Bloody Nassau

Nassau BahamasThis weekend was one of the bloodiest in the Bahamas this year. Seven people shot and three dead.

By my calculations, the death toll for the year in the Bahamas is 118 (last year was 119 murders). The murders are primarily in Nassau. 

According to the Tribune, an 18-year-old out of jail on bail was killed on Saturday after attending the funeral of his brother who was murdered two weeks ago. He was leaving the funeral with his 14-year-old brother when they stopped at a traffic light. Two masked men jumped out of a vehicle and shot the two brothers multiple times before speeding off. The older brother died and the younger brother is in the hospital in critical condition.

The Tribune also reported on three separate weekend shooting incidents that placed four men in the hospital, as well as another shooting incident where a police officer killed a young man who reportedly tried to shoot him first.

The Bahamas Press also reports that the person who shot and killed police officer Sargent Dwayne Rolle last week outside a popular gambling spot turns out to be another police officer who was allegedly involved in gambling with police officer Rolle who he then killed when he left the gambling joint.   

Meanwhile the commanding officer and chief superintendent of the Central District Police Station, Leamond Deleveaux, claims that he has beefed up Police Nassauthe police presence in the tourist areas of Nassau. He told the the Guardian newspaper that "I've been putting a police officer on every corner for over six months, and over the last month we've gotten more officers."    

He also claims that tourists in Nassau are virtually immune from crime. He states "to be honest with you, crime against tourists are almost non-existent despite what you hear or is printed in the media." 

That's a bold claim when the Bahamas is the subject to four critical crime warnings to U.S.citizens (one from the U.S. State Department and three from the U.S. Embassy) and one warning from Canada, all in less than one year. The last U.S. warning mentioned that U.S. tourists have been raped and robbed at gunpoint, and there have been three reported sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet ski operators on Paradise Island.

Police chief Deleveaux needs to spend less time playing for the tourism board and more time fighting crime.

 

Photo Credit: Tribune    Wikipedia / Ritchie Sieradzki Creative Commons 2.0.

Another Murder in Roatan . . .

This morning I received a number of emails from residents of Roatan about an extremely violent murder of a local merchant in Roatan (Coxen Hole) near the port. 

Four men attacked and repeatedly beat Mr. Marcelino Vásquez (age 58), the proprietor of a store called "Commercial Vasquez." An article in Teledifusora Insular states that Mr. Vásquez routinely went jogging with his wife at 5:00 o'clock in the morning.  But yesterday at dawn, four men attacked him and threw numerous punches to his head and face. He was taken to the hospital where he died. The beating reportedly took place on the main street of Coxen Hole.

Comments on the Teledifusora Insular site (warning extremely graphic photographs) include these:

  •  . . . our island is in a mess.
  •  . . . necessary to make a cleaning on all these rats which endanger the community of Roatan.
  • This truly is a wake up call to our authority's for us also but mostly for them what's your plans are you all going to sit and watch the island fall into a war zone Mr mayor, Mr deputy, Mr govener get up and do your job.
  • Lamentable la situacion en Roatan

We were the first to report on the murder of a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) employee in Roatan (Coxen Hole) earlier this year, in addition to the armed robberies of cruise visitors and tourists.

Last week, we reported on the murder in Roatan of four boys / young men.  The Teledifusora Insular Facebook page contains a photo of the bodies of the boys being returned to Coxen Hole in a small boat and transported to a pickup truck, as a NCL cruise ship looks on not knowing of the deaths. 

Roatan

Tragedy in Roatan: Two Boys, Two Young Men Murdered

On December 3, 2014, two teenagers and two young men reportedly went hunting iguanas in the Bay Islands (Roatan) and never returned home.   

A local television station in Roatan identified them as Cristian Leiva (age 15), Yeison Mejía (age 17), Marlon Reynaldo Lazar Melendez (age 24) and Luis Alberto Perez Chirinos (age 27). The names in the newspaper below are apparently incorrect.

Local police, friends and families of the missing together with local citizens and expatriate residents initiated searches over the course of the last week. A cell phone without a memory card and a shirt of one of the boys were reportedly initially found.

Yesterday the bodies of the boys and young men were found, apparently murdered. Some people say the bodies were located in Mangrove Bight (Flowers Bay) in Roatan. You can read accounts here.

Teleprensa Noticiero reports that two suspects were arrested. 

2014 has been a violent and tragic year in Roatan. 

Roatan Honduras

Photo Credit: Teledifusora Insular Facebook Page

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Yahoo Travel's Worst Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call

Yahoo Travel published an article today that's certain to upset the tourism representatives in the Caribbean islands which are dependent on cruise tourism.

Entitled The Worst Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call, the article lists the five ports in the Caribbean with the worst reputations. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis has heard of many of these locations. Here's Yahoo's selections:

Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas: At the top of the list is the Bahamas. Yahoo Travel writes that the Bahamas has fallen under crime warnings from the U.S. State Department this year due to the frequency of armed robberies, kidnappings, and rapes in Nassau. It includes this quote: “This is a shipping port. There is nothing Nassa Bahamasthere but a Senor Frogs and a few overpriced shops.”

Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Jamaica:  The article says that the ports are "ugly and scary." I don't disagree, but I tend to like these places.

Belize City, Belize: Passengers have to tender in to the city but there's little to do, says Yahoo.

Roatan, Honduras:  The article mentioned the U.S. State Department warnings about crime in Honduras including the Bay Islands, saying although Roatan "has a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, thefts, break-ins, assaults, and murders do occur and are still high by international standards.” Roatan is currently struggling with the recent disappearance of four local boys who have not been seen since December 3rd, with fears that they have been murdered.  

Somana and LaRomana, Dominican Republic:  Yahoo says that "abject poverty, filth, and drugs in these two ports" leave many passengers wondering why they are included in any cruise itinerary.  

My view: There's no question that the Caribbean has some of the poorest and most dangerous ports of call in the world. There are more & more, new, and bigger & bigger cruise ships coming on line each year. The Caribbean is already crowded with ships. The cruise lines are left to market itineraries with ports which a prudent family would otherwise avoid. 

December 11 2014 Update: Nassau's Tribune newspaper comments on the Yahoo article and our coverage of the story.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / TampAGS, for AGS Media 

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Don't miss reading: Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World.

Watch Out for Crime in the Bahamas - WPRO Interviews Jim Walker

WPRO radio interviewed me this morning on its news talk radio show with Gene Valicenti about the New York Times article focusing on crime in Nassau, Bahamas. 

WPRO has a large readership in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

We talked about U.S. citizens who were victims of armed robberies. We talked about tourists, including minor children, sexually assaulted by jet-ski operators on Paradise Island in Nassau.  

You can listen to the interview here (after the Jimmy Buffett into).    

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Photo Credit: Atlantis Paradise Island - Wikipedia / D Ramey Logan Creative Commons 3.0 / WPPilot Atlantis Paradise Island

United States Virgin Islands - One of the Safest or Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World?

US Virgin IslandseTN Global Travel Industry News recently published an article about  tourism issues in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the USVI Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty.

In its original publication, eTN cited several sources of information for the proposition that the USVI has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. The territory has a staggering homicide rate around 35.5 per 100,000 people, whereas the United States as a whole has a rate around 4.7 per 100,000 people. (In 2012, the per capita murder rate in the USVI was even higher, around 56 per 100,000 people). 

We selected the USVI as the eight most dangerous cruise destination in the Caribbean in 2014. Earlier this year, I wrote that there are "way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI is a place for a family to vacation."

The leading maritime case involving a cruise line's duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore involves a young girl murdered while visiting St. Thomas during a cruise ship stop.

eTN concluded that "the discrepancy between the socioeconomic status, ethnicity and colonial history of the local population stands in contrast to that of the tourist, straining the relationship between residents and visitors which is evidenced, in some cases, by poor service and worker hostility. Negative employee behavior combined with infrastructure decline pushes tourism to other destinations and creates a downward spiral for USVI visits." This is an accurate insight in to the crime and tourism problems in my opinion. 

But then eTN received a phone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). CTO claimed that the article "had many errors" and disputed that the USVI is dangerous. CTO failed to provide eTN with any evidence or statistics to indicate that the USVI is safe.

Inexplicably, eTN published a second article in which it wrote "of course it should be acknowledged the US Virgin Islands is one of the safest travel and tourism destinations in the world when it comes to U.S. Virgin Islands Crimecrime."  It cited no evidence to support this conclusion which was 180 degrees opposite of what it concluded in its original article.

Tourism officials in the Caribbean are in the business of selling tropical vacations to their islands. To accomplish this feat in an ever-increasing dangerous environment, tourism bureaus often suppress crime statistics and dispute the statistics when they are released.

There's no dispute that the USVI murder rate has been 8 to 12 times higher than the U.S. rate in the last couple of years. It's dangerous for families cruising to St. Thomas not to understand this.

It's disappointing to see a reputable publication like eTN flip-flop so dramatically after receiving a single telephone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. 

 

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Photo Credit: Top - Wikipedia / Charlotte Amalie Creative Commons 2.5; bottom - Virgin Islands Daily News

Are the Police in Nassau, Bahamas Covering Up Crimes Against U.S. Citizens?

I had not previously heard of the specific incidents of crimes against U.S. citizens listed in yesterday's advisory from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. The embassy said that "over the past several weeks there has been an increase in the level of crime in areas where U.S. citizens live and frequent." The embassy listed seven recent violent crimes against U.S. citizens:

  • "three armed robberies of U.S. citizens . . . in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas;" 
  • "a U.S. citizen who resides in The Bahamas was kidnapped and violently raped while walking home;" and
  • "three reported sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet ski operators on Paradise Island."

I read the Nassau Tribune, Nassau Guardian, Bahamas Journal, Bahamas Weekly and Bahamas Press on a daily basis. There is no mention of any of these crimes in the newspapers in Nassau. I find the press in the Bahamas to be transparent. There are a lot of newspapers in New Providence. With a Cruise Port Nassau Bahamaspotential readership of only 250,000, the newspapers compete against one another for the top story. There is no doubt that the press in Nassau would report the crimes against Americans if the Royal Bahamian Police Department (RBPD) released the information to them.

The Nassau Guardian even seemed surprised by the embassy advisory, saying that "there were no reports to the media" that Americans were recent crime victims.

I also read the crime reports in the RBPD web page on a daily basis. There is no mention of these recent crimes in the official on-line crime data-base, even though the criminal offenses are extremely violent (kidnapping, rape, armed robbery and sexual assault of children). 

Is the Bahamian police department in cahoots with tourism and governmental officials to suppress information regarding crimes against tourists?

Certainly, there's no doubt that admitting that U.S. girls are being sexually assaulted by jet ski operators on Paradise Island is bad for tourism. It's not the image tourism officials wish to portray. What family would ever travel to Nassau if they knew that perverts were targeting their children and sexually assaulting them on the beach or in the water?

Unfortunately, the police department in Nassau appears to be receiving cues from the tourism officials on what not to disclose to the public. Rather than announcing the crimes committed against tourists and bringing attention to them in order to locate witnesses and demand accountability, the police seem motivated to keep the embarrassing information secret. 

The police in Nassau have been accused of covering up crimes mentioned in previous warnings this year from the U.S. Embassy.  Listen to how one cruise tourist robbed in Nassau several years ago characterized the Bahamian police.

Bahamian Police Superintendent Paul Rolle is sensitive to issues of tourism. He understands the negative effects of crime on tourism. When a U.S. crew member was shot and killed in Nassau last year, Rolle defended his office's failure to solve the crime saying "We aren’t no play-play cartoon police force." He told the Nassau Guardian that "tourism is our life blood.”

Just last week gunmen pretending to be policemen murdered 44 year-old Andre Cartwright as he tried to defend his elderly parents after the gunmen kicked their front door in. Superintendent Rolle refused to reveal the name of the hotel where the police found one of the gunmen hiding.  He mentioned only Central Police Station Nassau Bahamasthat the suspect was apprehended "in a hotel room over the bridge” and was hiding in a "Paradise Island hotel."  Is it really too potentially distressing to tourists to hear that the murderer might be holed up in a room next to them in a tourist attraction, like Atlantis for example?

The only time a U.S. citizen is mentioned by the police seems to be when they arrest a cruise passenger at the cruise wharf for possession of a small amount of pot. But when a U.S. tourist is jacked up at gunpoint or violently assaulted, no official information is available to the press or the public.

