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Teenager Aboard Cruise Ship Dies After Witnesses Watch Him Fall into Sea

A teenager has been found dead by Italian authorities after falling overboard from a Costa cruise ship.

The 18-year-old boy went overboard after the cruise ship, Costa Toscana , left the port of Civitavecchia for Genoa. At the time the young man fell into the water on April 13 the cruise ship was an estimated seven miles off the coast of Civitavecchia, a little more than an hour's drive from Rome.

According to Italian authorities the teenager was a German citizen, but his name has not been shared with the media.

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Several passengers on the Costa Toscana who saw the incident took to social media to share their experiences.

"Terrible - man overboard in the open sea meters from where we were having dinner on the costa Toscana," tweeted one of the cruise ship passengers.

"I was here too, someone in my family have seen him falling by the window. It's horrible," wrote another.

Local media reported that the alarm went off as soon as the boy was spotted in the water, with the Italian Coast Guard and firefighters were called to the scene.

According to Vesselfinder, a website that tracks real-time ship positions and marine traffic worldwide, the cruise ship did a U-turn at about 7:30 p.m. after the alarm went off as if looking for a missing passenger. But when the teenager was located by authorities, he was declared dead on arrival. Conditions at sea reportedly made rescue operations difficult.

Italian newspapers have suggested that the teenager might have suffered from depression and decided to intentionally end his life, though suicides are rare on cruise ships. But a big question mark hangs over the boy's death, and an investigation has been opened into the incident.

Costa Toscana , the cruise ship the teenager was traveling on, is a new vessel inaugurated in March 2022. It's fueled by liquified natural gas and is considered a moving "smart city."

In a written statement to Newsweek , Costa Crociere wrote: "In respect of privacy any other detailed information can only be given by the competent authorities. Costa Toscana is currently continuing her journey. We feel sincerely sad and deeply touched by this dramatic event."

American cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, who keeps a database regarding guests and crew members who have gone overboard either to an accident, alcohol intoxication, foul play, or suicide, estimated that there have been at least 375 documented accidents involving people falling overboard between 1995 and December 2022.

Last year, two cruise passengers died within the same week in December after going overboard. The first death was that of a woman who fell overboard from a cruise ship off the South Australian coast on December 13, while the second death was that of a 36-year-old woman who was traveling on the cruise ship MSC Meraviglia off the coast of Port Canaveral, Florida, two days later.

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Update, 4/18/2023 8:25 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include a statement from Costa Crociere.

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About the writer

Giulia Carbonaro is a Newsweek Reporter based in London, U.K. Her focus is on U.S. and European politics, global affairs and housing. She has covered the ups and downs of the U.S. housing market extensively, as well as given in-depth insights into the unfolding war in Ukraine. Giulia joined Newsweek in 2022 from CGTN Europe and had previously worked at the European Central Bank. She is a graduate of Nottingham Trent University. Languages: English, Italian, French.

You can get in touch with Giulia by emailing [email protected].

To read how Newsweek uses AI as a newsroom tool, Click here.

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Passengers on Antarctic cruise ship hit by deadly 'rogue wave' speak out

The Trusdales were passengers on the Viking Polaris cruise ship last week.

Tom and Pam Trusdale were enjoying a bucket list trip to Antarctica , until their trip of a lifetime turned into a deadly disaster.

"It was going real smoothly, and we were only anticipating nothing but smooth going forward," Tom Trusdale told ABC News.

The Trusdales were passengers on the Viking Polaris cruise ship sailing toward Ushuaia, Argentina, when it was hit by a "rogue wave" last week , killing an American passenger, Sheri Zhu, and injuring four others.

PHOTO: The Viking Polaris cruise ship is seen anchored in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 1, 2022, in Ushuaia, Argentina.

"Good Morning America" airs at 7 a.m. ET on ABC.

The Trusdales said the wave wasn't the only disaster. The Trusdales and ABC News later confirmed that a day before the accident, another passenger was seriously injured during a Zodiac boat excursion.

"It was a real loud, it was a boom, and I flew up in the air, and the passenger across from me flew up in the air. She came down and hit hard," Pam Trusdale said.

MORE: 'Rogue wave' strikes Antarctic cruise ship, leaves 1 dead and 4 injured

Tom Trusdale said he saw two passengers tossed into the air from what seemed to be an apparent explosion.

"I saw the woman go, probably about 3 feet in the air, and then the gentleman straight across from me go up in the air, and then roll over into the sea," Tom Trusdale said. "So I went across and leaned over the pontoon, and I just grabbed on to the life jacket. He was face up, so he was stabilized, and I reassured him that, 'Hey, you're safe.'"

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Tom Trusdale said he and another passenger were able to quickly pull the man back on the boat, but the woman's leg was severely injured.

