P&O facing a £6m bill after liner breaks down on maiden voyage

P&O faces a compensation bill of at least £6m after its new cruise liner, the
Aurora, broke down hours into her maiden voyage. Some 1,800 passengers who on average paid £3,300 each, were being brought back to Southampton last night as their 14-night cruise around the Mediterranean was cut short by a mechanical fault.

P&O faces a compensation bill of at least £6m after its new cruise liner, the Aurora, broke down hours into her maiden voyage. Some 1,800 passengers who on average paid £3,300 each, were being brought back to Southampton last night as their 14-night cruise around the Mediterranean was cut short by a mechanical fault.

"Damage has been sustained to a propeller shaft bearing, caused by overheating, and it is essential repairs be undertaken as quickly as possible," said a spokesman. "The work can only be carried out with the ship out of service." The ship's master, Captain Steve Burgoine, announced the news to his passengers.

The £210m Aurora is gaining a reputation for being jinxed. When the Princess Royal named her in Southampton last week the champagne bottle did not shatter and dropped unopened into the sea, which is seen as a bad omen.

The Aurora set off on her maiden voyage on Monday and had been expected in Lisbon today, after which she had been scheduled to visit Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Livorno, Naples, Ajaccio and Gibraltar before returning to Southampton.

The vessel was 16 hours into the voyage when the decision was taken to abort the cruise. She was expected to limp back to her home port early today.

A P&O Cruises spokesman said: "This is a really terrible thing to happen on a maiden voyage and nobody can deny the ship was put through her paces during her sea trials." Repairs will be done as quickly as possible and Aurora's second cruise, due to start on 15 May, is still on schedule. Gwyn Hughes, managing director of P&O Cruises, said: "We are extremely sorry ... and we are aware this is a great disappointment. Passengers will be given a full refund and a compensation package."

Refunds will cost up to £6m. Tickets for the cruise start at £2,295 a head for the two weeks and up to £7,895 for penthouse suites. Passengers will also want to be compensated for loss of their holidays.

The 886ft Aurora was built by the Meyer Werft yard in Papenburg, Germany. She has 939 cabins, 10 passenger decks, 12 bars, a shopping complex, theatre, cinema and casino.

This has been a bad week for P&O. The P&O Stena Line's new ferry, the £50m Aquitaine, ran into the dock at Calais, injuring 38 passengers and another new P&O ferry, Superstar Express, broke down at the weekend, leaving hundreds of holidaymakers stranded in Cairnryan, Northern Ireland.

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