This couple sold everything to go on a 3-year cruise. The only thing missing was the ship.

Ohio locals Kara and Joe Youssef sold their two apartments, most of their belongings and withdrew their life savings to embark on a three-year cruise around the globe.

Their excitement was palpable, and as they made their way to Istanbul, Turkey in late October, they envisioned the 1,095 days they would spend at sea, where they would be stopping at 382 ports across the world.

Watch: 10 annoying habits of recent travellers. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

That was until the cruise company cancelled last minute, claiming they didn’t have a ship suitable for the voyage, leaving the Youssefs stranded in Istanbul.

The couple, who gave up both their homes and spent the majority of their life savings on a ticket, were devastated, and not to mention, stressed.

The Turkish company, Miray Cruises, announced the cruise, Life at Sea, back in March, saying it would be an opportunity to explore the world via sea. It seemed like a great idea at the time, especially for the Youssefs who dreamt of travelling after the pandemic

Ticket prices started at $90,000 for an inside cabin and went all the way to up $975,000 for a suite - and despite it being a hefty amount, many passengers thought it was a great deal as it was cheaper than living three years in many major cities.


But the price the Youssefs are paying now is far greater. The couple are stuck living in a hotel in Istanbul and are still waiting on their $80,000 refund.

“They kept leading us on, making us hold out hope until the very last minute, just days before we were supposed to depart,” Kara told The New York Times.

“We sold everything we have to make this dream happen. We feel completely defeated.”

The Youssefs aren’t the only ones in this position.

The Youssefs envisioned themselves travelling around the world after the pandemic. Image: Facebook.


The cruise line promised refunds to all its passengers, however, only a small fraction of the money has been returned so far. 

Before its cancellation, over half of the ship’s 400 cabins had been booked, but clearly, the company didn’t predict the magnitude of running an operation this big. 

Aside from needing a ship large enough to transport hundreds of people around the world, they also required docking rights from different countries and funding.

The trip was the brainchild of entrepreneur Mikael Petterson, who reached out to Miray owner Vedet Ugurlu to help him bring it to life.

And while the initiative proved to be popular, problems started popping up a month after tickets went on sale, when people within the company raised concerns over the amount of fuel it would take to reach each destination.

“Even if you spend another $10 million on that ship, I don't think it is enough to do what we want to do,” said itinerary planner Robert Dixin in a voice message sent to his team.

Shortly after, the company was struggling to process credit card payments, and “lacked an escrow account to secure deposits.”

The continuous back and forth saw Mikael end his partnership with the cruise and Miray, leaving the Youssefs anxious about the deposit they had already paid.

“We felt very nervous,” said Kara, but admitted that after meeting with the vice president for business development and strategy at Miray, Kendra Holmes, they felt more at ease.


“Kendra was very convincing and dedicated. She was very realistic, whereas Mikael had promised us the sun and the moon.”

On May 31, Kendra invited passengers to join a webinar, where she told everyone that the business decided to not use an escrow account, and instead, it would protect customers through a bond filed with the Federal Maritime Commission.

However, according to The Times, the bond was never filed. 

A month later, Life at Sea said it was dealing with “unprecedented demand” and searching for a 627-cabin vessel to accommodate everyone.

But that was far from the truth. 

In actuality, the company was using investor funds to buy a bigger ship. 

Fellow passenger Mary Radar did her research before handing over the funds, choosing to ask her travel agent if Miray Cruises was a reputable business.

After being shown the green light, the retired social worker took $80,000 out of her retirement savings and paid the price of the ticket in two instalments.

But when she didn’t receive a receipt, alarm bells went off.

“This is when I started to see all the red flags, but I was trapped because I had already made the payments,” she told The Times.

At the time, only 111 of the 627 slots were filled, but the company was adamant, telling passengers it would still sail.

On September 26, Life at Sea was about to purchase the bigger vessel, but after its main investor backed away, Vedat told Kendra he would look for other forms of funding.


Kendra then told all passengers that if they cancelled, they would only receive 10 per cent of their deposit back.

One month later, just a few days before the voyage was supposed to take place, the company announced that they had pushed the trip back to November 11, and it would leave from Amsterdam instead of Istanbul.

However, by that time there were already 30 passengers waiting to embark in Turkey.

Then, a few days later, it was again delayed to November 30.

On November 16, Kara found out that a different cruise line purchased the ship that was meant to be used for the trip, and that Kendra had handed in her resignation and was no longer at Miray.

After that, communication became even more hazy with Vedat revealing that every investor had dropped out because of problems in the Middle East.

The cruise was then cancelled for good.

Each passenger was required to sign a form, stating that Miray would issue refunds over the next three months.

But when the first deadline of December 22 hit, only a few passengers had gotten their money back, with the cruise company blaming bank issues for the delay.

On December 28, the Youssefs revealed that they still hadn’t been paid, and they were afraid of soon becoming homeless.

Whether Miray Cruises will pay up is yet to be seen, but the passengers who are out of pocket are doubtful. 

Feature Image: Facebook.

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