"She said, 'I hurt my legs. I can't feel my leg,'" Pam Trusdale said. " And then I could hear her kind of straining that, you know, I could tell that she was in a lot of pain."

The passenger's leg required surgery, which led the ship's captain to turn back to Argentina. During the trip back toward Argentina, through a known turbulent stretch of ocean, was when the "rogue wave" crashed into the cruise ship.

"This wave hit it and came over and literally broke through windows and just washed into these rooms, and not only did it wash into the rooms, but it broke walls down, and once some walls went into the next room," Tom Trusdale said.

Viking said in a statement on its website that it's investigating the wave incident and is committed to the safety and security of all guests and crew.

Viking issued a second statement about the Zodiac boat incident, saying: "On November 28, the Viking Polaris deployed a small boat with six guests and one crew member near Damoy Point, Antarctica. On this trip a guest sustained a serious but non-life-threatening leg injury while on board the small boat and was taken to the medical center on the Viking Polaris."

"Following a detailed diagnosis by the ship's medical team, the decision was taken for the ship to immediately sail to Ushuaia so that the guest could receive additional medical care from a shore-based hospital," it continued. "The guest is now recovering shoreside in Ushuaia and will then return home; Viking is continuing to support them during this period. We are committed to the safety and security of all our guests and crew, and we are investigating the cause of the incident."

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Woman dies after plunging overboard on florida-bound cruise ship.

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A woman has died after she plunged overboard on a cruise ship returning to Florida from the Bahamas on Thursday, authorities said.

The unnamed passenger, 36, went overboard on the MSC Meraviglia Thursday morning and her remains were recovered by the US Coast Guard roughly 18 miles from Port Canaveral, Fla., according to NBC’s WESH 2.

The ship had been returning to the Sunshine State from Ocean Cay in the Bahamas when tragedy stuck, the outlet reported.

The Coast Guard quickly launched a search by boat and helicopter but authorities soon learned the woman had suffered fatal injuries.

“Unfortunately, despite the rapid rescue operation, the passenger sustained fatal injuries. We are offering our full support to authorities as they investigate this matter,” the agency said in a statement.

The 5th largest cruise ship in the world with a passenger capacity of 4,500 MSC Meraviglia.

A worker on the cruise ship allegedly told a passenger that the woman had jumped, according to TMZ, which had not verified the comment or the possible suicide.

Her untimely death comes after James Michael Grimes last month fell off a Carnival Cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico and spent 20 hours treading water before he was miraculously rescued.

At one point, he said, he ate a stick that looked like bamboo to curb his hunger.

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Man falls overboard from cruise ship near the Charleston coast: USCG

by MATTHEW SOCKOL | WCIV Staff

Aircrews with the United States Coast Guard are searching for a 41-year-old who went overboard from the Vision of the Seas cruise ship on Christmas Eve. (USCG){ }

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — A 41-year-old man went overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship on Dec. 23.

The man went overboard from127 miles east of Charleston. A search was announced by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) at 11:03 a.m. on Christmas Eve.

Read more: Incident involving a train blocks railroad tracks at Remount Road: NCPD

The USCG announced search efforts were suspended at 7:19 p.m. after crews searched more than 1,625 miles for eight hours.

According to Royal Caribbean, the man who went overboard was a passenger on the ship Vision of the Seas . The ship and crew immediately reported the incident to local authorities and launched a search and rescue mission.

As of Dec. 24, Royal Caribbean has not provided further information on the incident, citing privacy for the passenger and his family.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the USCG Sector Charleston at 843-740-7050

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16-year-old dies in fall aboard royal caribbean cruise ship that set sail from florida: report, allure of the seas departed port canaveral for the bahamas.

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – A 16-year-old died after falling from a balcony to the deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that set sail from Port Canaveral, according to TMZ.com .

The teen fell Saturday aboard Allure of the Seas, which left the port on Friday and traveled to the Bahamas before returning to Florida on Monday.

News 6 spoke with a passenger aboard the ship, who said the cruise line made an announcement urging passengers to donate blood.

TMZ reported that the boy died at a hospital.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of a guest, and our hearts go out to the family. Out of respect for them, we won’t provide any further comment,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement.

TMZ posted photos of yellow caution tape across a balcony on the ship.

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A fishing vessel in greenland will try to free a cruise ship that ran aground with 206 people, port canaveral-based gambling cruise ship catches fire, cruise ship passengers left terrified after ship sails through rough seas, crews search for man who went overboard cruise ship off florida coast, search suspended after man jumps from carnival cruise ship off florida.

