Coronavirus: P&O and Cunard say 'No cruises until August'

Yesterday, P&O Cruises was selling a Baltic voyage departing Southampton on 17 May at just £699 for a fortnight aboard Azura.

Today, the UK’s biggest cruise line has announced that all sailings have been cancelled until August.

P&O Cruises’ president, Paul Ludlow, said: “With the current lockdown in place and government guidelines around the world advising against travel it is necessary to extend the pause in our operations for all sailings up to and including 31 July 2020.

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“We are so sorry not to be able to give our guests amazing holidays at the moment, but we will do so as soon as global guidelines will allow.

“We are working hard to make sure that a holiday with P&O Cruises adheres to relevant measures and guidelines to protect everyone on board without compromising our guests’ enjoyment and experience.

“These new stringent measures will be in place as soon as we reintroduce our ships and we will all get used to them in the same way as we got used to airline hand luggage restrictions. They will become the new normal and they will give our guests and crew reassurance and peace of mind.”

The P&O ship Arcadia arrived in Southampton on Easter Sunday, after having been turned away from many ports on a southern-hemisphere voyage.

After passengers were not allowed to disembark in Durban, South Africa, in late March, she sailed home to the Hampshire port with a brief refuelling stop in Tenerife.

None of the 1,375 passengers nor 836 crew was displaying symptoms of Covid-19 on board.

P&O Cruises’ sister company, Cunard, has also said it is cancelling cruises until 1 August – though the proposed summer Alaska schedule for Queen Elizabeth has been entirely scrapped, with all departures up to 8 September 2020 axed.

Under the Package Travel Regulations, all UK customers whose voyages have been cancelled are due a full cash refund by 7 May, but the company says: “guests should allow up to 60 days for processing”.

Cruise virus risks: when to travel to minimise them

P&O’s rival, Fred Olsen, has cancelled sailings indefinitely.

Peter Deer, the managing director, said: “At this stage I am not able to confirm a date when we can expect to resume normal operations, as what I don’t want to do is set an expectation and not be able to deliver what we promise.

“We will not resume cruising until we know that it is safe for us to do so.

“It is regrettable that we won’t be welcoming guests back on board at the end of May as we had initially hoped, but we can’t wait to start sailing again as soon as the world is ready for us to do so.”

Fred Olsen’s four ocean vessels are moored in the Firth of Forth north of Edinburgh.