Three-year cruise cancelled as company admits it did not buy ship after customers sold homes for £300k tickets

30 November 2023, 14:54

The cruise, due to depart Istanbul on 30 November, was cancelled because the company failed to buy a ship
The cruise, due to depart on 30 November, was cancelled because the company failed to buy a ship. Picture: Alamy

By Sam Rucker

A “journey of a lifetime" cruise set to last three years has been cancelled weeks before its departure – despite some passengers having sold their homes.

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Life at Sea Cruises' inaugural journey, due to depart Istanbul on November 30, was cancelled because the company failed to buy a ship.

The voyage had already been postponed from November 1 to November 11 and then again to November 30.

Ahead of the trip – sold on the company's website as a "journey of a lifetime" – several passengers had already sold their homes, rented them out or did not renew rental contracts.

Some are still in Istanbul, having travelled to Turkey ahead of the anticipated departure, stranded without a home.

Read more: Saga Cruise ship passengers 'texted families goodbye' as boat was battered by massive waves in Bay of Biscay

Passengers were finally informed on November 17 that the cruise would not go ahead.

Tickets were sold with a £300,000 minimum price tag with some passengers willing to spend up to $19.5m on the three-year trip around the world.

One anonymous customer told CNN: "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."

Passengers had been told they would have to wait several months before getting their money back.

Life at Sea has offered to pay for accommodation until December 1.

Read more: Luxury cruise ship stranded off Greenland is pulled free at high tide

Another customer said: “I had the next three years of my life planned to live an extraordinary life, and now nothing. 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."

The cruise company was set to buy the AIDAaura, a ship retired this summer by AIDA Cruises, before renovating and sailing it to Istanbul ahead of its expected departure.

But AIDAaura was purchased by a different company on November 16, leaving Life at Sea Cruises customers in the lurch.

Days after passengers were informed of the cancellation, Life at Sea’s parent company’s owner, Vedat Ugurlu, sent a message, saying he was "extremely sorry for the inconvenience".

He said the company could not afford the ship and investors had "declined to support us further due to unrest in the Middle East".

Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, a week after the ship’s sale was originally supposed to have concluded. The company has since failed to buy two other ships.

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