Why did P&O use a shuttle bus on our cruise to Amsterdam? | Money

A group of us booked a four-day P&O cruise from Southampton on 22 March, docking in Amsterdam early Saturday until late Monday giving us direct access to the city.

Last month, we learned the ship will dock at a location 40 minutes away by shuttle bus. P&O did not contact us about this. Anyone wishing to take three daily meals on board (part of the package) and spend the rest of the day in Amsterdam, would spend at least six hours daily on the bus.

P&O says there was nothing it could do. I suspect it’s because the cost of docking at Amsterdam increased substantially in January.

GM, Mere, Wiltshire

Disgracefully, P&O was still advertising the package as a cruise to Amsterdam this month.

Only in the itinerary, below the sales blurb extolling the attractions of the city, was the port of IJmuiden mentioned. Passengers would have to Google it to discover it’s 30km from Amsterdam.

P&O would not comment on the advert and only after two weeks of pressing did it disclose that agents and passengers had been told of the change on 12 February. It says you were not told directly as you booked via an agent. It refuses to be drawn on why, citing merely “operational reasons”.

Clearly, you are not going to receive the holiday you booked as the original berth was a short walk from the city centre. However, your options are limited.

P&O, in line with other cruise operators, absolves itself from responsibility for itinerary changes in their terms and conditions. Under Package Travel Regulations, you could ask for a refund but only if the change is “significant”.

Given that Amsterdam is the only port of call on this short trip, I would say this is pretty significant.

But P&O is not conceding the fact and says passengers would have to abide by its cancellation policy which withholds 90% of the deposit for those who cancel within 15 days of departure – and 60% if you had backed out the day the company says it informed passengers. A court would have to decide what counts as “significant”.

One doughty reader, Mark Gripton, has decided to go down the legal route after TUI curtailed the time its Cuban Fusion cruise would spend in the Cuban capital by a third making some of the pre-booked excursions impossible. I’ll report back on how his case goes.

In the meantime, beware of booking a cruise specifically to see a particular sight or city because itineraries are unreliable and cruise operators, unlike airlines, aren’t automatically obliged to offer a refund if they change a destination.

If you need help email Anna Tims at your.problems@observer.co.uk or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include an address and phone number. Submission and publication are subject to our terms and conditions

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