Aussie woman covered in blisters in P&O nightmare: 'Never again'

Monica Robertson said she was 'looking forward to spending time together as a family celebrating' her mother's 70th birthday — then it all went wrong.

Monica Robertson is pictured with what she said are insect bites all over her elbow an arm.
Monica Robertson said she was left covered in blisters and bite marks after spending three days on board a P&O cruise. Source: ACA

An Aussie cruise enthusiast has vowed to "never again" book a P&O cruise after spending three days in what she described as a bed bug infested room. Queensland woman Monica Robertson said she was "looking forward to spending time together as a family celebrating" her mother's 70th birthday — a major milestone.

Robertson claimed almost immediately after boarding P&O's Pacific Encounter and entering her room, she noticed the presence of bugs. The mum said when she slept that night, she "could feel things crawling on me in the bed".

Monica Robertson's leg covered in what she says are bed bug bites, after spending three days on board a P&O Cruise
Monica Robertson said she contacted a pest control expert who identified an insect sample as a bed bug. Source: ACA

"[I] peeled back the sheets and that's where we saw quite a number of bugs in the bed with us," Robertson told A Current Affair. She said she gave P&O staff samples of the bugs she found in the room, but each time was told they "weren't bed bugs".

Robertson and her family said they experienced "very, very intense itching ... almost [a] burning-like sensation" from the bites, that eventually welted and blistered.

P&O said staff said they conducted a full inspection of the room and maintain they found not a single bed bug.

Monica Robertson's belongings on her lawn, after she said she slept in an bed bug infested room on a P&O Cruise.
The Queensland mother was forced to sift through her families belongings on her lawn after disembarking. Source: ACA

But Robertson is adamant the insects in question were bed bugs, claiming she has proof. The mother, still covered in insect bites, took home a sample to get tested herself. She said a pest control expert told her it was in fact a bed bug, and it had been "in the room for at least three months".

"They [P&O] were telling us it wasn't bed bugs," she said, adding that staff suggested "perhaps" the family had "been bitten outside on the deck". The family said they were encouraged to see the onboard doctor at their own expense, but when they asked if they'd be compensated, were told "no".

Robertson claims that, despite repeatedly providing staff with live evidence of what she said were bed bugs, P&O never offered the family another room. "[We] got back to port. We were able then to Google what we were dealing with. Low and behold, it was saying bedbugs," she recalled.

When the family arrived back in Brisbane, they left most of their belongings out in the yard and sifted through what could be washed. Everything else was thrown out.

Photos of the insects Monica Robertson claims are bed bugs, which she said she found in her room.
Photos of the insects Monica Robertson claims are bed bugs, which she said she found in her room. Source: ACA

"[We] left everything on the lawn. I had to sift through and decide what we could keep and what needed to be basically disposed off," she said. The Queenslander claimed the family was out of pocket thousands as a result.

Robertson lodged a complaint with P&O, but they said there was no evidence of bed bugs being found at all during room searches and cleans. "I don't know where they got that from because we were clearly giving them bugs throughout our stay that they could look at," Roberston hit back.

Eventually, P&O offered a $377 refund or a $750 future cruise credit. A P&O spokesperson told ACA it had "strict protocols in place" to prevent such incidents.

"P&O Cruises Australia has strict and robust health protocols on its cruise ships," the spokesperson said.

"The comfort, health and safety of our guests is of upmost importance to us. Just like hotels, we have rigorous cleaning processes in place to address and resolve any issues that may arise."

It's not the first time an Australian claims to have had a bed bug experience aboard a P&O cruise.

Earlier this month, Corinne McIvor, 39, spent a week travelling to different Pacific Islands from Brisbane on the Pacific Encounter. After sleeping in her cabin for several nights, the cruise enthusiast said she felt her "skin crawling" and woke up to tiny bites on her neck, chest and legs, with staff urging her to visit the cruise's doctor.

"The doctor said, 'Oh my god, I'm so sorry. The bites are in a classic bed bug pattern'," McIvor earlier told Yahoo News. "I asked her outright if this is something she's seen on the ship before and she said 'yeah'."

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