia Day cruise were still available on the company's website for $50 each.
A number of those who bought tickets for the New Year's Eve cruise said they had made formal complaints to the NSW Police and NSW Fair Trading.
The story New Year's Eve fireworks fizzle as cruise strands party people on dock first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.