Love Letters from Roatan

This year I have written a dozen articles about the high crime rate in Roatan Honduras. 

The purpose of my blog is to report on "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."

So if there is a destination which the cruise line and tourism officials market (for profit) as a "tranquil" and "peaceful" paradise, but it is really a dangerous place, I will tell you about it. 

If cruise passengers and crew members are robbed, raped and killed in a cruise destination touted as Roatan Hondurassafe, I will tell you about it.

So far this year, I have told you about a family of five with three young kids from a Carnival cruise ship whose rental car was shot up during an armed robbery; a Royal Caribbean family robbed at machete point and a tourist interested in diving the reefs who was violently assaulted; a NCL crew member shot in the head, dead; and several local residents of Roatan killed and left in the streets. 

All of this violent crime occurred in Roatan, Honduras. Yes the Roatan marketed by Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean as the idyllic, tropical get-a-way, the paradise island of Roatan.

I have written about other dangerous cruise destinations: the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Kitts, Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize. But the residents of these countries have never come close to voicing the level of animosity and threats which I receive from the residents of Roatan when I write about crime.

I received a half-dozen emails yesterday from Roatan. Here are two good ones. Judge for yourself:

From Doug in Roatan: 

You are a fucking piece of shit im sure its real safe where you live which I assume is miami which is a complete shit hole how many people die there every night do you tell cruise ship passengers how fucking dangerous the departure ports are of course not ie: miami, new orleans, houston all shit hole cities if you want to write about violence try san pedro sula you fucking moron I will take my chaces in both roatan and san pedro sula before visiting any one of the cities in america mentioned all you are doing is praying on a bunch of people who are afraid of there own shadow you cant hold everybodys hand when they travel but shit happens in colorado at the resorts but you dont make a big deal out of that senseless crime happens everywhere you fucking idiot whatever your deal is with roatan all your doing is making it harder in aplace where life is already hatd enough fuck you

From Michelle in Roatan:

Interesting stats you're choosing to post about Roatan. I live here and am NOT afraid for my safety. You mention that the expatriate community downplays the crime issue and where are your stats about crime regarding them? The truth of the matter is ANYWHERE you go in the world there is crime, except perhaps, Iceland. The crime that we're witnessing here on Roatan is mostly what others would consider, drug related, revenge related or motivated as well as "Indian on Indian". Which is why the deaths of the man by mud hole or by la colonia belfate were featured but aren't causing a stir.
They have nothing to do with the general public. My safety is not jeopardized by the death of either of those men and neither is anyone else's; unless they were associated with them in whatever business or crime they were previously involved in.

People die violent deaths in US cities every single day and the reason people still feel safe in their homes is because they don't hear about them due to the fact that it isn't considered news. "A woman was found shot/strangled or beaten to death in her apartment" could be a news title on just about any newspaper in just about any city or town in the US but once officials realize that she was murdered by her drug dealer boyfriend, that she herself was a drug user and that she is a woman of color, she no longer is classified as news. And her death does not change or influence anyone else's safety. The same goes here. So I urge you to stop focusing your interest in stories that are not being shared and worry about your own interests. It is unfortunate that many people have had negative experiences while traveling here. It really truly is but it doesn't represent the island as a whole. People are safe, just like anywhere else in the world; again, except for Iceland, one must ALWAYS be mindful of what they are doing, where and with whom. Bad choices and bad decisions usually have bad results.

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Comments (15) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
David - June 5, 2014 7:21 AM

Dear Doug & Michelle,

I understand that a big part of the island's economy depends on the business cruise liners bring to you, however, you CANNOT compare a domestic violent crime with the killing of a crew person just outside the port for his cell phone. I was born in Southamerica and I grew up in a society where "bad choices and bad decisions ALWAYS have bad results" but I would not class my city or even my country as a safe touristic spot. Unfortunately is down to the authorities to act and make it work, with people's help of course.

Be true to yourselves and look at it from a holyday-maker point of view, as a local, you will always make your living no matter what.

Best, David

Nicole - June 5, 2014 11:12 AM

David,

The killing of the crew member was not over a cell phone, my dear. We, the islanders, know the truth behind that story but, of course, it is not being shared by the cruise lines or Mr. Jim Walker for that matter. My family has lived here from long before Roatan was even Honduran, and we have Never felt any sort of fear. So please, get your facts straight before bashing our island.