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Cruise Ship Deaths: What Happens Next? Step by Step Process Guide

If you are considering a cruise you may be wondering what happens when a person dies. It’s estimated that around 200 people per year die on cruises although, in reality, this number is probably higher. The majority of onboard deaths are from natural causes but there are some accidents, suicides, and even murders.

What Happens With Somebody Dies on a Cruise?

When a passenger dies on a cruise the body will be stored in an onboard morgue until the ship reaches an appropriate port where the body can be disembarked, from there the body will be flown home. The family will be informed and if the cause of death is unknown the death will be investigated by local authorities. 

Cruise ships are well equipped to deal with death. Crew members in a variety of roles are trained to deal not only with the logistics of disembarking a body but also supporting the fellow passengers and family members.

Contacting Family

The first thing that will happen when somebody dies on a cruise is that the family will be informed. Firstly the fellow passengers traveling with the guest and then the family members at home.

It’s easy for the cruise line to know to find out which passengers the guest was cruising with as they’ll be on the same booking. It’s a little more difficult for them to find out who to inform at home. When you book the cruise you’ll usually fill out emergency contact details and these will be used.

If the passenger was cruising with fellow guests it may be left to the fellow guests to inform family members at home if they want to, this depends on the situation and passengers involved.

red roses on bench at funeral

Some cruise lines will have ministers or specially trained people on board who are able to talk to the family and try to help wherever possible. Some cruise ships even have small chapels for those who want to use it.

There aren’t usually specially trained councilors but there are crew members ready to help in the situation of an onboard death.

Special Codes

On a cruise ship, you’ll find special codes for everything. The special codes are designed so that they can be announced over the tannoy without guests knowing what they mean and getting worried. On most cruise lines you’ll find the same emergency codes but some do vary depending on the cruise line.

I was invited to view the bridge on a recent cruise, there was a book which included all of the codes and the officers talked to us a little about how they use these codes. They said that the codes are incredibly specific and they even have special code words for vomit or diarrhea in case somebody is unwell around the ship or in the pools.

Some common codes are below:

The code for a serious medical problem is ‘operation bright start’ and the code for death is ‘operation rising star’. This is the same on almost all cruise lines and the code itself seems to make sense given the subject matter.

Body Storage

On all cruise ships, you will find a morgue of some sort. The size does vary by cruise line but the majority are able to hold at least 3 bodies. Some larger ships can hold many more.

That said, it is never the intention of the cruise line to hold bodies for a long time. The cruise line will usually unload the body as soon as possible and then it will be flown home.

Some cruises do have many sea days and repositioning cruises such as transatlantic or transpacific cruises can often have up to a week at sea. Cruise lines have to be prepared to deal with this situation. Repositioning cruises are some of my favorites, they’re cheap, interesting and the experience onboard is quite different from other cruises. To learn more about repositioning cruises, including why you should take one, check out this post:  7 Benefits of Repositioning Cruises (Tried & Tested)

Ice Cream Rumors

There is a rumor which has been circulating for decades about deaths and ice cream on cruises.

The rumor says that if the cruise ship has too many dead bodies to fit in the morgue they’ll use the ice cream freezer and give out ice cream to guests onboard. How true this is, I’m not sure. I’m sure it isn’t protocol to keep bodies in the ice cream freezer but without any other options, I could see it happening. It’s better than leaving a body un-refrigerated.

ice cream scoop

Travel Insurance

It is SO important that you buy travel insurance before your cruise. You may feel as though it isn’t necessary if you’re not going far from home, for example cruising from Miami to the Caribbean but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

You could be left with hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars of debt if something did go wrong.

Bruce Campbell

An example of where not having travel insurance was a HUGE problem was that of Bruce Campbell.

Bruce suffered a stroke when he was cruising on the Carnival Sunshine. He was taken to a hospital in the Bahamas but they were not able to treat him there so he needed to be flown back to the US. He didn’t have travel insurance so faced paying out of pocket for all expenses. Bruce and his wife didn’t have the required funds and amazingly an anonymous donor donated $20,000 to fly him home.

To learn more about this case and other cruise murders, suicides and accidents, check out this post:

Cruise Ship Deaths – Annual Statistics, Causes and Real Examples

It’s incredibly expensive to fly a body home and medical fees on land can add up very quickly. Don’t risk it. Get travel insurance.

I use MoneySupermarket (affiliate link) when I buy travel insurance as it’s so easy to use. You enter your details and receive lots of quotes back, I usually pick one which is cheap, but not toooo cheap.

How Travel Insurance Helps

If travel insurance has been purchased then the cruise line/passenger in question would be in touch with their insurance provider. Between all the involved parties a plan would be made.

