That initial deposit was followed by a first payment of $29,000 (£22,977) in August – both of which she’s been assured will now be refunded, though she is still waiting for the money to hit her account.
Life At Sea: what went wrong?
The trip was due to depart on November 1, 2023 from Istanbul, carrying around 1,000 passengers on board the MV Lara, a 627-cabin ship that was set to be purchased by Life At Sea especially for the sailing. But in September, the news broke that the sale hadn’t gone through.
“Initially, there were no signs that anything had gone wrong,” says Witman, “but we were asking, could we really leave on November 1 if at the start of October the ship wasn’t in their possession?”
The passengers – or “residents” as they call themselves – had been using a forum on the Life At Sea app to chat with each other before the trip, but socialising quickly turned to suspicion.
“The departure date got pushed back to November 11, then December 1. A few folks were getting angry, but I thought it was still going to go – but then on November 20 we heard for sure that it was cancelled.”
One day later, Vedat Ugurlu, the CEO of Miray Cruises – the owner of Life At Sea – issued a statement published in Cruise Industry News, citing “challenges due to investor renewal”. He promised, however, that this wasn’t the end of the line: “As we navigate these challenges, we are actively working on creating alternative plans for the future.”
The company has said it will make refunds in monthly instalments, reports CNN, from mid-December to late February. Telegraph Travel has contacted both Life At Sea and Miray International for comment, but is yet to receive a reply.
Starting afresh in a one-bedroom flat
The last news Witman heard, she says, is that Life At Sea is still trying to find a ship, with the aim of launching in 2024. Would she still be up for it? “Absolutely, I’m all packed and ready,” she laughs – remarkably – gesturing to her temporary office.