More than 50 P&O cruise passengers, some elderly, were left on an Auckland wharf after an issue with their visas.

The stranded passengers had been informed that they wouldnt require Australian visas to enter Norfolk Island, as they were permanent residents of New Zealand. But that information was wrong and they were denied boarding the ship.

The information was incorrectly shared by a member of P&O’s call centre team. Pre-cruise communications had said there was a visa requirement, but information given by a call centre worker to a travel agent resulted in the mix up.

The travel agent represented more than 50 Chinese passengers, with P&O confirming the error came from their call centre.

The cruise line shared in a statement: “P&O Cruises Australia can confirm that a number of foreign passport holders were denied boarding Pacific Explorer in Auckland on July 17.

“Guests who do not hold an Australian or NZ passport or who are not Australian permanent residents require a visa to enter Australia (Norfolk Island).  Guests and travel agents are sent emails and an SMS advising them of the need to check entry requirements. P&O Cruises pre-cruise communications stated the correct information.

“However, P&O Cruises acknowledges that one travel agent was provided incorrect information from our call centre and the guests of this agent were supported upon denial of boarding by providing full refunds and future cruise credits.”

Elderly Chinese passenger Nancy Li, speaking to Te Waha Nui newspaper, said it was an extremely distressing experience.

“We have been preparing and looking forward to this trip for a year,” she said.

P&O response ‘not comforting’

A P&O human resources representative came to speak to the group, however Li did not find them comforting.

“He said the Australian Immigration Office did not agree to let [the] passengers board, and P&O couldnt argue with the immigration office.”

Li said she found the attitude arrogant and there were no “comforting or understanding words”.

“I was very angry at the time, but my English wasnt good so I couldnt argue with them,” she said “This scene was very distressing for my parents, and they were both mentally and physically exhausted.”

Li, 66, then had to make her way back home from the port and wasnt provided transport. She had to spend three hours on buses home.

“When I got home, it was already past eight. I was tired and angry, and after a day of struggle, I felt like crying.”

One passenger even fainted amongst the confusion. No water or food was provided to the cruisers despite them waiting for hours.

New Zealand permanent resident Selina Jiang, who also spoke to Te Waha Nui, had invited her cousins family who had spent about $8000 on return air tickets from Guangzhou.

“I dont even expect P&O to make up for my cousin’s airfare. I just hope they’ll refund our cruise ticket money soon. It’s already been a month and a half.”

Moreover, Jiangs family and her cousins family spent a total of $14,900 on cruise fares, however so far have only received a refund of $7434.98 and no future cruise credits which were promised.

Li is now in a social media chat with more than 50 of the affected passengers. She says many of the other passengers arent happy being offered future cruise credits. They say they dont want to book with P&O again.