Certainly U.S. tourists are not the only visitors who are being victimized; however, the Bahamian police data-base is completely lacking any crime data when the victims are tourists from Canada, the U.K., Europe, China or South America.  

The Bahamas is in the business of selling an illusion of a tropical paradise to tourists. Unfortunately, the police department appears to be more interested in being a part of the country's tourism team rather than preventing or solving violent crimes against the country's guests.   

November 7 2014 Update:  

The New York Times cover the story and quotes Cruise Law News: U.S. Embassy Warns of Crime in Bahamas.

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau picked up this story as well: Blogger: ‘Is There Cover-Up Of Crimes Against Tourists?’ 

Meanwhile the police in Nassau defend themselves. But DNA Leader Branville McCartney said:

“The crime issue is out of hand. You’ve got all sorts of things happening in this country that we don’t even hear about. I don’t want to hear no foolishness from this government or from the police department talking about ‘crime down.’ I’m scared in my own country. The fear of crime is not down. Don’t talk fool around my head about the crime is down, when it isn’t. This crime is out of control and I ask the government to deal with it."

Crime in Nassau Bahamas 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / TampAGS, for AGS Media Creative Commons 3.0; Wikipedia / Ritchie Sieradzki Creative Commons 2.0.

U.S. Issues Another Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas: Fourth Advisory this Year

Yesterday, the U.S. took the unprecedented step of issuing a fourth crime warning for the Bahamas in 2014. The latest advisory was issued by the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. No other cruise destination in the world is the subject of such repeated and graphic crime warnings. 

The advisory says warns against armed robberies, kidnapping and rape of U.S. citizens, including the sexual assault of girls from the U.S. by jet ski operators on Paradise Island: 

Security Message: Recent Criminal Activity in Popular Areas of Nassau & Crime Warning Nassau Bahamas Holiday Season Security Awareness - November 3, 2014

"The U.S. Embassy in Nassau advises U.S. citizens residing in and traveling to The Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being victims of crime.

While U.S. citizens have not been targeted directly, over the past several weeks there has been an increase in the level of crime in areas where U.S. citizens live and frequent. We also have noticed criminals increasingly becoming more brazen and creative in their methods. For example, three armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas, including an armed assailant assaulting and robbing a woman walking near Ardastra Gardens. In mid-October during daylight hours in a heavily populated area, two men armed with handguns robbed customers waiting in the drive-thru line at a local restaurant. Armed assailants have placed random items in the street as impromptu roadblocks so unassuming drivers would stop and could be robbed. A man was shot at Potter’s Cay, near the base of the Paradise Island bridge, at a time when tourists would still be frequenting the area.

Police recently warned women to be extra vigilant after a recent spike in the number of reported sexual assaults in Nassau. In October, a U.S. citizen who resides in The Bahamas was kidnapped and violently raped while walking home. The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated; since July, there have been three reported sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet ski operators on Paradise Island.

Home invasions in Nassau have become more numerous and violent. A home invasion on October 28 resulted in the murder of the homeowner. In August, a U.S. citizen was the victim of a home invasion and attempted sexual assault in the Cable Beach area.

As the holiday season nears with its many celebrations there is often, unfortunately, an increase in criminal activity. During each year’s holiday season, the Embassy receives increased reports of crime, particularly armed robberies and burglaries."

You can read about the first warning (U.S. Embassy - January 2014), second warning (U.S. Embassy - March 2014) and third warning (U.S. State Department - May 2014) here, here and here.

Canada issued a crime warning in September this year.

The Latin America Monitor issued a crime warning which rocked Nassau in June this year.

The cruise lines finally began warning their passengers about crime in Nassau last year. 

You can read our most recent articles about the crime problem in Nassau:

It's Murderous in the Bahamas: Homicides Expected to Exceed 2013 Rate.

99 Murdered in the Bahamas (So Far in 2014) - How Many Times Will My Family Be Assaulted?

Update: The Tribune reported this afternoon U.S. Citizens Warned Over Nassau Crime (read comments to article). The Nassau Guardian reported U.S. Embassy Warns on Sexual Assaults. The Tribune also published Insight: Stopping The Bloodshed

November 5 2014 Update: Are the Police in Nassau, Bahamas Covering Up Crimes Against U.S. Citizens?

 

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Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune

99 Murdered in the Bahamas - How Many Times Will My Family Be Assaulted?

In a short article entitled "Man Shot Dead," the Nassau Guardian announced today that 99 people have been murdered in the Bahamas so far in 2014. The murder rate will exceed last year's total.  The majority of the homicides have occurred in Nassau.  

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau contains a letter to the editor from a Bahamian citizen after he and his family were robbed for the eighth time. He said that his mother and sister were recently held up at gunpoint in their driveway. Criminals had previously kicked in his front door and ransacked his home, despite his "outdoor lights, alarms systems, powered gates." 

Nassau Bahamas CrimeHe lamented that he was "exhausted" and "fed up, despondent and depressed" that he could not protect his family and felt like a "prisoner in my home."

He expressed his conflict being torn between being a Christian and wanting to grab a gun and seek retribution.

The Bahamian newspapers announce armed robberies daily in New Providence, which is just one-tenth the population of Miami-Dade County.  

Will the $40-billion-dollar-a-year cruise industry do anything about crime in one of its favorite ports-of-call in the Caribbean? Will it invest any of its tax-free money into Nassau and focus on creating cruise-related jobs for the local citizens and security for the local residents and the tourists who travel there by cruise ship? Will it offer cruise jobs to the unemployed young men on the streets of Nassau?  Or will the cruise ships just up and leave if the 100th person gunned down in Nassau turns out to be a U.S. cruise passenger?   

 

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Photo Credit: cosmologicalcabbage.blogspot

It's Murderous in the Bahamas: Homicides Expected to Exceed 2013 Rate

The headlines in the Nassau, Bahamas newspapers over the last 24 hours are ominous -  Man Shot Dead in Home InvasionShot Dead Defending Parents and Fatal Shooting in Fox Hill

These murders take the number of homicides in the Bahamas to 96 and 97 for the year.  

The Nassau newspapers read like a war correspondent's daily account of mayhem and misery.  In the last week, the Tribune has blasted headlines like Shootings on the IncreaseTwo Murders in Six Hours, and Latest Armed Robberies Bring Month’s Total To 30. The Nassau Guardian's recent Crime Nassau Bahamasgruesome headlines include Two Killed in Weekend Violence and Man Gunned Down Protecting Family

Last year there were 111 murders in the Bahamas in 2013. The country is averaging 10 murders a month in 2014. The 2013 rate will be exceeded sometime in December.

Defenders of the Bahamas point out that the Bahamas consists of some 700 islands. But there's no question that the vast majority of these violent crimes occur in New Providence (Nassau) where the majority of the cruise passengers disembark.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Miami's metro area has a population of around 5.5 million. That's twenty-two times the population of New Providence (250,000). Miami-Dade had 229 murders in 2013. Even though the Miami metro area has 22 times more people, it has only approximately 2 times as many murders. Plus the police force in Nassau is ineffective, the legal system is broken and the tourism officials try to cover the violence up.

Many cruise tourists have an image of Miami as being high in crime, but they don't understand that disembarking in Nassau is far more dangerous.

Both the U.S. and Canada have issued crime warnings for the Bahamas because of the violence.

More and more cruise passengers tell me that they stay on the ship when they reach port in Nassau. They say that they're bored with the straw market and run-down Bay Street. They don't want to risk walking off the ship into a shabby port and becoming a victim of armed robbery by a young man with a gun. 

 

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Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune

Carnival and Royal Caribbean Threaten to Pull Out of Belize Due to Ebola Screening

7 News Belize reports that after Belize’s Ministry of Immigration announced new stringent measures for Ebola screening at the Belize Harbor, Carnival and Royal Caribbean "threatened to pull scheduled cruises fast and furious."

In an article entitled Cruise Ships Balk At New Ebola Screening, Threaten Mass Cancellations, the leading news station in Belize said that the new stringent Ebola protocols caused delays due to the tight schedules and the large number of cruise passengers who come ashore.

There is mention in the article of Belize customs representatives taking and inspecting the passengers' passports during the screening. Belize’s government has already stopped issuing visas for nationals from Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Travelers who have visited any of these four countries in the past 30 days will be prohibited from entering Belize. This will require an inspection of passports, not just birth certificates many people use to cruise.  

The cruise industry protocol so far relies upon passengers to voluntarily disclose this information on questionnaires, rather than the cruise lines inspecting the passengers' passports before the cruise to verify that they have not traveled to these countries in West Africa. Unlike Belize, the U.S. has not banned travelers from the infected African countries.

7 News Belize reports that Royal Caribbean threatened to cancel earlier this week; however, the Ebola Carnival Magicscreening process was streamlined and the Navigator of the Seas called on port  as scheduled. 

The Minister of Tourism in Belize told the news station that " . . . as a government we have to be extremely cautious. The tourism industry is a very sensitive industry and it's the bread and butter of many destinations." 

Last week, Belize barred the quarantined Carnival Magic passenger from coming ashore after it was disclosed that she handled the blood samples of the deceased Ebola victim who was treated at the Texas hospital in Dallas. 

According to the news station, around 1,000,000 tourists will arrive in Belize via cruise ship this year.

 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Longbowe Creative Commons 3.0

Canada Issues Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas

On Wednesday, Canada began advising its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution, especially in Nassau, due to high rates of crime.”

On its government website Canada urged Canadian travelers to be vigilant and raised the alert status from normal. The warning effective September 17 2014 states:

"There is no nationwide advisory in effect for the Bahamas. However, you should exercise a Canada Crime Warning Nassau Bahamashigh degree of caution, especially in Nassau, due to high rates of crime." 

The headline of the Tribune newspaper in Nassau is Crime alert for Nassau Tourists - Canada Urges Visitors to be Vigilant.

We have written frequently about the high incidents of murder and armed robbery in Nassau (New Providence). About half of the Bahamians who read our articles acknowledge the issue of crime and are frustrated that the government can't do more to address the problem of armed robberies and murder. The other half of our readers are in denial and have a false sense of patriotism. This leads to to threats and accusations that crime is higher in the U.S. with references to the high crime rate in Detroit, for example.

My response is to simply state that everyone knows that its dangerous in Detroit. But most visitors to Nassau naively think that Nassau is some type of idyllic paradise. They need to be warned.

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas.  You can read a few of our articles here and here.

According to the Tribune, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said he was worried about the effect of the warning on tourism because there are lots of tourists from Canada who visit the Bahamian islands.

 

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A Bahamian's View of Cruising to the Bahamas

This morning I read an interesting letter to the editor while reading the Nassau Guardian

It was from a Bahamian woman who cruised on a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship with her extended family on a Caribbean cruise to St. Maarten, St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Nassau.

She and her family were distressed to see several safety warnings about Nassau in the NCL daily brochures. They also observed a sign on a deck on the cruise ship about the topic of passenger safety and the danger of Nassau Bahamasbringing valuables ashore in the Bahamas.  

There were no warning signs or brochures about the other ports of call, in St. Maarten or St. Thomas.

She complained about other issues, such as the port being dirty and disorganized, as well as the abuse of a horse carrying a surrey and passengers. She was disgusted and commented "how can we claim it's better in the Bahamas?"

She summed up her feeling by saying: "I can tell you it's not a pretty sight for passengers stepping off the ship, if they dare to do so after the safety warning about Nassau!" 

I have written extensively about the problem of violent crime in Nassau. Most U.S. passengers mistakenly think that Nassau is some type of tropical paradise immune from crime.  They don't even begin to understand that the place is a far cry from the glossy images portrayed by the cruise lines until they disembark and it is too late.  

Most of my information in my prior articles comes from the local press in the Bahamas, with my favorite sources being the Tribune or the Nassau Guardian, as well as U.S. passengers returning from the islands with a horror story to tell. 

It's a change to see to a Bahamian provide an insight into the Bahamas while traveling in the Caribbean and arriving at the port in Nassau,

 

Photo Credit: Wikitravel Creative Commons

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered and Cruising to the Bahamas? Think Again.

This weekend, the “Bahamas Pride Freedom Weekend” was scheduled to take place at a resort on Grand Bahama.

