Monday, July 15, 2024

If you’re going to organize a three-year round-the-world cruise, a good first step is probably to acquire a ship.

For months, Life at Sea Cruises has been signing up travelers, taking their money and marketing this unusual offering, which it announced in March.

Its website, which was promoting the cruise as of Monday, described the ship, the MV Lara, and promised visits to the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Giza, Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal.

Prospective passengers might pause before booking, though, when they see that the voyage was already supposed to set sail on Nov. 1. And they may be more alarmed to learn that the ship, under its original name, the AIDAaura, was acquired in mid-November by Celestyal Cruises, not by Life at Sea.

The day after that sale, Life at Sea announced it was canceling its round-the-world voyage.

Miray Cruises, the parent company of the cruise line, said it could not afford the $40 million to $50 million that was being asked for the ship and said that investors had dropped out because of the unrest in the Middle East, CNN reported.

Neither Life at Sea nor Miray responded to requests for comment on Monday. The cruise itinerary and links to book passage remained live.

Phileas Fogg hustled around the world in 80 days, but this trip was expected to be leisurely — a Magellan-like time frame of three years.

The cruise was originally set to leave from Istanbul, then take an extended tour of the Western Hemisphere before arriving in Asia in August 2024.

The South Pacific and Australia would fill much of 2025, followed by India. In 2026, the cruise was to have visited Africa, then Europe before finishing in late 2026, three years after it began.

The cruise was charging between $38,513 to $98,226 per person per year for double occupancy, so a couple planning to take the full circumnavigation would pay a minimum of $230,000, a cost appreciably lower per day than many long-term cruises.

Holland America, for example, charges roughly $180 per person per night for its 128-day cruise, which would be almost $400,000 for a three-year voyage for a couple.

The MV Lara, as it was to be named, was to have had a capacity of 1,266 passengers, with 80 percent of them expected to be booked, the company said. Less than half of the cabins appeared to be booked as of Monday morning.

The cruise was initially delayed to Nov. 11, then to Nov. 30, and its departure city was changed to Amsterdam. Then it was canceled outright on Nov. 17.

Passengers were promised repayment in monthly installments through February, CNN reported. It quoted several passengers, whom it did not name, saying they were dismayed by the cancellation after planning their next three years around it.

Miray said it had considered shifting the cruise to one of its other ships but decided that ship was too small.

The leisurely three-year window for the planned cruise was unusual and drew outsize news media attention. Cunard’s round-the-world cruise, aboard the Queen Mary 2, lasts for three months.

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