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Since holidays are rarely glitch-free, it's little surprise that the career of travel impresario Sam Blyth has been marked by some embarrassing hiccups.

But the 46-year-old entrepreneur and adventurer isn't about to let the financial failure of a cruise that left 225 passengers -- some who paid up to $26,990 (U.S.) each -- stranded in Tahiti this month affect the future of the travel company he founded in 1977.

" Blyth & Co. Travel is 23 years old and it has every possibility to go on for another 23 years," Mr. Blyth said in an interview.

The 116-day world cruise, which had a low-end price of $9,990, ran into trouble on Day 1. Departure was delayed a month, then passengers left from Spain in April rather than Greece in March. Last week, the trip was halted when World Cruise Co. appointed a trustee.

World Cruise is co-owned by Blyth & Co., a specialty tour operator that caters to the affluent, and Marine Expeditions Inc., a company Mr. Blyth and friend Dugald Wells founded in 1993. All three companies are based in Toronto.

"I'm still young and I love this business," Mr. Blyth said of his long-term commitment to the travel industry. "I don't love what's happened with World Cruise. I felt as if I'd lost a child. Sometimes in business as in life, you have to make tough choices and this is one of them."

Mr. Blyth -- who has made a name for himself in adventure tourism vacations that include cycling tours, mountain climbing expeditions and rafting trips -- also has found himself in the headlines.

In 1992, a 38-day $12,600 (Canadian)-per-person cruise billed as an "epic journey" turned into a nightmare. The trip started in St. John's, bound for Chile. It encountered hurricane-force winds, which made some passengers wretchedly ill. It also fell far behind schedule, which meant cutting some land excursions from the itinerary.

Irate passengers hanged Mr. Blyth in effigy.

However, Mr. Blyth remained philosophical about the experience.

"We specialize in doing the unusual," he said yesterday.

"If we specialized in doing Cancun, I think it would be a lot easier. On the other hand we have a clientele that has stuck with us all these years and I think by any reasonable measure it has been a very successful run."

Mr. Blyth has done well for a guy whose family wasn't keen on the idea when he first brought it up.

Graham David (Sam) Blyth was born on a military base in Shilo, Man., in 1954 to Rev. Patricia Blyth and army officer David Blyth, now deceased.

While he was still a toddler, his family moved to the Rockcliffe Park area of Ottawa, where he attended Ashbury College. His father accepted a posting with the diplomatic corps and Mr. Blyth was uprooted to Europe at age 15.

He studied at Cambridge University, where he played basketball and earned a bachelor of arts degree. He briefly studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. While in Paris he also had a stint playing professional basketball.

While still a teen, the well-travelled Mr. Blyth took his first step into the travel industry.

At 17, he landed a job as a baggage boy for a European tour being conducted by Toronto travel firm Butterfield & Robinson. In subsequent summers he worked up to becoming assistant tour leader for a bicycle trek from Vienna to London.

He once described the students who took the biking tours through Europe as "overprivileged kids," but by 1977 he had set up a travel agency that specialized in pricy vacations aimed precisely at that clientele and their parents.

Setting up the company seemed like a logical move, he said, and by his calculations had a "90 per cent chance of working."

His first major production was the Great Canadian Show Train which trekked across Canada as a theatre on rails with live performances on board and stops in cities for passengers to explore the local arts scenes.

The concept drew entertainers such as Dinah Christie and was a critical success, but a financial flop.

Mr. Blyth next set his sights on adventure tours and his business received a stamp of approval when it became the Canadian agent for ticket sales for the famous Orient Express. Best-selling author Dick Francis turned his experience on a Blyth & Co. cross-Canada mystery train tour into the novel The Edge. Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau participated in one of Mr. Blyth's exotic trips to Bhutan and Kashmir.

While Mr. Blyth's clients increasingly included celebrities, his own adventures also made news.

For 10 days in 1980 and 1981, Mr. Blyth and travelling companions Barbara Amiel -- who wrote for Maclean's magazine and is now the wife of newspaper baron Conrad Black -- and an American student were arrested and jailed in Mozambique because of alleged passport irregularities. He has always denied the allegation.

In 1985, Mr. Blyth's marriage to Rosemarie Caroline Bata, daughter of Bata Industries Ltd. founder Thomas Bata, made the society pages. Their subsequent divorce also attracted ink.

Earlier this month, Mr. Blyth came up with a way to legally transport U.S. tourists by cruise ship to Cuba in order to tap into the interest in the island as a result of the Elian Gonzalez custody battle. To get around U.S. regulations that bar most U.S. citizens from travelling to Cuba for personal reasons, passengers will officially be hosted on land by a non-profit foundation operating at arm's length from the travel company.

While Mr. Blyth has never been short on ideas for new businesses, he said he will take away some very important lessons from his recent ordeal with World Cruise Co.

"If I've learned anything from this, it can be summed up in one word: Humility," he said.

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