Holidaymakers have been left £20,000 out of pocket after a Christian tour operator cancelled a planned Mediterranean cruise and stalled on refunds.

New Malden-based LivingSun Holidays had scheduled a 10-day trip taking in Turkey, Greece and Israel from October 13.

But just 10 days before the ship was due to set sail, the company cancelled the cruise, citing political instability in the region leading to a drop in cruise passengers.

A letter from director Bob Fleming to customers said: “The cancellation of the cruise has left us in a difficult financial situation – we have considerable costs which are irrecoverable for us and while we fully accept this is our problem to resolve, it means we simply do not have enough cash at the moment to start the refund process.”

Speaking to the Surrey Comet Mr Fleming said he owed about 18 people a total of £20,000 which he hoped to pay back by the end of the month.

Surrey Comet:

LivingSun's website promises to provide "excellent Christian holidays for people to enjoy God's creation together

He claimed the trip was booked with Thomson Cruises, who had not paid back money to his company along with other excursion agencies, causing a ripple in the refund system.

But a statement from Thomson Cruises said: “Thomson Cruises is extremely concerned that LivingSun Holidays has been engaging in promotional activities using the Thomson Cruises trademark, as no permission has been granted for this use.

“Thomson Cruises does not have, and has never had, any association with LivingSun Holidays and no booking for this cruise was passed to us by LivingSun Holidays.”

Mr Fleming responded: “We did successfully take a group to Israel with Thomson in April so I should be sorry if they have forgotten about us so soon.”

Surrey Comet:

LivingSun director Bob Fleming has promised to refund customers by the end of the month

Gospatric Home, 81, was set to go on the cruise with his wife Diana. He is currently waiting for a £2,490 refund from LivingSun Holidays.

He said: “It is a crazy saga. The money we all paid was not held in an escrow account. If it had been then he could have repaid it all to everyone.”

A spokesman from Kingston Council said they would be investigating the matter.

In September 2010 Mr Fleming, of Selwyn Road, New Malden, hit the news when the Surrey Comet reported he had admitted two counts of trading illegally by reusing a prohibited company name.

He was sentenced at Kingston Crown Court the following month and given a conditional discharge for two years.