June 3, 2010
Update, 12:45 p.m. EDT: The U.S. State Department has lifted its travel warning for Thailand. This will be our last update.
What's the conflict?
(May 27, 7:30 p.m. EDT) -- Months of political unrest and violent demonstrations in Bangkok have prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a travel warning for Thailand, which has reportedly led at least one cruise line to alter an itinerary.
The travel warning -- as opposed to a travel alert -- which was issued May 15, indicates a likelihood that the threat posed to those who travel to the country will be long-term. It specifically mentions Bangkok and Chiang Mai (which lies inland to the north and so receives no cruise traffic) as the cities to avoid.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand's prime minister, says the country's government is committed to resolving the clashes in a democratic way. But, how long the opposition lasts remains to be seen.
Which ports and ships could be affected?
Bangkok (Laem Chabang)
Princess' Sun Princess (June 11, July 19, August 24)
Seabourn's Seabourn Pride (July 17, September 3)
Bangkok (Klong Toey)
Silversea's Silver Shadow (October 28-29)
Costa's Costa Classica (November 30-December 1)
What's the impact?
Although ships don't actually call in Bangkok Proper -- they usually call at Laem Chabang, some two hours away -- many passengers do fly into and out of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, and visit the city for pre- or post-cruise stays. At this time, the airport remains open and operational, and flights are arriving and departing as scheduled, according to the airport's Web site.
Two other ports of call for Bangkok include Klong Toey, located about 45 minutes from Bangkok itself, and Unithai, which is about 30 minutes away from the city. Although these two smaller ports are closer to the site of the violence, ships are not scheduled to call there until later in the year.
Seabourn spokesman Bruce Good says that Bangkok will be replaced by Singapore on Seabourn Pride's July 17 sailing. (A decision has not yet been made regarding the ship's September 3 call in Laem Chabang.) Sun Princess is actually the next ship scheduled to call at Laem Chabang on June 11. A Princess spokeswoman is looking into the situation but was unable to offer further information at this time.
There is also no telling how the unrest may affect shore excursions if ships continue to call in Bangkok as planned. Both Princess and Seabourn offer a handful of sightseeing tours and other excursions in Laem Chabang.
What should I do?
Seabourn's proactive approach is likely what Cruise Critic boards members like cindilouwho are hoping for when it comes to dealing with Bangkok calls. "I am finally getting a little unnerved about the Bangkok port of call on my Asia cruise in January," she says. "I know it's far out but the unrest has been going on for many months and it looks to be getting quite serious."
Still, others doubt whether the unrest will carry on that long. "I wouldn't be concerned about something so far in the future," says cruiseguy. "The violence is very localized and may be winding down."
We'll keep you posted as we find out more. In the meantime, you can check out our Bangkok forum and join the discussion. Also be sure to check back for further news updates as information becomes available.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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