(March 5, 6 p.m. EST) -- Following the devastation of last week's earthquake in Chile and damage to the Santiago airport, which created a giant mess for Princess Cruises and headaches for passengers scheduled to sail on Star Princess' March 2 voyage from Valparaiso, we're now focused on the port's next visitors -- Oceania Cruises' Insignia and Silversea's Silver Spirit.
In a letter to passengers booked on the next Insignia sailing, Oceania says it does not expect to alter itineraries at this time for the ship, which is due in port on Sunday. The letter also asks passengers to be patient during the potential pre-cruise chaos, which includes slow operations at the Santiago airport. Currently, two large tents are being used to serve as passenger terminals, immigration and customs facilities, and baggage handling areas.
A statement on the line's Web site says a crew of company executives was dispatched to the area to provide a first-hand assessment of the port and hotels used for post-cruise accommodations, all of which appear to have sustained little to no damage. It also notes that the Santiago airport, which was operating at about 50 percent of capacity Thursday, is expected to resume round-the-clock operations Saturday.
Brad Ball, director of media relations for Silversea, tells us that there are also no changes expected for Silver Spirit's itinerary, which begins in Valparaiso on Monday. Ball says cruise line officials in Chile are continuing to monitor the situation and promises to keep us posted if anything changes.
Regardless of when the ships depart, it remains to be seen if either will experience delays at immigration, as was the case with Star Princess Thursday. The ship, scheduled to depart at noon after two days of delays due to airport closures, is finally at sea after an additional nine-hour-long immigration setback.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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