Crime in Roatan: Shots Fired, Armed Robbery of Carnival Cruise Passengers

A week ago, a popular cruise line blogger wrote a glowing review of the port of Roatan, Honduras as a wonderful place that cruise passengers should consider. But nowhere in the review was there any mention of the high crime rate there. The murder rate in Honduras is the highest of any country that a cruise line could choose.

The blogger posted the review on Twitter. I thought that he was out of his mind.

So I questioned on Twitter why he didn't mention Honduras' high crime and murder rate? I posted the the U.S. Department of State's warning.

Carnival Conquest RoatanToday I read a message which had been posted by a Carnival cruise ship passenger, traveling with his wife and three girls, on a Facebook page of a friend called the "Missing America's Project:"

"ROATAN WARNING! 02 JANUARY 2014. SHOTS FIRED AT MY FAMILY. RENTAL CAR HIT BY BULLET, ROBBED AT GUNPOINT. Please use extreme caution if traveling to Roatan, an island cruise destination off the coast of Honduras."

You can read the rest of the message below.

One of the problems is that travel agents and cruise line do not warn cruise passengers of the dangers of crime in the Caribbean ports of call where crime is a real problem.  Some cruise lines provide luke-warm warnings in publications provided to the passengers on the cruise ship, but only after the families have already purchased their tickets and are sailing to the port.

The U.S. Department of State warning is accessible here. It is ominous. Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. In addition, "The vast majority of serious crimes in Honduras, including those against U.S. citizens, are never solved; of the 50 murders committed against U.S. citizens since 2008, police have only solved two."

The family robbed stated that another family sailing with Carnival had a shotgun pointed at them on a van during a sight-seeing excursion.

Here's the message posted on the Facebook Page:

"This past Thursday, during our Carnival Cruise port call, while driving on a beach access road on the northeast side of the island, a masked gunman sprung from the bushes about 30 feet in front of our car. With no warning he aimed and fired his semi-automatic weapon, striking the front hood of our rental vehicle. My wife and our three daughters, ages 8, 14, and 15, were with me. My immediate reaction was to put the car in reverse and try to back down the gravel/dirt access road to distance my family from the gunman. I wrecked the rental after driving approximately 75 yards in high speed reverse. The gunman pursued us on foot with pistol drawn. I got out of the car and when the gunman arrived he proceeded to rob us of cash, iPhones and camera. The encounter lasted approximately three minutes, and for most of that time he had his gun pointed either at me or at my daughters.

The gunman was 20-25 years old (best guess), brown native skin, black hair, about 5'8" tall, and weighed approximately 200 lbs. He spoke almost perfect "Island English".

Carnival has responded by providing comfort to my family, and has handled this incident in a caring and professional manner. The local police are investigating.

Roatan has only one major east/west running paved road. Many of the beaches and tourist destinations are located away from this paved road, and must be accessed by driving on un-paved secondary roads through rural "jungle" areas. Use extreme caution when off the main path, especially when in a highly noticeable rental car.

Also on the same day, another cruise guest had a shotgun pointed at his family while on a sight-seeing guided van tour. They were also on a remote un-paved side road." 

March 20 2014 Update: Travel Crime Warning: Tourists Assaulted, Robbed & Terrorized in Roatan, Honduras.

 

Thinking of visiting Roatan Honduras? Read the Missing Americans Project first.

Photo Credit: Sven Manguard / Wikimedia

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Comments (21) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Jeff Dunsavage - January 15, 2014 7:43 AM

Thanks for mentioning The Missing Americans Project and for the important work you do on behalf of travelers. Information is the only tool we have for making informed decisions.

Honduran Gringa - January 15, 2014 2:05 PM
tinikini - January 15, 2014 2:44 PM

I traveled to Roatan Island in 2001, with my scuba diving club and stayed at the Fantasy Island resort. The resort was fine, scuba was okay, and we had no issues while there for the week. We rented a car and drove around the island, it is truly beautiful. On the next to last day we were there, the staff at the resort suggested that we go to a nightclub on the other side of the island, it was a long drive and they would arrange a van for us. Sounded fun. We checked it out with the Dive Masters we had dove with all week and they said it was fine and that they would meet all of us out there. We went the last night we were there. What a cool place, on stilts on the water. We walked the ramp to get in and once we were in line we watched as they ID'd and frisked everyone and if they found a weapon on them it was confiscated and put in a box and given back to them when they left. Turns out both of our Dive Masters had knives, down the back of their pants, when we met them at the club. It was crazy for us, but the norm for them. We stayed at the club with them and had a great time and no issues, but we did not stay late. We all left in the van together and arrived back at the resort in one piece.

