Covid-19 has forced P&O Cruises to further extend the cancellation of sailings until mid-October.

The fourth extension of the suspension of cruises until October 15 follows all departures being cancelled in April until July 31.

The latest move comes as the UK line focuses on working in close co-ordination with all relevant public health bodies to approve further enhancement of the company’s already stringent health and safety protocols.

Departures by P&O Cruises and sister brand were first suspended in mid-March and then again on March 30 as Covid-19 hit the global cruise industry.

Parent company Carnival UK has since announced a series of redundancies.

Passengers booked on the cancelled sailings will receive a future cruise credit, giving an additional 25% on top of the amount paid for the holiday.

P&O Cruises also confirmed that the future cruise credit, which may be held until the end of 2021, may be put against any holiday on sale at that time.

The credits may also be used to upgrade or for a second cabin for any existing booking and also may be gifted or transferred to someone else. This option will also be available until the end of December 2021.

A 5% deposit is also being introduced for new bookings made by June 29 for 2021 sailings.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “We want to apologise once again to those guests who wait for refunds, particularly at a time of financial constraints, however the new technology we have in place is rapidly improving things though and we continue to make further progress on a daily basis.”

Referring to the latest pause in operations, he said: “As a business our operational focus is not  ‘when can we resume sailing?’ but is instead ‘how can we develop a comprehensive restart protocol that will keep everyone on board, our crew and guests, safe and well and still give our guests an amazing holiday?’

“We are working with government and industry bodies at the highest possible level, such as Public Health England (PHE) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to review every aspect of a holiday with us and establish a framework of policies and procedures. Our aspiration is to be adopting best practice in managing COVID-19 within the travel industry.

“Unfortunately, as the world continues to adapt to this global crisis, we have made the decision, difficult as it is, to extend our pause in operations for all sailings up to and including October 15, 2020. We are so sorry for the disappointment this will cause to so many of our guests.”

He added: “We have for years had in place many of the protocols now considered advisable for other social gathering venues, such as hand-sanitizing stations and rigorous cleaning and disinfecting procedures.

“We also have for years gone beyond those protocols by having guests complete a health declaration form and having a comprehensive medical facility on board each ship providing 24/7 medical care and treatment.

“During the recent crisis, we added robust health screening upon embarkation, starting with thermal scanning of guests and crew.

“Along with the rest of the world, we will adapt. We will work closely with medical experts and global authorities to help us determine the best way to move forward while honoring our highest responsibility – the health, safety, and wellbeing of our guests, crew and communities we visit, along with compliance and environmental protection.

“We have always taken such pride in our standards of cleanliness and hygiene before Covid-19, but when we return there will be enhanced protocols approved by hospitality and national public health authorities.

“This will ensure we continue to have in place high levels of cleanliness across every single aspect of public areas, crew living areas and every item of furniture in cabins and everywhere on board as well as approved safety standards for the service of food and drink; entertainment and experiences on board and on shore.

“When the time is right, we will be ready to resume our tradition of providing amazing holiday experiences for our guests.”