MV Lala Cruises

Courtesy: Miray Cruises

A unique three-year circumnavigation program – which was at risk of running aground earlier this year – now has a bigger ship.

but price Also higher.

Passengers and potential passengers who have already booked berths on the 130,000-mile cruise that sails in November told CNBC they are concerned about another new addition to the sales pitch: requiring them to board the MV Laura at a port outside the United States.

This request will sea ​​cruise lifeAnd its parent company, Miray Cruises, avoided paying the Federal Maritime Commission’s requirement to pay performance bonds for cruise ships that pick up passengers in U.S. ports.

Such bonds would provide compensation to U.S. passengers boarding a ship if the cruise operator fails to complete a booked itinerary.

In March, Life at Sea initially offered what it called “the world’s first and only three-year cruise” aboard previous ship MV Gemini.

Prices start at $29,999 a year for individuals in shared interior cabins and rise to nearly $109,999 a year for larger suites, and Gemini expects to visit 375 ports in 135 countries and seven continents when it sets sail Nov. 1. The room can accommodate up to 1,074 passengers.

Two months later, customers who signed up for the voyage were surprised to find that Mikael Petterson, then managing director of Life at Sea, and the rest of his team had left the Miray sub due to the Gemini’s disqualification. company. Processes trips and status of FMC bonds.

Paterson informed Facebook followers of the trip in May, saying that Gemini was “totally unseaworthy and will never complete the circumnavigation of the world.”

“Three weeks ago, I decided to refund everyone’s credit card deposits,” Paterson wrote in a public post on Facebook.

Paterson’s comments frustrated many who had signed up for the trip, including a man who had already started selling his home to pay for it.

Florida resident Barbara paid a deposit for the cruise, but she followed some other passengers and quit the trip in May. She requested that her last name not be used in this article due to privacy concerns.

When asked why she quit, Barbara said, “It was pretty risky for me.” She said she rebooked a three-year cruise with Victoria Cruises on the Majestic.

At the time, Miray Cruises disputed Paterson’s description of Gemini and vowed that the trip would go ahead as planned, though it was unclear if it would involve Gemini or another ship.

A cabin view on board the MV Lara cruise ship.

Courtesy: Miray Cruises

Miray Cruises is also suing Paterson in Florida court, alleging defamation and interfering with business relationships.

Paterson, who is fighting those civil claims, declined to comment to CNBC.

Miray CEO Kendra Holmes told CNBC: “There is absolutely no truth to this unseaworthy comment.”

“The MV Gemini has always been considered seaworthy, as evidenced by the certification (passenger ship safety certificate) issued after the classification society inspection,” she said. “Just last week, Gemini was inspected as scheduled and PSSC certification was renewed.”

Still, Miray Cruises isn’t using the Gemini, recently telling customers the company will put them on the Lara, a 1,250-passenger cruise ship. Holmes said Miray said it would provide 85 percent of the ship’s available berths “so that our residents are comfortable and can enjoy all public spaces without feeling overcrowded.”

“Shortly after the announcement in March, the reception was unprecedentedly positive and we knew we had to buy a larger vessel to meet the high demand we sailed,” she said.

Holmes said passengers who originally booked trips when Gemini was the intended ship “have been converted to MV Lara for the price they originally locked into the cabin”.

But, she added, “as with any cruise, prices rise at a steady rate, so the sooner residents book a cruise with us, the lower the price will be.”

There are many

North Carolina resident Shirene Thomas booked a three-year Life at Sea cruise with Miray Cruise

Source: Shireen Thomas

As of now, the Miray offers berths to individuals willing to share an interior cabin for $38,513, which is more than 28 percent more than the price for that option on Gemini. Prices for outdoor cabins and balcony cabins also increased.

A few months ago, a woman who booked a berth on the Gemini at the original price, Shirene Thomas told CNBC she was paying the final cruise bill now that the Laura will be the ship.

Thomas, of Wilmington, N.C., used her pension to pay for the trip and sold and donated most of her estate.

While Thomas almost backed out of the trip after the original plans to use the Gemini cruise sparked controversy, she is now committed to the voyage.

Thomas, in his 50s, has retired from social service and has been an avid traveler all his life. After college, she tried out a cruise as her first official vacation after get off work, and she’s been a cruise fan ever since. Although she has lived in or visited nearly 70 countries, there are many more on her wish list, and the 135 countries covered in this adventure will cover all of them, and then some.

“I understand that fluctuations in staff turnover have understandably made some people nervous, but I think the SeaLife team has been honest, transparent, and well-communicated with everyone about the situation,” Thomas said. Hosted numerous webinars to answer questions and calm people’s fears, and was very approachable.”

Despite her nervousness about what to expect on the voyage, she said, “those fears were overshadowed by the excitement of being a pioneer on this first-ever world-sea adventure.”

Thomas said she particularly “looks forward to the volunteering and humanitarian opportunities that are part of SeaLife’s mission.”

However, since there is no US performance bond, she also used a credit card to pay for the cruise, hoping this would give her some recourse to recover the funds should the cruise be aborted.

“I know nothing is 100 percent safe,” Thomas said.

But, she added, “everything points to this being the real deal.”

“I’m sure that if it doesn’t work out, they’ll give us our money back,” Thomas said.

From Miami to Istanbul

Others CNBC spoke to expressed concern over the lack of a performance bond for Miray Cruises, which is currently encouraging passengers to start their trips in Istanbul on Nov. 1, with the opportunity to board in Barcelona four days later.

Miray Cruises initially offered clients the opportunity to board a Gemini in Miami.

But by removing the U.S. port as an option, the company avoided the need to pay a performance bond.

“There is no bond requirement for cruises anywhere outside of the US, and if you depart from a non-US port with Miray Cruises or any other cruise line, you will not be bonded,” Miray CEO Holmes said.

“Also, the FMC bond doesn’t cover everyone on board — it only covers passengers who boarded the ship in the United States,” Holmes added.

“When we first started accepting residency applications, we realized that the number of residents asking to board ships in U.S. ports was extremely low, and most of our U.S. residents were expected to board ships in Europe. Since people don’t want to board ships in Europe, That number dropped even more. Missed the first 15 days of being on a boat with a new neighbor,” she said.

When asked why Miray switched to Freeport Bahamas after initially offering boarding in Miami, Holmes said: “Most of our residents choose to board in Europe—either join us in our planned pre-sail celebrations in Istanbul, or Embark at our second embarkation point. In Barcelona.”

Fewer than a dozen of the hundreds of passengers asked to board the ship in Miami, she said.

“Given the smaller number of residents and the flexibility we have, we are moving the embarkation location to Freeport, Bahamas, to allow more time in our South American itinerary,” Holmes said.

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