Beginning last Friday, the four-day festival was intended to celebrate and strengthen support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community in the Bahamas.

According to the Tribune newspaper, the event was organized to "underscore the critical need for outreach and empowerment" within the LGBT community. The event's organizer, Victor Rollins, says that the LGBT community is often "stigmatised, manipulated or exploited."

This weekend was designed to feature a variety of parties and festivities, as well as a memorial to Bahamas LGBT remember LGBT individuals who were victims of hate crimes or HIV. The events were scheduled to take place at the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach Resort.

But the Nassau Guardian reports that the festivities and memorial were canceled "out of fear" of violence from "irate" members of the public. The organizer Mr. Rollins reportedly received death threats. The newspaper also reported that local talk shows included vitriolic comments by those Bahamians who wished the LGBT community harm and suggested that God would condemn the LGBT members. 

A religious leader, Dr Myles Munroe, of the Bahamas Faith Ministries International, added fuel to the anti-LGBT sentiment. He has made numerous public denouncements of homosexuality. After learning of the LGBT events, he issued a press statement that homosexuality dismantles "the very core of the natural existence of humanity.”

According to the Tribune, Dr. Munroe claims that "90 per cent of the Bahamas and Bahamians consider (homosexuality) unacceptable and violates their collective convictions, moral standing and values." He characterized gay and lesbian men and women as "selfish," possessing "unnatural preferences," and engaging in "unnatural human-destroying behaviour."

You can read a letter to the editor of the Tribune entitled the Homosexual And Bisexual Plague to understand this view of the LGBT community in the Bahamas.  Or you can read this Bahamian minister's view on his Facebook page - "the Bahamas has to be careful that we don't inherit a reputation as a 'Gay Destination.'"

Frommer's says that the Bahamas is "increasingly gay-friendly," but "single gays and gay couples should still travel with discretion."

Some say that over 10% of cruisers are affiliated with the LGBT community. But whatever the number may be, why would anyone chose to cruise to such a hateful place?  

 

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Photo Credit: The Tribune.

Carnival Magic Crushes Coral Reef in Cayman Islands

A newspaper in the Cayman Islands reports that the Carnival Magic cruise ship severely damaged a pristine coral reef when it anchored in an unauthorized zone near George Town on Wednesday,

The newspaper quotes the deputy director of the Cayman's Department of Environment saying that “the impact where the anchor landed was very severe; there was a lot of crushed live coral and sediment.”

The newspaper says that local pilot boats operated by Bodden Shipping Agency guided the Carnival cruise ship to anchor outside of the designated public port anchorage.

There's no mention whether the tourism dependent island will fine either the cruise line or the shipping agency.

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Coral Reef Cayman Islands

Photo Credit: Don Foster's Dive Cayman via Cayman Compass 

 

Haiti to Charge Royal Caribbean Passengers $2 More to Visit Labadee

Haiti-Caribbean News Network reports that Haiti will require Royal Caribbean cruise passenger to pay an extra two dollars to visit the cruise line's "private destination" in Labadee.

The extra money, to be paid by the cruise passengers and not the cruise line, is intended to fund social projects benefiting the local community.

Effective March 15, 2015, cruise passenger will pay $12 a piece instead of the $10 being paid now. 

Royal Caribbean has invested virtually nothing into the local community over the past 20 years. Royal Labadee - Royal CaribbeanCaribbean built a modest little school four years ago, which it named after itself.  The school was built using materials donated by third parties and cost only around $425,000. 

With around 600,000 cruise passengers visiting Labadee a year, that turns out to be only a little over seventy cents a person for the school.  The cruise line has been criticized for erecting a barb-wire fence around the resort to keep the Haitians out (photo right), and not providing food for the children at the school or transportation to transport the children safely there.

On the other hand, Royal Caribbean has spent tens of millions of dollars in labadee building a deep water port, a huge zip-line and other improvements for its passengers.

Haiti's Prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, announced last month that he agreed to permit Carnival to develop the island of Tortuga in a deal that sounds like the Royal Caribbean-Haiti deal in Labadee. 

 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Photo Credit: Rudbeckia Flickr Photostream "A Haitian view of Labadee"

Transgender Cruise to Roatan: What About Lele?

This morning I read an article in Travel Agent Central about a cruise in December aboard the Navigator of the Seas which is being advertised for transgender travelers.

Out Traveler first reported about what is being called the first ever cruise for "trans travelers." Out Traveler explains that Transgender Vacations organized the cruise so that 'both transgender individuals as well as those who crossdress (but don’t necessarily identify as trans) can take a vacation and be themselves . . . for us to feel comfortable with who we are.'" 

Transgender CruiseAt first blush, I thought what a great idea. But then I looked at the itinerary and cringed. The first port of call was Roatan, Honduras. 

I have written a series of articles about the high crime rate in Roatan. There's a tendency in the local tourism industry to gloss over the armed robberies and murders there and falsely characterize the Honduran island as "paradise."

A concerned expatriate living in Roatan told me about the vicious death of a transgender mute, named Lele, who was tied to a tree and beaten to death on the island last year.  

The Bay Island Voice, one of the few publications on Roatan, wrote a rather unflattering article about the heinous murder of who it alternated between calling a "transvestite" and a "transgender," saying the victim "... was deaf and could speak only a few words, was a familiar sight along the road between French Harbour and Coxen Hole parading about in hotpants and a tube top and similarly flamboyant transgender apparel. His body was found beaten to death and wrapped in a sheet on the roadside near Juticalpa on Roatan’s East End July 18. He was 22."

The article explained that Lele experienced a "history of suffering abuse" and had been "beaten by groups of young men multiple times."

The murderers of Lele were arrested and then soon set free, notwithstanding substantial evidence implicating them in the crime. 

Is this really where the "first transgender cruise" wants to go?

The organizer of the cruise, "Stephanie," knows nothing of this, I'm sure.  She writes: "My suggestion to you is to do the shore excursions with the group so you will feel safe. If you want venture on your own, please use common sense . . . My recommendation is to stay around others and you will be fine."

Let's hope so. But the story raises the issue of how LGBT's are treated during cruises and ashore in the ports of call in the Caribbean.

Two years ago we wrote about bizarre behavior of Carnival responding to a drag queen cruise - Who Will Be The First Drag Queen Kicked Off The Carnival Glory? - as well as a gay couple arrested on a gay cruise to Dominica - Rouges & Vagabonds:" Gay Cruise Couple Fined, Insulted & Deported From Dominica.  

Being a LGBT traveler in the Caribbean is not easy.  Jamaica, Caymans, Bahamas, Dominica, Honduras, and St. Lucia are begrudgingly tolerant at best and openly hostile at worst to LGBT visitors.

Is there anywhere in the Caribbean with open arms to the LGBT community?  

Interested in this topic? We suggest reading: Travel Weekly's Go or no? Should LGBT travelers visit hostile places? ("I will get pressured by journalists wanting to cover Roatan, in Honduras," she said. "I've been there; it's a beautiful place. But four transsexual women were murdered [in Honduras], and activists were beaten. ...")

August 13 2014 Update: Reports of murdered trans people in 26 countries in the last 12 months, with the majority from Brazil (95), Mexico (40), the USA (16), and Venezuela (15), followed by Honduras (12), Colombia (12), and El Salvador (5).

According to planetransgender.com, "while Brazil, Mexico, and the USA have the highest absolute numbers, the relative numbers show even more worrisome results for some countries with smaller population sizes. Honduras, for instance, has a rate of 1.5 reported trans killings per million inhabitants, for El Salvador the rate is 0.71, while for Brazil the rate is 0.49, for Mexico the rate is 0.36, and for the USA the rate is 0.05." 

Video of Bahamas Jet-Ski Accident Goes Viral

A video of a jet ski accident on a beach in the Bahamas has gone viral with the U.K.'s Daily Express newspaper saying that it is the most viewed story in the world on its website.

The video shows the moment a young tourist sitting on a jet-ski narrowly escaping injury as another jet ski crashes into and flies over her jet-ski. 

Fortunately the young girl was scared but uninjured.  Unfortunately, accidents like this causing serious injury are not uncommon. We have been contacted by cruise tourists injured in jet-ski mishaps.

Bahamas Jet Ski AccidentOperating jet-skis in the Bahamas is particularly dangerous. There are absolutely no safety standards in that country governing the operation of such watercraft. The operators are often not affiliated with the major waterfront hotels and resorts and have poor maintenance of the machines. Safety training and instruction is spotty. Holding negligent owners and operators responsible is often difficult.

To make matters worse, most owners and operators have no insurance.

The Bahamas 2014 Crime and Safety Report states the following about the Bahamas:

"Rental of personal watercraft (jet skis) is very popular at many resorts and beaches. Visitors should use extreme caution and not operate such watercraft unless they are experienced in using them. Use of life jackets is highly recommended. The Embassy has seen numerous injuries as a result of not following proper safety instructions by the jet-ski operators."

In prior years, the U.S. Department of State has provided the following warning:

"The water sports and scooter rental industries in The Bahamas are not carefully regulated. Every year people are killed or injured due to improper, careless, or reckless operation of scooters, jet-skis, and personal watercraft or scuba/snorkeling equipment. Visitors should rent equipment only from reputable operators, and should insist on sufficient training before using the equipment. There have been reports that some operators do not actually provide insurance coverage even when the renter opted (and paid) for insurance coverage. Visitors should insist on seeing proof that operators have sufficient medical and liability insurance."

We have written many articles about jet-ski mishaps in the Bahamas: 

Atlantis Jet-Ski Accident in Nassau: Was A Carnival Cruise Passenger Killed?

Carnival Passenger Killed on Jet Ski in the Bahamas,

Cruise Passenger Disappears on Jet Ski In Nassau, Bahamas.

The Freeport News recently reported on the death of a prominent doctor in the Bahamas, Dr. Havard Cooper, Jr, who died in a jet-ski accident. 

 

Photo / Video Credit: express.co.uk / LIVELEAK/BRIAN PRAHL / MediaEntertainmentTV

Will Carnival Become the New Pirates of Haiti?

A reader of Cruise Law News  brought to our attention that Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe recently tweeted:

"Le Gouvernement a signé aujourd'hui un protocole d'accord avec Carnival Cruises pour la construction d'un resort sur l'Ile de la Tortue."

Translated, this says that Haiti and Carnival have struck a deal to develop a resort on the Ile de la Tortue (Tortuga Island).

Tortuga Island HaitiPrime Minister Lamothe later tweeted that Carnival will initially invest $70 million into the development.

Tortuga is a very popular place in Haiti for tourism. In the 17th century, it was a major center of Caribbean piracy. Some say that it is synonymous with the Pirates of the Caribbean. There are many people in Haiti excited by the news.

But the devil is in the details. Will this be a private island for the exclusive benefit of Carnival and its passengers? Will this be a lease similar to the 260 acres of prime waterfront property (Labadee) which Royal Caribbean leased (ripped off) from Haiti?

Will Haitians really be employed? Royal Caribbean initially employed only Europeans on its private resort in Ladadee.  

Will a pier be developed which can accommodate giant cruise ships? This would involve substantial dredging and environmental destruction to a beautiful, pristine area. 

The Haiti Internet Newsletter covered the story. There are interesting comments to the article, including this one which was spot on:

It is very likely going to be private on long term lease, run by them, not much employment for Haitians and we'll never know how much they are polluting the environment on and around the island since it's probably a long term lease with all kind of exclusions since they will basically own it for the terms on the lease.

Unlike so many, I'm not having a party over this. I know the cruise industry too well to trust that this is going to benefit Haiti in any significant way. I can guarantee you Carnival is getting more out of this than Haiti ever will.

Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are inherently predatory (see articles below). Let's hope that Prime Minister Lamothe has his eyes wide open while dealing with Carnival.  

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our facebook page.

August 5 2014 Update: The AP covers the story and quotes Cruise Law News.

August 6 2014 Update: CBS covers the story and quotes Cruise Law News. 

 

Interested in the cruise industry's relationship with Caribbean islands? Consider reading:

Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

Falmouth Jamaica: Victim of the Royal Caribbean System

Belize Tourism Industry Association Sues NCL to Block Mega Cruise "Harvest Caye" Development in Belize

Photo credit: BriceFoundation.org

Harvest Caye: Are NCL and the Belize Department of Environment Con Artists and Lackeys?

