Passengers in an ‘uproar’ after P&O cruise ship turned away from New Zealand, ruining couple’s wedding

A couple’s wedding planned for Saturday had to be cancelled after a P&O cruise around New Zealand was completely changed during the actual voyage.

P&O’s cruise ship Pacific Adventure left Sydney last Monday for a 13-night “Kiwi Adventure” cruise.

The ship was denied entry to New Zealand waters under the country’s biohazard rules as its hull had not been cleaned and is now on its way to Tasmania instead.

Sydneysiders Janine Sherriff and Kyle Risk had planned their dream wedding at Hobbiton — The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movie set — near Wellington after receiving some cruise tickets for a trip to New Zealand.

“Initially, the cruise started out as an early Christmas present from my parents. Along the way, we found out one of our stops was Hobbiton,” Ms Sherriff said.

She said the idea to get married came about as they looked at the itinerary.

“Kyle is a massive Lord of the Rings fan and when we found we were going there, we jokingly mentioned they do a wedding package.” She said.

“His face just absolutely lit up like it was the greatest thing ever discovered.

“So we seriously started planning the wedding, we took the time off from work, we had our nearest and dearest friends and family all co-ordinate to be in New Zealand at this exact time.

“The plan was to get off the boat, go straight to Hobbiton, have our wedding, then head straight back to the boat for the rest of the honeymoon.”

Mr Risk said it has been a rollercoaster of emotions.

“First off, I was furious. I saw Janine’s face when we got the news. I was ready to explode,” he said.

“I got a selfie from our family and friends at the site in Hobbiton we should have been on about 20 minutes before we had to turn around.”

A man with his head shaved on the sides kisses a woman with blue hair.

The couple will be getting married in Sydney instead.(Supplied)

Mr Risk said the whole thing has been woeful.

“It would have meant a lot as it was a beautiful setting. As long as we have each other,” Mr Risk said.

“I adore this man, I was so excited, so ready to be able to officially call him my husband, I am heartbroken this day has been taken away from me.” Ms Sherriff said.

Ms Sheriff says they’ve now accepted flights from P&O back to Sydney and will get married there instead.

“They offered us a flight to New Zealand but all of our guests are already going to be home by then,” she said.

“We accepted a flight back to Sydney. It’s not the best outcome, but it at least gets us off the boat and on our way back to the comfort of home.

“They have also turned the 50 per-cent credit for all of the patrons to a 50 per-cent refund which is nice as well.

“Definitely will help us fund the next attempt.”

An aerial view of a cruise ship in bright sunshine, on bright blue waters.

The Pacific Adventure was turned away from New Zealand under biosecurity regulations.(Supplied: P&O, File)

Passengers say they have ‘been basically kidnapped by P&O’

In a statement, P&O Cruises Australia said guests were notified before embarking on their 13-day Kiwi Adventure voyage that there could be significant changes to the itinerary.

“Due to New Zealand’s strict biosecurity requirements, the ship left Sydney on Monday for hull cleaning off the Bay of Plenty, however the weather did not allow this to happen, so we apologise that the itinerary had to be amended.”

Speaking to ABC News from sea, Sydneysider David Curtis, 60, said the ship was on its way to Tasmania.

David Curtis on a cruise ship

David Curtis says he is disappointed to have missed New Zealand ports such as Fjordland National Park.(Supplied)

He said it was very disappointing to miss all of the planned New Zealand ports advertised on the cruise — Bay of Islands, Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Fiordland National Park.

Mr Curtis said passengers onboard were frustrated — with no options given and some wanting to get back to Sydney.

“The whole ship is in an uproar at the moment. We are forced to go to Tasmania,” Mr Curtis said.

“We have been basically kidnapped by P&O.”

Mr Curtis said he had planned to meet with several friends in New Zealand following his 60th birthday celebrations.

“This is horrendous, I have missed out on seeing friends based in New Zealand. They were not able to come to Australia for my birthday celebrations and I said that is OK – I am coming to see you.” Mr Curtis said.

He said it could have been worse, however, referencing the young couple who missed out on their wedding.

“All of the guests had already got there and were waiting for them and they missed their wedding. So I got off fairly lucky. But again, still, everyone on the ship is devastated.” Mr Curtis said.

Biosecurity New Zealand’s northern regional commissioner Mike Inglis says biofouling was a “major biosecurity threat” and rules were in place to “protect us against pests such as exotic caulpera”.

“We know that almost 90 per cent of the exotic marine species already in New Zealand likely arrived here as marine growth on the submerged surfaces of international vessels,” he said.

“The operator did attempt to clean the hull and specifically the areas of concern in recent days, however, abandoned cleaning due to bad weather and chose to cancel the New Zealand leg of the journey.

“We have been talking with the cruise ship’s operator P&O over the past few weeks around their planned voyage from Australia to New Zealand and concerning levels of biofouling on the vessel the Pacific Adventure.

“The photos they sent us showed the vessel had high risk organisms including mussel and oyster growth and could pose a risk to New Zealand if the ship cruised in our waters.”

Mr Inglis said Biosecurity New Zealand had been working closely with cruise lines to ensure vessels arrive with clean hulls.

“To help manage the risk we’ve been asking cruise lines to submit all their documentation and risk management plans as early as possible so we can provide early notification of any cleaning requirements, helping avoid voyage delays,” he said.

“We appreciate that cleaning the hull of a cruise ship is a difficult and complex task often dictated by the weather.

“We need to do all we can to protect New Zealand from biosecurity threats.”

TasPorts CEO Anthony Donald says the Pacific Adventure is due to arrive in Hobart on November 28, noting “species that are deemed invasive by the New Zealand authorities that have prevented the ship from entering New Zealand are common in Australian waters”.

Passengers not informed

Mr Curtis said passengers were only alerted to two ports being missed.

“We got an email last Thursday [from P&O] that said the itinerary was being changed and that only two of the destinations would be missed – Auckland and Bay of Islands.” Mr Curtis said.

In a statement, P&O Cruises Australia said it hoped guests would enjoy their time in Hobart, Port Arthur and Eden on the NSW South Coast.

“Guests have been offered additional compensation in light of this change to their itinerary.”

After initially offering a credit on future bookings, P&O has now offered passengers a 50 per cent refund on the price of their ticket as compensation.

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