|Chile's booth on the trade show floor at Cruise Shipping Miami|
Travel Agent was on the scene today at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference, inquiring about the status of cruising in Chile. Susan J. Young, our senior contributing editor, cruises and tours, interviewed Teodoro Wigodski S., president of Southern Cone Port Corporation, the group that integrates ports and services to the cruise industry.
Southern Cone Port Corporation represents Puerto Montt; Port of Punta Arenas; Port of Arica; Port of Valparaíso and Valparaíso Passenger Terminal; Port of Talcahuano; Port of Chacabuco and Port of Iquique.
Putting the geography in perspective is important, says Wigodski, who is also chairman of Puerto Montt. While damage was substantive in the Conception area, given the 8.8 magnitude earthquake, he wants agents to know that the two main ports used by cruise passengers in Chile— Puerto Montt to the south of Conception and Valparaiso to the north of Conception— were not damaged in any major way and are operating to receive cruise ships.
He notes that both port areas experienced earthquake intensity of 6.0, far less than that of Conception. Wigodski says ports are operating normally for cruise travel. He visited Puerto Montt just prior to Cruise Shipping Miami and viewed three cruise ships in port.
Initially the airport of Santiago was closed for several days following the earthquake but he says from his perspective it's now operating fine— with the exception of decorative damage to ceilings, soft goods and decor. That's requiring some alternative arrangements at times for handling passengers in the terminal. But he stressed that he flew from the airport earlier this week, and that his flight to Cruise Shipping Miami departed just 10 minutes from its planned departure.
In terms of passenger experiences ashore, many cruisers departing or arriving into Santiago enjoy tours of the wineries in the region. He says that some wineries have been damaged, most of those utilizing buildings that were several hundred years old. That said, he notes there are other wineries that are open, so cruise guests can be accommodated on alternative winery tours.
Chile continues to move ahead with several new projects on the port facility side. Valparaiso is opening a new passenger cruise terminal. Punta Arenas is making improvements in its facilities by building a new pier so ships don't have to tender but, rather, can dock. And a new port, Puerto Williams, on the southernmost tip of Chile is initiating a facilities project to be able to welcome cruisers.