(3 p.m. EST) -- Star Princess, set to sail from the port of Valparaiso in Chile Wednesday (one day later than scheduled), will act as a floating hotel for stranded passengers if the nearby Santiago airport -- severely damaged in Saturday's earthquake -- does not fully reopen tomorrow.
Cruise Critic member Sam_n_Janet_Evening, who is currently onboard Star Princess, says the ship's captain announced last night that if the airport does not reopen by tomorrow the vessel will allow passengers to stay onboard.
The newest release from Princess Cruises verifies that information and says that current passengers, as well as those currently in Santiago who are booked on the ship's next sailing, will be allowed to stay onboard for 24 hours before the ship departs.
Originally, Star Princess was due to sail from Valparaiso tomorrow, but the line now says the earliest the ship will depart is 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 3. According to officials, the port sustained no damage.
Although Santiago itself is located about 90 minutes from the actual port, it is a major attraction for passengers who visit, and it provides the nearest air-travel hub for cruise passengers.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the airport reopened yesterday 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 until tomorrow, according to Chilean Air Force Commander Ricardo Ortega.
At this point, only two additional lines are scheduled to have ships in the area within the next two weeks. Oceania Cruises' 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 will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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March 1, 2010