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14 May 2020

P&O Cruises tells passengers owed thousands to wait three months for cancelled cruise refunds

Cruise line says it's issuing refunds, but exasperated customers say they haven't received the money

P&O customers are still waiting for refunds for cruises cancelled in March, with some being told to wait up to 90 days more.

P&O, one of the UK's biggest cruise lines, has suspended all its sailings until 31 July 2020.

For passengers booked on cancelled cruises, it's offering a full cash refund or a 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC). Yet, countless passengers who have claimed a refund have complained that it's still not been paid to them.

Find more unbiased advice on travel and the coronavirus, award-winning investigations, legal advice on holiday refunds and cancelled flights with Which? Travel.

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45, 60 or 90 days for P&O refund

Joanne is still waiting for a refund of the £4,580 she paid for her P&O cruise. Due to depart on 16 March, P&O told her she would receive a full cash refund for the cancelled cruise within 45 days, or by 30 April. But the date passed without the refund being paid.

When Joanne spoke to P&O customer service to query the delay, she says: 'He shouted at me and said he had no idea, that it could be Wednesday or 90 days and I was wasting his time. I was disconnected.

'I have never experienced such dreadful and rude customer service. P&O owes me £4,580 and this is a lot of money for me.'

Joanne is not alone. Some customers have reported being told to expect refunds within 45 days, others within 60 days and now, some are being told to expect to wait up to 90 days.

Customers wanting a refund from P&O Cruises can apply via this online form.

Joanne has since told us she successfully made a Section 75 claim and received a full refund of the money she paid from her credit card provider.

P&O responds

We asked P&O Cruises why it was taking so long to refund its customers.

It denies that 90 days is a time frame its customer service team is working to.

P&O Cruises said: 'P&O Cruises is among the handful of tour operators offering refunds to guests. The first cruises were cancelled due to Covid-19 in the middle of March and while we expected to process the first refunds sooner, we revised that to 'up to 60 days' when we realised the impact the pandemic was having on our wider business and teams.

'In the past few weeks, despite the challenges, we have been able to put new technology and systems and also additional resource in place which will result in more refunds being processed more quickly and we hope this will improve the situation daily.

'We sincerely apologise to our guests for the delay and we are contacting everyone who submitted a refund request form.'

It also promised to investigate Joanne's claims of poor customer service.

Is Fred Olsen cruises doing better?

P&O rival Fred Olsen has cancelled its cruises up to 8 June and is assessing this on a rolling basis.

Like P&O, it's also allowing its customers on cancelled cruises to transfer to a future cruise or claim a full cash refund. To claim a refund, affected passengers should call its reservations team on 0800 035 5122 to be sent an online form to complete.

Fred Olsen told us that it may take up to eight weeks (56 days) for refunds to be processed.

Unlike P&O, we've not been able to find examples of any disgruntled passengers still waiting for refunds after this 56 day cut-off. If you're a Fred Olsen passenger still awaiting a refund, please contact us at Which? Travel.

Fred Olsen responds

Fred Olsen told us: 'We would like to apologise to all guests who have had their cruises with us cancelled. Any guest who has had their cruise cancelled can have a refund, with no quibbles.

'We understand that many people will have found the time that it's taking to process refunds to be longer than expected. The past few weeks have been extremely busy for all of us at Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and we are working as quickly as we can to process all refunds, at a time when demand is extremely high.

'To put this into context, our Reservations and Guest Services teams would usually be dealing with around 100 cancellation or transfer requests each week. The team is facing in excess of 10,000. We have drafted in additional members to support them, but this is still an enormous task.'

Are cruise refunds covered under the package travel regulations?

Yes. A cruise (as long as it lasts longer than 24 hours) includes both transport and accommodation, so is covered by the Package Travel Regulations.

Under the Package Travel Regulations, companies cancelling package holidays are legally obliged to refund passengers within 14 days. That's the case even if it's for reasons beyond their control. Although all of the UK's largest tour operators are currently breaking this law.

A package holiday will include two or more elements, such as accommodation and transport, bought in one payment.

If your package holiday includes flights, your holiday will also be Atol-protected. This means it's backed by the government's Atol scheme while you hold a booking - even if the departure date has passed. It also means you'll get your money back even if the company goes bust.

How can I get my money back if P&O Cruises doesn't pay me?

If you don't wish to wait for your cash refund, some P&O Cruises customers, like Joanne above, have told us they've successfully made aSection 75 or chargeback claims for the money they're owed.

You can also join the 10,000 people in March and April who used our free Which? chargeback and Section 75 tool to make your claim.

Should I pay my cruise balance?

If you're still paying for a package holiday, it might seem counter intuitive to continue paying off the balance, especially if you're due to travel in the next few months. But that is likely to be the best course of action for many people. If you don't, you will lose any deposit paid.

But before paying anything further, you should contact your travel provider. They may be willing to defer the payments, the holiday, or both, which will be welcome if you can no longer afford the payments or have decided that you no longer want to travel this year.

See more on deferring your holiday.