The insurance would usually pay for things like medical care, expenses gained by the fellow passenger disembarking with the person/body, and possible repatriation. In some circumstances, these things must be paid for upfront then claimed back on the travel insurance.

travel insurance claim form

Investigation

If the cruise is from the US and there is suspected foul play the FBI will be called in to investigate. If the cruise is in another country the appropriate team will be called in to investigate.

The team will conduct their interviews and investigations similarly to how they would on land, they may look at CCTV, question other passengers, and analyze the crime scene. The seriousness of the crime and if there is a person responsible all affect how fast it will be investigated.

In the case of a suspected murder, the cruise team onboard would be able to hold the suspected person until local authorities arrive. Cruise ships do have small brigs (prisons) for situations like this, to learn more about this, check out this post: Cruise Ship Jails and Security (Security Officer Reveals All) – What Are They Like?

It may also be the case that the cruise ship has to miss port spots or that the ship is held and guests are unable to disembark.

investigation FBI

Disembarking The Body

The disembarkation of the body usually happens as early in the morning as possible so that as few guests as possible see.

If the death was from natural causes or the situation has been investigated the body will be disembarked at the nearest port. It’s normally required that a person disembarks with the body and if this does happen a passport is needed for everybody who leaves the ship.

It is possible to take some cruises from the US without a passport but in an event like this, you would need a passport to disembark at the port and fly home. If you didn’t have one you’d have to get an emergency passport and this definitely isn’t a stress needed at this time. It may also be hard to get an emergency passport in some ports, especially those which are smaller and may not necessarily have forms and documents in English.

Death Certificates

Whichever port country agrees to take the body they will be able to assign the death certificate. This is needed for the body to be flown back home. Not all ports are equipped to deal with a body and producing a death certificate so in this case the body may be kept on board until the next port. It isn’t abnormal for Caribbean cruises to keep bodies until they return to the US providing that it isn’t too many days away.

Reporting The Death

Regardless of the location of the cruise, the death has to be reported to local authorities. When the cruise ship returns to the disembarkation port they need to be able to explain about the death of the passenger and provide evidence of what has happened to them.

If the cruise is from the US this will be reported to the US coast guard. Most countries have a similar process in place.

To Conclude:

When a passenger passes away onboard a cruise their family will be informed. The body will be stored in the onboard morgue until it is disembarked at an appropriate port. If foul play is suspected the death will be investigated in greater detail.

To learn more about cruise ship deaths, check out this post next:  Cruise Ship Deaths. Annual Statistics, Causes and Real Examples

Taking a Cruise: Recommendations and Resources Book a Cruise Get Travel Insurance Emma Cruises Shop My Favourite Bags – Mia Tui

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‘i just wanted to get off the ship’: jacksonville passengers fall ill after cruise to bahamas.

Aleesia Hatcher , Multimedia Journalist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Carnival cruise that sailed off from Jacksonville’s port on a five-day trip to the Bahamas turned into a nightmare for a lot of people as they became ill on the first night.

MORE: Additional cruise line may be coming to Jacksonville soon, JaxPort CEO says

Patrick Welsh was on the cruise with his wife when he heard the captain on the loudspeaker announcing the discovery of the illness.

“He said that there’s a large portion of the passengers and crew that has what they believed to be the norovirus,” Welsh said. “We noticed a lot of people were missing and then we weren’t feeling very good.”

Welsh also said they mentioned food poisoning so he avoided the buffet bars.

“It didn’t matter what you were eating on there. It wasn’t safe,” Welsh said.

Welsh’s family and other passengers getting sick caused a lot of things to get canceled.

“I just wanted to get off the ship,” Welsh said. “We were looking forward to this for nine or 10 months, and we were all excited. Now we’ve got people they’re like, ‘Oh, no way.’”

He encouraged people planning on taking a cruise to carry their own hand sanitizer, and medicine, and to wear a mask in crowded areas.

Welsh said everyone he was with either has the flu or covid and they are currently recovering.

News4JAX reached out to Carnival and hasn’t received a response at the time of publishing this article.

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U.S. warns travelers to the Bahamas to be cautious after 18 murders in capital this year

The U.S. State Department on Friday increased its advisory level for would-be travelers to the Bahamas, urging "increased caution," as the nation's capital has recorded 18 murders this year.

The elevation to Level 2 follows a security alert posted Wednesday by the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, which expressed concern that Americans might be victimized by gang violence in the capital.

"Murders have occurred at all hours including in broad daylight on the streets," the embassy said in its alert. "Retaliatory gang violence has been the primary motive in 2024 murders."

U.S. travelers were advised to be especially cautious in Nassau, use caution when out at night anywhere in the Bahamas, "keep a low profile," be aware of the surroundings, don't resist if confronted by robbers, and have and review security plans.