Thanks,

A true islander.

Lori Hynds - June 5, 2014 11:42 AM

yes there is crime all over the world, so wont ever bother using that as an argument. Roatan is an amazing place! Jim you use roatan a lot because the stuff that happen on the island aren't really kept secret, you keeps on eye on facebook or anywhere else yoy can squeeze a story from. as a business owner i make sure my guest always feel safe, and they have never experienced anything shocking. JIM maybe you should visit Roatan before posting so many negative stuff about it. ;)

Jim Walker - June 5, 2014 11:47 AM

Nicole:

The Bay Islands Voice, a highly credible and well written publication on your island, reported on the murder of the NCL crew member for his cell phone as follows:

"The 27-year-old crew member of a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship was using a wifi connection in front of a mini market a few hundred meters from the cruise ship dock about 2:30 p.m. yesterday when an assailant demanded he hand over his tablet device, according to witnesses. Witnesses heard two shots, one of which apparently passed through the victim's arm and hit him in the side and a second that police said entered the left side of the victim's head. A waitress at the Merry Inn Seaman's Club, located above the mini market, said she heard the first shot and ran to the balcony. She said she saw the victim on the ground below holding his side and trying to get up when the assailant shot him a second time through the head. She said the assailant then bent over to pick up the tablet device and escaped on foot through an alley across the street."

It is pathetic and despicable of you to insinuate that his death was anything else than a cold blooded murder.

tinikini - June 5, 2014 11:55 AM

Nicole,

If you are so well informed then why don't you tell us all the "truth" about what happened instead of attacking Jim and the people who share their experiences of Roatan. If you don't like the blog don't read it.

Doug,

You need to grow up and learn how to speak and spell. When you spew your filth, no one listens, it just makes you look ignorant. Once again, if you don't like what this blog has to say don't read it.

Skip - June 5, 2014 12:32 PM

I have been to Roatan three times. The last two times I didn't bother to get off the ship. I'm not really sure why the cruise lines stop there.

Yes, crime happens everywhere (even Iceland), but I am generally willing to take that risk- in Roatan, it's just not worth it.

Dana - June 5, 2014 12:51 PM

Very well said Tinkini!! Very well said!! Doug's post was so full of profanity; that any point he was trying to make ruined by all the cussing in his post!!. What these people fail to understand is that the facts about Honduras speaks for themselves. There is alot of violent crime there and I; for one; am thankful for a blog like this one to inform me on what is going on in each cruise port. I will NOT be cruising to Honduras!! I really value my safety!! Thanks Mr. Walker and keep up the good work!!

MOE - June 6, 2014 1:37 AM

am very thankful for this post, Jim.. My husband is working in the cruise ship under RCCL.. they went to ports that u mentioned here.. and because of your post, i warned my husband not to get off the ship went they docked in bahamas. Although Bermuda is one of the high crime port, as u mentioned here.. but my husband always get off the ship because of the wifi.. and my husband said, the port area of bermuda is highly secured.. there's a police officer everywhere and speaking of bermuda port, that is a naval port, so it means that the bermuda port is very secured.. By the way, my only comment to your blog is, you always comment the bad side or the negative side of the cruise company. why don't you say something nice? not all happened in the cruise ship is bad or negative.. in fact, many people love to cruise..

Tom - June 6, 2014 9:43 AM

If you go to roatan on a cruise, and you expect to find, drugs, prostitutes, or bad things of course you are going to end up between thieves and criminals... Just like every other country in the world... Be realistic, the times are hard, people gets killed ad robbed everywhere.. I lived 10 years in roatan and never got robbed or saw a dead body on the streets, i moved to italy (which is supposed to be safe) and got robbed after two months... Experiences depend on the people.who live them.. I suggest to everyone to visit roatan because it's a great island full of peaceful people.

Missing Americans - June 6, 2014 10:18 AM

Moe: I don't want to put words in Jim's mouth, but as someone who has become very aware of the lack of accountability and transparency of the travel/tourism generally (not just the cruise industry) over the past 5 years, I would like to say that it's critical that some voices report primarily on "the bad stuff" because this industry is virtually unregulated and unaccountable, and the so-called media organizations that cover it are, to a very large extent, funded by industry they are supposed to be reporting on. If someone wants to read happy-talk stories about how much fun cruising is, they have no end of sources for such stories. Woefully few individuals or organizations are willing or have the incentive to publish about the industry's dark underbelly. So, I for one am grateful for the handful of people like Jim Walker who write about this stuff. And, in fairness to Jim, when a company gets something right (like Disney FINALLY getting lifeguards for the pools on its family-oriented cruises) he calls it out. Remember: His blog is called "Cruise Law News", not "Cruise Fun News."