My point is they were all armed back then so I can only imagine what is going on today. If we had not been with our Dive Masters anything could have happened. The poverty and quality of life I saw on the island reminded me of a trip to Haiti I took in 1976 with my parents when I was 11 years old. Personally, I would never return to Roatan or get off the ship if I were in port.

Carol - January 15, 2014 8:56 PM

May I ask you where are you getting your data pertaining to Honduras having the highest murder rate in the world? Since 2010? Can you please provide your sources to back such claim?? I would have thought of countries such as Mexico, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela, to have the highest murder rate in the world. If you could provide substantial evidence of your claim, I would very much appreciate it.

Jim Walker - January 15, 2014 9:20 PM

Carol: Please read the Department of State warning I included in the article.

Nina - January 16, 2014 12:45 AM

And the Department of state is right and reliable why?..Honduras is not the most dangerous country, sorry for the people that have had incidents but those happen in every country. Crime is high in some areas like almost any country but way less on the island. I've lived in the main land, Roatan and other countries and I've been robbed once in Honduras, once in Milan and in DC I was told to stay away from the east area. It's totally unfair and untrue a lot of things said just about one country. Don't exaggerate telling people not to go, the country is not at war and doesn't have people shooting in movie theaters and malls.

Charles Jones - January 16, 2014 6:11 PM

I have traveled to Roatan on 3 cruises, including last week (5 days after the reported incident). I also spent 3 full weeks on the island in two trips last year. I have always felt completely safe. I would agree that the mainland of Honduras is not a safe place for Americans, but Roatan is about as much like the mainland as Harlem is like Disney World. Do people get robbed on Roatan - sure, but probably less than it occurs in Disney World. There was also a stabbing on Roatan a few weeks ago. It made my local paper because the victim was from here (Mobile, AL). It was a lovers' fight. In the past year, there have been a number of similar incidents near my home. I suppose I better run for the hills. Crime is everywhere. I would not be so stupid as to drive back roads that I am unfamiliar with in the middle of the day at home, nor would I do so abroad. Oops, 5:00 news is on and there was another murder in the US. I better move to Canada.

Kerwin - January 19, 2014 2:01 AM

I must agree with Carol and Charles, things like this happen every single day in other country's ESPECIALLY in the U.S so i see no reason to call red alert on the island for that, these things happen on the island but it is very rare, unlike other country's and islands.

Edward du Monceaux - February 15, 2014 8:32 PM

I am a Canadian who has lived on Roatan for over 10 years. We have a large and flourishing foreign community. We do have some crime, like everywhere in the world. It shows a complete lack of knowledge of the region, however, to lump Roatan in with Honduras. All the the two locations share is the flag and to a lesser extent, the currency as USD are readily accepted on Roatan. Honduras has some lovely, safe places to visit. Roatan is one of the finest. It is far more an island in the Caribbean than it is Honduras. There is a different language, history, culture and even the seasons are different. The new mayor is wielding an iron fist when it comes to crime and has proposed it to be a "0" crime zone. Attacks on cruise shippers have been extremely rare and with the new mandates will be "0" again very soon. Do not hesitate for a second to visit out little piece of paradise.

Jessica warren - March 16, 2014 4:48 PM

I ..i am female..came to roatan to dive and was basically attacked by 3 local men on this island. They assaulted me then robbed me..holding a knife to my neck. I heard them discussing kidnapping me for a ransom..or selling me to a slave market...to be taken out by boat. I got away when another tourist group drove by with several guys in the car. They saved my life. No one should go to this God forsaken island. I have learned a scary and nearly life ending lesson.

