Hundreds of passengers have been stranded on a cruise ship off the Australian coast after a potentially harmful growth was found on its hull.
The Viking Orion was reportedly denied permission to dock in Adelaide after authorities discovered “biofoul” – an accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae or small animals.
This can allow invasive species to be imported into non-native habitats.
Officials said the ship’s hull must be cleaned before entering Australia.
The Australian fisheries department said the management of biofoul was a “common practice for all arriving international vessels” and that the ship had to be cleaned to avoid “harmful marine organisms” being transported into Australian waters.
Professional divers were engaged directly by the vessel line/agent to clean the hull while at anchor outside Australian waters,” it added.
The ship was also reportedly denied permission to dock at Christchurch, Dunedin and Hobart
Kenn Heydrick, a passenger, said they had not been able to leave the ship since 26 December. Four scheduled port stops had been missed, he said.
“The intensity of frustration and anger is growing among passengers,” he said.
“The majority of passengers are trying to make the best of things and enjoy extended time at sea. But it is the excursions at four ports that we were looking forward to, and now are greatly missed.”
The current itinerary has the vessel arriving in Melbourne on 2 January. However, another person on board said that passengers would not be allowed off due to late arrival, meaning they would not be able to leave the ship until its arrival in Sydney on 4 January.
Another passenger called the holiday a “trip from hell” on Twitter.
“I have cried repeatedly for both the significant financial hit after saving for two years and the loss of memories and experiences,” she said.
The 14-deck, 930-person ship – which was built in 2018 – has reportedly dropped anchor about 17 miles (27km) off the coast while the cleaning occurs.
In a statement, operator Viking admitted that a “limited amount of standard marine growth” was being cleared from the ship’s hull and said that this had caused the vessel to “miss several stops on this itinerary”.
But it said that it expected to sail towards the city of Melbourne in the coming hours, where it would dock on 2 January. “Viking is working directly with guests on compensation for the impact to their voyage,” it added.
In a letter on Friday, the ship’s captain apologised that “the current cruise falls short of your expectations” and said a member of Viking’s customer relations team would make an “adjusted offer of compensation” to guests in the coming days.
Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess underwent cleaning on 23 December, with passengers missing out on part of their itinerary, before the ship went on to dock in Christchurch, New Zealand on Christmas Day as planned