It’s been over a month since Life at Sea Cruises cancelled a three-year sailing that passengers had already paid for.
Owed tens of thousands of dollars each, anxious guests have yet to see their money returned. With many of them left homeless and in financial straits, they are seeking an investigation that might allow them to file for fraud.
78 out of the 100 passengers sent a letter requesting the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Markenzy Lapointe, to investigate Miray Cruises, the parent company of Life at Seas Cruises. According to them, the cruise operator defrauded them of around $16 million, which was supposed to be a deposit for a cruise ship.
Instead of touring 382 ports over 1,095 days, Life at Sea Cruises delayed its embarkation date several times before announcing on November 17 that it was cancelling the cruise altogether.
The company didn’t set up an escrow account or have a bond with the Federal Maritime Commission since it wasn’t leaving from a US port.
With staterooms priced from $90,000 to $975,000, the company promised a repayment plan from January to February 2024.
So far, two unmet repayment deadlines have been met, and only four passengers have received some of their money back.
Despite repeated follow-ups by the passengers, most are still owed refunds.
While waiting, passengers have been left homeless and cash-strapped. To go on the cruise, people sold their homes, spent their life savings, and left their jobs.
67-year-old Jenny Phenix leased her condo and gave up two businesses. Today, she’s renting a house in Ecuador with a fellow stranded passenger.
Retired lawyer David Purcell sold his house and car. Shirene Thomas gave up the home she was renting and spent a third of her life savings to join the cruise. Because of the cancellation, she’s been joining back-to-back cruises with her credit card, which she hopes to repay with her refund.
Retiree Adam Pers has since learned that he has cancer, but he has no way of paying for his mortgage and cancer treatments. “Instead of focusing on my treatment, I’m having to go through the stress of chasing my money and looking for work,” he told The New York Times.
Miray blames the delay on the number of credit card chargebacks from passengers. It said that the disputes forced banks to freeze their accounts.
However, the passengers reasoned they only started asking for chargebacks last week when the company repeatedly failed to remit payments.
Many Life at Seas Cruises employees are now employed at a new world cruise start-up company, Villa Vie. Villa Vie has a ship scheduled to embark on its inaugural world voyage in May.