Brian expat - April 6, 2014 9:53 AM

I lived in a condo on roatan for 3 months. Everyone told me I would be totally safe and how friendly the locals were. Yeah right. My rental was broken into twice. Once I was gone and the second time I was asleep in bed when they broke in. Everyone knows on this island it's not safe and not to resist, but to give them what they want or they will kill you. I too, like the woman above had a huge knife held to my throat while being robbed. Nothing was brought to justice. The police favor the locals and could care less about an American on their island. What people need to understand is this, the people make about 2 dollars a day and so if they see a way to get something, they are going to rob you. Also, the locals with psychiatric problems are basically untreated, and so they are out of control on this island. I left when I heard about the Post heiress who was stabbed in the back 20 times and killed by a drug addicted local she was trying to help. This happened at the beginning if 2014. People need to understand this, Honduras is rated the number 1 murder country in Central America for a reason. If you want to dive hit Australia. You'll have great diving and will be able to sleep safely at night. People, just remember this, anyone who lives there or owns property there is going to paint you a rosy picture of this place because they can't leave or they have their money invested there. Avoid Roatan.

Lee - April 8, 2014 2:32 AM

Crime is all around the world, please people dont try to make Roatan look like the worth place in earth, when is not....

Shelly - April 8, 2014 3:29 PM

I am a cruise line employee and you are absolutely wrong in stating that we don't tell them. I tell my guests you are visiting a foreign country and just like the big cities in the US you need to be aware. There are some places I advise that a organized shore tour thru any agency or cruise line is better then wandering on your own like Jamaica and hHonduras, Belize, Costa Rica and the list goes on and on becyase even I the us virgini islands there have been issues and shooting. This is the world we live today. being one of them. At any given time if people are booking online they can review where they are going or if they can call a cruise professional and agent and ask how safe is it an honest one will state the facts. To make the claim outright that cruise lines do inform you are wrong wrong wrong !! And tell me when a guest books airfare and hotel accommodations who is responsible to tell them what the situation is in that country. And by the way the same can be said for many of our US ports that we ship out of as far as safety concerns too.

Jim Walker - April 8, 2014 4:32 PM

Shelly:

Cruise lines have a legal obligation to warn cruise passengers of dangers ashore. The excursions ashore are considered to be part of the cruise expeirience which the cruise lines market and which the cruise lines profit from.

Air transportation, on the other hand, is considered to be "point to point" transportation. Airlines have no legal obligation to warn of dangers outside of the airport.

Warning cruise passengers that there is crime in places like Roatan or Nassau "just like the cities in the U.S." is misleading. Nassau has one of the highest homicide rates in the world and Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. In many ports the tourists and cruise passengers and crew are targeted.

In our experience most cruise lines don;t warn of the dangers. Right now there are hundreds of travel agents hawking cruises to Roatan without telling their clients of the recent armed robberies or even the latest murder.

Angela - April 9, 2014 11:24 AM

Jim Walker-
Just as recently as last week, I was one of those cruise-goers that did not get told about the high crime rate of Roatan. The only reason that we booked this cruise is to get to Roatan.... And when we arrived there we got lied to by the captain… Telling us that we could not make it into port because of the "weather"… Upon returning home I find out that someone died, I am still trying to find out the circumstances surrounding the death... But to get back to your point, I was traveling with my husband and my three-year-old and six-year-old grandson, there is no way that I would take my grandsons there had I known about the high crime rate so all I can say is that God was watching out for us when he canceled our port into Roatan... I wish that only the cruise captain and crew could have been honest with us. And I absolutely feel like they should stop taking people to Roatan if the crime rate is so extremely high!
Case in point, our cruise last week I would have never… I repeat NEVER have booked it because the only reason that we were on that cruise was to get to Rotoan.
When I get more information on what really happened in Roatan last week that caused us not to be able to port there I will definitely come back and update you in the comments!

Charles Jones - April 14, 2014 8:44 PM

I just got a txt from a friend on Roatan. They made an arrest in the carjacking incident from January today. They arrested the son of the owner of the Palm Beach area where the robbery occurred. He has been implicated in at least four robberies. Here is the kicker: He IS AN AMERICAN! He is from California. I guess there are thugs there too; imagine that.

