The 'Fyre Fest of Cruises' Raised Red Flags Well Before It Was Canceled

From ever-changing departure dates to strange social media posts, the cruise hasn't inspired much confidence.

People use the expression "the Fyre Fest of ___" pretty free-handedly. A messy time at an airport? Well that airport is now the Fyre Fest of airports. Got sucked into an underwhelming tourist trap? That's a Fyre Fest too. But very few things amount up to the original ordeal, in which Ja Rule and several of his business partners became a menace to Bahamaians and trapped thousands of people on Great Exuma with cheese sandwiches.

Life at Seas' promise of a nonstop three-year-long cruise is getting pretty close to legitimate Fyre Fest levels. Some topline similarities between the two: Both seemed like they were legitimately going to happen, right up until they didn't; they catered to consumers with heightened disposable income; and in retrospect both had some pretty significant red flags ahead of time.

One of the biggest warnings: There was no ship. As outlined in new reporting from CNN, a deal to purchase a ship for the cruise fell through about a month before the scheduled November 1 departure. So the departure date was first pushed to November 11, and the departure location was changed from Istanbul to Amsterdam. Then, the departure was pushed again to November 30. Then, it was canceled.

In a series of confusing announcements from Miray Cruises (which owns Life at Seas) and Life at Seas executives, it was revealed that Miray could not afford the ship it planned to purchase—hence the November 16 cancellation announcement.

When speaking with an employee of Miray Cruises who is involved with the Life at Seas sailing but wished to remain anonymous, they told Thrillist that there were still plans to sail in the future. "We believe in our product and we will launch again," the employee said. This is confirmed by statements from Miray COO Ethem Bayramoglu about trying to plan a future cruise.

But the ship drama aside (and there is so much more outlined in the CNN report linked above, including people quitting the Life at Seas project, lawsuits, and a ship allegedly not being fit to sail), some of the red flags from the whole drama were more public-facing, much sooner.

On the Life at Seas Facebook page, things were looking suspicious early on in 2023. Social media posts shared numerous stock photos of beautiful destinations that were supposedly on the itinerary, mixed with motivational content that felt like corporate-wellness-LinkedIn-hustle broetry.

In one post, one of the supposed destinations is misidentified—the caption details a stop at Red Beach in Santorini, Greece, and the photo instead features Red Beach in Liaoning, China. The former is a beautiful shoreline with red sand and swimming, the latter is an equally stunning but totally un-swimmable expanse of wetlands.

"There is no red sand, and no lapping turquoise waters at this Red Beach," one comment on the post read. "Definitely stunning, but don't bring your bathing suit."

This red flag, while perhaps subtle, was screaming an important message: If the company responsible for planning this trip can't tell the difference between a Greek beach and a Chinese wetland, how were they going to manage getting people to either destination? And how were they going to do that for three years straight?

Even more suspicious is that these public-facing social media pages went silent at the end of April; we know now that several major staff departures took place by May. Others posted that they were having a hard time getting in touch with people from the company regarding basic information about the cruise.

But still, it's not as if Life at Seas hadn't also brandished a fair amount of seeming legitimacy—ABC News did a full video feature on the cruise in March. CNN—who has just published an in-depth report on the cancellation— was one of the many outlets to cover the announcement of the cruise back in January. Thrillist also did. Miray Cruises, the operator of Life at Seas, has been in business for 27 years, and the Life at Seas website, on its surface, seemed to include everything you'd expect. Upon closer inspection, a lot of key information was missing, and some images on the site were extremely pixelated.

But in all of this there were some noticeable gaps, namely that there weren't any pictures of a real ship. Now, as people await refunds and updates on a promised future sailing, that's a glaring mishap. But it was a warning that went under the radar for many until it was time to set sail.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree in Journalism from NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She's worked in digital media for seven years, and before working at Thrillist, she wrote for Mic, The Cut, The Fader, Vice, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.