Passengers found themselves stuck on a P&O cruise ship after their vessel was prohibited from entering New Zealand due to a dirty hull.
P&O Cruises initially offered its passengers 50% in cruise credits but later agreed to grant full refunds and $300 in onboard credits.
Pacific Adventure left Sydney on November 20 for a 13-day trip to New Zealand. After it arrived at the Bay of Islands, authorities refused to grant the ship entry because the hull was covered with invasive species—hydroid or lace coral and juvenile mussels—that could endanger the local marine ecosystem.
The ship, operated by Carnival subsidiary P&O Cruises Australia, was scheduled to be cleaned on November 20, but the weather prevented divers from carrying out the task.
“A change in the forecast conditions made it too dangerous for divers, and therefore we are unable to gain clearance to enter New Zealand,” a spokesperson for the cruise line explained.
Passengers stayed inside the ship for a week
Thousands of passengers were understandably upset as they had to stay inside the ship for a week. To make matters worse, the conditions at sea were challenging, with 30-foot waves that left many seasick.
“The sick bags are quickly disappearing from the stairwells,” a passenger told The Guardian.
Instead of stopping at more famous destinations like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Fiordland National Park, the ship will make a detour to Port Arthur and Hobart in Tasmania and Eden in New South Wales. The sudden change upended numerous plans, including those of Sidney residents Janine Sherriff and Kyle Risk, who wanted to get married in Hobitton near Auckland.
The cruise operator initially offered half of their fares in cruise credits. After passengers became vocal about their frustrations, the company later amended its policy by granting full refunds plus $300 in onboard credits for every passenger.
What are the risks if Pacific Adventure was allowed entry despite a dirty hull?
According to Mike Inglis, Biosecurity New Zealand’s northern regional commissioner, allowing a dirty hull into local waters would be a “major biosecurity threat.” When a ship travels in foreign waters, it accumulates organisms that may not be endemic to the country.
If the Pacific Adventure were allowed entry despite a dirty hull, it could result in biofouling that could threaten the local ecosystem.
“We know that almost 90% of the exotic marine species already in New Zealand likely arrived here as marine growth on the submerged surfaces of international vessels,” Inglis shared.
He also confirmed that P&O Cruises tried to comply with New Zealand’s regulations. “The operator did attempt to clean the hull and specifically the areas of concern in recent days. However, abandoned cleaning due to bad weather and chose to cancel the New Zealand leg of the journey,” he added.
The country takes environmental standards seriously. Earlier in the year, three ships from Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Viking Cruises, and Princess Cruise Lines were prohibited from visiting New Zealand ports with special marine environments.