(11:45 a.m. EST) -- Princess Cruises announced yesterday that Star Princess' next departure from Valparaiso, Chile has been delayed until Thursday. The line hopes the delay will give passengers flying into the nearby Santiago Airport -- still operating on a very limited basis after suffering damage in Saturday's 8.8-magnitude earthquake -- additional time to reach the ship. The 109,000-ton, 2,600-passenger Star Princess arrived safely in Valparaiso early yesterday morning.
Although the Santiago Airport has been partially reopened for the past three days, it is still not operating at full capacity, and Princess is holding the ship -- originally scheduled to depart on Tuesday -- until noon Thursday. A Dow Jones report via the Wall Street Journal cites Chile's National Emergency Office as saying international flights are operating with restrictions and some 60 percent of national flights are operating.
Those potentially affected include passengers attempting to embark on Star Princess' next cruise and those who are still on the ship, but are having difficulties with their flights home from Santiago Airport -- the gateway for South America cruises beginning or ending in Valparaiso (located some 90 minutes from Santiago by car).
Those Trying to Reach Star Princess in Valparaiso.
A March 2 statement from Princess Cruises reads, "Because air flights are continuing to operate in and out of Santiago on a limited basis over the next several days, we recognize that passengers are having difficulties reaching Star Princess as planned. Therefore we will hold the ship in Valparaiso until noon on Thursday, March 4, giving arriving passengers additional time to meet the ship.
"For passengers still at home, we encourage you to continue to work with the airlines to rebook your flight to arrive in Santiago on or before 8 a.m. on Thursday, March 4. For those passengers with Princess Air, we're working with the availability given by the airlines to attempt to book flights when they become available."
Julie Benson, Princess' Vice President, Public Relations, tells Cruise Critic that 236 passengers are already in Valparaiso and will board tomorrow morning. Star Princess is currently anchored offshore and, according to the line, no one will be allowed on or off the ship until then. The line is offering per-diem refunds in the form of onboard credit to passengers on the sailing that departs tomorrow.
Passengers who can't reach Star Princess in Valparaiso also have the option of joining the ship in Ushuaia, Montevideo or Buenos Aires -- where it will call on March 8, 12 and 13, respectively. Since the voyage concludes on March 16, that means passengers who embark at one of those locations will be able to enjoy only a portion of the 12-night cruise. There's no word on how compensation would play out in those instances.
Those With Santiago Flight Issues Who Are Still on Star Princess. Given the limited number of flights out of the Santiago Airport expected over the next few days, passengers with flight issues will be allowed to stay onboard the ship for the next sailing. The Princess statement says that passengers "may disembark in any port on the next cruise [prior to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the final stop of the cruise -- there are special visa requirments in Brazil], which will now include a revised itinerary." Those who choose to stay onboard will be charged for the privilege: $50 per person, per night, for inside and oceanview cabins and $75 per person, per night, for cabins that are balcony and above.
Benson tells us that 472 passengers from the previous sailing have opted to stay onboard until at least the next port of call.
Star Princess' Revised Itinerary. The next sailing was originally scheduled to depart today, March 2, and call in Punta Arenas, Chile (March 6); Ushuaia, Argentina (March 7); Cape Horn, Chile (March 8); Stanley, Falklands (March 9); Montevideo, Uruguay (March 12); and Buenos Aires, Argentina (March 13), before ending in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on March 16. The revised cruise will be calling only in the ports of Ushuaia (March 8), Montevideo (March 12) and Buenos Aires (March 13), before concluding in Rio de Janeiro, as planned, on March 16.
Other ships in Valparaiso in the next week include Oceania's Insignia, scheduled to call on March 7, and Silversea's Silver Spirit, which is due on March 8. Both lines say they are currently monitoring the situation, but no itinerary changes have yet been made.
We'll keep you updated.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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