(8:30 p.m. EST) -- Star Princess is still at anchor in Valparaiso, Chile, some two days after it was originally scheduled to embark. The ship's departure had been delayed due to damage suffered at the cruise port's nearest air hub in Santiago in Saturday's massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake. The 101,900-ton, 2,600-passenger ship, currently carrying only about 1,200 passengers, was supposed to leave at noon today but is still awaiting the go-ahead from Chilean immigration officials at press time.
At this point, it's unclear how the additional immigration delay will affect the rest of the sailing, but Princess has offered some comment about the effects of the earthquake on this particular sailing. For now, here's what we know:
The new itinerary is shortened by two days and, as a result, the ship will no longer call at the originally scheduled ports of Punta Arenas or the Falkland Islands. A scenic cruise-by of Cape Horn will also be omitted.
The new itinerary is:
March 4 - Depart Valparaiso (noon)
March 5 - At sea
March 6 - At sea
March 7 - At sea
March 8 - Ushuaia, Argentina (8 am – 4 pm)
March 9 - At sea
March 10 - At sea
March 11 - At sea
March 12 - Montevideo, Uruguay (8 am – 5 pm)
March 13 - Buenos Aires, Argentina (8 am – 5 pm)
March 14 - At sea
March 15 - At sea
March 16 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (7 am)
Affected Passengers from the Previous Cruise
Given the limited number of flights out of the Santiago Airport in the past few days, Princess allowed passengers from the previous sailing to stay onboard for $50 to $75 per night, depending on accommodation level. Julie Benson, Princess' Vice President of Public Relations, told Cruise Critic yesterday that 472 passengers opted to take advantage of the offer.
Due to Brazilian visa requirements, passengers from the previous sailing must leave the ship prior to reaching Rio de Janeiro -- the voyage's final stop -- on March 16. That leaves them with the option of debarking in Ushuaia (March 7), Montevideo (March 12) or Buenos Aires (March 13).
Affected Passengers on the In-Progress Cruise
According to Benson, roughly 700 new passengers for the next sailing were able to board the ship in Valparaiso. Passengers who couldn't make it to port in time for today's departure have the option of boarding in Ushuaia, Montevideo or Buenos Aires. But, that means those passengers could miss as much as 75 percent of their sailing.
1) Those who were able to board the ship in Valparaiso will receive per-diem refunds in the form of onboard credit to make up for first two days of the sailing, which were lost, and to help offset pre-cruise hotel and meal costs incurred by passengers during the embarkation delay.
2) Those who plan to catch up with the sailing in a port of call that comes later on the itinerary will be given the same offer of per-diem onboard credit, based on the cruise fare paid and the date on which they join the voyage.
3) Those who choose to cancel their booking for this sailing altogether should call their travel care providers to file claims for refunds. Those with travel protection from Princess will receive credit for a future sailing. However, Princess' policy is that the line does not provide full refunds to passengers without travel protection if circumstances (like the earthquake and resulting airport issues) are beyond the line's control.
Given the circumstances, we are keeping our eyes on the next two sailings scheduled to depart from Valparaiso -- Oceania's Insignia, which is prepared to visit on Sunday, and Silversea's Silver Spirit, due in port on Monday. Representatives from both lines say there are no changes to itineraries at this time, but a statement from Oceania says the line is closely monitoring the situation and is sending a team of executives to Valparaiso to assess the damage and determine next steps. We'll update you as new information becomes available.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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