Life at Sea Cruises, the company in question, dashed the dreams of its customers less than a fortnight before the scheduled departure, citing a failure to secure funding for the vessel.
The luxury cruise was initially slated to embark from Istanbul on November 1, but the date was later moved to November 30, with Amsterdam as the new departure point. However, after weeks of uncertainty, passengers who had spent up to $360,000 to reserve cabins were informed that the journey would not proceed as the company lacked the funds to purchase the promised ship.
The news has left customers, some of whom had already sold their belongings or shipped them to the vessel, in a state of fury. According to CNN, they have been informed that their refunds will be processed in monthly installments. "There's a whole lot of people right now with nowhere to go, and some need their refund to even plan a place to go – it's not good right now," an anonymous passenger told the media outlet.
The sense of betrayal among the passengers is palpable, with many expressing their disappointment at the loss of what was marketed as 'a three-year ultimate bucket list world cruise.' "The company seems to have no consideration about what they've done to our lives," one passenger lamented. "I never imagined I'd be in this position as a senior citizen."
Another passenger expressed disbelief at the company's actions, stating, "I can't even begin to wrap my head around the disappointment of losing this opportunity. I don't think they will ever understand how much damage they've caused us."
The cancellation notice was sent to the 110-plus passengers on November 17. Kendra Holmes, Life at Sea's former CEO, informed the customers about the cancellation and advised those who had sent their possessions ahead to arrange for their return. Holmes resigned from her position just days before making the announcement.
Vedat Ugurlu, the owner of Miray Cruises, which owns Life at Sea, expressed his regret for the inconvenience in a message sent two days later. "Miray is not such a big company to afford to pay 40-50 million for a ship," he said, attributing the company's financial woes to the unrest in the Middle East, which led to his investors withdrawing their support.
The voyage was cancelled after the company failed to secure funding for the MV Lara, the proposed vessel for the trip. The luxurious 666-foot liner, boasting 627 cabins with a capacity for up to 1266 passengers, was eventually acquired by Greek company Celestyal Cruises.
The passengers were promised 'spacious living areas and modern amenities' specifically redesigned for long-term residence and a luxurious feel. The vessel was equipped with a bar, restaurants, a spa, gym, sun deck, and pool, and offered activities such as dancing, karaoke, yoga, and golfing.
In an email to customers, Ugurlu wrote, "We have tried everything to make your dreams come true and we will continue to do so." He mentioned the possibility of using MV Gemini, another vessel owned by Miray, but stated that they had promised a larger, newer vessel to the customers.
The MV Gemini is currently at the center of a defamation action after Mikael Petterson, former managing director of Life at Sea Cruises, allegedly labeled the 30-year-old vessel 'unseaworthy', a claim that Miray refutes.
In a statement to CNN, Urgu said, "While we're in talks to acquire a similar vessel, if the December 1 sail is jeopardized, we offer alternative departure dates or expedited refunds." He also mentioned that they are actively working on creating alternative plans for the future.
Following the collapse of the voyage, both Holmes and Petterson have joined separate cruise companies offering similar deals. Holmes is now CEO of HLC Cruises, which is offering boutique cruising with duty-free shopping on board.
Petterson and several other former Life at Sea employees are offering low introductory rates for anyone willing to join their new venture, Villa Vie Residences. However, neither company has concrete departure plans as yet.