The State Department added that short-term vacation rentals have the added concern of often lacking the kind of private security present at hotels. It said Nassau's gang crime is not fenced out of areas frequented by tourists.

"Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas," it said in its travel advisory.

Tourists at a beach in Nassau, Bahamas

The State Department also warned that many recreational watercraft rentals, tours and trips are inconsistently regulated and thus come with an additional layer of risk.

"Watercraft may be poorly maintained, and some operators may not have safety certifications," it said. "Always review and heed local weather and marine alerts before engaging in water-based activities."

The department also warned Americans not to swim alone in the Bahamas, where there have been recent shark attacks .

Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis responded on Thursday to the embassy's alert, saying it's unlikely to affect the number of American tourists in his nation, according to Bahamian daily news platform the Tribune .

He added that the United States has a right to issue such alerts, and the Bahamas does the same, the publication said. The U.S. warnings came as Davis pushed for a crackdown on crime that would include modifying the parameters for constitutionally protected bail.

The Bahamas commissioner of police and a spokesperson for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department raised its advisory level for travel to Jamaica to Level 3 — this urges Americans to reconsider going to a particular country — based on violent crime and inconsistent access to emergency medical services.

Joe Kottke is a researcher at the NBC News Network Desk.

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Dennis Romero is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital. 

I paid $55,000 to go on a 3-year cruise around the world after my wife died. The cruise was abruptly canceled, and I still haven't been refunded.

  • Dozens of people signed up for a three-year around-the-world cruise.
  • David Purcell was among the would-be passengers devastated by the trip's abrupt cancellation.
  • Now Purcell and 77 others are asking the US government to investigate Miray Cruises for fraud. 

Insider Today

This is an as-told-to story based on a conversation with David Purcell, 78, a retired attorney. It has been edited for length and clarity. Purcell was among the dozens of people who signed up for a three-year cruise with Life at Sea — an around-the-world journey that was canceled two weeks before its departure. He and 77 other would-be passengers who have not received refunds are asking the US Attorney in Southern Florida to open a criminal fraud investigation into Miray Cruises, the parent company of Life at Sea.

A representative for Miray Cruises denied the passengers' fraud accusations and said they would refund the passengers by February 15.

I was always interested in the ocean, which is tough for a kid growing up in eastern Kansas. In 1968 when I was graduating from college, I opted to go to the Navy.

Later, when I was doing estate planning, I did some gigs on cruise ships giving seminars, but being a passive passenger on a ship had very little intrigue for me until an article popped up on my radar about the Life at Sea cruise.

My wife, Beth, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and there was a lot to do and a lot to love but not much to look forward to. I thought, "God, this cruise is really something I could do."

In March 2023, I put down 500 bucks on the thing.

People can't appreciate the attraction of this cruise without looking at the itinerary — all the places we were going to go to, everywhere from up in northern Norway and down to Antarctica and circling New Zealand and Australia and down one coast of South America and up the other, and all through Asia and, of course, the Mediterranean.

But the social and cultural aspects of it were almost more powerful than the sightseeing and Kodak moments. It was going to be a small enough ship to really create a community. So I was really looking forward to that.

Beth died on May 12, 2023, and it was really sad. I didn't have any plan B for my life. We'd been married for nearly 52 years. We had lived in the same house for 48 years. We had three daughters. But this trip gave me something to look forward to.

By June, I went ahead and I picked a cabin on the ship and put money down for, I think it was up to 40% of the cruise fare, about $55,000. [Editor's note: Business Insider has verified Purcell's purchase.]

I sold my house in a screwy real-estate market. I had a little sports car I sold. My wife's car I gave to my daughter. I took economic hits in a lot of ways.

I went from living in a nice house in the suburbs to shutting that life down. I was couch camping with some generous friends who let me use their spare bedroom and getting ready to get on board the ship.

I started having questions about the cruise that went unanswered. But it wasn't so much as to demand money back because, at some point, the most you could get back was the 10% of the money you put down. And nobody wanted to do that.

A couple of days before Thanksgiving, I got the call that the cruise was officially called off

I was in Roatán in Honduras on a 15-day dive trip, trying to get my dive skills back up before the cruise.

But I spent Thanksgiving night in the Miami Airport so I could fly back to start a new life here. And I've given up my dreams of scuba diving around the world for a while.

Some people are probably calling us stupid. Well, OK, maybe there was an element of stupidity in this, but we were really sucked into this with a very dreamy, cool itinerary.

I haven't gotten any money back. We want to see some justice. People need their money back. Some people have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cruising is indeed less expensive than having a place.

Now, I'm trying to make a life here in Kirkwood, Missouri. I wound up in a two-bedroom apartment, which I'm trying to make livable. I've been putting off processing my grief, and I'm going to join a grief group in the next couple of weeks.

