(Updated 1:40 p.m. EST) -- The diplomatic row between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands escalated today when two ships carrying British passengers -- P&O Cruises' Adonia and Princess Cruises' Star Princess -- were turned away from the Argentine port of Ushuaia.
A spokeswoman for P&O Cruises said the official reason given for Adonia being denied entry to the port was "due to the ship having been in the Falkland Islands on Saturday." Adonia is on an 87-night round South America cruise.
A Princess spokeswoman told Cruise Critic in a statement that the "local port authorities have not permitted Star Princess to berth at Ushuaia" but did not elaborate on the cause. The ship is currently on a 14-night South America cruise which departed Rio de Janeiro on February 18 and visited the British territory on Saturday.
The U.K.'s Telegraph newspaper is reporting that the Foreign Office is “very concerned” that the cruise ships were not allowed to dock. A spokeswoman told the publication, “There can be no justification for interference in free and legitimate commerce. British diplomats in Argentina are urgently seeking to clarify the circumstances surrounding this incident, and we are in contact with the company concerned.”
Cruise Critic member Scrapchick is onboard Star Princess and commented on the message boards this morning: "We ... were due in Ushuaia today after two days at sea since leaving Stanley, Falkland Islands [the islands' capital]. Last night we were told a container ship was in our berth and its crew were on strike so we could be delayed arriving in Ushuaia. At 7 a.m. this morning the captain announced we were being denied entry to Ushuaia, along with the P&O Adonia, because both ships had come from the Falklands."
The port from which a ship has just departed is usually not a point of contention. But 30 years after the Falklands War, the dispute between Britain and Argentina over sovereignty of the islands is threatening to boil over again. To that end, the Argentine government has recently issued a decree that all ships travelling between Argentina and the Falklands now need its permission to do so.
Although Star Princess visited Buenos Aires before Port Stanley without any problems, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph, both it and Adonia have been forced to bypass Ushuaia for that very reason: permission denied.
The antagonism works both ways. In January, Star Princess was refused entry to Port Stanley, ostensibly because it had a small outbreak of norovirus onboard, but suspicions arose that the ship was turned away because it was carrying some Argentine passengers.
Both ships have continued on to Punta Arenas, Chile, their next scheduled port of call. The cost of the passengers' excursions will be refunded.
The next few ships due at either Port Stanley or Ushuaia -- which include Holland America Line's Veendam and Silversea's Silver Explorer -- are either coming from or headed for a Chilean port, so in theory they shouldn't be affected by the row.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor