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The backstory: Long-term live-on cruises are a rare opportunity and also expensive. Last March, the cruise company Life at Sea announced a new 1,095-day travel cruise to visit 140 countries around the world. In the original cruise itinerary, passengers would travel from Istanbul around Europe, then to South America and the Caribbean before going through the Panama Canal to the West Coast of North America and then crossing the Pacific. Passengers would end up visiting all seven continents.
The whole idea was to sail all over the world for about three years. This is an extremely long amount of time for a round-the-world cruise, and Life at Sea got a ton of media attention when it released these plans. About 300 days would be spent traveling, with the rest of the time focused on exploring new places. Life at Sea touted that passengers would get opportunities to explore wonders of the world, UNESCO World Heritage sites and also do fun activities like diving and snorkeling. The Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu were all on the agenda.
More recently: For months, Life at Sea has been reeling in travelers, taking deposits and marketing the cruise. Travelers were advertised the MV Lara cruise ship, which could hold more passengers than the original cruise ship picked for the voyage. Prices for the trip went from around US$38,000 to US$98,000 per person per year.
Initially, this cruise was supposed to take off from Istanbul on November 1. But that plan was delayed and rescheduled, and the new plan was to set off from Amsterdam on November 30. But, in mid-November, the advertised ship was bought by a different cruise company, Celestyal Cruises, not by Life at Sea.
The development: Less than two weeks before the new set sail date, Life at Sea canceled the cruise altogether because it had no ship for the voyage. Miray Cruises, which owns Life at Sea, said there were problems buying the ship it needs because investors pulled back support “due to unrest in [the] Middle East."
For passengers who had already made plans to call the ship home for the next three years, they could be out of a place to live. And, for those who already paid thousands of dollars, they’ve been told that they’ll be repaid in monthly installments starting in mid-December. Some travelers were already in Turkey when the trip was rerouted and then canceled, so Life at Sea promised to pay for their hotel rooms and return trip airfares. CEO Kendra Holmes also reportedly resigned from her post last week. But, according to some sources, the cruise hasn’t been canceled; it was only postponed again.
"How did I feel about it?" retired flight attendant Meredith Shay said in an interview on ABC's “Good Morning America.” "Devastated, disappointed, sad. I packed up my belongings, put them in storage, sent four boxes to Miray Cruises."
“Miray is not such a big company to afford to pay 40–50 million for a ship,” said Vedat Ugurlu, owner of Miray, in a message to passengers.