Cruise Ships Steer Clear Of Troubled Waters

Travel via cruise ship has a number of advantages. For one example, you can unpack once but visit multiple destinations on a floating hotel. Doing so safely is another, causing cruise lines to constantly consider life as it is at ports of call around the world. What was once a safe place to visit may not be six months from now. That’s when cruise lines alter itineraries and steer cruise ships clear of troubled waters.

Argentina’s Ushuaia has been referred to as the southernmost city in the world with attractions that include the Tierra del Fuego National Park, Lapataia Bay and a host of wildlife viewing, fishing, skiing, hiking, biking, dining and shopping opportunities. Ushuala is also a South American cruise port. When the decades-old tension between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands heated up recently, cruise lines chose to go a different direction.

“Information had come to our attention that demonstrations may have occurred in Ushuaia that could have impacted the ability of Veendam to enter and leave the port in accordance with accepted maritime practices,” said Sally Andrews, Holland America spokesperson in a TravelPulse report.

But what happens when ports are not accessible?

Cruise lines commonly compensate passengers for missing a port deemed unsafe, substituting another port in its place or adding an extra day at sea.

“As a result of this change, guests onboard were refunded for any shore excursions booked in Ushuaia and the government taxes and fees for the canceled port,” added Andrews.

We saw the same moves made by cruise lines after political unrest in Egypt caused ships to skip a destination many passengers had on their bucket list. Yes, those booked got “a cruise” but it was not “the cruise” they had planned on.

So what to do if my port of call is canceled?

  • If port cancellation happens before sailing, check with the cruise line, they may be offering booked passengers the ability to transfer their booking to a future sailing.
  • Check the details of your travel insurance. While “political unrest” rates run about as high as “weather disruptions” on the easy refund list, some travel insurance policies take into account such matters and while the cruise line may not offer a complete refund for cancellation, insurance can help.
  • Carefully consider cruise line offers to cancel and rebook without penalty. While potentially missing one port of call does not a bad cruise make, if that missed port is the one you were looking the most forward to, the hassle of rebooking and planning different time away from home might be worth it.
  • Negotiate with the cruise line. There is no rule that says booked passengers cannot try to make a case in favor of consideration by the cruise line when a port is canceled. Legally, the cruise line has that covered in the Passenger Contract all travelers agree to before booking. Still, cruise lines know that a little good will goes a long way to smooth over what could be a deal breaker itinerary change to a passenger.

What did those planning on visiting Ushuaia miss? Check this video to see:

[Photo Credit- Flickr user Benjamin Dumas]

Budget Hiking Alternatives To Tierra Del Fuego In Ushuaia, Argentina

When traveling to Ushuaia in Argentina‘s Patagonia region, the main attraction is trekking in Tierra del Fuego National Park. While absolutely stunning, a trip there can be expensive. Depending on what your travel plans are, you may want to try some cheaper hiking options in the area.

The first is Valle de Lobos. Transportation and admission to Tierra del Fuego from the city center costs 170 Argentine Pesos (about $40) round trip. While this may not sound expensive, just ask a backpacker who’s been touring the continent on a shoestring budget. The bus to Valle de Lobos costs less than $15 round trip, and the entrance fee is only 10 ARS$ (about $2). At this lesser known – but still breathtaking – park, you’ll be able to hike to Esmeralda Lagoon. The lagoon is majestic, as it gleams a metallic light-blue yet off-white color. Along the way, you’ll trek through the Bosque Forest, Rio River and over the Puente Bridge.

Another budget-friendly hike is to Martial Glacier. This trek is absolutely free, as you can walk to the trailhead from the city center in about 40 minutes. You will first go through a winding forest, crossing over streams and bridges. Then you will trek uphill to the base of the glacier. It’s a hike of beautiful contrasts, as you will be surrounded by vibrant foliage before climbing up snowy boulders.

For a more visual idea of these hikes check out the gallery below.


Photo of the day: Ushuaia in spring

Ushuaia, Argentina is the end of the line. Situated near the tip of South America, Ushuaia is the main departure point for Antarctic cruises. Though technically not the world’s southernmost settlement–that honor goes to the tiny town Puerto Williams, Chile–it is without question the world’s southernmost city, with a population, according to the 2010 census, of just under 57,000.

Flickr user Guillermo Esteves snapped this image of Ushuaia in mid-December, capturing Ushuaia in its full late spring glory.

Got an epic image of a far-flung place in your archives? Upload it to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. If we like it, we might just choose it to be a future Photo of the Day.

Adventure Vacation Guide 2012: Ushuaia, Argentina

Just a few miles out of Ushuaia you can stand at the end of the Panamerican Highway and imagine the long line that connects you to Alaska. Wild nature surrounds you, face one direction and you’ll see sharp granite peaks. Turn the other direction and you’ll see the Beagle Channel, that relatively placid waterway that leads to the Drake Passage, and then, Antarctica.

Antarctica exploration hit a milestone last year, Roald Amundsen was the first man to reach the South Pole in December 1911. With 100 years of exploration behind us, it’s now surprisingly easy to board a ship from Ushuaia and head out to that last place.

You can book an Antarctic trip from the comfort of home, but if you’ve got time to spare, head to Ushuaia during cruise season (typically January to March) and visit the travel agents that line San Martin. A last minute bookings can save you up to fifty percent.

Ushuaia vibrates with anticipation and exhilaration. The combination of Antarctica travelers both outbound and returning, cyclists (motor and pedal) who have completed the Panamerican Highway, and back country adventurers surfacing from the wilds of Patagonia make for a city where nearly everyone you meet is on an epic, once in a life time adventure.

[flickr image via]

Update on Antarctic cruise ship Clelia II

Yesterday we posted a story about an Antarctic cruise ship, named Clelia II, that ran into trouble when it reportedly lost an engine while crossing the legendary Drake Passage on its way back to Ushuaia, Argentina. To make matters worse, the weather was incredibly bad, with 30 foot waves crashing against the vessel, adding even more of a challenge to completing repairs and continuing the journey. Later in the day, we received an update on the ship courtesy of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO).

According to the IAATO, the Clelia II is making its way north to Ushuaia under its own power and at regular speed. Contrary to early reports, the ship did not lose an engine, but instead suffered damage when a powerful wave crashed over the bow, smashing a window on the bridge and damaging important electronic equipment. The damage to that equipment caused the vessel to temporally lose communications and engine power, dropping its operational speed dramatically. Once repairs were finalized however, the ship got back underway with just the heavy seas causing issues for the passengers and crew.

The IAATO reiterated that the ship suffered no damage to its hull, nor was there a discharge of any oil or other types of fuel that could have an impact on the environments of the Southern Ocean. Furthermore, the organization confirmed that one crew member did indeed suffer minor injuries in the storm.

If all goes as planned, the Clelia II should arrive back in Ushuaia today, with all passengers safe and sound. I’m sure they’ll all be more than happy to be back on dry land when they reach port, but at least they’ll have a great story to tell their friends back home.