Technical problems with P&O Cruises’ agent website have hit the first day of bookings for new ship Britannia.

Agents took to the Travel Gossip Facebook site to complain that the system was crashing when they tried to make a reservation.

P&O Cruises marketing director Christopher Edgington said: “Today is the first day that we are taking bookings for our 2015 holidays on Britannia.

“We are really sorry but we are experiencing technical issues with our booking system and it is working rather slowly online as well as in the call centre. We are doing all that we can to get it working and we will update everyone shortly.”

Jenny Jackson, of Travel-pa, said one of her colleagues had been trying to book for clients since 8am but the chaos with the agent side of the booking system caused the customers to book direct to avoid commission. The agent missed out on £575 in commission.

Jackson said: “It’s a complete shambles and it’s made it really difficult.”

Writing on the Facebook group’s wall, Karen Brooks said: “Absolutely raging that P&O system have been down since 8.05am – made a big effort to be at my desk to make these bookings.”

Claire Milby wrote: “We have been in since 0745 to get our lovely customers booked but as usual the P&O system has crashed and phones down.”

The fault was also affecting other Carnival UK brands Cunard and Princess Cruises.

Princess said: “We are currently experiencing technical difficulties with and POLAR Online. We should be back up and running soon.”

Update 11.45am

Marketing director Christopher Edgington said in a Facebook posting: “I am pleased to report that bookings through the call centre and the website are now working much better albeit we still have some issues with customers getting through to us.

“The travel agent facing booking engine is still running slowly but be assured we have a full technical team working on it to restore service to our standard levels. I’m so sorry for this disruption.”

Update 12.50pm

“We have just had the all clear from our IT department so I am delighted to report that all booking options are now working and fully operational. I really am so sorry for the disruption this morning, many thanks for your patience.”