I suspected confusion and incompetence and really poor planning early on but was assured by Miray that that was going to be all straightened out. And so I didn't really suspect fraud until probably early October. And I eventually figured the US Attorney was the best place to start.

The US Department of Justice is the biggest law firm in the world. And they've got cops, the FBI, US Marshals working for them. So let them do the heavy lifting for us, and if they can find proof of the criminal fraud, maybe that will pressure Miray to come up with the money or at least flesh out whether there is money or not money.

Life is so damn full of blessings. I want to just go out and enjoy mine as much as I can. I'm not on that ship, but I'm taking charge of my life.

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Passenger aboard Baltimore-based cruise ship dies while at sea

By CBS Baltimore Staff

December 20, 2022 / 6:56 PM EST / CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE - A man died Monday on a cruise ship based out of Baltimore.

Carnival Cruises confirmed that the Carnival Legend cruise ship was in the Caribbean and was at sea when he died.

Cruise officials said that while there was a man overboard call, this was not an overboard incident.

"We are sad to share that we had an incident last night," Carnival Cruises said in a statement. "We are supporting the guest's family and others who witnessed the situation. With respect for the privacy of all involved, we will not say any more, but ask that you keep the family in your thoughts and prayers."

Officials have not said what his cause of death was.

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Life at Sea passengers say canceled 3-year cruise owes them millions

A letter from 78 customers claims a turkish cruise company has done more damage than the fyre festival.

More than a month after a Turkish cruise company reneged on the promise of a lifetime — a three-year trip around the world in more than 140 countries — customers who spent millions in deposits are asking a U.S. attorney for help getting their money back.

In a saga seemingly destined to join the canon of Netflix scandal documentaries, Miray Cruises’s failure to launch the Life at Sea sailing has left dozens of passengers without homes, jobs, cars, retirement funds and life savings.

A letter sent to Markenzy Lapointe, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, identifies 78 of the passengers for the Life at Sea sailing as “Victims of Miray.” The letter, which was reviewed by The Washington Post, says passengers lost an estimated $16 million from Miray actions that amount to misrepresentation and fraud. The group includes citizens from the United States, Australia, England, Singapore and India, among other countries. The majority of the customers were seniors over 65.

“The failure of Miray to refund passenger money as promised has caused a significant number of residents to literally become homeless,” the letter says. “Many are living out of suitcases in motels or in spare rooms because of the generosity of friends.”

Miray said in a statement to passengers earlier this month the refunds are slow-rolling due to banking and credit card problems, according to the letter. Spokespeople for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. It’s unclear if Lapointe’s office will take up an investigation. The passengers’ letter, which is intended to serve as a formal criminal complaint, says they suffered damages worse than victims of the botched Fyre Festival in the Bahamas; organizer Billy McFarland went to federal prison for wire fraud .

“They’ve not only dashed our hopes and dreams and upset the course of our lives, but they keep wasting our time,” passenger Shirene Thomas, a 58-year-old retired social services worker, told The Post. She said she moved out of the house she was renting, sold her car and condensed her life into five boxes for the trip. She’s currently living with a friend in North Carolina.

Between June and August of 2023, Thomas said she made 27 individual transactions across eight credit cards to Miray, amounting to nearly $157,000 for the three-year trip. (Miray was offering slight discounts to customers who paid upfront for the three years.) “It took so much time and now as you can imagine, it’s taking even more time to file disputes with 27 different transactions and provide them all the documentation.”

So far, only four passengers have seen any of their money returned to them, the letter says.

“One of the harder parts of it all was the lack of communication and being gaslit,” Thomas says. “It would have been much easier if they had just come out and said this was falling through, but that was not what they did.”

In March 2023, Miray, a company that typically runs cruises around the Aegean Sea, announced the 1,095-day cruise for as low as $30,000 a year , including lodging, food and other accommodations. While the concept wasn’t particularly new, what Miray was offering and the price it advertised were somewhat rare. (Thomas says that the price tag didn’t end up being entirely accurate, as it reflected the price of only some double occupancy cabins.) Prospective passengers were informed that they would be sailing on the Gemini, a vessel owned by Miray. The boat was scheduled to set sail in November.

As the months elapsed, passengers paid their deposits, acquired new visas, packed up their lives and prepared for sea. Some re-homed pets. Some sold houses. Others dipped into their retirement funds. Meanwhile, the original management team behind Life at Sea quit, apparently over disputes regarding the Gemini’s seaworthiness. During this time, most communication with passengers happened via webinars with new Miray executives, including former CEO Kendra Holmes and COO Ethem Bayramoglu. In July, they announced they’d found a bigger boat to embark on the journey.