Earlier this month, we talked about the efforts of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) to slow down or block the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) "mega cruise development" on Harvest Caye in Southern Belize. 

You can read our article here.

It seems that Belize's Department of Environment (DOE),under pressure from Miami-based NCL, rushed the massive and environmentally unsound project and avoided consulting with the public in Harvest Caye NCLBelize.

We have seen other cruise lines destroy ancient coral reef and mangroves during dredging and land-clearing projects to build one-sided projects designed to suck the money and resources out of Caribbean countries.  

Today I ran across a "letter to the editor" from the Chairman of the Placencia Chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association.

Characterizing the NCL executives who pitched the project as "con men" and those Belizeans who are hastily moving the project ahead without public participation in the environmental impact analysis as "lackeys," the tourism president asked some compelling questions about the Harvest Caye project.  

You can read the article here

NCL will carve up the mangroves and tear out the reefs to build their fantasy resort and wedge their massive ships in.  

Once projects like this are plotted and hatched here in Miami, the wishes of the local people are irrelevant. Its only a matter of time before the bulldozers rip out the mangroves and the indigenous flora and fauna are replaced by the fill of crushed reefs. 

 

Image credit:  ambergristoday.com

Another Murder in Roatan

In less than three days after Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández declared that guns are prohibited in Roatan and the Bay Islands, a young man was gunned down early on Sunday morning. 

Teledifusora Insular reports that Henry Alexander Almendarez Orellana was shot by two men in the early morning hours of July 13th.

The crime reportedly took place where the young man lived in Barrio La Punta of Coxen Hole. 

Roatan HondurasThe online source says that police are trying to figure out the identity and whereabouts of the perpetrators of this killing. The murder occurs just when the Government of Juan Orlando Hernández has declared a general disarmament of Roatan to safeguard this main tourist destination. 

Last Friday we reported what we predicted would be a futile policy, Roatan: Gun Free Zones.  

President Hernández blamed U.S. drug policy for sparking violence in Central American countries and driving a surge of migration to the United States, according to an interview published today in a Mexican newspaper.

The U.S. State Department updated Honduras travel warning in June mentioned Coxen Hole as a place to avoid after dark.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. 

Murders against local residents in Roatan, like this or this, are rarely solved. 

Roatan: Gun Free Zone?

Roatan HondurasThe La Prensa newspaper in Honduras reports that President Juan Orlando Hernández approved legislation last night at a cabinet session to declare that guns are prohibited in Roatan and the Bay Islands.

The article is entitled Gobierno de Honduras declara desarme en Islas de la Bahía.

The newspaper says that the initiative is part of a program to free tourist areas of violence in the country to encourage tourism.

The president declared the Bay Islands as a zone free of weapons with the objective of substantially improving security and promoting the island as paradise. 

Emilio Silvestri, head of the Institute of Tourism, said that it is urgent to remove firearms from the tourist sites.

Seems like it a desperate policy to me.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, with some of its police and national soldiers corrupt. The islands are supposedly safer than the mainland although a crew member was shot and killed this year and cruise passenger and tourists were robbed at gunpoint. 

What the saying?  When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

 

Photo Credit:  La Prensa

Belize Tourism Industry Association Sues NCL to Block Mega Cruise "Harvest Caye" Development in Belize

Belize 7 News reports in an article "BTIA Gets Their First Day In Court Against NCL" that the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) is trying to block the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) "mega cruise development" on Harvest Caye in Southern Belize.

BTIA argues that under pressure from Miami-based NCL, Belize's Department of Environment (DOE) rushed the massive and environmentally unsound project and avoided consulting with the public in Belize.

The news source quotes the lawyer for the BTIA saying that the DOE refused to provide the public with notice of the project and an opportunity to object to the Miami-motivated project:  " . . . they were Harvest Caye NCL Projectrushing the thing and doing it in breach of the law which is set up there to make sure that the public has full opportunity to participate."

In April, the San Pedro Sun reported that there was resistance to the project with local residents objecting to the flawed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the procedural impropriety of the DOE for failing to follow statutory procedures.

The newspaper indicated that NCL and local supporters of the project hosted a wine and filet mignon party on the Norwegian Jewel to convince the local media to support the Harvest Caye project.

Read NCL Wines & Dines the Media While Frosting the Harvest Caye Cake.

This area has beautiful, ancient coral reefs (see video) which will be destroyed by the dredging to accommodate NCL's large cruise ships.   

Consider what Royal Caribbean did to the coral reefs when it expanded the port in Falmouth, Jamaica

U.S. State Department: Crime and Violence in Honduras Remain Critically High

The Department of State in the United States issued another warning about the high crime rate in Honduras, saying that "the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high." You can read the June 24 2014 warning here.

The last warning from the U.S. state Department was issued on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013. 

A lot has happened since last December. As far as tourists, cruise passengers and crew members are concerned, there have been several armed robberies and one death. Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) temporarily pulled its cruise ships out of the island port of Roatan after a NCL crew Roatan Honduras Crime Cruisemember was shot and killed near the port in Coxen Hole.

The report states that "crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country, and the Government of Honduras lacks the resources to address these issues." Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. The homicide rate for last year (2013) was 75.6 to 79 per 100,000 people in 2013.  

Crime is also significant in tourist areas. The report states:

"Although Roatan/Bay Islands, Copan Mayan ruins, and other tourist destinations and resorts have a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, thefts, break-ins, assaults, and murders do occur and are still high by international standards."

Crimes against U.S. visitors and residents are rarely solved. As we mentioned before, of the last 50 U.S. citizens killed in Honduras, only 2 cases have been solved.

We have reported on several armed robberies against cruise passengers in Roatan this year like this, and the murder of the NCL crew member last April.

This year, to the howl of protests from expatriate resort owners and tour and dive operators in Roatan, we selected Honduras as the second most dangerous cruise destination in the world

Another Crime Report Rocks Nassau

The Latin America Monitor published an article about the high crime rate in the Bahamas entitled "Business Environment Analysis - Rising Murder Rate Poses Risk To Tourism Sector - JUNE 2014." the publication reports, in part:

". . . rising murder rates in the Bahamas, including some recent killings of foreign tourists, could weigh on the islands' business environment. If the trend continues unabated, or if there were to be particularly high profile incidents that gained coverage in foreign press, the attractiveness of the Bahamas as a tourist destination could deteriorate, threatening the islands' medium-term growth outlook.

The Bahamas has seen a rise in murder rates in recent years and several high profile killings of foreign tourists in recent months, trends that present downside risks to the country's medium-term growth prospects due to its heavy reliance on the tourism industry as a driver of economic activity. The Nassau Guardian reported early this year that the total number of murders in the Bahamas increased to 120 in 2013 from 111 in 2012, an increase in the murder rate from 29.8 to 34.1 per Crime Nassau Bahamas100,000. Additionally, there have been well-publicised armed robberies and murders of both UK and US citizens in recent months.

Compounding this rise in homicides is that the Bahamas has seen its murder rate increase relative to other Caribbean islands. Whereas the Bahamas reported the fifth highest murder rate in 2010 amongst the countries reviewed by the Nassau Guardian, it has since risen to third highest, behind only Jamaica, where the murder rate was 44.1 per 100,000 in 2013, and St. Kitts and Nevis, which reported a murder rate of 45.5 per 100,000."

The Tribune newspaper in the Bahamas discusses this report in its article "Crime Warning Is Latest Blow."  The newspaper says: "A SECOND report in a month by an international agency has warned that 'rising murder rates,' specifically recent killings of tourists, in The Bahamas could affect the country’s business environment."

We went on record a long time ago with our opinion that the murder of a cruise passenger could result in the cruise lines avoiding Nassau: "Bahamas One Gunshot Away From Cruise Line Exit."

 

Image:  The Tribune

Sexual Assault on Cruise Ship in St. Kitts? No One's Talking

Today the SKNVibes newspaper in St. Kitts reports that a crew member aboard a cruise ship docked in St. Kitts (Port Zante) sexually assaulted a cruise passenger.

You can read the article below.

It's a strange article.  The newspaper decided not to name the cruise line or the cruise ship, which is something we see in a few other countries where the local press prefer not to embarrass the cruise lines.

Carnival Valor Cruise ShipThe newspaper also contacted the police department which would not comment whether a rape occurred on the unidentified cruise ship or not.

Earlier this year we named St. Kitts as one of the top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world.  We also reported on a sexual assault of a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger during an excursion in St. Kitts two years ago,

The article is below:

" . . .  the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force is making investigations into an incident of assault that occurred on a cruise vessel which was berthed at Porte Zante yesterday (Jun. 6).

Unconfirmed reports suggest that an act of sexual assault may have been perpetrated against one of the cruise passengers by one of the vessel’s crew members.

SKNVibes understands that the authorities on St. Kitts were made aware of the situation and investigations had begun.

The Police Force’s Press and Public Relations Officer Inspector Lyndon David - when contacted by this publication and questioned about this issue - declared that he could not confirm or deny at that moment.

And he promised to look into the matter."

June 8 2014 Update: A reader pointed out that the Carnival Valor was in port at St. Kitts on June 6 2014.

June 10 2014: The St. Kitts and Nevis Observer reports "Cruise Ship Employee Charged With Rape." This newspaper states that the Carnival Valor was in fact the cruise ship in port (Port Zante). It says that St. Kitts police took a crew member into custody the day of the report of the sexual assault and that the Valor left port later than its scheduled time due to the incident.

The Observer understands the individual was charged with the offense over the weekend following the arrest on a Friday.

Upon questioning the local police would say nothing other than “someone has been charged for an incident.”

The newspaper also says that it is "not known if the alleged offence was committed while the vessel was docked, however the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force has jurisdiction to investigate and/or arrest once a crime has been reported in sovereign waters or airspace."   

June 15 2014 Update: A radio station in St. Kitts states that the local police in St. Kitts has finally acknowledged that a crew member from the Carnival Valor was arrested on charges of raping a cruise passenger while the cruise ship was in territorial waters of the island. However, the police still refuses to release the alleged assailant's name.  The radio station says: 

"In St. Kitts and Nevis, the names of persons accused of sexual offenses against minors are not released, however WINN FM is not aware that those charged with offences against adults are withheld by the authorities."

 

 

Photo Credit: sknclt.com

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.

U.S. Report on Crime in Nassau Worries Atlantis Resort

The owners of the Atlantis mega-resort in Nassau are worried about the U.S. report on the high rate of crime there, according to the Nassau Guardian

The U.S. report from Department of State states that armed robbery and sexual assault are all on the increase in Nassau and these crimes are affecting tourists and cruise passengers, including around the hotels, resorts and casinos. 

Over the years, Atlantis has experienced significant problems with crime. Tourists have been robbed at Atlantis Resort Bahamasgunpoint and the resort's own employees have attempted to rob the casino. You can read about the crime here:

Official: Security foils robbery at Bahamas resort

Tourists robbed outside Atlantis

Last September, the Nassau Tribune reported that Atlantis was “very concerned” about a crime warning issued to cruise passengers by Carnival cruise line.  Atlantis seemed afraid that the cruise line might scare off the resort's potential customers by warning its passengers of the crime problems ashore before the passengers disembark.

You can read our article: Atlantis Discourages Carnival from Warning Cruise Passengers of Crime in Nassau.

Nassau needs to get a grip on crime and its effect on tourists and cruise passengers.

Atlantis has to reassure its lenders that the situation is under control as it tries to refinances its debt. But the cat is out of the bag. Few rational people can dispute that the island has a problem. The cruise lines are seeing fewer and fewer people actually get off the cruise ships.  

It's a house built of cards. They could all fall down. Atlantis, the cruise lines, and the Bahamas tourism people are all hoping, and praying, that a tourist doesn't get shot. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / WPPilot

 

Nassau Newspapers Cover U.S. Crime Report on Bahamas - A Tropical Paradise?

A day after we summarized the U.S. report on the high level of crime which is affecting U.S. tourists and cruise passengers in the Bahamas, the major newspapers in Nassau published articles about the report. 

The Nassau Tribune published U.S. Warns Again Over Crime In The Bahamas. The Tribune also published several other articles about murders which routinely plague the capital of the islands.

