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@Tracey: I had my 512GB SSD fail about 13 months after I bought my rMBP and was quoted 824 euro by the Dutch Apple store. Like you I did not have Applecare (and sorely regretted not getting it). So I called Apple USA, sweet-talked my way up the chain, got a new quote for $300 and eventually had it replaced for free!
So definitely try calling Apple Customer Service, they might surprise you. Be polite, friendly and have patience. The first people you talk to probably can't do much for you, but their supervisors can. Good luck!