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Exploring the 3-Year Cruise That Never Set Sail

Exploring the 3-Year Cruise That Never Set Sail

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Last February, I was scrolling through Instagram when a peculiar ad appeared on my feed. The ad boasted of a three-year cruise called Life at Sea — said to be the longest cruise ever, with 382 port calls around the world — set to depart from Istanbul on Nov. 1.

As a reporter who covers cruises for The New York Times Travel desk, I was skeptical; I had followed news of similar cruises that failed to launch. I also knew putting together a voyage of this ambition would prove a herculean task, requiring secure funding and a ship furnished for residential sailing.

About three months later, while searching through Facebook for updates on the cruise, I learned from a prospective passenger’s post that the sales and marketing team had resigned after a series of disputes with the parent company, Miray Cruises. Life at Sea’s managing director, Mikael Petterson, also resigned at that time.

It seemed the voyage was doomed before it began.

And so began my investigation into the idyllic-seeming cruise, plagued by management issues and poor planning. My article, a behind-the-scenes look at the company turmoil, was published online last month.

As the departure date approached, I wanted to reach out to prospective passengers to get their take on the upcoming trip. I found one traveler through LinkedIn who shared with me that there was an app for passengers to communicate with one another. The passenger agreed to make a post on my behalf, informing others that I was a Times reporter hoping to speak with them.

The departure date was eventually delayed two times — and the port changed to Amsterdam. On Nov. 20, weeks after the original departure date, the cruise was canceled. Miray had failed to secure a ship.

I wasn’t surprised by the news. Miray Cruises is a midsize Turkish company that specializes in three- to four-day Greek Island cruises. It did not have any experience with sailings of this scale.

After the cancellation, many people who bought the cruise package did not want to speak on the record; some feared that speaking with The Times might impact their chances of getting a refund. By that time, Miray had promised to refund all passengers in three monthly installments, so I understood why they felt hesitant about speaking up. One couple, Kara and Joe Youssef, reached out to me in late November. From Istanbul, they told me that they had…

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