Passengers, including Australians, who sold houses, rented homes and closed businesses to sign up for the now failed Life at Sea world cruise are pursuing fraud charges.

Seventy-eight of the 100 or so would-be Life at Sea passengers have now sent a letter to the US attorney for the Southern District of Florida, asking him to investigate whether Miray, the Turkish cruise company behind the scheme, defrauded them out of millions of dollars.

Most passengers paid Miray anything from US$90,000 to secure a cabin or US$975,000 up front to secure a discounted suite. They now claim the company collected an estimated US$16 million (AU$24 million) to use as a deposit to acquire and repurpose a ship that it didn’t end up purchasing.

If they had known how their money was being used, they “could have made informed decisions about parting with their $16 million,” the passengers said in the complaint. The complaint also said passengers had been explicitly told by Miray that their payments were not being used for upfront funding.

It is not known if fraud charges are being pursued by the US Attorney in Florida.

Refunds few and far between

Dozens of potential passengers quit jobs, sold homes and withdrew life savings to pay for what promised to be the adventure of a lifetime: a cruise with 382 ports of call over 1095 days.

If the plan had succeeded, the passengers would by now, be well into the first leg of the three-year Life at Sea cruise, sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina to Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia.

After the cancellation late last year, Miray said it would offer full refunds to all passengers, but two repayment deadlines have since passed and only four of the more than 100 passengers have received partial refunds.

Some passengers are now in dire straits with one US couple stranded in an Istanbul hotel; another woman moving to Ecuador because she can’t afford to pay her mortgage; and a man, recently diagnosed with cancer, delaying treatment because he doesn’t have the money to pay for it.

Aussie caught up in forever cruise collapse

Melbourne woman was now homeless after the “forever cruise” collapse. Fran Paroissien, 75, took out a reverse mortgage and rented her Hawthorn apartment, intent on spending her retirement on the world cruise.

“I’m disappointed. I don’t want to go into a village, and I’m not decrepit enough for a nursing home, so it looked like it would be a good alternative. I was quite excited,” Paroissien told the media after the cancellation in November.

Another cruise line also offered a three-and-half-year world cruise just weeks after the cancellation. Start-up company Villa Vie Residences, born out of the old management team of Life at Sea, has just acquired a 30-year-old ship from UK-based Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.