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‘Cruise to nowhere’: passengers on NZ P&O cruise plagued by bad weather and biosecurity issues

<span>Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images

Passengers on a cruise ship prevented from docking in New Zealand due to a dirty hull have been struck by sea sickness after an extended time on large ocean swells.

The P&O Pacific Adventure cruise, which departed Sydney and was due to visit New Zealand, was turned away last week because it could not meet the country’s strict biohazard entry requirements.

Passengers have had to cope with unexpected time at sea amid choppy waters.

“The sick bags are quickly disappearing from the stairwells,” 21-year-old Jake Welch said.

“I feel for all the people who get sea sick, we have had five to 10m swells almost every day.”

The cruise, which was sold as a round trip to New Zealand between 20 November and 3 December, was scheduled to stop at multiple ports in New Zealand on the north and south islands, including Auckland, Wellington and Fiordland national park.

New Zealand has strict biosecurity laws that prevent a ship from docking if it has invasive species attached to its hull. The cruise had scheduled cleaning in the Bay of Plenty to remove three juvenile mussels and a single hydroid, or Lace Coral.

But the required cleaning could not be completed because conditions for diving were worse than forecast.

Related: P&O Cruises and Cunard threaten to fire and rehire more than 900 UK staff

The cruise will now stop at Hobart and Port Arthur in Tasmania and Eden on the NSW south coast.

Welch said many of the passengers were disappointed.

“It is very disappointing we never even got to see NZ but overall a holiday is still a holiday. It does seem like lots of people have had their plans ruined,” he said.

Passengers on the cruise who hoped to celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries or to get married at particular locations in New Zealand have had to shift their plans.

Some expressed their disappointment on a Facebook page created for the cruise.

“My wife and I are on this crummy cruise to nowhere, very disappointing, never travelling on P&O again,” wrote one passenger.

“I’m furious P&O think this is acceptable,” said another.

The cruise company initially offered a 50% “future cruise credit” scheme for passengers, but there was an “outcry” from passengers, according to Welch.

P&O is now offering a refund on top of a $300 per person onboard credit.

“P&O Cruises Australia can advise a change to the compensation for guests on board Pacific Adventure, after the ship was unable to visit New Zealand,” a spokesperson said.

“We have listened to the feedback from our guests and understand not all of them wish to cruise with us again.

“Again, we apologise for the change in itinerary, and thank our guests for their patience and understanding.”

Welch said he was pleased with the final outcome.

“There isn’t much else they can offer monetarily as our 14-day cruise ends up being $68pp per night, which is far cheaper than a cruise [going] directly to Tasmania,” he said.

“I’m happy with the outcome and would cruise again with them knowing that they are willing to give onboard credit and a refund – although it did take some outcry from the passengers.”