A SOUTHAMPTON cruise firm has helped almost 3,000 British travellers return home from across the world.

It follows a major international effort as the government helped over 19,000 passengers return to the UK on 59 cruise ships.

P&O Cruises has announced a repatriation plan which includes chartering aircraft where commercial flights are either drastically reduced or suspended to ensure people reach their destinations.

The first of many of the firm’s repatriations for British cruise ship passengers took place on February 21, with the evacuation of 78 British nationals from their Diamond Princess ship in Japan.

The cruise line also brought back 135 British travellers on its Grand Princess ship from California earlier this month, before the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against vulnerable people travelling on cruise ships on March 12.

A spokesperson for Carnival Group UK, which owns P&O Cruises, said: “We have helped almost 3,000 people return home and worked very hard in this area to repatriate our crew wherever possible and this is an ongoing priority for us.

“We are organising ground transportation as in many countries, domestic rail, sea and air services are closed down, and we are working with embassies both here and abroad to ensure that our people are afforded all of the necessary care and protection until they arrive at their final destinations.”

More than 19,000 British holidaymakers caught up in the coronavirus crisis on cruise ships have returned to the UK.

Major efforts include the repatriation of more than 669 British nationals from the MS Braemar in Cuba, more than 350 from the Coral Princess in Florida, and a further 211 British holidaymakers from the Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships, also in Florida.

Crews onboard are also in self-isolation for their safety.

The Carnival Group spokesperson added: “All crew have been moving into guest cabins, well spaced out and only those critical to the operation of the ship are working."