In an email sent to booked guests, P&O Cruises has announced the cancellation of seven sailings of Arcadia, in order to reassign crew members to other vessels due to COVID-19 cases impacting crew availability. Though the ship only restarted passenger operations 12 days ago, all sailings until July 5 have been canceled.
7 Cruises Canceled
The Vista-class Arcadia only reentered service on March 27, 2022, with a 16-day round trip sailing from Southampton to the Canary Islands. The cruise has visited ports in Spain and Portugal as well, and will conclude the current sailing back in Southampton on Tuesday, April 12.
The current sailing is not impacted by the cancelations, but future voyages through the planned June 23 departure will no longer take place.
The canceled sailings range from 3-19 day itineraries, with “Short Break” cruises as well as Baltic, Norwegian Fjord, and Mediterranean sailings.
COVID Cases Impacting Crew Availability
The cancelation is due to rising COVID numbers that are impacting crew members available to work, and therefore making it difficult for the cruise line to provide their signature exemplary service.
P&O Cruises responded, “The current and extraordinary impact of COVID-19 in the UK, in the wider hospitality, service, and airline industry as a whole, has resulted in a temporary disruption to crewmembers available to join our ships.”
Even if crew members are not immediately testing positive for the illness, quarantine and isolation periods are making it challenging to adequately staff vessels.
Staffing issues may also be a result of crew members being unable to travel to meet their various ships to begin contracts, and redirecting crew members from one ship can help fill staffing gaps on other vessels.
“As a result, P&O Cruises will be re-deploying crew from Arcadia to other ships in the fleet. This is being done in order to maintain the company’s high standards of service of which we are very proud, across the other five ships in the fleet,” the comment continued.
Arcadia can accommodate 1,952 guests when booked at double occupancy, and up to 2,388 passengers when fully booked. The ship carries 976 crew members when fully staffed, but it is not clear at this time whether all crew members are aboard.
Guests booked on the now-canceled sailings are reporting that P&O Cruises is providing a full refund for the affected sailing, including any pre-paid shore tours.
The cruise line is also offering a savings on a future cruise and a future cruise credit (FCC) for onboard expenses. The percentage off a future cruise and the amount of the FCC vary based on which cruise the passenger had canceled as well as the fare paid.
All refunds will be automatically processed back to guests’ original form of payment.
Many guests are understandably disappointed at the short notice, particularly for the next cruise or two as there may not be time to rebook similar voyages on different vessels as demand for travel has been increasing dramatically for spring and summer sailings.
Last P&O Cruise Ship to Return
Arcadia was the last P&O Cruises ship to return to service after ceasing passenger operations in March 2020. There was great fanfare as the vessel restarted, including a special message from Paul Ludlow, P&O Cruises president. That message said, in part:
“Our aim is, always, to protect your health and wellbeing and maintain the highest standards onboard so you can simply relax and enjoy your holiday.”
With crew shortages, it can be challenging to adequately maintain those high standards. All P&O Cruises crew members are fully vaccinated and passengers are also required to be fully vaccinated, but breakthrough cases and exposures can create staffing difficulties.
P&O Cruises will continue sailing with the remaining five ships in the fleet, and Arcadia is scheduled to return to service with a July 5 sailing. That voyage is scheduled to be a 14-day roundtrip Iceland itinerary from Southampton, also calling on ports in Norway and Ireland.
In December, the P&O Cruises fleet will grow even further with the scheduled debut of the 184,700-gross-ton Arvia, the largest ship ever built for the cruise line. Arvia is currently under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany.