A cruise company has sparked controversy after passengers planning a two-week tour of New Zealand were forced to visit Tasmania instead after the destination was changed while they were on board.

The P&O Cruises Australia ship Pacific Adventure was scheduled to travel to New Zealand from November 20 but a spokesperson confirmed the itinerary had to be changed.

They said passengers had been advised before boarding that their 13-day adventure could be subjected to “significant changes to the itinerary” because of New Zealand’s biosecurity requirements.

The spokesperson said: “The ship left Sydney on Monday for hull cleaning off the Bay of Plenty, however the weather didn’t allow this to happen, so we apologize that the itinerary has had to be amended.

“A change in the forecast conditions made it too dangerous for divers, and therefore we are unable to gain clearance to enter New Zealand.”

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Instead, cruise guests were re-routed to Tasmania and offered three stops around Australia’s island state.

They added: “In lieu of sailing around New Zealand, Pacific Adventure is on her way to Tasmania, and we hope guests will enjoy their time in Hobart, Port Arthur and Eden.”

P&O said passengers had been offered “additional compensation” to make up for the last-minute change but did not specify what the compensation consisted of.

An Australian man whose family is currently on board told News.au that the cruise company did not offer guests the chance to reschedule the trip nor offered a refund.

He said: “They mentioned the potential for the issues before the cruise set off but didn’t offer a refund so yes they did warn people but they didn’t give you an option to reschedule.”

A letter sent to passengers four days into the cruise and seen by the Australian news site showed P&O offered them $197 on-board credit plus credit for a future cruise of 50 percent the cost of the fare paid.

Passengers have been left fuming as they vented on social media about the company’s change of plans.

One guest wrote on X, the site formerly known as Twitter: “Honestly I just want to go back home.”

Another said: “This is just a turd covered in gold glitter. My husband had requested ET bring him home.”

A man who previously travelled with the company said the last-minute itinerary change was “nothing new to P&O.”

He said: “The exact same thing happened to us on the same cruise last February.

“We had to spend two days at the Bay of Plenty while divers cleaned the hull. We lost all visits to the North Island and some of the South Island.”

The man described the lack of suitable contingency plans to visit New Zealand “very bad planning” as he noted the company was “obviously aware” of the cleaning issues beforehand.

Biosecurity New Zealand’s northern regional commissioner Mike Inglis told NZ TV the Pacific Adventure ship had been flagged before because of “concerning levels of biofouling.”

Inglis said: “Our biosecurity rules are in place to protect us against pests such as exotic caulpera, which can impact New Zealand’s environment, unique marine ecosystems, aquaculture industry, and economy.”

He added that photo provided by the cruise operator showed “high risk organisms” on the hull which “could pose a risk to New Zealand if the ship cruised in our waters.”