A family of 16 had to "align the planets" in order to all be available at the same time for a holiday, planning a year in advance, to travel to New Zealand on a P&O cruise. But despite their extraordinary efforts, a contaminated hull eventually stopped them reaching their desired holiday destination.
Aroha Cockburn and her family are among the thousands of miserable passengers on board the Pacific Adventure cruise ship which was denied access to New Zealand by biosecurity officers after an unwanted species was found on the hull on Friday, and the NSW woman is "completely gutted".
"This is not the holiday we had planned all year... All of us took different times off our respective jobs, we had to order new passports, children had to be taken out of school," she told A Current Affair.
Despite members of the family having to get passports specifically for the trip, they never actually came in use. Her and her 76-year old mother-in-law were eagerly looking forward to her first ever international holiday, but say the family has been left bitterly disappointed.
The $325 cost of obtaining an Australian passport (one of the most expensive in the world) was ultimately all for naught.
"We're all pretty miserable," Cockburn admitted.
Cruise passenger called compensation an 'insult'
The updated itinerary now includes stops at Hobart, Port Arthur and Eden but passengers are outraged the 'Kiwi adventure' voyage they had originally booked will now no longer go ahead.
P&O Cruises Australia have offered passengers a 50 per cent refund and $300 voucher to use on the ship as compensation, but many are displeased with the offering.
"It's an insult actually, to be fair most of the passengers had to kick up a big stink to be offered the 50 per cent," Cockburn said. "I'll never go on a cruise again." Initially passengers were only offered a 50 per cent credit to spend on a future cruise.
Like all cruise companies, P&O Cruises Australia can make changes to the itinerary at any time as noted in the booking terms and conditions. However, it is usually avoided as it causes customer dissatisfaction.
'Disappointing' move by P&O, travel expert tells Yahoo
The Pacific Adventure is the first cruise of the season to be denied access into New Zealand, however multiple cruise liners were denied at the beginning of the year.
"What is really disappointing about this instance is it's not unknown, we've had one season where we've known about New Zealand's strict biosecurity measures," co-founder of Australia Traveller Quentin Long told Yahoo News Australia. "They did not have permission to enter New Zealand waters before they left, they knew that and they still took the risk."
The ship was booked in for hull cleaning at the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand but bad weather prevented divers from being able to complete the job, and the ship had to be sent back to Australia.
What can passengers do to minimise itinerary risks
Long said there are several things he recommends passengers do before their next cruise holiday.
"You can ask the cruise company if they have got the right permits or being given access to New Zealand waters," he said. "And, make sure you've got travel insurance that covers you for a cruise ship because you are in international waters."
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