Jeff Dunsavage
The Missing Americans Project
www.missingamericans.ning.com

Kristoffer - June 6, 2014 5:44 PM

Tom, nice argumentum ad consequentiam fallacy. If only the USA had done what you do, 9/11 never would have happened.

Justin B - June 10, 2014 7:48 PM

Doug's abundant use of profanity and lack of punctuation makes me question his intelligence and character. He seems to be a very angry, dumb man. I feel sorry for him not even being able to form a simple, vulgar sentence.

Michelle makes valid points if this were a general news site like CNN or NBC News, but it's not. It's a site that tries to tell people what they need to know about the places they travel.

I've never not taken a cruise because of what I read on cruiselawnews.com BUT it has heightened my awareness when traveling abroad, on cruises and other trips.

Ryan Ver Berkmoes - June 12, 2014 7:20 AM

Just a quick link that may dispel Michelle's strange idea that only Iceland is a safe place in a dangerous world:
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27290883

Cheers for some actual reportage on Roatan as opposed to the usual promotional drivel. I'm on Bali now which also needs to face facts about its quickly deteriorating security for locals and visitors alike. Pretending all is marvy won't stop the next person from getting murdered.

Tanya Brown - June 12, 2014 4:02 PM

I would just like to say in reading this article. No matter where you go or what you do there is a risk of danger. I have recently returned home to the Bahamas after living in rural North Dakota for a few years. It's not the fact about the high crime rate in The Bahamas, it's about having a good time and just being aware of your surroundings. If you are aware of the situation with the crime in this country then you have many options: 1. Don't travel here, 2. Be careful, 3. Be a hobbit for the time of your stay, 4. Travel in groups, 5. Control the amount of alcohol you consume, 6. Make a local friend who will HELP you in a time of need (Because around here it's about who you know, not what you know), 7. Be vigilant (I'm just saying, if you are alone and you are walking past some creep in an alley way; TURN AROUND) Some people, I do believe, innocently put themselves in harm's way. There is no comparison to America where crime is involved because we don't have the resources, or population to compete however, we do have a lot of uneducated, idol people walking around. Yes I said uneducated. If you want your paradise there are over 700 islands and cays; choose another island!!! Instead of complaining about the crime, move away from it, start a hotline, go to Jamaica! But articles like this does not help the country or the cruise lines and it all affects the crime even more (FOR THE WORSE). Think about it. Tourists stop coming, less people have incomes. Less people have incomes, crime escalates. If you want the crime to decrease. Be smart! There are lots of things to do and places to go THAT ARE SAFE. Not every person here is out to kill, rob, or beg from you. Clearly, these people that are committing crimes are desperate and their shallow minds and lack of education shouldn't speak for the country as a whole. This country is beautiful, on your next stay try going to one of the Exuma cays, or the Island of Andros. There is so much culture, history and beauty to explore and if you allow some idiot stop you from experiencing that then that reflects the coward you are deep down. When I travel I don't cry about getting ripped off, somebody snatching my purse or a nasty sales person on my back. I either decide not to go back to that destination/shop or I put on my "big boy pants" and get over it. Needless to say, the more we put one another down the worse the situation will become. Solutions for a fun, safe and enjoyable vacation in the Bahamas are out there if you do dream of paradise believe me I enjoy it daily however some people think that paradise is heaven, unfortunately we all live on planet earth and things do happen but living a life of fear is purposeless. That’s why we buy alarms for our cars and homes, that’s why we have 911 to call in the case of emergency, that’s why we have the "buddy system" and it's definitely why we use our digression and keep our guard up where ever we are (EVEN IF ITS SUPPOSE TO BE PARADISE).

marianne - June 13, 2014 6:36 PM

I will be sure and tell my friends wife to wear her big boy pants and get over being tramatized with a gun in her home in nassau in front of her small children. maybe the assistant prime minister who was robbed in his home can do the same thing? yes there are other places, like compass, staniel, highborne etc. but unfortunately nassau is the hub of business and where the cruise ships congregate. Jim is right, its only one gun shot away from being history.

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