Initial Report: Asian Earthquake Tragedy Causes Little Disruption

December 27, 2004

(December 27) -- The tragedy in Asia this weekend begun by the monstrous 9.0 earthquake -- that then spawned even more disastrous tsunamis across parts of Thailand and the Malay peninsula -- has reverberations even for cruise lines. The earthquake erupted underwater near the Indonesian island of Sumatra early Sunday morning. Its effect created a series of tsunamis (the Japanese word that describes waves generated by seismic activity) that slammed into coastal areas such as India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives and Malaysia.

While for the most part major metropolitan areas were not impacted by the tsunamis, resort coastal areas -- most notably Thailand's Phuket -- where cruise ships also call were in many cases devastated.

Only voyages operated by the Malaysia-based Star Cruises are imminently impacted. Its SuperStar Virgo and SuperStar Gemini both sail regular itineraries in the region. The company, according to a press release issued Monday, says that "both ships and their passengers were safe in Singapore at the time when reports were received of waves striking the northwestern coast of the Malay peninsula and Thailand." As such, SuperStar Virgo's call at Phuket has been replaced -- for the immediate future -- with a stop instead at Langkawi, Malaysia. SuperStar Gemini's three-night cruise to Phuket will substitute calls at Langkawi and Penang.

Star Clippers' 170-passenger Star Flyer was at Pangkor Island in Malaysia at the time of the earthquake, and was en route to Singapore, but a company statement says the ship was well away from the epicenter. The statement says that Star Flyer will return, as scheduled, to its homeport of Phuket (noting that the resort town's deep-water seaport was not damaged) -- and will continue to sail its winter season itinerary between Phuket to Singapore through the end of March, as originally planned.

Minerva II, a ship operated by U.K.-based Swan Hellenic, is currently at sea, heading towards the Seychelles. Henry Kartagener, the cruise line's U.S. spokesman, says the ship is by no means in imminent danger at this point -- and that no changes in itineraries, at least at this point, have been made. The ship is slated to call at Colombo, Sri Lanka (which is not affected) on January 9, and at Phuket, on February 20.

Seabourn Spirit is currently in the South China Sea and a company statement reports the ship is more than 1,000 miles from affected areas. According to ship's captain Sven-Erik Pedersen, passengers and crew felt no noticeable affects from either quake or tsunami since the ship was located in Ho Chi Minh City ( Saigon) at the time. The voyage ends in Hong Kong, with another departing from there on January 2 and heading southbound through Vietnam and Thailand to Singapore.

Most potentially impacted is the ship's January 16 departure from Singapore; on that itinerary, Spirit is scheduled to make calls at Phuket and in Yangon, Myanmar. According to the statement, "these ports are or may be affected and we await detailed information from agents before deciding on changes as required."

In other cases, the only time most ships sail in this region of the world is during world voyages, many of which, alas, begin in mid-January. For the most part, the only calls potentially impacted could be those at the Maldives and Phuket but it is simply too soon to know, according to cruise lines contacted by Cruise Critic.

We'll keep you posted.