Update, 9 p.m. EST: An Associated Press article on Forbes.com says the U.S. State Department has issued a warning, advising against all unnecessary travel to Chile at this time. U.S. residents currently in Chile are being asked to contact family members via Internet or cell phone or by registering with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
(7:15 p.m. EST) -- Santiago's airport has reopened two days after Chile was rocked by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake. Cruises have been relatively unaffected in Valparaiso, the port of call for Santiago, Chile's capital, which lies about 200 miles from where the earthquake happened.
Although Santiago itself is located about 90 minutes from the actual port, it is a major attraction for passengers who visit, and the severe damage done to its airport could have proven to be a major setback for cruise travelers trying to access Valparaiso for embarkation.
But, The Wall Street Journal reports that the airport has reopened for limited international flights and will divert several other flights to airports in neighboring Chilean cities and Argentina. Because the passenger terminal in Santiago has been damaged, alternative facilities will be made available.
Another account, this one from the Straits Times, says that the airport won't fully open again for another 48 hours, according to Chilean Air Force Commander Ricardo Ortega.
This bit of good news may explain Princess Cruises' stubborn attitude when faced with having to alter the itinerary for Star Princess, due to call in Valparaiso on Tuesday. As of noon on Sunday, the line still says the ship will sail as scheduled.
However, some passengers booked on that particular voyage are scratching their heads after their flights to Santiago were canceled.
"I seem to have spent half of yesterday on the phone with Princess, my TA and American Airlines," says Cruise Critic member DougH, whose Saturday flight to Santiago for pre-stay was canceled. "My best option seems to be to try and catch up with the [ship] in either Montevideo or Buenos Aires 11 or 12 days into the trip."
DougH also says a friend in Santiago, who was supposed to drive him from the airport to Valparaiso, informed him that the road to Valparaiso is open and will remain open, despite claims to the contrary.
At this point, only two additional lines are scheduled to have ships in the area within the next two weeks. Oceania's Insignia is due to call next Sunday (March 7), and Silversea's Silver Spirit is slated to arrive Monday (March 8). Representatives from both lines say officials are monitoring the situation but do not anticipate any changes to itineraries at this time.
We'll keep you updated as more information becomes available.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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Santiago Airport Reopens With Limited Service
February 28, 2010