Celebrity Passengers' Tour Operator Unlicensed

March 24, 2006
Tragic Celebrity Shore Experience Kills 12
Celebrity Pres Weighs In On Tragedy
Celebrity Holds Press Conference To Discuss Tragedy in Chile Celebrity Releases Names of the Dead
Update: Bus Tragedy on Celebrity's Millennium
(1:20 p.m.) -- Ominous developments are unfolding two days after the deadly tour bus crash that killed 12 passengers from Celebrity's Millennium and injured two more while touring in Arica, Chile. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times today, the driver apparently dozed off at the wheel, causing the mini-bus, a 2006 Mercedes, to drive down a 650-ft. ravine. The driver and the tour guide both survived the accident.

This contradicts earlier reports that the driver had swerved to avoid a truck in his path.

In another disturbing revelation, Chilean authorities are now saying that the tour operator -- Andinotur or Andino Tour (both spellings used in dispatches) -- was not properly licensed to provide tour services, according to various news reports.

It's not yet known how -- and through whom -- the passengers booked their tour, though a web search for Andinotur/Andino Tour turned up nothing. However, a search on Viator, a company that books tours to a myriad of places around the world and that offers this type of shore experience in Arica, turned up a tour (no operator information given) priced at $85. There is no information on the Web site, however, about quality control, aside from a vague statement that says "Our Product Managers select only the most experienced and reliable operators in each destination, removing the guesswork for you, and ensuring your peace of mind."

Indeed, travelers are required to pay in advance before they are offered information on the tour operator: "Complete Operator information, including local telephone numbers at your destination, are included on your Confirmation Voucher."

The passengers from Celebrity's Millennium had booked the shore outing independently from those offered by Celebrity. Bypassing ship-organized shore excursions is a common practice in many ports of call, primarily because there is also a money savings involved. For instance, the tour offered through Viatour cost $85 per person. A similar tour offered through Celebrity Cruises costs $115 per person.

At this point, Celebrity has offered no other updates other than the fact that both injured passengers are still at Dr. Juan Noe Hospital in Arica in stable condition.