When the coronavirus brought the cruise industry to a halt, Navigare Capital Partners had no ships to use for its themed sailings, including Star Trek: The Cruise.

And the company did not have the same options as Captain Kirk when he lost the Enterprise. Navigare could not just use a Klingon Bird of Prey, then slingshot around the sun to go back in time. (Then again, the company’s The 80s Cruise would struggle in 1986, the time Captain Kirk and his crew travelled to in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.)

In August, Florida-based Navigare turned to Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, but the Small Business Administration denied the request.

The company, which hires cruise ships for its themed cruises, has sued the SBA and agency administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman in pursuit of $10m in Covid-19 relief funds.

Navigare has alleged that the rejection was “arbitrary and capricious”, contrary to US law and unsupported by substantial evidence, according to the lawsuit filed in the federal court for Washington DC.

The SBA declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing an agency policy against discussing ongoing litigation, and it has yet to respond in court.

Navigare said it was forced to cancel all of its performances since March 2020, losing all of its revenue while still maintaining all of its employees and some of its contractors.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact,” the company said.

Aide for venues

The shuttered venue grants were created in December 2020 when then-president Donald Trump signed the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act, a package of measures aiming to help organisations and companies hurt by Covid-19 closures. Funding for the awards totals more than $16.2bn.

As Navigare rents performance space on cruise ships for its theme cruises, the company believed that it demonstrated eligibility for the grant.

Actors Gates McFadden (left), who played Dr Beverly Crusher in the Star Trek: The Next Generation, and co-star Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher, appear on stage during Star Trek: The Cruise III in 2019. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jade was chartered for the cruise. Photo: Firstcontact1977/Creative Commons

The 80s Cruise includes live concerts by performers such as Belinda Carlisle, Berlin, Huey Lewis and Kenny Loggins.

For the Star Trek cruises, actors like William Shatner, George Takei and Wil Wheaton (those are the actors who play Kirk, Lieutenant Sulu and Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Wesley Crusher, respectively) perform on stage in character.

But Navigare’s lawyers alleged in the lawsuit that the SBA rejected the loans with nary an explanation, and then the agency rejected an appeal in October explaining only that “the company did not meet the principal business activity standard”.

Adding insult to injury, the Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld lawyers alleged that the agency has approved grant applications by Navigare’s competitors.

“A basic requirement of administrative law is that an agency provide the reasons for its decisions. However, the SBA gave no reason for denying [Navigare’s] application, and provided only a conclusory decision that does not explain the agency’s reasoning when it denied Navigare’s] appeal,” the lawyers said.

Star Trek: The Cruise V is scheduled to sail on 26 March. Royal Caribbean International’s 3,114-berth Mariner of the Seas (built 2003) has been chartered for what is dubbed as “The Un-Conventional Voyage”.

The voyage promises to “boldly go where no one has gone before” with stops in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and St Maarten, where many cruise ships have gone before.