Multiple claims of bed bug infestations aboard P&O Australia’s Pacific Explorer have arisen, causing the cruise line to initiate a thorough investigation and leading to formal complaints from one cruise passenger.

All the complaints are focused on one cabin on the ship, but across separate cruises between August and October 2023.

Three passengers have made reports of bed bugs aboard Pacific Explorer in the last few months, on cruises ranging from August through late October. While only one traveler – Annalise Butson – made an official complaint to the cruise line, two other guests have corroborated her concerns.

According to the NZ Herald, all three passengers used the same stateroom on different sailings. The exact stateroom has not been disclosed. P&O Australia did conduct a full investigation of the stateroom when the official complaint was made, but found no evidence of bed bugs.

“We thoroughly investigate any claims of bites from any pests and are pleased to confirm there were no pests found on board,” a statement from the cruise line read.

It is not known why the other two guests did not report problems at the time of their cruise. P&O Australia has also indicated that Butson did not report the issue until after her 8-night sailing was complete. The affected guests have all reported red welt-like bites that itch, a good sign of bed bugs.

Bed Bugs (Photo Credit: ChWeiss)

Pacific Explorer is currently homeported from Auckland, offering New Zealand and South Pacific itineraries. Over the next few months, the 77,441-gross-ton, Sun-class ship will move first to Melbourne, then Adelaide, then Fremantle to offer a wide range of cruises from various homeports.

The ship is homeported in the Australia and New Zealand region year-round, and can welcome 1,998 passengers aboard for each sailing.

Bed bugs are not the only insects causing problems for P&O Australia recently, as guests aboard Pacific Encounter recently had to contend with an infestation of plague soldier beetles, a seasonal menace in the region.

Bed bugs can indeed be problematic on cruise ships, just as they can be common in hotels, schools, or at home. These small, parasitic bugs feed on blood, and their bites can cause redness, raised bumps or welts, and itching. In general, symptoms may appear within minutes of a bite, or may take days to appear. In severe cases, hives or other reactions may occur.

Bed bugs thrive best in dark, damp areas, such as mattress seams, furniture cushions, wall cracks, or the seams or joints of furniture. They can also be carried on clothing, bedding, or even luggage.

Because they can survive for as long as 9-10 months without feeding, it can be difficult to eliminate bed bugs and they may reappear even if they seem to have been eradicated.

Bugs on a Cruise Ship

Washing fabrics, clothes, pillows, and cushions in very hot water and drying in a hot dryer can kill bed bugs, but they can be challenging to eliminate from a mattress. Vacuuming can help remove them from carpeting or cracks, but must be done very thoroughly.

Bed bug infestations have been on the rise since the pandemic, attributed in part to a dramatic increase in travel after lockdowns ended, as these insects travel easily in luggage, shoes, or clothing. Increased interest in secondhand furniture can also spread bed bugs, as they can remain in infested furniture for weeks or months.

Guests who may encounter bed bugs on a cruise ship should alert their stateroom attendant and guest services immediately so the room can be thoroughly cleaned and treated and the bedding exchanged.

Depending on the cruise line and the individual sailing, it may also be possible to relocate passengers to a different cabin if bed bugs are confirmed.

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