First, note that I have changed the photo and much of the text on the front page of this website to better reflect the fact that the cruise was canceled! I’m sure more changes will be coming, but I do not intend to change the domain name since “LifeAtSea.Blog” applies to any future, similar, trip insofar as I am continuing to plan to live a Life At Sea.
Back in March 2023, I thought the world press, and the cruise industry, would pick up on the Life At Sea Cruise and write about it. extensively. That’s why I bought the domain name “LifeAtSea.Blog.” Before the end of November, there were a few stories, increasing in numbers as trouble started looming, but not near the number of stories I expected.
Then Miray Cruises canceled this year’s departure and my “alerts” filter has been reporting 6-8 or more stories, daily, about the cancellation. The “facts” differ despite the best efforts of most of the journalists as is usual in these situations when reading main-line media news. And my friends and readers have been asking what’s going on?
So, here is the “history” and story, in short form, from my perspective. I’ve tried to leave out the drama but refer to it occasionally. Often the facts, or dates, differ depending on the data sources. In most cases, I am depending on “Resident only” information in webinars or online forums. My apologies if I get it wrong on occasion. But I am pretty sure it’s accurate, generally.
March 1, 2023, an Around the World Trip called Life At Sea Cruise was announced, and the website for Life At Sea Cruises was launched. At that point, there was only one three-year cruise announced and that was departing from Istanbul on 1 November 2023. (I signed up for it on 6 March within five hours of hearing about it.)
At first, the sales, marketing, and all other aspects of the cruise were being managed by a management group in Florida (A CEO, Sales Manager, etc.). Webinars, sales, and excitement followed.
Sometime in May, we (the Residents) began to pick up signs of discomfort or confusion, but it didn’t seem overwhelming. It was worrisome, however, and the concerns were reflected in the Resident communications on Forums, Facebook, and other social media. On May 24, the CEO of the “Florida group” hosted a very emotional webinar, preceded by an equally emotional email, and announced that he and the team in Florida were no longer associated with the project.
Also on May 24 (the same day seems odd, but that’s what my email records say and for sure it was almost immediately on the heels of Mike Petterson’s webinar) Kendra Holmes hosted a webinar from Miray Cruises in Istanbul saying they had taken over running the cruise and that the Florida team was no longer involved. Kendra was the CEO, and they introduced the other members of the new (to us) team from Miray.
The next several weeks were a series of webinars and communications in which Miray Cruises/Kendra worked hard to settle concerns, ease the panic/anxiety among the Residents and prospects, and in various ways get on with making the cruise a reality after a tumultuous change in executive management and marketing presence.
During this period, it was made clear that the idea and business concept always belonged to Miray. That information was available before 24 May, but it wasn’t as easily or clearly presented unless you dug a very little bit. In my opinion, it was never hidden, just not made blatantly obvious.
Early on, the Miray team began referring to getting a new ship to replace the MV Gemini that had originally been billed as the ship for the cruise. They generated excitement about the new ship (more room, more space per passenger, “slightly” larger overall ship (about 10% it turned out), better accommodations, etc. Sometime during the week of 22-29 June, there was an official announcement that the name of the new ship would be “MV Lara” (MV stands for Motor Vessel by maritime standards). A photo of another ship was photoshopped to have the colors/paint job for Miray. Some inevitable, and understandable, (and fun) sleuthing determined the ship being purchased was the AIDAaura then owned by Carnival Cruises.
Time passed – July, August September, and into October and the Residents were beginning to be concerned about the lack of specific identifying information about MV Lara. Answers from the Miray team came less frequently and with a lack of clarity. Then at some point, it was clear that the Miray team simply was not communicating at all. It was like a blackout.
During that period there were a lot of concerns expressed by Residents and demands for some kind of communication. On 12 Oct, the Owner of Miray, Vadat Ugurlu, published an update stating that the cruise had been delayed until 11 November due to difficulties in transferring funds. There were already some residents en route to Turkey for the planned 1 November departure date.
I would have been one of them were it not for other circumstances in my life causing me to cancel the flights and reservations in Cape Town and Istanbul. But I did not cancel the booking for the Life At Sea Cruise, and for that, I have no regrets.
More silence from the Miray team, and increasingly strident concern from the Residents followed, until on 20 Oct Vedat published another update saying the cruise departure would be further delayed until 30 November and would be from a port in Northern Europe instead of Istanbul.
On 19 Nov Vedat published a statement that they were attempting to find a ship for departing 1 Dec. On 20 Nov Ethem (The COO of Miray) published a statement that the Life At Sea Cruise was canceled, reiterating earlier statements that Miray would honor the contracts, refund all payments, and pay for transportation and expenses for Residents who incurred expenses assuming the cruise would depart from Istanbul.
Since then, there has been a LOT of discussion from understandably irritated, and inconvenienced, Residents about reimbursement timing, exactly what would be reimbursed, etc. A few less stridently upset Residents are also concerned but continue to have a positive attitude about what the future could hold.
What is clear is that Miray did not adequately plan, or prepare, and did not do a good job of communicating. We, the Residents, just hope that they make good on their promises to eventually repay everyone for the costs of the trip plus expenses if incurred. I will only note that some of the Residents, as usual, are being unreasonable but that’s just how our species is put together, I’m afraid.
So that’s it for this point in time. I’m trying to get more time to write more interesting blogs, but my own life has been filled with transitions and requirements, and I’ll keep chipping away at it. I am hopeful, and fairly confident, that I will get all of the money back I put into the trip. I’m also looking at what to do next – depart on another “life At Sea Cruise” departing 1 Nov (if it happens), or on a similar trip hopefully being assembled by Kendra, the old CEO of Miray, or on Villa Vie, the similar trip being organized by the original team running LAS from Florida and still headed by Mike Petterson. Of course, there is this lawsuit pending between Miray and Mike Petterson. That’s sure to be a complication. Or maybe not.
Or … something else! I’ll come up with something. Whatever happens, I intend to replace the Life At Sea Cruise with either another around-the-world community experience, or something equally intriguing that will give me a chance to write more!