P&O Cruises has admitted it will not set sail again until October 15 as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rip into the travel and leisure industries.
The Southampton-based company, which is part of the Carnival group, had previously paused operations until the end of July and was hoping to resume sailings from August.
Paul Ludlow, the president of P&O Cruises, said in a video update: “As the world continues to adapt to this global crisis, we have made the decision to extend our pause.”
“As a business our operational focus is not when can we resume sailing but 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,” he added.
The cruise line said it would offer affected customers a voucher worth 125pc of their original booking as an apology to those awaiting refunds “particularly at a time of financial constraints”.
Following customer feedback, it also confirmed that the future cruise credit, which may be held until the end of 2021, can be used against any holiday on sale at that time, giving guests maximum flexibility and choice.
P&O said it is working closely with public health bodies in the UK and over in the US - such as Public Health England and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - to improve health and safety protocols.
"Our aspiration is to be adopting best practice in managing Covid-19 within the travel industry,” it said.
Measures already include hand-sanitizing stations, rigorous cleaning and disinfecting procedures, health declaration forms and a medical facility on board.
During the Covid-19 crisis, they have already added robust health screening while joining the ship, starting with thermal scanning of guests and crew members.
The firm added that it was also waiting for a rescheduled delivery date for its new ship Iona, which will begin in the Canary Islands rather than the Norwegian fjords as planned.
Last month Carnival announced hundreds of job losses in the UK as the pandemic ground demand to a halt. The world’s largest cruise company said it would save “hundreds of millions of dollars” over the course of a year after making the cuts.
Carnival was also forced to seek a $6bn (£4.8bn) funding in March after it sunk to a $781 loss in the first quarter.