Cruise holidays cancelled because of Covid over-bookings

Hundreds of holidaymakers have had domestic cruises cancelled because some ships are overbooked.

A delay in lifting capacity constraints means operators such as P&O Cruises, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean International are among the firms that accepted bookings in excess of the current 1,000-person limit.

They hoped the rule would be relaxed from Monday, but Boris Johnson’s decision to delay the end of all coronavirus restrictions for up to four more weeks means the constraint remains.

Ships operating domestic cruises are only allowed to carry up to 1,000 passengers, or 50% of their capacity if that is lower.

P&O Cruises is operating sailings on Britannia, which can normally carry up to 3,647 guests.



People look on as the cruise ship MSC Virtuosa departs the Port of Southampton
People look on as the cruise ship MSC Virtuosa departs the Port of Southampton

An affected passenger, who did not want to be named, accused the company of being “misleading” by not disclosing how many bookings it was accepting.

The woman, who described herself as “a loyal P&O customer” for more than 12 years, said the firm should have either capped numbers at existing limits, or told guests their bookings were “at risk” of being cancelled.

“I’m disappointed with them from a brand perspective,” she added. “I expected more.”

A P&O spokeswoman refused to reveal how many bookings have been cancelled.

“Due to the government’s extension of the passenger capacity limits placed on UK domestic cruises, we will have to ask a number of guests booked on Britannia’s early UK sailings to change their holiday dates,” she said.

Cancellations were made in reverse order from the date of a booking, so people who confirmed their plans first will still be allowed to travel.

Affected customers are being offered the option of receiving a full refund or credit for a future sailing worth 125% of the cost of their booking.

The spokeswoman added: “We are so sorry for these guests and do hope they will be able to enjoy a holiday with us later in the summer.”

MSC Cruises is only able to use a fifth of the 4,888 capacity of its ship Virtuosa, which has been operating domestic cruises since May 20.

The company said in a statement that it “had fully expected” to be able to host more guests from Monday, and is “disappointed” that the limit is continuing.

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It went on: “MSC Cruises regrets that a number of UK guests who have booked a cruise departing after June 21 but before July 19 may need to be assisted to rebook on a sailing departing after the restriction is removed.”

Customers will be offered a refund, as well as other rebooking options.

A spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean International, which will operate its first domestic cruise on Anthem Of The Seas on July 7, said it “had to move some guests on our first sailings to a future sailing later in the season”.

Several cruise lines said they are unaffected by the extension of capacity limits, including TUI Marella Cruises, Viking and Celebrity Cruises.