The Nassau Guardian published U.S. Embassy See Jump in Assault Reports - State Department Highlights Bahamas' Crime Problem. The article was positioned next to another article about a murder Nassau Tribune with a large photo of a body in a bag being taken away a medical examiner's team.

When we published our article yesterday - 2014 Bahamas Crime Report: Armed Violent Crime Escalates - we received a great deal of hate emails. The criticism fell into general categories. The local Bahamians didn't like a U.S. citizen discussing crime in the Bahamas. Many wanted to discuss crime in the U.S. and talk about mass murders in U.S. schools. And many people in the Bahamas claim that it is perfectly safe in Nassau. 

In response to all of that I say this: of course there are crime problems in the U.S. But there are a few salient point to keep in mind. There are around 304,000,000 (million) people in the U.S. There are a little over 350,000 people in all of the Bahamas with 70% of them living on New Providence island (Nassau).

The Bahamas unemployment rate is staggering. Almost 16% of people in New Providence and almost 20% of people in Grand Bahama have no job. There are too many people with no money and nothing to do.

Not surprisingly, the per capital murder rate in the Bahamas is substantially higher than the U.S rate. The per capita homicide rate in the Bahamas is seven or eight times higher than the U.S. rate. There are around 4.5 murders per 100,000 in the U.S. but between 29 and 35 murders per 100,000 in the Bahamas.

The biggest point to keep in mind is that no one pretends that the USA is a tropical paradise. If you are coming to America, I won't bullshit you. Compared to the UK or the European countries which have few guns and little armed violence, the U.S is the wild west.  But many U.S. tourists who jump on a cruise ship for a vacation to the Caribbean mistakenly believe that the Bahamas is a tranquil, idyllic and peaceful place. It's clearly not. 

Many people who rail against our publication own businesses in Nassau, like bars, restaurants, resorts, excursions companies, jet-ski shops and so forth. They can't afford to lose business. They are characterizing Nassau like a magical safe location.  

But the 2014 crime report bears out what we have been discussing frequently here. That tourists and cruise passengers are being targeted for robbery by criminals armed with guns, knives and machetes. There are too many young men not employed who can make a month's wages with a single grab of a purse or gold chain.

Yes, Nassau has assigned more police officers to the ports and the officers are working longer shifts (which the report acknowledges). But crime in general and crime against cruise passengers has still increased. That speaks poorly for the future of Nassau and its fanciful notion that it is a tropical paradise.

 

Image Credit: Nassau Tribune

Are Cruise Ships Vectoring Chikungunya Virus to Florida?

Today I received a comment from a Royal Caribbean passenger who said that he was infected with the dreaded chikungunya virus when he sailed to St. Martin last year on the Oasis of the Seas:

You might need a new cruise category "Disease" as the cruise industry has become a vector for spreading the Caribbean epidemic of Chikungunya Fever virus to Florida . . . I got infected during my Oasis trip to St Martin last Dec - this thing is horrible and can be catastrophic for older passengers - one major "coincidental" cause of increased death among these folks isn't the virus ... it is suicide. 

He also referred me to an article on a local CBS station "Fourth Case Of Mosquito Borne Chikungunya Chikungunya Cruise ShipFever Confirmed In Florida."

The disease is transmitted through infected mosquitos.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says:

"The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean. Chikungunya virus is not currently found in the United States (no longer true). There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers (now true). There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. When traveling to countries with chikungunya virus, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens."

We have been contacted in the last 6 months by many cruisers concerned about being infected. But this is the first time that someone has contacted us after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

There has been a good amount of chatter on the cruise fan pages about the virus and fears of contracting it while cruising to the Caribbean. 

Some but not all cruise lines warn about the disease.

Do you know someone who has been infected during a cruise to the Caribbean? Does anyone know effective medical treatment to combat the symptoms?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

2014 Bahamas Crime Report: Armed Violent Crime Escalates

Crime Cruise Nassau BahamasThe  U.S. Department of State recently published  the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) crime report for the Bahamas for 2014.

It is a grim report.

It reflects the considerable problems with violent crimes against tourists and cruise visitors over the past year which we have been discussing.

We copied the relevant portions of the report below, but here are the highlights:

  • Population of the Bahamas' 700 islands is 353,000.
  • 70% of population is on New Providence Island (Nassau).
  • 15% of population is on Grand Bahama Island.
  • 15% of population is on the remaining "family islands."
  • Since July 2013, the government has not published national crime statistics.
  • Bahamas continues to have high crime rate, particularly on New Providence Island (Nassau), which continues to experience escalated levels of violent crime.
  • Bahamas experiences a wave of armed robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, banks, and residences.
  • Despite anti-crime initiatives, there is a significant increase in violent crimes in locations frequented by U.S. citizen tourists in New Providence (Nassau), with some incidents resulting in death.
  • Violent crimes occurs in in well-established tourist locations, close to cruise ship port and Cable Beach resort areas.
  • Armed robberies and purse snatchings remain most common crimes against tourists.
  • Criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives.
  • Sexual assault has increased, with many victims drugged.
  • Crime has also increased on Grand Bahama island (Freeport) notably crimes involving use of machetes.  

Crime in Nassau Bahamas. We have written many articles about the high crime rate against cruise passengers and tourists in Nassau. We listed the Bahamas as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world.

Cruise lines are finally warning the passengers about the problem.

Here's a portion of the the official report:

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

"The Bahamas is a prominent tourist destination with cruise ship ports of call for Nassau and Freeport as well as an abundance of luxury resorts, including the world famous Atlantis and the soon to be developed Baha Mar. Over five million U.S. citizens visit or reside in the country each year. Approximately 80 percent of the tourists visiting The Bahamas are U.S. citizens.

The Bahamas is an archipelagic nation of more than 700 islands that cover a geographic region roughly comparable in magnitude to California. At the closest points - Bimini and Grand Bahama - the country is only 50 miles from the United States. As a result, the country is sometimes referred to as the “third border” of the United States. According to the 2010 census, the Bahamas has a population of 353,000. Seventy percent of the population lives on the island of New Providence where the capital, Nassau, is situated. Another 15 percent live on Grand Bahama, which has the country’s second largest city, Freeport. The rest of the population is dispersed over two dozen outer islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”).

Crime Threats

While there has been a slight reduction in 2013 in some crime categories as reported by the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), violent crime remains above the 2012 level. Since July 2013, the government has not published national crime statistics. The Bahamas continues to have a high crime rate, particularly on New Providence Island, which has continued to experience escalated levels of violent crime. Home break-ins, theft, and robbery are not confined to any specific part of the island. Generally, most reported crimes were perpetrated against local Bahamians in areas of saturated criminality not typically frequented by tourists.

The Bahamas has experienced a wave of armed robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, banks, and residences. Perpetrators of these types of crimes typically conduct pre-attack surveillance. There were several reports of victims being followed home after closing the business in an attempt to steal the nightly deposit. Several victims were severely injured.

The RBPF enacted a particularly forceful presence on New Providence Island in 2013, which included 12-hour police shifts, random armed police checkpoints, and a crime reduction plan in tourist areas. However, despite formidable anti-crime initiatives enacted by the government and specifically executed by the RBPF, during the past several months New Providence has witnessed a significant increase in violent crimes in locations frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In some instances, these incidents have resulted in fatalities. In 2013, the police reported several incidents that either involved tourists or occurred in well-established tourist locations. Specifically, crimes were reported close to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas. Of particular note, in May 2013, a U.S. citizen was shot and killed in New Providence during a violent altercation; in June 2013 a U.S. Embassy employee was robbed and suffered minor injuries while on the way to a Sunday worship service; in October 2013, the brother of a local political leader was shot and killed in a deliberate act of murder; and in December 2013 four locals were killed and 10 wounded in a hasty drive-by shooting using an automatic weapon. The upsurge in criminal activity has also led to incidents that could place innocent bystanders at risk.

Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings, and general theft of personal property remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists. Many criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives. Unless provoked, criminals engaged in property crimes do not generally engage in gratuitous violence. There have been several reported armed robberies using a knife where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim fought back and resisted. Many of these armed robberies were snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewelry, and gold necklaces.

Residential security also remains a great concern, with the police reporting a large number of home burglaries and break-ins, including the December 2013 robbery of the Acting Prime Minister at his residence. A number of armed home invasions that occurred in both New Providence and Grand Bahama in 2013 occurred very close to U.S. Embassy residential housing.

Criminal activity in the Family Islands occurs less frequently. The Embassy has received reports of burglaries and thefts, especially thefts of boats and other watercraft. Grand Bahama is somewhat of an exception, in that criminality has increased on that island, notably crimes involving the use of machetes (large blades).

The U.S. Embassy has received an increase of reports of assaults, including sexual assaults at residences, hotel rooms, casinos, outside hotels, and on cruise ships. In some sexual assault incidents, the victim had reportedly been drugged."

 

Photo Credit: Top - Nassau Bahamas Press

Honduras Works with Florida Caribbean Cruise Association to Promote Cruise Tourism

The Honduras newspaper La Prensa reports today that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández will accompany representatives of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) on possible locations which will be marketed to cruise passengers arriving in Honduras. The FCCA is an organization which promotes the interests of the U.S. based cruise lines doing business in the Caribbean ports of call.

Tomorrow the president of Honduras will accompany the FCCA representatives during tours of the city of Gracias, Lempira, and the Copan Archaeological Park (el Parque Arqueológico de Copán), as part Gracious Honduras Cruise Visitof a "reconnaissance" trip to sites where the cruise tourists from Roatan, Bay Islands may visit.

The newspaper says that President Juan Orlando Hernández will accompany visitors on Thursday, May 29th together with representatives of the largest cruise lines in the world, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise. 

The distance from the island of Roatan to the city of Gracias, which is in the mainland of Honduras, is around 190 miles.

Is this really a suitable tourist spot for a U.S. tourist arriving in Honduras by cruise ship?

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world and is subject to warnings from the U.S. Department of State. 

I previous listed Honduras as the second most dangerous cruise destination in the world

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

 

Photo Credit: La Prensa

Roatan, Honduras - Update on Crime

We've received a fair share of hate e-mail this year after we reported on several crimes against cruise tourists in Roatan during the first three months of this year. Many expatriate property owners and business operators became highly agitated when we were the first in the U.S. to report on the murder of a NCL crew member shot near the port in April.

Two men were arrested regarding the crew member murder. The first man arrested was quickly arrested but apparently had nothing to do with the murder. The second man, who apparently killed the NCL employee, was shot in the leg by his friends and turned over to the police for a modest little Roatan Murder Suspectranson. He remains in jail.

A U.S. citizen, Cory Lee Beckner, who lives in Roatan was arrested for allegedly being involved in an armed robbery of a family visiting the island on a cruise ship. His sister recently posted, on our Facebook Page, an affidavit from a local police department suggesting that her brother is innocent. If this is true, then whoever robbed the several cruise tourists has not been apprehended.

In the last two months, there have been several break-ins of homes and businesses run by expatriate U.S. citizens and local residents of roatan. Many people have expressed frustration with the crimes and the absence of any follow-up by the understaffed and ill-equipped local police.

Just last Sunday, a local resident was found murdered, apparently killed with a concrete block which was found bloodied upon discovery of the dead body. The incident reportedly occurred near the impoverished Balfate colony area.  

The arrests of two gunmen who allegedly killed two residents in separate incidents over the course of the last year or so was recently a topic of discussions in Roatan among expatriates. Some people are calling for the alleged gunmen to be publicly hanged to deter other murderers. 

The president of Honduras and tourism officials have announced meetings with the cruise lines to deal with the reports of crime in Roatan. There have been no details released of what has been discussed.

The expatriate community in Roatan is an interesting lot. Half of the people there spend considerate effort trying to convince you how safe and peaceful the island is. But they have a different conversation amongst themselves. There are others who are interesting in exposing the crime problem in the hope that the problem will be addressed and improved.

Roatan Crime Watch: Honduran Officials & Tourism Representatives Meet With Cruise Line Security Executives

Radio Honduras reports today that security managers of Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and Carnival Corporation recently met with governmental officials and tourism representative of Honduras in a "workshop" to discuss the safety of passengers and crew members in Roatan.