Matlock - April 18, 2014 4:02 PM

I have been to 42 countries. So far, I have not found one with out crime. I have been robbed in San Fran, Hawaii and northern Cal, where I live. It is not a perfect world. I have been to Roatan many times and plan on retiring there. The island economy is based on tourism. Because of this the residence there are very concerned about crime. In fact, everyone there seems to be very courteous and friendly, even those not connected to the tourism. As it turns out the recent crime was committed by outsiders. The island has a very laid back attitude and some of the best diving I have ever done. This coming from a commercial diver and dive instructor with thousands of dives around the world.The mainland of Honduras may have alot of crime,but the Bay Islands are safer than any big city in the world. But I have not been to the mainland for 15 years. I lived in LeCeiba for 2 years and never had a problem. So, don't miss out on a beautiful place because of the rare recent problems on Roatan.

Jill - April 20, 2014 10:23 AM

We just left Roatan 3 days ago. We were on a carnival cruise. Before we left our hotel in New Orleans, one of the staff warned us we may not be able to go to roatan bc a norweigan crew member had been robbed and killed for his cell phone on April 6, 2014. The night before we arrived we received a paper in our stateroom about the dangers of Honduras, but it did not mention what had previously happened the week before.
We went on our BOSS excursion with very friendly people and it was wonderful diving and snorkeling. We had about a 30min van ride from our port to the dive destination. It was very beautiful, however I did see lots of poverty and people with seemingly nothing to do......
I would use extreme caution with visiting here..... We enjoyed it very much however there are just as beautiful places to visit in the world with out the looming danger.

Mr White - May 12, 2014 6:11 PM

I've lived in Honduras on the main land. I have stayed on Utila and Roatan and have friends there. My family is in Honduras.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world PER CAPITA for a country not at war. If you wish to look up the BBC news website you will find full details. Also you should read La Prensa the newspaper in Honduras's website for details on crime. What kind of traveller to a developing country does not look at the newspaper before?

Stealing of cattle in the country, of cars (especially newer ones), corrupt police, burglary, street robbery (if you wear a watch or gold ring take it off on the islands and mainland) kidnapping and extortion are all common issues for natives as well as foreign visitors or settlers.

When I visited Roatan I can definitely say it was a much, much safer place than the mainland but it is still potentially dangerous and there are bad people living there. In the end the police and authorities must (hopefully) be pushed into action by cruise ships not coming. The cruise ships have made the right choice.

angelina - May 28, 2014 6:23 AM

We have been travelling now through south america and central america for 10 months and have encountered many problems (we are really not ones to complain) but felt like we HAD to make people aware of this apparent scam in Roatan so please be careful....

DO NOT stay with THE DOLPHIN HOTEL in Roatan's West End

we were taken by them to a secluded cabin in the forest (sounds nice right) which they called THE HILLSIDE GARDEN CABANAS
here we stayed and in the night someone robbed 300 US dollars from us while we slept in a locked room (but no personal belongings). We figured that the only people who could do that would be the staff (as they had keys and there was no sign of a break in) so we went to the police....
...after some investigation and the owners lying to the police many times the police finally closed the case saying we had simply lost the money somewhere mainly because the other belongings remained and there was no signs of a break in..
We were obviously very unhappy as we knew money had been stolen from us so we went to a secluded pub to drink our sorrows.....here was our landlords (from the dolphin) drinking heavily and laughing with the 4 policemen on our case, when i confronted them the policeman said to me "what does it matter, you're British, what is 300 dollars to you!!"
...truely unbelievable, we had heard the police were corrupt in Honduras and often worked alongside these types of scams but this was insane, Roatan is an absolutely stunning destination and would urge people to go but please do not stay at the Dolphin hotel, there are cheaper, better options (trust me, we looked!) and hopefully not involved in this scam.

PSG - July 9, 2014 12:45 PM

I have been to Roatan twice recently. Both times aboard a cruise ship. I met a guide through a reputable tour group on the first trip and liked him so kept his info for the 2nd trip. He is a local and knows everyone on and everything about the island. The cruise ship did not emphasize the danger I am reading about on this page. I would suggest you travel with a reputable tour group and you should be fine. I totally trusted our guide but don't think I would have been comfortable if my family had been alone or with anyone else. Roatan is beautiful but still very close to being a 3rd world country. Tourists everywhere are an easy mark. Be careful.

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