PASSENGERS on board a Southampton-based cruise liner will be returning to port three days earlier than planned after propeller problems forced the trip to be cut short.

P&O Cruises said it needed to carry out vital repairs to one of Oriana’s two propeller shaft seals.

Now holidaymakers will have the choice of spending their final three nights on board the vessel docked in Southampton, where they can continue to enjoy dining and entertainment – or go home early.

On top of that, all customers will have the choice of receiving a credit of 100 per cent of their current cruise to use on a future Oriana cruise in 2014 or 2015, or a 40 per cent cash refund. Bosses of the liner say the extent of the damage is not yet known but an underwater inspection by specialist divers will take place while the ship is docked in Tenerife today.

After docking in Fuerteventura the ship will begin its journey back to Southampton and will arrive on Wednesday.

Christopher Edgington, P&O Cruises director, said: “Our decision to bring the ship back early has not been taken lightly and I am sorry that our customers’ holiday plans have been impacted.”

P&O said passengers “will be able to remain on board and enjoy the dining and entertainment offering on Oriana while in Southampton until March 1, 2014, as planned”.

It is not the first time the ship has suffered problems. Hundreds of passengers were struck down with the winter vomiting bug norovirus which led to the ship’s captain pleading with the passengers not to storm the bridge in December 2012.

Civil unrest in Libya in 2011 forced the company to cancel a trip to Tripoli and in September 2011 the Oriana returned to Southampton with a large dent in her stern after colliding with the dockside in Norway. In December 2011 three pre-Christmas voyages were cancelled as refurbishment work took longer than expected.