The news account indicates that the Director the Honduran Institute of Tourism, Emilio Silvestri, said that the meeting with the security executives of the cruise lines "is the result of a request from President Juan Orlando Hernández during his recent trip to Miami . . . "

A week ago we reported that President Hernández announced that he has traveled to Miami to meet Roatan Honduraswith cruise line officials regarding the violence this year against cruise ship passengers and crew members. 

This year we have reported on the murder of a NCL crew member, the armed robbery of Carnival passengers, and the armed assault of tourists and Royal Caribbean cruise passengers.

NCL pulled its cruise ships from Roatan for one week but quickly returned. Travel writers, travel agents, and expatriate owned or operated dive shops, resorts, bars and real estate businesses still promote the island as a tropical paradise.

The Honduran tourism representative Silvestri mentioned security measures allegedly implemented in Roatan by the Honduran government but didn't specify the nature of such measures.  The cruise line security executives apparently discussed the security measures during the workshop. 

The report identifies those attending the security workshop as Matthew Lewis from Norwegian Cruise Line; Dwight Morris and Alvaro Duron from from Royal Caribbean Cruises; Robert Williams and Jose Negron of Carnival Cruise Line; Luis Colon from Mahogany Bay; Security Minister Arturo Corrales; Research Director Julian Pacheco; as well as municipal authorities and the tourism representatives of Roatan and the Bay Islands. 

The report stressed the importance of the revenue generated by cruise passengers to Roatan. Each cruise passenger spends around $80 in "ground transportation, buying souvenirs, gratuities" and other expenditures during an eight-hour stay on the island.

In April. we placed Honduras on the list of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World

Red Bugs in Bahamian Palms? Nassau Vendors in Uproar Over NCL Straw Market Ban

Red Palm Mite Straw MarketThe Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports on a controversy which developed when a Miami-based cruise line apparently banned its passengers from buying items at the local straw market due to fear that the straw may be infested with a pest called the "red palm mite."

The Tribune says that Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) has apparently prohibited straw crafts from being brought back on its cruise ships in Nassau for the past several weeks.

Tourism officials told the Tribune that the ban was connected to the infestation of the palm mite in the Caribbean. However, Bahamas allegedly has no incidents of palm mite infestation according to the tourism officials. They also say that the straw in the Bahamas is cured anyway.

Local vendors are complaining that NCL cruise passengers are saying that anything they buy in the straw market will be confiscated by cruise ships guards when they return to the ship.

According to the Tribune, the tourism officials have tried to resolved the issue with NCL and have alerted the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association about the problem. 

The issue shows how dependent the Bahamas is on cruise ship tourists.  

NCL sails nearly 15,000 passengers to Nassau on a regular basis on five cruise ships - the Breakaway, Gem, Pearl, Sky, and Getaway

 

Photo Credit: University of Florida

Roatan Crime Watch: Honduran Politicians Travel to Miami to Meet Cruise Lines

The President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, has updated his Facebook page, indicating that he has traveled to Miami to meet with cruise line officials.  He posted:

"Este día ha sido muy productivo, después de una reunión con 2 empresas de Cruceros en Miami, donde definimos incrementar el número de turistas a Honduras."

Translated, he says that he had a productive day in Miami after meeting with two cruise lines in an effort to increase the number of tourists cruising to Honduras.

Roatan Honduras CruiseHe reportedly traveled with Honduran Congressman Jerry Hynds who represents the Bay Islands. Several cruise ships (Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean) cruise regularly to Honduras (Roatan).

President Hernandez is seen in the Facebook photo with Honduran and Carnival officials. 

Roatan has been in the cruise-news after a rash of violent crimes against Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise passengers this year who were attacked by armed robbers. A NCL crew member was murdered by a criminal from Coxen Hole, near Roatan's port. Roatan is on our list of the top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations this year. You can read some of recent articles about Roatan below:

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World 

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers

Bahamas Responds to Making the List of Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations: "The Bahamas Is Safe"

Nassau Bahamas Crime Cruise ShipOur article listing the top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world hit a raw nerve in the Bahamas. 

The Nassau Guardian published two articles quoting government leaders's responses to making the list. The Guardian first published Bahamas' Spot on Crime List Causes Skepticism, Concern." Later, the Guardian published  "Official: Most Dangerous Cruise Port Claim Not Accurate." 

In a blog article entitled "Crime Levels Continue to Be Major Problem for Destination Bahamas," the Journal of the Business of Caribbean Tourism, Travel & Hospitality writes: 

"In the NB12 report (below) Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe does well in showing his clear understanding of the situation and the potential damage that can be inflicted on the country’s number one industry. Conversely, Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell - also interviewed in the NB12 report and one of the primary figures leading the fight against crime - appears to be in denial and suggests that the country is being painted unfairly. While both Ministers have different portfolios of responsibility, the Government of The Bahamas would do well to send a more unified and coherent message about their specific plans to address crime, making the city safe for visitors and locals alike." 

No one wants to make a "top 10" list for something like this. But unlike other countries which made the list, the Bahamas has shown a respectful and polite tone and demeanor in responding to the criticism. 

After a one minute commercial, the news story starts at the 1:02 mark:

Baseball Great Jim Fregosi Suffers Stroke on MSC Divina

Jim Fregosi MSC CruisesNumerous sources are reporting that former baseball All-Star shortstop and manager Jim Fregosi suffered a stroke during a Major League Baseball alumni cruise and was taken to a hospital in the Cayman Islands.

MLB.com reports that Mr. Fregosi, age 71, suffered the stroke while the cruise ship was sailing in the Caribbean.

MSC Cruises advertises that as part of its "Baseball Greats Cruises," Mr. Fregosi was scheduled to cruise from Miami on Saturday, February 8, 2014 aboard the MSC Divina cruise ship. The cruise was scheduled for 7 days. The itinerary included stops at Falmouth Jamaica, Georgetown Cayman Islands, Cozumel Mexico and Great Stirrup Cay.

MSC sent Mr. Fregosi ashore to the Cayman Islands. His family then arranged for him to be flown here to Miami where he is receiving medical treatment.

MSC Cruises Divina Jim FregosiMSC Cruises describes Mr. Fregosi as follows: "The American League's All-Star shorstop 6 times who could hit, run, field and throw. He was a player for 17 years and was a Major League manager for 4 teams over 15 years and led the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series in 1993."

Baseball cruises are a popular theme and have sometimes met with misfortune for the celebrity athletes. A year ago, baseball legend and Hall of Famer Earl Weaver died while sailing aboard the Celebrity Silhouette after sustaining a heart attack.

 

Photo Credit: MSC Cruises

New Cruise Terminals & Piers: A Risky Business?

A local news station in Houston is reporting that for the first time, a cruise ship has sailed from its home port at the Bayport Cruise Terminal in Houston. Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess set sail earlier this week for a four day cruise to Progresso, Mexico.

The remarkable part of the story is that the cruise terminal was built long ago and has sat largely unused. The cruise terminal was completed in 2009 at a cost of $108 million with bond money that the local taxpayers have been paying for the past 4 to 5 years. 

Empty and abandoned cruise terminals are a risk that struggling U.S. cities and powerless Carnival Cruise Line - 800 Pound Gorilla Caribbean islands run while dealing with the rich and powerful cruise lines.

A Houston port official excitedly talked about all of the employment benefits which finally are coming from the cruise terminal:

"You have the line handlers, you have our wonderful longshoreman association that's providing the handling of the baggage, stevedores that are handling our parking, so there are just a variety of jobs and economic impact that's created from this cruise operation." 

But such success is usually a long time coming and is often fleeting.

Just ask Mobile Alabama.

The city built an expensive cruise terminal as part of its "partnership" with Carnival Cruise Line.  When the cruise line pulled its cruise ship from the Alabama port, the city was left with a debt of $35,000,000.

Carnival thought that it could make more money by re-positioning its cruise ship in either New Orleans or Tampa, and left Mobile high and dry.  Ironically, the only cruise ship to return to Mobile in the last couple of years was the Carnival Triumph which had to be towed to port following the infamous "poop cruise' earlier this year.     

Carnival never enters into a contract with a port promising to commit ships to the port for a finite number of years. So cities like Mobile build their new terminals on a wish and a prayer.

One-sided deals in favor of the cruise lines are the business norm. Carnival is the proverbial 800 pound gorilla. Port cities can either sign the bad deal or the cruise line goes elsewhere. And Carnival can break the deal whenever it wants and for any reason, good or bad.

Just ask Norfolk, Virginia. Carnival abandoned it last month leaving the city with a $30,000,000 debt for a new cruise terminal that the local taxpayers are stuck with paying. Carnival cited the additional operating costs associated with new environmental emission regulations which prohibit the use of cheap, toxic bunker fuel which can still be burned on cruises out of Miami.

The here-today, gone-tomorrow exploitation of cities like Houston, Mobile and Norfolk is particularly bad in the Caribbean ports. Take, for example, Antigua.  Carnival dropped Antigua like a hot potato. Carnival broke up with its Caribbean "business partner" with a "Dear John" letter sent via e-mail. The sudden and unexpected pull-out costs the Caribbean island $40,000,000 annually.

Consider what's happening in Tortola too. Carnival cruise ships announced that it is pulling the Sunshine, Freedom, Liberty, Glory and the Valor from the island. Carnival may return if and when Tortola invests into improving its cruise facilities. 

The latest news from the Caribbean is that the Cayman Islands is trying to figure out how to pay $200,000,000 for two new cruise ship piers so that Carnival and Royal Caribbean passengers don't have to tender in from the cruise ships to the island. The Cayman Islands has a GNP of less than one billion dollars a year; however, Royal Caribbean alone will collect closer to 7 billions dollars a year. Carnival will collect far more than that.

The Caymans can't possibly pay for the news cruise piers by itself. But if it decides to "partner" with these giant, rich cruise lines, it may find itself paying for much of the cruise project and ongoing operating expenses with no legally enforceable assurances from the cruise lines.   

It's risky business for poor cities and tourist-dependent Caribbean islands with no sustainable businesses to trust the cruise lines.  Cruise lines like Carnival are cutthroats. They hold all of the cards and will up and leave in a split second if they can make a better deal elsewhere. 

Carnival Drops Tortola

Tortola - Carnival Drops PortCarnival Cruise Lines is dropping the British Virgin Islands port of Tortola next year. 

Carnival intended to send five cruise ships to Tortola through April 2015.

The port is overhauling its cruise ship dock, and passengers may be required to tender from the ship to shore, Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said.

The Carnival cruise ships involved are the Sunshine, Freedom, Liberty, Glory and Valor

Tortola was the port where a Princess cruise passenger died in an excursion bus tour three and one-half years ago. 

 

Photo Credit: cruisetimetables.com

Nassau Bahamas Killing Spree: Cruise Line Warns Passengers

The Nassau Guardian contains several articles this week about the high homicide rate in the Bahamas.

11 Murders in 12 Days blasts the headlines today.  All victims of hand gun violence. 80 murders in the Bahamas this year alone.  A substantially higher homicide rate than anywhere in the U.S. 

The newspaper articles refer to "crime has become an everyday occurrence in the capital's city center" with "a cruise ship has resorted to telling their guests not to move around with cash . . ." 

Crime Nassau Bahamas - Cruise ShipThis is hardly surprising to people who know the Bahamas.

Violent crime remains a major problem in Nassau.  It's amazing that cruise lines like Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise there. What parents would take their families there if they knew the true extent of the crime in this port?

But there is great money to be made by the cruise lines in this island. Unrealistically low passenger head taxes by the Bahamas means great profits for the cruise executives who load the ships up with sheep-like passengers and fleece them of their money with over-priced drinks and cruise excursions.

It's a problem we have written about lots of time both in Bahamas and the Caribbean.  Warning: U.S. Citizen Murdered in Nassau - Cruise Passengers Urged to Avoid Travel to the Bahamas!

A knowledgeable blogger recently summed up the mess in Nassau:

The social fabric of the Bahamas is being undone, and nothing can fix it. Crime is out of control. The scary part is that they will kill you after they rob you. An American tourist was shot dead two weeks ago. You take your life into your own hands when you visit the Bahamas.

My view?  It's only a matter of time before an unsuspecting cruise passenger becomes one of the homicide statistics.    

It's Not Better in the Bahamas: Crime Up, Cruise Passenger Spending Down

The headline today in the Nassau Guardian newspaper blasted "Elderly Woman Shot at Home" during a robbery.  Another front page story involved an unrelated but even more deadly title "Men Charged with Murder."

