Details are emerging about how more than 50 cruise travelers were left in Auckland due to a paperwork miscommunication involving P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Explorer.
The incident happened in mid-July and nearly two months later many impacted guests are still dissatisfied with the way the cruise line has handled the fallout.
Paperwork Miscommunication Strands Travelers
When attempting to board Pacific Explorer for the July 17, 2023 departure, more than 50 prospective passengers were left without proper documentation and authorization to sail, which meant their cruise was forfeit and they were not permitted to board the ship.
The apparent mix-up occurred in Auckland, New Zealand, Pacific Explorer‘s current homeport, as guests were checking in for their 13-night “Bounty Adventure” cruise, scheduled to call on different Pacific Islands as well as destinations in both Australia and New Zealand.
Some guests failed to present the proper visas for one of the ship’s ports of call – Norfolk Island, an external territory of Australia located 670 miles (1,078 kilometers) northwest of Auckland and 905 miles (1,456 km) east of Brisbane.
Though the island is technically under the governance of Australia, it does enjoy limited sovereignty and sets its own entry requirements for travelers. While traveling directly from the Australian mainland to Norfolk Island does not require a visa, foreign passport holders or those traveling from New Zealand must use a passport as identification and may require a visa, depending on the country of their passport.
Read Also: Do You Need a Passport to Go on a Cruise?
Impacted cruise passengers from Pacific Explorer reported to local news source NZ Herald that they were assured no visa was required so long as they were permanent New Zealand residents.
P&O Cruises has confirmed the incident, claiming that a travel agent was given the wrong advice on visa requirements, which was then passed along to cruise guests despite being advised to check entry requirements and other communications with the proper information.
“Guests and travel agents are sent emails and an SMS advising them of the need to check entry requirements. P&O Cruises’ pre-cruise communications stated the correct information,” said a P&O Cruises spokesperson.
Even though multiple guests were able to produce emails and text messages from P&O Cruises’ customer service department indicating they did not need a visa, that error was not sufficient to permit guests to board the ship and enjoy their cruise.
This miscommunication resulted in a number of guests not being able to set sail as planned. As individual travelers were denied boarding to the cruise ship, their luggage was retrieved from the vessel and they were on their own to return home as the ship sailed away.
Pacific Explorer is the oldest ship in P&O Cruises Australia‘s fleet, having entered service in 2017 and previously known as Dawn Princess of Princess Cruises. The 77,441-gross ton, Sun-class vessel can welcome 1,998 guests aboard, and is also home to 900 international crew members.
The ship is currently homeported from Auckland, New Zealand, offering a variety of both short and long sailings. In December, the ship will reposition to Melbourne, Australia for different itineraries through mid-February, followed by Adelaide through March 2024.
Denied travelers were left wondering about refunds and reimbursement. P&O Cruises has said that affected passengers were “supported upon denial of boarding by providing full refunds and future cruise credits” but that may not cover all of each impacted guest’s individual expenses, depending on how they traveled to Auckland.
Individual travel insurance policies, if applicable, could help reimburse some of those expenses, depending on exact policy coverages and circumstances.
Passengers are understandably angry about the incident, and still seeking communication from P&O Cruises to address their complaints.
All cruise travelers, particularly when visiting more remote destinations or on sailings with multiple foreign ports of call, should always verify documentation requirements not just with their cruise line or travel agent, but also by confirming paperwork needs of each port of call they will be visiting to ensure they are not left on the dock.