In October, passengers shipped off their belongings to Istanbul or Miami (where the vessel was stopping after Turkey). Miray’s owner, Vedat Ugurlu, then announced that the voyage would be delayed until Nov. 11. Many passengers had already bought plane tickets or were in temporary lodging in Istanbul waiting for departure. According to the letter submitted to the U.S. attorney’s office, Ugurlu claimed funds were being finalized for the purchase of the boat – but that the trip was still a go.

On Nov.19, the letter says, Ugurlu announced the complete cancellation of the voyage; plans to secure a larger vessel had fallen through. Miray promised passengers a full repayment of the trip and any additional funds that would be paid out in three installments, the first coming on Dec. 22, with payments following in January and February.

In a statement to passengers on Jan. 14, Miray said disputes over credit card chargebacks have delayed the refunds and prevented the company from processing any transfers. Even still, the passengers claim, the company has engaged in “significant and repeated illegal activity , ” for marketing a three-year cruise without having a ship first.

Kara Youssef and her husband, Joe, are one of the few who have seen a fraction of the money they sunk into Life at Sea come back to them. The couple had been living in Turkey for two years at the time the cruise was announced. They used up most of their retirement fund, dug out a significant chunk of their savings and sold both properties they owned in Turkey to fund the trip. Since Oct. 28, they’ve been living out of three suitcases in a hotel paid for by Miray.

“Our biggest concern at this point is we’re not going to have anywhere to go very soon,” Youssef told The Post. “It’s not that we’d be homeless, but we may not be allowed to go back to our lives since we sold the property we did our [Turkish] residency under.”

On Saturday, more than a month after the first repayment was supposed to turn up in all passengers’ accounts, Youssef was able to arrange an in-person meeting with Bayramoglu, the COO, who paid her 10,000 in cash — 12 percent of what she and her husband had paid for the cruise. She said the remainder is supposed to come in February at the latest.

“I think that Miray has made some horrible management decisions and has been atrocious in their communication, but if they make their payment, if they refund their passengers, as far as I’m concerned, I’m good,” Youssef says. “I’m not trying to ruin them to make them pay or anything like that .”

Not all passengers signed onto the complaint; George Fox, a 67-year-old Maine resident, told The Post he takes responsibility for the money he lost on the cruise. He had always been skeptical it would happen — the change of management and boat gave him pause, as did his bank’s refusal to wire Miray $30,000 for a deposit — but he says he doesn’t believe it was the result of intentional fraud.

“Everybody that signed up for this, they knew that it was a risk,” says Fox, who after growing dubious of the launch, changed his plans and decided he’d embark in Florida, once the ship had successfully set sea. “It was just a lot of things that kind of came together and didn’t come together. It’s just one of those things … I mean, what can you say? It’s a crazy world.”

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3-Year Cruise Passengers Seek Fraud Charges Over Cancellation

After more than a month of missed deadlines for refunds, a group of hard-hit passengers who signed up for the failed Life at Sea cruise is pursuing legal intervention.

A woman, hair blowing in the wind, stands on a pier, looking out to sea.

By Ceylan Yeginsu

By now, they were supposed to be well into the first leg of the three-year Life at Sea cruise , sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia.

Instead, more than a month after the cruise was abruptly canceled, one couple is stranded in an Istanbul hotel and on the verge of becoming homeless; another woman has moved to Ecuador because she can’t afford to pay her mortgage; and a man, recently diagnosed with cancer, has delayed his treatment because he doesn’t have the money to pay for it.

On Tuesday, 78 would-be Life at Sea passengers sent a letter to Markenzy Lapointe, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, asking him to investigate whether Miray, a Turkish cruise company, defrauded them out of millions of dollars. They claim that the company collected an estimated $16 million and used it toward a deposit to acquire a new ship that it did not end up purchasing. It is unclear if Mr. Lapointe will take action.

Dozens of passengers quit their jobs, sold their homes and withdrew their life savings to pay for what promised to be the adventure of a lifetime: a cruise with 382 ports of call over 1,095 days. But in late November, just days before the cruise was scheduled to depart, the voyage was canceled because Miray had failed to acquire a suitable ship.

Most of the passengers paid Miray tens of thousands of dollars to secure their cabins, which ranged from $90,000 to $975,000 for a suite. Some passengers paid the full fare upfront to qualify for a discount. After canceling, Miray said it would offer full refunds to all passengers, but two of the repayment deadlines passed and only four of more than 100 passengers have received partial refunds.

If the passengers had known how their money was being used, they “could have made informed decisions about parting with their $16 million,” the passengers said in the complaint, adding that they had been explicitly told by the company that their payments were not being used for upfront funding.