These headlines are hardly rare. Two weeks ago, a U.S. crew member was shot dead during a robbery in downtown Nassau.  You can read about that crime and many others against cruise passengers in Nassau here

The U.S. State Department has issued at least three "critical" warnings to travelers of the high homicide rate in the Bahamas, which is many, many times greater than the murder rate in Los Angeles Its Better in the Bahamas - Cruise Crimefor example. 

Cruise lines are complaining to government representatives about cruise passengers being robbed. And there is talk about warning cruise passengers not to leave the cruise ships when they dock in Nassau.

Crimes are hardly limited to Bahamians killing and robbing other Bahamians.

Last week two armed men robbed 20 patron of a downtown bar at gun point of their money and valuables. Most of the people robbed were tourists.

The increasing crime trend is occurring at a time when cruise passengers are spending less money in the Bahamas.  Cruise passengers now spend around $65 a day while ashore down from around $84 a few years ago.  

For country where well over 50% of its Gross National Produce comes from tourists, the Bahamas is facing a tough situation. Cruise passengers are spending less and are more likely to be robbed or shot while on vacation. 

A local newspaper bluntly reports The Government Has Lost the War on Crime.

We have been involved in two cases involving shore excursions where over 30 cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in the Bahamas, as well as young women sexually assaulted in Nassau and on cruise ships in port there.

Disney recently sailed its Disney Dream with a child molester aboard, rather than report the crime timely to U.S. authorities, because it knew that the Bahamas police which can't control crime on their own island would do nothing about a crime on a Bahamian cruise ship.    

Warning: U.S. Citizen Murdered in Nassau - Cruise Passengers Urged to Avoid Travel to the Bahamas!

Last month we wrote an article about the crime epidemic in Nassau, Bahamas.

A newspaper in the Bahamas published an article "Cruise Ships Warn on Crime," explaining that cruise executives from Miami met with Bahamian officials about the increasing crime levels in Nassau which are no longer safe for passengers. We have written several articles about the crime problem in Nassau, including the rape of young women who go into the bars near the port, petty theft, snatch and grab robberies, and violent crime.

Nassau Bahamas Cruise Ship CrimePassengers are being warned to stay on the cruise ships when the ship calls on Nassau. Crew members have known this for years.

Newspapers today are reporting that a U.S. citizen was shot and killed when he tried to stop the robbery of another U.S. tourist visiting Nassau. The U.K. Daily Mail reports that American Kyle Bruner was murdered in the Bahamas over the weekend while attempting to help a tourist who was being mugged.

The U.S. Department of State characterizes the crime level on New Providence Island, where Nassau is located, as "critical." Snatch-and-grab’ crimes are common occurrences in Nassau. The U.S. State Department says it has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in casinos, outside hotels, and on cruise ships.

I have represented many women sexually assaulted in Nassau and on cruise ships in that port and many passengers robbed at gunpoint.  

In addition to our clients, we have learned of a wide variety of crimes against cruise passengers, including rapes against young women ashore, theft, and violent robberies. We have written several articles about the crime problem in Nassau, including sexual attacks against young women who go into the bars near the port: 

U.S. State Department: Crime In Nassau, Bahamas Is Critical

Cruise Passenger Beaten and Raped in Nassau - Are Royal Caribbean and Senor Frog's to Blame?

Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau

18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas
Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

Nassau Welcomes Oasis of the Seas as Bahamas' Murder Count Reaches Record-Breaking Level 

I have never written an article telling cruise passengers to avoid a port of call. I usually report on what I know and then leave it up to the passengers to decide what to so. But Nassau is flat out dangerous.  In my opinion, if you knew what the cruise lines know, you'd be crazy to take your family there. 

June 20 2013 Update:  Crime in Nassau continues. Here are recent articles:

74 year-old female U.S. diplomat assaulted and robbed Sunday morning in Nassau while walking to church.

2 tourists robbed outside Atlantis.

Tourists Robbed At Downtown Night Spot

2 tourists robbed.

It's Not Better in the Bahamas: Crime Up, Cruise Passenger Spending Down

Officials address cruises lines' crime concerns.

Bahamian Ministry of Tourism, police and cruise lines work on "white paper" to address crime in Nassau.  
 

Photo Credit:  Caribbean 360 

 

 

Liar, Liar Pants On Fire? St. Lucia Tourism Board Denies Prior Armed Robbery of Cruise Passengers

Yesterday a U.K. newspaper, The Telegraph, published an article "How Safe is the Caribbean?" following the armed robbery of 55 Celebrity Cruises cruise ship passengers from the Eclipse who were on a cruise-sponsored excursion in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

The robbery was terrifying with Canadian cruisers reporting that they were afraid that they would be murdered by the armed men. A Canadian newspaper reports that the cruise passengers and guides "were systematically searched at gunpoint and robbed of their money, jewelry, cameras and cellphones on Friday. They were then ordered to march forward, during which they feared they would be shot in St. Lucia Cruise Robberythe back . . . ".

We were one of the first to write about the cruise passenger robbery and we quickly put the incident into perspective pointing out that numerous cruise passengers have been robbed in St, Lucia, including the armed robbery of 14 Norwegian Cruise Line passengers a couple of years ago.  We also stated that NCL pulled out of St. Lucia in 2010 because of the risk of violent crimes against cruise passengers.

But that has not stopped the cruise lines and the tourism people for issuing statements down-playing the crime.  The Telegraph's article quotes Jean-Marc Flambert, identified by the newspaper as the St Lucia Tourist Board’s head of marketing for the UK and Europe, who says: “An incident of this nature and seriousness has never happened before on the island.” St. Lucia Tourist Board Chairman Mathew Beaubrun stated immediately after the robbery that such incidents were "rare." 

But just two months ago, a U.S. retired policeman who had cruised to St. Lucia on the same cruise ship, the Celebrity Eclipse, reported an incident where passengers were accosted on the island by a man with a knife. He mentioned it in the cruise community website Cruise Critic where other cruise fans mentioned crimes issues in St. Lucia. 

Did the St. Lucia tourism people forget about the 14 NCL cruise passengers robbed at Anse-La-Raye waterfall in St. Lucia a few years ago and forget NCL's decision to skip the island  as a stop or are they misleading the public to try and attract tourists to St. Lucia?  

Another Cruise Crime Alert in the Bahamas!

Cruise Ship Crime Nassau BahamasYesterday it was announced at the marketing debut of Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas, that one of the ports of the new cruise ship would be Nassau in the Bahamas when it was launched in 2014.  My first reaction was that Nassau was a dangerous location to host the new Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Well today, there is a headline in a newspaper in the Bahamas "Cruise Ships Warn on Crime."  

The newspaper reports that cruise executives have met with Bahamian officials about crime levels in New Providence, and in particular downtown Nassau, escalating at a pace which is no longer safe for passengers. The concern was not just crime affecting passengers but crew members as well. 

From what we hear from cruise passengers who cruise to Nassau, it is not a particularly safe place to visit.  

We have written several articles about the crime problem in Nassau, including the rape of young women who go into the bars near the port.

U.S. State Department: Crime In Nassau, Bahamas Is Critical

Cruise Passenger Beaten and Raped in Nassau - Are Royal Caribbean and Senor Frog's to Blame?

Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau

18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

Nassau Welcomes Oasis of the Seas as Bahamas' Murder Count Reaches Record-Breaking Level

 

Image Credit: Tribune 242  

Here We Go Again: 55 Celebrity Cruise Passengers & 2 Crew Members Robbed at Gun Point in St. Lucia

Cruise Critic reports that 55 cruise passengers and two crew members from the Celebrity Eclipse were robbed at gunpoint by three men on Friday, April 12 2013 while in St. Lucia. 

Celebrity Cruises issued a statement indicating that passengers were visiting the Botanical Gardens in Soufriere at the time of the robbery and were on two Celebrity-sponsored shore excursions, "Breathtaking Soufriere and Warm Mineral Baths" and "Land and Sea to the Pitons."  Passengers were traveling on the same bus.

Celebrity Cruises EclipseCelebrity states that "none of our guests were injured in this unfortunate event," but Cruise Critic states that passengers reported that "one woman fell and broke her leg."

No one is talking about the potential emotional trauma and psychological effects of the armed robbery.  

All the cruise passengers aboard the bus had their money and jewelry taken.

Cruise passengers to St. Lucia have been targeted in St. Lucia the past. We have written articles about the crime problem in that island: 14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia.

The problem got so bad that NCL dropped the island for its 2010 to 2012 schedule. Read Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia.

Robbing passengers on cruise-sponsored bus excursions is hardly rare. In 2010, 17 Celebrity cruise passengers were robbed in a bus by gunmen in St. Kitts.  "Robbing cruise passengers in bulk" in the Caribbean islands and Mexico is not uncommon and I have written about it: Robbing Cruise Passengers in Bulk - Yes, It Happens!   

I wonder whether Celebrity provided any warning to its guests about the problem with cruise passengers being targeted for armed robbery in St. Lucia and other Caribbean islands? 

If you have info about this latest crime, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

April 14 2013 Update: A video from a local news station in St. Lucia is below.  You will hear tourism officials stating that they told the cruise passengers that such incidents against tourists are "rare," St. Lucia Celebrity Cruise Crime Victimswhich is obviously untrue if a major Miami based cruise line like NCL pulled out in 2010. 

The U.S. national media has picked up the story with Fox News carrying a AP story which mentions the incident. Not much information except the St. Lucia tourism people already hard at work. The article quotes St. Lucia Tourist Board Chairman Mathew Beaubrun portraying the robbery as a "rare incident."  Damage control is underway.

April 15 2013 Update: USA TODAY assists in the PR damage control, repeating the St. Lucia talking point that crime in that country is "rare."

Several newspapers are reporting that the police on St. Lucia have arrested one or more of the men involved in the robbery. Fox News says that the police arrested one of "four masked men armed with homemade shotguns and pistols held up the passengers from Celebrity Cruise."  The Times mentions that three men were arrested.

April 20 2013 Update: I stumbled across a discussion on the Cruise Critic site where just 2 months ago passengers from the Celebrity Eclipse were accousted by a man ashore with a knife which sparked a discussion about crime in St, Lucia.  Meanwhile the cruise line and the PR people on the island are saying that such crime is rare. Read our article Liar, Liar Pants On Fire? St. Lucia Tourism Denies Prior Armed Robbery of Cruise Passengers.

Photo Credit: DBS TV St. Lucia via the Times
 

 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia /  Jonathan Schilling

Two British Cruise Passengers Shot in Barbados During P&O World Cruise

P&O Cruises Adonia Cruise ShipNewspapers in the U.K. are reporting on a crime in Barbados yesterday where a couple cruising aboard a P&O cruise ship were shot during a daylight robbery as they were walking back to the cruise ship.

The Telegraph, Express, Daily Mail, and BBC News have reported on the violent incident.  

Around 2:00 PM yesterday, an armed assailant attacked the married couple as they were walking back to the P&O' Cruises' Adonia cruise ship along a main road in Bridgetown, which is the capital of Barbados. 

The passengers are a 59 year-old woman and her 72 year-old husband. 

The newspapers state that the criminal got away with the lady's bag. 

A photograph of the incident in the Telegraph show the woman lying injured on the ground after she was shot in the right thigh. Her husband was shot in the left pelvis. The couple were taken later to Cruise Passenger Shot in Barbadosa hospital. 

The P&O Cruises ship was on an 85-night world cruise which left Southampton on January 8, 2013 and will arrive back to the U.K. on April 3, 2013.

The Barbados press published a short and innocuous article mentioning only the " . . . the shooting of two tourists around 2 p.m. in Hincks Street, The City. The tourists were taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for treatment."

Many Caribbean islands dependent on cruise tourism are hesitant to report on violence against cruise passengers.  

We have written many articles in the last few years of cruise passengers being the targets of violent crimes during ports of call in the Caribbean.  

 

Photo Credit:

Top: Wikipedia (Tom Bayly) 

Bottom: Splash News/Alamy

High School Students in Jamaica: New Cruise Port in Falmouth Not Benefiting the "Small Man"

I have been interested in the port town of Falmouth in Jamaica for the past many years after cruise giant Royal Caribbean convinced Jamaica to invest well over $200,000,000 (U.S.) to accommodate its Oasis class cruise ships,  The project involved the dredging of the port's waters, the destruction of mangroves, the dislocation of its fishing village, and the changing of traffic routes which I have written in prior blog articles here, here, here and here.

