Over 50 cruise ship passengers found themselves stranded on an Auckland wharf when they were denied entry due to visa issues. Despite being assured by P&O Cruises’ customer service that they didn’t need Australian visas to visit Norfolk Island as permanent New Zealand residents, they were left in a frustrating situation.
The passengers’ luggage had already been checked and placed in their cabins on the Pacific Explorer, leaving them stuck on Queens Wharf on July 17 for several hours. Nancy Li, a 66-year-old passenger, expressed her distress, saying she “felt like crying” and that the ordeal left her tired and angry.
Some of the affected passengers shared their experiences, revealing that they hadn’t received refunds or knew where to lodge complaints.
A spokeswoman for P&O Cruises acknowledged the incident and attributed it to the cruise operator providing incorrect advice on visa requirements to a travel agent.
Affected passengers provided evidence of online chats and emails from P&O’s customer service department, which stated that permanent New Zealand residents didn’t require Australian visas to visit Norfolk Island. However, the Australian government’s travel information website stated that travelers do indeed need Australian visas to visit Norfolk Island, as it is one of the country’s external territories.
Despite this mix-up, affected passengers claimed they hadn’t received an explanation or apology from P&O.
P&O’s spokeswoman clarified that guests and travel agents were sent emails and SMS messages reminding them to check entry requirements. She emphasized that P&O Cruises’ pre-cruise communications contained the correct information.
Passengers had purchased their tickets in August 2022 and had been eagerly anticipating the trip for a year. The 13-day cruise was set to take tourists to various Pacific islands, Australia, and New Zealand, with a return to Auckland on July 30.
Regarding the affected passengers, P&O’s spokeswoman stated that they were “supported upon denial of boarding by providing full refunds and future cruise credits.” She also encouraged passengers who had received incorrect information from their travel agents to contact them regarding refunds and credits.
Some passengers and their families expressed frustration at what they saw as P&O’s negligence, given that they had repeatedly sought clarification on visa requirements. Despite presenting their chat records with P&O staff who had assured them they didn’t need visas, border officials insisted on the visa requirement.
Passenger Li recounted the challenging experience of returning home from town after the ordeal, carrying a heavy suitcase in high heels for over three hours. She described her feelings as tired and angry, emphasizing the emotional toll of the day.
One family shared receipts indicating they had spent nearly $15,000 on tickets for the trip.