Life at Sea Cruises has officially cancelled its ambitious three-year cruise, disappointing passengers who had booked the voyage. The cancellation comes after a series of delays and logistical challenges, leaving behind guests who have spent thousands of dollars on what now appears to be a fairytale turned nightmare.
At the base of the problems for Life at Sea Cruises and its parent company Miray Cruises, is the fact that there is no and never was a ship. While there have been multiple candidates and pretty drawings, the actual vessel never materialized.
Three-Year Cruise Meets Abrupt End
What many expected to be a scenario that was never likely to happen has now become a reality. Life at Sea Cruises has cancelled its three-year 130,000-mile cruise around the world.
The cruise, which attracted attention for its unique duration and affordability, was initially set to depart from Istanbul, Turkey. However, the departure faced several postponements and changes, eventually leading to its cancellation.
The initial departure date for the cruise, set in Istanbul, Turkey, was scheduled for November 1, 2023. Subsequently, this was postponed to November 11. In a further change, Life at Sea Cruises notified guests that the ship would depart from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, instead.
The departure was then rescheduled for November 30, again from Amsterdam. However, in an unexpected turn of events, guests received notice on November 17, 2023, that the cruise had been cancelled.
Unexpected Development for Life at Sea Cruises’ Guests
This development was surprising to passengers, some of whom had already arrived in Istanbul in preparation for the original departure date of November 1.
However, all this time, and despite issuing multiple renderings of how the vessel would look, Miray Cruises failed to inform guests that they had yet to purchase a ship, let alone do all the renovations and inspections needed to perform such a cruise.
The cancellation has left many passengers in a challenging position. Some passengers find themselves without a clear plan, having sold or rented out their homes in anticipation of the cruise. The financial implications are significant, with passengers now seeking refunds for their bookings.
Acquisition of AIDAaura Falls Through
At the center of the cancellation was the unsuccessful acquisition of a ship. Life at Sea Cruises had intended to purchase AIDAaura and rename the vessel MV Lara for their voyage.
However, after a period of uncertainty, Celestyal Cruises announced the purchase of AIDAaura, leading to mounting issues for Life at Sea Cruises.
Vedat Ugurlu, owner of Miray Cruises, the parent company of Life at Sea, expressed regret over the situation. He cited financial constraints and geopolitical factors as contributing to the inability to secure a vessel for the cruise. The company’s efforts to acquire an alternative ship were also unsuccessful.
However, this is not the first time Miray Cruises has been unable to procure a suitable vessel for Life at Sea Cruises. MV Gemini was the original vessel that would have undertaken the three-year voyage, but this was marked by significant challenges and concerns.
There were serious doubts about the ship’s seaworthiness, leading to multiple refund requests and safety concerns. In May 2023, a former director at Life at Sea Cruises reported that the ship, capable of carrying up to 1,074 passengers, was deemed ‘unseaworthy’ by an engineer, raising doubts about its ability to complete the three-year journey.
Although MV Gemini was not officially classified as unseaworthy by flag state or port state control, it did raise significant concerns. Strangely enough, MV Gemini has been sailing around the Mediterranean again since March 2023.
Will Refunds Materialize?
Life at Sea Cruises has communicated plans to issue these refunds in monthly installments starting mid-December 2023. The company also says it intends to pay for accommodation for those passengers already in Istanbul, and who now find themselves without a home to go to.
“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,” said one passenger to CNN.com.
In terms of seeking refunds, guests are encouraged to formally request a refund from Life at Sea Cruises. The likelihood of receiving a refund can vary based on the financial stability of the cruise line, the terms and conditions of the booking, and any applicable travel insurance policies.
Unfortunately, Life at Sea has not published its terms and conditions on its website. Instead, the page redirects to a booking page, which is still open for the November 30 sailing. Its brochure, a poor attempt made with images from other cruise ships and cruise lines, also does not mention legal terms and conditions that guests can hold the cruise to.
If the cruise line faces financial difficulties or bankruptcy, the process of obtaining a refund can become more complex and uncertain. In such scenarios, guests may need to seek legal advice or consider alternative routes such as claiming through credit card chargebacks or travel insurance.