A three-year, around-the-world cruise that was supposed to set sail next week has been cancelled at the last minute, leaving passengers who sold or rented out their homes and made their way to the starting port stranded and very upset.
Life at Sea Cruises had promised passengers of its inaugural three-year voyage the trip of a lifetime — they were supposed to set sail on Nov. 30, travelling to 382 ports across 140 countries over the span of three years.
But for months now there have been signs that something might be amiss.
CNN reports that passengers faced “weeks of silence” from Life at Sea Cruises and at least two postponements since the beginning of the month. The big ship was originally scheduled to leave port on Nov. 1, which was first postponed to Nov. 11 and then Nov. 30.
The company also informed customers earlier this month that the retired cruise ship they planned to buy and renovate ahead of their departure had been bought by another company.
Life at Sea Cruises, a division of Miray Cruises, wrote to its passengers that it was “facing challenges” because of investor withdrawals, according to a memo to customers written by its parent company’s CEO and obtained by Business Insider earlier this week.
A Nov. 19 statement to customers from Miray’s CEO Vedat Ugurlu apologized, but said the company was “actively working on creating alternative plans for the future, ensuring an unforgettable experience for our valued community.”
“While we’re in talks to acquire a similar vessel, if the December 1st sail is jeopardized, we offer alternative departure dates or expedited refunds,” Ugurlu wrote, according to Cruise Industry News.
“Although we could use our current vessel, the Gemini, we remain committed to delivering the promised larger, newer vessel.”
Urgulu’s statement came a few days after Life at Sea’s CEO Kendra Holmes resigned. After she quit, she reportedly recorded a 15-minute video for passengers, admitting that the cruise wouldn’t go ahead. It’s unclear why she was chosen to make the announcement after announcing her resignation.
Now, Life at Sea is promising customers repayment for the minimum US$115,500-per-person package, saying that monthly refund instalments would begin mid-December. It has also offered to pay accommodation until Dec. 1 and flights for those who had already made their way to the departure destination in Istanbul ahead of time.
That, however, is little solace to those who sold or rented out their homes and ditched a bunch of their possessions ahead of the cruise.
“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,” a passenger who wanted to remain anonymous told CNN.
“People got their hopes up once again only to be dashed a few days later. I’m surprised no one in the group has had a heart attack,” another said.
The company had planned for between 800-900 mostly American passengers and as of August, about 40 per cent of the 540 cabins had been reserved, Business Insider reports.
Life at Sea had promised customers a renovated vessel with “world-class” amenities, including a business centre, a library, a 24-hour on-call hospital with free medical visits and education classes for adults. There were also promises of a state-of-the-art wellness centre, multiple dining options and philanthropic initiatives that guests could register for.