(11:30 a.m. EST) -- The devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Chile Saturday, some 200 miles from Santiago, its capital, has killed hundreds of people and sent shockwaves around the world in the face of fears that it would create deadly tsunami waves. Tsunami warnings have since been discontinued worldwide.
Our thoughts go out to all affected.
Cruise travelers, from Chile to Los Angeles and Hawaii, have been mildly impacted at this point. But, three ships are slated to call in Valparaiso -- the cruise port for Santiago and also the closest port to the scene of the earthquake -- in the next two weeks. Here's what we know so far:
Currently in its high season for cruise travel, Santiago is typically an embarkation/debarkation port for what are known as "around the horn" cruises that go from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, Chile's major port city, about 90 minutes from the city of Santiago.
The only ship due for a turnaround in Valparaiso this week is Princess' Star Princess, which is scheduled to call on Tuesday. Princess officials released a statement Saturday, saying that no changes to that sailing are expected. But, since Santiago's airport is now closed for at least three days, according to the Miami Herald, and passengers either bound for the ship or completing their cruises and expecting to fly home (or go on for a post-cruise stay in Santiago) should be prepared for delays.
According to news sources like the Los Angeles Times, the force of Chile's earthquake was about 500 times more powerful than that of the one that recently devastated Haiti. However, Chile likely has experienced less damage, due to a lower population density and better preparation. There has been no word yet on whether line-sponsored shore excursions -- like the sightseeing and wine-tasting ones offered by Princess -- will be affected.
As always, our members are abuzz on the message boards, offering information on flights and sailings. Member irwinler, who is scheduled to sail on Star Princess on Tuesday, says, "Avianca advises that the airport won't handle passengers until Monday -- hope that includes our flight. We were told that the tarmac is not damaged."
DougH, another member booked on that sailing, says he still hasn't received word from Princess about his flight, which he booked through the cruise line and which was scheduled to have departed yesterday.
Meanwhile, Sam_n_Janet_Evening, who is currently aboard Star Princess, says the ship's captain informed passengers late yesterday that the ship is on schedule and will call in Valparaiso as planned, also noting that "the airport in Valparaiso will be back open on Monday."
Whether that's true remains to be seen, but Princess officials, as of this afternoon, still claim the ship will call as scheduled.
Next week, ships due to call at Valparaiso are Oceania's Insignia (March 7) and Silversea's Silver Spirit (March 8). It's too soon yet to know if these ships will be impacted, but spokesmen from both Silversea and Oceania say the lines are assessing the situation. Silversea is likely to make a decision early this week.
In response to early morning tsunami warnings on Saturday, Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America, which was due to call there for debarkation, wound up staying at sea for the greater part of the morning. NCL has verified that the port was reopened, and the ship departed last night.
Other Ports Affected
Princess tells us that Sapphire Princess, which was due for a turnaround in Los Angeles yesterday, was delayed by two hours for its next sailing -- a Mexican Riviera voyage -- due to the closing of the port as part of a tsunami warning. The port has since reopened, and the ship has departed.
Japan and Russia, which were still under tsunami warnings late last night, are now safe, and the warnings have been removed. No ships are calling in either area at this time.
We'll be keeping an eye on delays and cancellations, should they continue to occur, and will also provide updates about the port of Valparaiso. Stay tuned.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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Valparaiso: Will Ships Still Call in Wake of Earthquake?
February 28, 2010