An Ohio woman has been left homeless after selling her house to take a three year round-the-world cruise – only for it to be canceled days before its departure.
Keri Witman, from Cincinnati, sold her four-bedroom house and gave away her possessions to put a deposit down for a $185,000 ticket to set sail on the Life At Sea adventure voyage.
She first saw an advert for the cruise in April, which promised to take her to all seven continents, 140 countries, and 382 ports. The trip was due to start on November 1 in Istanbul.
Around 1,000 passengers were due to board the 627-cabin MV Lara – but just weeks before the departure, Life At Sea said they hadn’t actually bought the ship yet and pushed the start date back.
Keri Witman, from Cincinnati, sold her four-bedroom house, gave away her possessions and put a deposit down for the $185,000 ticket to set sail on the Life At Sea adventure voyage
Witman, who runs a marketing agency, said she spoke to her financial advisor who encouraged her to pay the $3,000 deposit and first payment of $29,000 if that was what she wanted to do
The company said they are ‘actively working on creating alternative plans for the future.’
Witman, who is now in a short-term rental apartment, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘It’s a good job I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, but it’s certainly been a challenging time.
‘But I’m not the only person that sold their house to go on the cruise – lots of us did. I mean, why wouldn’t you if you were going away for three years?
‘Other people rented their properties out, some took early retirement… Everyone has their own story.
‘I’d been fantasizing about a big trip. The itinerary was crazy; we were going to start in Istanbul, then head to Spain, across the Atlantic, the Bahamas, down to South America, Antarctica, up the other side to Central America, the US and Asia.
‘We wouldn’t have got to the West Coast until next fall – it would’ve taken almost a year to make our way there.’
Witman, who runs a marketing agency, said she spoke to her financial advisor who encouraged her to pay the $3,000 deposit and first payment of $29,000 if that was what she wanted to do.
Her possessions that were meant to be on the cruise are now in storage, and she is living in a rented apartment. Despite the ordeal, she has remained optimistic
Cruise passengers who signed up for a three-year world cruise have been left devastated after the company pulled the plug on the trip with less than two weeks to go
For couples sharing a cabin, the trip was priced from $231,000 – or $115,500 per person.
Her possessions that were meant to be on the cruise are now in storage, and she is living in a rented apartment. Despite the ordeal, she has remained optimistic.
Instead of feeling bitter about the delays, she told the newspaper: ‘I feel light – I had a three-storey house with a basement, and all of those rooms were full of things, it was all just weighing me down.
‘Though I do miss my recipe books, and I’ve just bought a new winter coat because I’d gotten rid of them all.
‘The aim for this year was to shake things up, and I’ve certainly done that. Yes it didn’t go to plan, but the plan now is to enjoy Christmas and look for other opportunities to travel next year.
‘Honestly, this feels like the beginning of my adventure – not the end.
‘I got my knee replacement done, and sold the house – I’d been thinking of doing that for a while, and it’s a really hot market so I was happy.’
Not all hopeful passengers were as positive as Witman. Some furious customers who had already sold off their possessions or shipped them out to the vessel have been told they will only get their money back in monthly installments.
‘There’s a whole lot of people right now with nowhere to go, and some need their refund to even plan a place to go – it’s not good right now,’ one passenger said.
Others spoke of feeling ‘betrayed’ after being promised ‘a three year ultimate bucket list world cruise.’
‘The company seems to have no consideration about what they’ve done to our lives,’ one passenger said. ‘I never imagined I’d be in this position as a senior citizen.’
Another added: ‘I’m in a state of disbelief that they’ve done this to us.
‘I can’t even begin to wrap my head around the disappointment of losing this opportunity.
‘I don’t think they will ever understand how much damage they’ve caused us.’
On November 17, passengers were informed their dream trip had been axed after the MV Lara, the proposed vessel for the journey, had been purchased by a rival company
Customers had sold their homes and possessions in anticipation of the trip, which had seen some lay down up to $360,000 in deposits
Life at Sea Cruises announced the voyage would not go ahead because it could not secure funding for a big enough vessel
More than 110 people had signed up for the journey, and only received notice it will not be going ahead on November 17.
Life at Sea’s former CEO Kendra Holmes told the 111 customers the trip had been canceled and that any customers who had sent their possessions ahead would need to arrange to have them returned.
She resigned just days prior to making the announcement.
Vedat Ugurlu, the owner of Miray Cruises, which owns Life at Sea sent a similar message two days later saying he is ‘extremely sorry for the inconvenience’.
‘Miray is not such a big company to afford to pay 40-50 million for a ship,’ he said, before claiming the unrest in the Middle East meant his investors had ‘declined to support us further’.
The voyage collapsed after the company failed to secure funding for the MV Lara, the proposed vessel for the trip and customers were initially told there were merely delays in the sale.
The swanky 666 foot liner boasts 627 cabins with room for up to 1266 passengers.
Would-be cruisers were promised ‘spacious living areas and modern amenities’ which have been specifically redesigned for long term residence and luxurious feel’.
The vessel features a bar, restaurants, a spa, gym, sun deck and pool. Activities advertised included dancing, karaoke, yoga and golfing among others.
However, on November 16 it emerged that Greek company Celestyal Cruises had snapped up the liner to add to its own fleet.
Life at Sea had previously proposed another vessel owned by Miray, MV Gemini, but it deemed it too small.
‘If we will not be able to sail on December 1, we will offer you to sail on another departure date or refund all the payments within a short schedule,’ Ugurlu wrote in an email to customers.
‘We have tried everything to make your dreams come true and we will continue to do so.’