Three-year cruise leaves passengers stranded after suddenly cancelling two weeks before departure

Three-year cruise leaves passengers stranded after suddenly cancelling two weeks before departure

A three-year cruise, hosted by Life at Sea, has allegedly left several passengers stranded after it suddenly cancelled the excursion just weeks before its scheduled departure.

According to CNN, the once-in-a-lifetime experience was called-off just two weeks before the boat was set to sail due to a lack of ship availability. The boat was initially scheduled to depart from Istanbul, Turkey, on 1 November, but the trip was postponed a number of times. The next “confirmed” date was 11 November with a relocation from Turkey to Amsterdam. Then, the company pushed the date back again, this time to 30 November.

Ticketed guests, who paid between $29,999 a month and $109,000 per year depending on room size, were planning on visiting seven continents, 135 countries, and 375 ports aboard the ship.

On 17 November, without any word from the company for weeks, per an ABC report, guests who had sold their homes, shipped their belongings, and had already travelled to Turkey, were notified of the voyage cancellation. The former CEO of Life at Sea, Kendra Holmes, sent out a 15-minute video to explain the devastating situation. According to the outlet, Holmes had resigned from her post a few days before.

Many passengers who had reserved one of the 111 cabins weren’t anticipating the last-minute cancellation, and now reportedly have nowhere to return home to. The company is promising to refund all passengers who were prepared to set sail aboard the ship, but payments will only be made in monthly installments, resulting in an estimated full refund around late February. Additionally, Life at Sea has offered to pay for transportation and accommodation until 1 December for any guest who has already travelled to Istanbul.

Speaking to CNN, a passenger who chose to remain anonymous, said: “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.”

Another guest named Kimberly Arizzi sold her entire apartment, all her clothes and furniture to pay for the luxurious trip, which she’d hoped would kick off her retirement, according to Insider.

Miray International, the parent company for Life at Sea, had started accepting payments and booking for the first-of-its kind trip at sea on 1 March. At the time, the plan was to use the MV Gemini Ship. Yet, upon further evaluation, Miray reportedly decided the vessel wasn’t big enough.

The next ship that was supposed to be used was the AIDAaura, which Life at Sea was meant to buy and rename the MV Lara for the excursion, according to CNN. Life at Sea had notified guests that the purchase of MV Lara was taking a bit longer than they’d expected. However, word reportedly got out that Celestyal Cruises purchased the ship on 16 November.

On 19 November, two days after passengers were made aware of the trip cancellation, Vedat Ugurlu, the owner of Miray International, confirmed that the company could not afford to purchase the ship. What’s more, Ugurlu explained that Miray “presented the project to investors and had official approval from some of them to buy the vessel,” but after the down payment was made, investors “declined to support us further due to unrest in the Middle East”.

In conversation with CNN, one would-be world traveller described themselves to be “sad, angry and lost”.

“I had the next three years of my life planned to live an extraordinary life, and now [I have] nothing,” they went on to say. “I’m having a hard time moving forward. I was proud and feeling brave, now I don’t trust anyone or anything. I know it’ll work out and life will go on, but I’m uncertain of the direction.”

Following the cancellation, many people online voiced their opinions and expressed sympathy for those left stranded or disappointed by the failed trip.

The Independent has contacted Miray International and Life at Sea for comment.