Three-Year World Cruise Turns Into Cruise to Nowhere

world cruise
AIDAaura which was linked to the three-year cruise was delivered to her new owners in mid-November (AIDA file photo)

Published Nov 24, 2023 3:40 PM by The Maritime Executive


The much ballyhooed three-year world cruise that was to offer a unique chance to live at sea has turned into a cruise to nowhere. CNN is reporting that it saw copies of a video and statement sent to passengers that the cruise was canceled because Life at Sea, a company set up by Turkish tour operator Miray Cruises, had failed to obtain a ship for the deferred sailing date of December 1.

The concept drew broad attention from the mainstream and international media promoting the idea of living aboard a cruise ship. The reports widely echoed the marketing promotions which highlighted the trip as a “first of its kind experience,” that would ultimately cover over 130,000 miles across all seven continents, 140 countries, and 382 ports. What’s more, the marketing said it was the “first reasonably priced, all-inclusive world cruise starting from only $77,026 per year based on double occupancy.”

The promotions said people could “Live, Work and Explore from their Home at Sea.” They were promised free medical visits, free WIFI, and the ability to invite friends and family to join in. The website also says, “Speak to your Tax Accountant about the advantages of being an international resident aboard a ship.”

According to the reports, 111 cabins had been reserved with CNN saying that people had sold or rented their homes and abandoned most of their possessions. Now they have vague promises from the company to pay for housing till December 1, airfare home, and eventual repayments in installments from mid-December till February 2024 according to CNN.

The report says passengers were informed their idyllic three-year voyage would not be sailing a day after Celestyal Cruises confirmed it had purchased the AIDAaura from Carnival Corporation. Reports are the Greek company paid $60 million for the cruise ship and they took possession before the sale was announced. Observers in Bremerhaven, Germany, immediately saw the new name Celestyal Discovery being painted on the ship and a change in registry to Malta. The 42,000 gross ton cruise ship departed Germany on November 21 apparently bound for Greece where she will be refitted for her 2024 entry into service.

Life at Sea had repeatedly assured its customers that it was awaiting the handover of the cruise ship reporting it was just taking longer than expected. However, by early October they admitted their crew had left the ship and that the handover and refit were delayed. Originally, the cruise was scheduled for a grand sendoff on November 1 from Istanbul, which was later moved to November 11 from Amsterdam or a vague offer to board when the ship reached Freeport in the Bahamas. The final reports said the departure would be November 30 before the company went silent.


Miray operates cruises from Turkey aboard the smaller ship Gemini (Miray)


The cruise was being promoted by Miray, a company based in Turkey that operates the smaller Gemini, a 19,000 gross ton cruise ship built in Spain in 1992 with 400 cabins for 800 passengers. Miray has been running cruises in the Mediterranean since 2021 with the ship and initially said it would be the basis for the three-year world cruise. However, last spring they said they were upgrading to a larger and more modern ship. While never naming the AIDAaura, the ship they were calling Laura was quickly matched to the 20-year-old cruise ship Carnival’s AIDA brand announced it was retiring in September. It is a larger cruise ship with 627 cabins and is designed to carry about 1,200 passengers.

CNN reports that the owner of Miray told them that he runs a small company and could not afford to pay $40 or $50 million for the ship but he had attracted investors. He blamed the attacks on Israel and the war against Hamas as undermining the plan and the investors backing out. He said they looked for another cruise ship but it was not possible to quickly obtain a third one. 

Miray held out vague hope the company might try again in the future if it could find another cruise ship. For now, the first-of-its-kind three-year world cruise is instead a cruise to nowhere.