The first three-year journey by Life at Sea Cruises, a subsidiary of Miray Cruises which promised a fleet of ships sailing the world, appeared to be in limbo this weekend, with those who had paid hefty deposits demanding their money back.
Some sold their homes and were rehoming their pets to get onboard the once-in-a-lifetime voyage, which promised all-included living starting at $32,999 per person per year.
The website had the ship sailing 305 ports, 135 countries and offering 1,095 days of sailing, with wine and beer at dinner and workspaces for those who chose to continue their jobs while “working from sea”.
The line claimed to be half the price of Royal Caribbean and one fifth the price of Viking. And they showed pictures of the Gemini: “At 19,000 tons it has 400 cabins with room for up to 1,074 passengers. Gemini is the perfect size to avoid the big crowds, but is big enough to offer all the amenities bigger cruise ships offer.”
Half the cabins sold quickly, with many selling their possessions and preparing for a new adventure sailing the world.
But now, CNN Travel has cast doubts on the cruise, headlining an expose: “Three-year cruise in crisis amid concerns about its ship and refund demands”.
According to the story, an entire team at Life at Sea Cruises was set up for the project, but they have now reportedly parted ways with Miray Cruises after a breakdown in communication over the suitability of the ship.
And Miray Cruises has suggested the Gemini may not be the ship that sails after all. Kendra Holmes, director of business development for Miray, told CNN in an email they are unable to release any details of a potential new vessel due to the confidentiality of the contract, “which is standard in the cruise industry.”
“We anticipate sharing even more information with cruisers in the coming weeks, however when we do release the information, we will not be able to state what the vessel’s current name is or which company it was purchased from,” she said.
Guests have been given a deadline of June 5 to pay the cruise fare in full.
The journey was scheduled to sail from Istanbul on November 1st on its long journey around the world.
But Mike Petterson, the now former managing director for Life at Sea Cruises, told CNN Travel that he and the rest of the founding team have “stepped away” from the project.
A private Facebook group for booked passengers and those considering buying a cabin on the ship, has members divided between those searching for refunds, and those hopeful the cruise will still go ahead.
Mary Ann Dem from Canada is worried about the financial commitment when so many details are still up in the air.
“Who can persuade me to hand over USD$25,000 and then another USD$100,00 to cruise a ship that is not yet actually identified or verified?
“I understand the leap of faith, knowing it was a new project. But now with all the changes, all the confusion, all the drama, I am afraid we might all lose all our money to a venture that will not only not happen as planned and promised but will also take our money and run.”
Jenny Phoenix wrote, “I had reserved a solo room for the entire three years on the cruise.
“Personally, I would have to know the ship that we are sailing on and I would need to see actual pictures of the cabins and the entire boat before paying the rest of the deposit.”
Michael Socha wrote, “We’ve chosen not to go. While this seems like an amazing trip, we are concerned that we literally rearranged our entire lives for it to be put in turmoil in a matter of a few moments on Sunday. We cancelled our plans to rent our house, rehome our dog etc.
“We are concerned about not knowing the new ship, medical care on the new boat etc. To put three years of our lives and to literally change everything, again, just seems too risky to us at this point.”
Kimberly Arizzi told Insider that she sold her apartment and most of her belongings in anticipation of the cruise.
“I thought I had my life set up for the next few years. It’s not only the furniture I lost, but it was also the boat-utopia — the idea of being in a like-minded community, all doing something together for the first time ever.”
Ms Arizzi had already put down a USD$5000 deposit on the cruise, which has now been returned to her.
While Miray continues to say that the cruise will go ahead, even telling guests that they can come onto the boat three days early, guests like Ms Arizzi still remain sceptical of the management and their enthusiasm for sailing is dwindling.
“I believe the Gemini ship will go on, I just don’t think I’ll be happy on it.”
Miray Cruises reaffirmed with Cruise Passenger that the cruise will go ahead and spoke through the confusion over which ship the cruise will sail with.
“We are not yet able to release any details of the potential vessel due to confidentiality of the contract, which is standard in the cruise industry. We anticipate sharing even more information with cruisers in the coming weeks, however when we do release the information, we will not be able to state what the vessels current name is or which company it was purchased from.
“The customers would be told the gross tonnage of the vessel and how many cabins there are. Due to confidentiality requirements of the agreement, we would be prevented from stating the previous name of the vessel and the company it was purchased from. We will also be releasing updated deck plans, cabin dimensions and public space information.”
The spokesperson offered reassurance of the work being done behind the scenes.
“We are currently sailing on Gemini and have been hosting 2 webinars a day at different times to accommodate our current and potential guests who live in many different parts of the world. We want them to understand that Life at Sea is and always has been, Life at Sea by Miray Cruises and we have an entire team that has been working behind the scenes to make this trip a reality for everyone who wants to go
“We are now the front facing team and we are humbled that our current and potential guests have given us an opportunity to learn more about who we are, our passion for this project, and most importantly, our honesty.”
The spokesperson also confirmed the ship is currently at 50% capacity and also says there have been less than 10 cancellations so far.
“Based on full capacity, which is represented at 80% (and we do not want to have the ship at its actual full capacity so we can ensure our guests have enough space to themselves onboard) we estimate to be just over 50% booked.
“We’ve refunded reservations fees for less than 10 cruisers to date.”