Coronavirus: Cunard and P&O extend suspension of cruise sailings until July

P&O Cruises and Cunard have extended the suspension of sailings until at least the end of July.

The cruise lines had previously cancelled all trips up to May 15.

Statements issued by the firms, which are both part of the Southampton-based Carnival group, did not mention if cash refunds would be offered, but customers will receive credit for future sailings.

Meanwhile P&O Ferries says it is furloughing a further 300 staff and laying up a further four ships to tackle a drop in demand.

Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/PA Images

The announcement means the launch of Iona, the latest ship to be operated by P&O Cruises, will be delayed.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: "With the current lockdown in place and Government guidelines around the world advising against travel, it is necessary to extend the pause in our operations for all sailings up to and including July 31 2020.

"We are so sorry not to be able to give our guests amazing holidays at the moment, but we will do so as soon as global guidelines will allow."

P&O Ferries says it has had to find £250 million to ensure it can continue to operate through the coronavirus pandemic.

The firm is responsible for around 15% of all goods brought into the UK, but Chief Executive Officer Jeanette Bell said "tough decisions" were needed.

She said: "P&O Ferries remains critical to maintaining the UK’s supplies and a vital part of our ability as a country to respond to the ongoing threat of Covid-19.

“We are committed to delivering a healthy and sustainable P&O Ferries that will become an even more important strategic asset for the UK, helping families and freight move easily and affordably between Britain, Ireland and Europe.”

  • "Extraordinary times" for cruise operators

Queen Elizabeth is the most recent ship to join the Cunard fleet. Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Archive/PA Images

Sailings for Cunard's Queen Elizabeth have been cancelled up to September 8 as it would not have been viable to operate a shorter summer season, according to the company.

Cunard president Simon Palethorpe said: "These are extraordinary times and this global outbreak continues to challenge Cunard and the travel industry as a whole.

"We would love nothing more than to bring our fleet back in to service, and give our guests the holidays they deserve and long for but, with the lockdowns and travel restrictions in place around the world, this is simply not possible at this time."

All cruise ships operated by major companies have stopped commercial sailings.

In recent weeks many were forced to cut their itineraries short and some were left in limbo when ports refused to let them dock over fears of increasing the spread of coronavirus.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said more than 19,000 British holiday makers travelling on 59 liners around the world affected by the pandemic have been repatriated.