Last May, Miray’s owner, Vedat Ugurlu, sent a WhatsApp message to Mikael Petterson, the former managing director of Life at Sea, telling him that he had $5 million for the deposit toward the purchase of the AIDAaura, a larger vessel that was more suitable for the journey than the originally proposed MV Gemini. He said that they needed to put down $10 million in total because of a bank guarantee and asked Mr. Petterson to stick to a May 31 deadline to collect passenger payments.

Mr. Petterson, who was in charge of sales and marketing at the time, said he did not feel comfortable collecting large sums of money when the company did not have a U.S. bank account or the infrastructure to securely collect payments. Miray refused to set up an escrow account as is common in the United States and wasn’t required to place a bond with the Federal Maritime Commission to protect customer deposits because it was not embarking from U.S. ports.

Miray has denied using the passengers’ money toward the new ship and has blamed the refund delay on the high number of credit card chargeback disputes that it said had caused banks to block their funds. Most passengers said they only started to request chargebacks last week, after the company kept failing to meet its promised repayment deadlines.

“We are working tirelessly to get our banks the documentation they require to release our funds, and all our passengers can be assured that they will be repaid in full by Feb. 15,” Ethem Bayramoglu, Miray’s chief operating officer, said in an interview on Jan. 12.

Many passengers aren’t buying it. “I will not believe anything until I have my money in hand,” said Kara Youssef, a 36-year-old former humanitarian worker from Ohio who sold her apartments to pay for the cruise and has been living in an Istanbul hotel with her husband for more than two months as she awaits her refund of $80,000. On Dec. 29, she received a bank receipt indicating that the first installment of her repayment had been sent, but she never received the funds.

After several attempts to reach Mr. Bayramoglu (who, at one point, told her he was at a soccer game and couldn’t talk), Ms. Youssef finally spoke to him on Jan. 14. He offered to pay her part of the sum in person, in cash, but has yet to set up a time and place to meet.

The too-good-to-be-true allure of a world cruise

The Life at Sea passengers are primarily U.S. citizens. Many of them learned about the cruise on CNN and “Good Morning America.” One of the biggest draws, they said, was the price, which for many would have been less expensive than living in a city for three years. That, combined with the opportunity to explore the world, led them to leap at the opportunity.

“I always wanted to go on a world cruise, but they were all out of my budget,” said Jenny Phenix, 67, who gave up two small businesses, rented her condo in Florida and paid $70,000 to go on the cruise.

The sales team, mostly Americans, was very convincing, she said. Even when an internal dispute between company executives went public, causing the sales team to resign in May, the passengers were led to believe that the cruise would go on.

Now Ms. Phenix is sharing a house in Ecuador with another stranded passenger because she had to rent out her Florida condo in order to pay the mortgage.

Ms. Phenix and many other passengers are in limbo, struggling to get by. “Some people put in everything they had and now they are broke or homeless or wandering from cruise to cruise like tumbleweeds because they have no other place to go,” said David Purcell, a 78-year-old retired lawyer from St. Louis, who sold his house and car after his wife died and booked the cruise, hoping it would help him heal from his loss.

“I believe we have a strong case to warrant a criminal investigation,” Mr. Purcell said.

‘Enough is enough’

Shirene Thomas, 58, a retired actress and social worker from Wilmington, N.C., is one of several passengers who are essentially homeless. She spent a third of her retirement savings and gave up her rental in order to put down $156,000 for the cruise. Now, with limited credit, she has been unable to secure a new lease.

“I am about to go on my fifth back-to-back cruise,” she said, speaking from a friend’s house in North Carolina. “I literally went from Rome to Manhattan on a trans-Atlantic cruise and four days later flew back to Rome to do the same cruise again.”

Ms. Thomas has been paying for the cruises by credit card, hoping that her refund from Miray will be processed in time to pay off her balances.

Another passenger, Adam Pers, a retired engineer in his 50s from Bristol, England, was diagnosed with cancer after the cruise was canceled and is now looking for work to cover his mortgage and cancer treatment, which he has had to delay. He said he paid six figures for the entire cruise fare upfront so that he could get a discount.

“Instead of focusing on my treatment, I’m having to go through the stress of chasing my money and looking for work,” Mr. Pers said.

Mr. Pers has explained his situation to Miray many times. Each week, Mr. Bayramoglu sends him emails, writing that he will get his money “by Friday.” But Mr. Pers has still not received any money, and Miray has stopped responding to his messages.

“Enough is enough,” Mr. Pers said. “I’m resigned to the fact that I’m not going to get my money back, but even if I get nothing, at least if the U.S. attorney opens an investigation and these people go to prison, that’s something.”

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2024 .

Ceylan Yeginsu is a travel reporter for The Times who frequently writes about the cruise industry and Europe, where she is based. More about Ceylan Yeginsu

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