Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

A 73-year-old cruise line tourist died after being shot by robbers in Santo Thomas de Castilla.  The Latin American Herald Tribune identified the victim as Paul Wolfgang Ritter.  There has been some confusion regarding his nationality, as different newspapers identified him as either a Dutch or German tourist.

Mr. Ritter was a passenger aboard a NCL cruise ship.  Although the name of the ship was not mentioned, NCL has two cruise ships the Norwegian Spirit and the Norwegian Sun which call on Guatemala.

Mr. Ritter was on a paid tour of Santo Thomas de Castilla and was visiting its histoNCL Cruise passenger shot in Santo Thomas de Castillo cemetaryric cemetary when two men tired to rob him of his camera and then shot him.  The newspaper reported the capture of "two youth gang members" suspected in the murder. The banditos were identifed as gang members because of the tatoos on their faces.

Several newspapers, including CBS News, covering the story also commented on Guatemala's crime wave that has driven the murder rate up to around 17 a day - a statistic not known by most cruise passengers.

The Latin American Herald Tribune reports that "the more than 5,400 homicides reported last year in Guatemala – a nation of approximately 13 million – was nearly equal to the number of murders in neighboring Mexico, which has more than 100 million inhabitants and is the scene of open warfare among rival drug cartels."

A number of cruise lines other than NCL call on Santo Thomas de Castilla as a regular port, including Holland America Line and P & O Cruises.  P & O 's website has a section called "About Santo Thomas de Castilla" which promotes a visit to the cemetary as part of its "featured shore excurions:"

Santo Thomas de Castilla lies on Amatique Bay, off the Gulf of Honduras in northeast Guatemala. Belgians settled here in the 19th century and today you can see the cemetery where the pioneers are buried.

Cruise Port - Santo Thomas de CastillaCrimes committed against cruise passengers while ashore in ports of call are a concern throughout the Caribbean and Central America.  Three weeks ago, Cruise Law News was the first in the U.S. to report that eleven cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint at a major tourist attraction in downtown Nassau on a Sunday morning - "Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau."  

These types of stories do not find themselves being reported in U.S. newspapers.  The cruise community ignores them.   

Cruise lines are legally obligated to warn passengers of crime dangers in the ports of call they select and advertise for passengers. But don't expect the cruise line to provide a warning to your family, although some travel agents tell their clients to be careful.   

 

Photo credits

Santo Thomas de Castilla cemetary    Marycatherine Flickr Photodtream

Santo Thomas de Castilla shore excursion       P & O Cruises

 

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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
jose - July 16, 2010 1:20 AM

It is so sad and shameful how those Latinamerican countries has to have develop just on drugs since the placement of US political "strategies" dictators settling US industries (from here Banana Republics). When everything has economically consumed, those industries shut down leaving those countries really in bad shape!!!!! from the 80's to now everything is bad, hurt and really economically screwed! THANKS for nothing CAPITALISTS!!!!!!!!

PAULETTE Fein - September 13, 2010 2:56 PM

I am about to take the NCL Pearl and was looking for info on Guatemala port - this murder makes me wonder whether to get off the ship there.......... can anyone advise if this is still going on? Thanx.

phil - November 16, 2010 3:59 PM

I was on this cruise and nobody told me Guatamala was even remotely dangerous. I was walking down back allys with locals............thanks NCL!!!!!!!

Bitty Ramirez-Portilla - August 11, 2014 10:21 PM

As in other parts of the world, crime does occur in Guatemala, and in some places is high. Even so, tourists are not usually the focus of such crime and Guatemala’s main tourism destinations are typically quite safe. If you stay within the recommended areas, you should be fine. Most crime occurs in poor urban neighborhoods and in rural settings near the border with Mexico. It’s unlikely that you will be visiting any such places during your visit to Guatemala.
 
There are, however, a few precautions that you can take you reduce your risk of becoming a crime victim. Don’t wear expensive jewelry or clothing, and keep cameras and cell phones out of sight. Leave important documents and most of your money at your hotel, preferably in a safe—only bring the amount of money you need in a given day and be sure to carry a copy of your passport. Also, before you leave your hotel, tell them where you will be going and what time you expect to return. If you’re visiting a national park, beach or nature reserve, try to travel in groups and always stay on the trails.
 
If you’re going to rent a car, familiarize yourself with local traffic laws. Try to travel along main highways and only drive during the day. Also, don’t stop along the highway or pick up hitchhikers. Keep sight of your luggage in public places and on buses, and only use authorized taxis (most have meters).

As in other parts of the world, crime does occur in Guatemala, and in some places is high. Even so, tourists are not usually the focus of such crime and Guatemala’s main tourism destinations are typically quite safe. If you stay within the recommended areas, you should be fine. Most crime occurs in poor urban neighborhoods and in rural settings near the border with Mexico. It’s unlikely that you will be visiting any such places during your visit to Guatemala.
 
There are, however, a few precautions that you can take you reduce your risk of becoming a crime victim. Don’t wear expensive jewelry or clothing, and keep cameras and cell phones out of sight. Leave important documents and most of your money at your hotel, preferably in a safe—only bring the amount of money you need in a given day and be sure to carry a copy of your passport. Also, before you leave your hotel, tell them where you will be going and what time you expect to return. If you’re visiting a national park, beach or nature reserve, try to travel in groups and always stay on the trails.
 
If you’re going to rent a car, familiarize yourself with local traffic laws. Try to travel along main highways and only drive during the day. Also, don’t stop along the highway or pick up hitchhikers. Keep sight of your luggage in public places and on buses, and only use authorized taxis (most have meters).
 
Please tell us what you’d like to do in Guatemala and we can recommend safe places to visit. As always, we’re here to help. 

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