It was meant to be the cruise of a lifetime for retired northern NSW couple Kay and Ken Dollery.
A 43-day voyage next month from Singapore to Malaysia and Myanmar, and across the Indian Ocean on a luxury cruise liner to South Africa via the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion Island and Madagascar.
As part of their $37,000 "Grand Indian Ocean" package, the couple had business-class air fares from Sydney to Singapore, and a return flight home from Cape Town in South Africa
But the voyage of a lifetime has turned into a nightmare for the Dollerys and more than 500 other Australians – many of them elderly – after the collapse of All Leisure Group, a British company that managed Voyages of Discovery cruises.
"We are $37,000 out of pocket. It was a cruise of a life time, and I have no holiday and no cash," Mrs Dollery said on Friday. "We booked it and paid it off in instalments [over the last year]."
Mrs Dollery, 58, said their travel agent had advised them to contact their travel insurance company, only to discover that their policy did not cover insolvencies.
The Dollerys, from Kendall near Port Macquarie, will now join a long list of creditors of All Leisure Group, leaving their hopes of retrieving any of the $37,000 they forked out in the hands of administrators.
"It is our savings. It is a chunk of money I can't replace because I'm retired. I will just cry tonight," Mrs Dollery said.
"It took us 12 months to pay it off. It is absolutely devastating."
The couple found out about their dire predicament on Thursday night from their travel agent, Cruise Traveller, which told them the cruise line was not offering refunds to any Australian clients.
Hundreds of the agent's customers have been affected by the collapse.
Discover the World, which acts for All Leisure Group in Australia, said it was advising people to contact their travel agents, insurance companies or banks.
"It is an incredibly sad situation. There are so many people affected and a lot of those people are elderly," Discover the World's country manager, Jeannie Foster, said.
"It was as much of a shock to us and to the rest of the industry. We are dealing with the administrators. It is very difficult to get any information."
About 13,000 people worldwide had forward bookings with All Leisure Group, which owns both Voyages of Discovery and sister cruise line Swan Hellenic.
Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive Jayson Westbury said people who had paid for their cruises with credit cards could request a charge-back payment from their banks.
However, those who paid in cash for their holidays would join the list of creditors.
"The company does have assets. That is going to allow creditors to be paid," he said.
Australia's Travel Compensation Fund, which covered consumers in the event of a travel agency going belly up, was wound up in 2015.
Mr Westbury said the fund would not have covered those affected by the latest collapse because All Leisure Group was a British company and not a part of TCF.
Cruise Traveller declined to comment.