My view is that the port primarily benefits the cruise line. There is virtually no investment in the town of Falmouth Jamaica Cruise Ship PortFalmouth itself. The cruise passengers are bused out of town to shop in Ocho Rios or visit places like Dunns River Falls.    

Two days ago, the Jamaica Gleaner published an article stating that high school students in Trelawny have concluded that Royal Caribbean's new port facility in Falmouth is not benefiting the "small man."

Students at the William Knibb Memorial High School in Martha Brae, a few south of Falmouth, have studied the new port and, according to the Gleaner, have given the port a "failing grade" in terms of helping the "common man" in Trelawny.

The article below was written by Gleaner writer Barrington Flemming.

I took the photos yesterday when I was in Falmouth visiting clients.    

"The Falmouth Pier in Trelawny, which has been dubbed the new hub of cruise shipping in Jamaica, has been given a failing grade by sixth form students of William Knibb Memorial High School, who are of the view that it is not measuring up to their expectations in terms of benefits to the town.

Tasanica Ellis, one of eight panellists, who discussed the topic Falmouth: Jamaica's new economic frontier, fact or fiction? during a Gleaner-Island Grill Youth Editors' Forum at her school, described the US$220-million cruise-shipping pier as a US$220-million "monstrosity" which has failed to bring any real benefit to the small man in the historic Georgian town.

"There is no benefit for the small man," said Ellis. "Everything is either boxed into the pier or is spread elsewhere outside of Falmouth. Only the investors in the pier reap any economic benefits."

Added Ellis: "We do not see any partnerships between the investors in the pier that will include the small man and allow for him to get any benefit."

Ellis went on to argue that more could be done to help retain the visitors in the town by developing new attractions and employing more people directly.

"They could develop the Burwood Beach and make it into a proper attraction that could see people gaining employment," said Ellis. "They could open a restaurant offering authentic Jamaican food and drink so the people would be inclined to stay here. Most of the cruise-ship visitors, who come to Falmouth, leave to Montego Bay (St James) or Ocho Rios (St Ann) to enjoy the attractions in those towns."

Lack of Development

Nastascia Gossel, another of the panelists, decried the lack of development in the town while arguing that no provisions have been made to cause any benefit to trickle down to the general populace.

"When we look at Falmouth, it is a total disaster; the small businesses are not seeing any of the benefits that were promised from the development of the cruise-ship pier," argued Gossel. "The drainage system is seriously lacking; to be quite frank, Falmouth has hardly been developed over the past two years."

For Orlando Dowlatt, while the national coffers have benefited from foreign-exchange earnings, the "common man" in Trelawny has been left out of the equation.

"We are seeing that the pier has spurred some economic growth as the country on a whole has been benefiting from the foreign-exchange but for the common man, there is absolutely nothing," Dowlett contended.

The general consensus from the youth was that the pier, while offering economic benefits for the country as a whole, the "trickle down" effect was lacking as the town of Falmouth itself was not feeling the impact of the pier as was promulgated by the Government."

barrington.flemming@gleanerjm.com  

Falmouth Jamaica Royal Caribbean Cruise Port

Carnival Threatens to Pull Out from Cayman Islands Over Small Price Increase to Tender Passengers

Michele Paige Florida Caribbean Cruise Association Mickey ArisonA newspaper in the Cayman Islands reports that Carnival is threatening to pull out of the Cayman Islands after a tender boat operator, Cayman Marine Services, made a tiny increase in the price for transporting passengers to and from cruise ships in George Town.

The newspaper states that Cayman Islands Marine Services operates 16 tenders in the George Town harbor and proposed an increase of 75 cents to take cruise passengers to and from port. The increase will take place in three phases over this year. On January 1st, the tender company increased the price by 25 cents. The next increases will be in June and then in October. 

The modest increase is the first increase in five years. The newspaper states that the increase reflects rising costs for labor, fuel, maintenance and materials. 

Carnival objects to the increase but is trying to keep its name out of the dispute. The Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), a Miami-based trade association for the cruise industry, is complaining of Carnival's behalf. FCCA president Michele Paige (photo above with Carnival CEO Micky Arison) reportedly said that the cruise industry is “not happy” with the 25 cent increase and is threatening that the increase will somehow “drastically affect” the number of ships arriving in Grand Cayman.

Paige is quoted: "this is a business and we are here to make a profit. If you have a 3,000-passenger ship, that is an extra $2,500 – and that doesn’t include the crew. If there are 50 trips per year, that is $150,000, and that erodes profit.”

The proposed price increase seems rather modest to me, particularly since there has been no increase dating back to 2007 or 2008.  And let's keep things in perspective. Carnival CEO Micky Arison paid himself a $90,000,000 bonuses last month. 

January 7, 2012 Update: Follow the comments on this story on our Facebook page.

Antigua National Security Investigates Fist Fight Between Cruise Passengers & Police Over Broken $5 Souvenir

A newspaper in Antiqua reports today about an altercation which allegedly occurred between two cruise passengers & their child and police officers in a souvenir shop in Antigua.

In an article entitled "Cruise Passengers and Police Come to Fisticuffs," the Antigua Obeserver states that  a souvenir shop in the touristy Heritage Quay section of St. John's was the scene of a fist fight yesterday allegedly between two police officers and a couple and their child from Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas. The incident occurred in the the Shipwreck Shop whose website shows pirate statues at the shop's entrance and states that "Shipwreck is the perfect little souvenir shop, filled with Shipwreck Shop - Antigua - Cruise Ship Passengersall sorts of trinkets." The stores sells an assortment of items including ". . . fridge magnets, shot glasses, key rings and even small Caribbean Christmas tree decorations."

The incident apparently occurred when a child from the cruise ship broke an item valued at less than $5 (U.S.).  The owner of the store told the newspaper that he informed the passengers of the store’s “You break it, you pay for it” policy, but the parents declined to pay for the item. The owner, who refused to identify himself to the newspaper, apparently called the local police who arrived on the scene. 

According to the Antigua Observer, the couple told the police that they were not going to pay for the broken souvenir, and an altercation occurred when they tried to leave the store.

The unidentified shop owner said that the cruise passengers were allegedly hostile to his staff and law enforcement officers.  He says that an apology would have been sufficient but the "child got very abusive."  The owner further claims that the child was "beating up on the police." The ship owner further stated: " We must not allow these people to talk down to us. I only want happy customers. The father and his son got very physical. They were hostile to the police and my staff. The officers were being fair and only doing their job. People have to treat people with respect.” 

The newspaper article indicates that the police made no arrest, and the cruise passengers returned to the ship.

The newspaper further states that the island's Ministry of National Security was notified and paid a visit to the souvenir shop to investigate. 

The newspaper contains a second curious twist stating that the cruise ship’s captain allegedly apologized to the shop owner the passengers' behavior and said "he would be asking them to disembark at the next port." 

This is rather unusual because cruise lines like Royal Caribbean tell the cruise passengers that they are on their own while ashore. However, the cruise line Guest Conduct Policy states that its standards of conduct for guests to follow apply "throughout their Royal Caribbean International cruise vacation, including transfers to and from ships, inside terminals, while onboard, at ports of call, during shore excursions and at our private destinations."

It will be interesting to see if the cruise line dumps the family off at the next port, or whether the captain threatened this merely to placate the shop owner and the island's National Security.

A strange story in any event, this is something that begs hearing the passenger's side of these events.

We have reported about all types of things which occur involving cruise passengers ashore in Antigua, such as a young woman being murdered and cruise passengers attacked and robbed and six cruise passengers from Brooklyn arrested after disputing a cab fare and fighting with the police in Antigua. For one, I'd like to understand why the Antigua Ministry of National Security got involved in an altercation involving a broken souvenir trinket worth less than $5.  

January 5, 2013 Update:  Another newspaper contains the "other side of the story."  Caribarena Antigua states that "eyewitness reports from taxi drivers in the area suggests that the police officers were the aggressors, having reportedly “roughed up” the lad in front of his parents and as they interjected they too became victims, with even the pregnant mother receiving a thug or two."

"The family was eventually ordered and escorted back to the ship by a senior officer who arrived on the scene. And during that journey, the child is reported to have wetted himself out of fear."

Irrespective of what occurred, news accounts of a broken trinket, a boy who wets himself, a pregnant mother, and a violent encounter with police will surely cast a black eye on Antigua.

In an unrelated article in the Antigua Oberserver today, tourism officials state that they are optimistic about attracting cruise visitors to Antigua this year.  

The brawl in the tourist area comes at the same time that Antigua announced that it formed a new police unit to protect tourists from crime

 

Photo: Shipwreck Shop

Lessons Learned From Jamaica

Falmouth Jamaica   We returned to Miami from Jamaica last night after a three day trip where we visited crew member clients in Montego Bay, Falmouth and Ocho Rios. The weather was fantastic and the Jamaican people were warm and friendly, as usual. It is always delightful to travel to Montego Bay, which is an easy one and one-half hour flight from Miami.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas was in port when we visited Falmouth on Tuesday. The Freedom of the Seas and the Navigator of the Seas arrived on Wednesday morning. On these two days, over 10,000 people arrived on cruise ships from South Florida but you would never know it walking around the town.   

One of the problems we have witnessed with the "revitalization" of Falmouth is that the cruise line loads up its cruise passengers onto pre-booked and pre-paid excursion buses within the gates of the port and then sends them out of town to Ocho Rios or Dunn's River Falls.  We witnessed few passengers actually walking in to the town and buying souvenirs or eating in the local restaurants.

It would be quite easy to have the passengers board the buses at a central location in the town, say at the roundabout and then head off on their excursions. This way, they would be encouraged to shop in Falmouth, both before and after the bus excursions, as they walk to and from the cruise ships. But as matters now stand, the passengers are isolated from the local vendors in Falmouth. The cruise line Falmouth Jamaica  wants to capture as much of the passengers money as possible and seems to prefer that the passengers buy the goods and services offered by the cruise line sponsored vendors behind the fence erected between the ship and the local vendors.

Falmouth will never be truly revitalized until the cruise passengers turn into tourists who actually walk into and support the people of Falmouth.

In Ocho Rios, we met with approximately 50 crew members and former crew members working for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Disney cruise lines. It was a record attendance for us. We met people who traveled from Negril, Port Antonio, Mandeville, and Kingston.   

We met in the famous "No Problem Room" at the Hibiscus Lodge.  I took a photo of my partners Lisa and Jonathan meeting with a client whose cruise ship related problems we helped solve.  

One of the most painful things we observed, and experienced, was when a crew member with a serious injury or medical ailment appeared at our meeting but had not contacted an attorney for four or five years. None of the crew members we met understood that there is a three year limitations for bringing claims against the cruise lines. Some of the men and women we met had worked for over two decades in the cruise industry and were left with serious injuries to their backs. Yet after returning home they did not understand that they had only three years to make a claim.

Most of the injured crew members we met have had no medical treatment arranged whatsoever by the cruise lines. Many were forced to pay for their own medical visits in the hope that the cruise line No Problem Room - Ocho Rio Jamaicawould reimburse them. All of this violates maritime law. Unlike U.S. passengers who if injured during a cruise receive great medical care back in their home states, the Jamaican crew members we meet invariably are still suffering with no medical care months and months after their shipboard accidents and injuries.

Jamaica remains a country where many cruise lines believe that they can send their injured crew members and then look the other way even after the employees served faithfully on cruise ships for over 20 years.  

 

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

Falmouth Jamaica: Victim of the Royal Caribbean System

The AP published an article today regarding the plight of Falmouth. The world's biggest cruise ships are sucking most of the money out of the Jamaican port and leaving little behind except crushed expectations of the local community.

"World's Biggest Cruise Ships Drop Anchor in Caribbean, But Ship-to-Shore Feud Brews Over Cash" takes a look at Royal Caribbean's "development" of this historic port where it promised that if Jamaica spent a couple hundred million dollars building a deep water port for its monstrous ships the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas, the mostly U.S. passengers would each spend would over $100 ashore and infuse the local Jamaican economy.

Jamaica lived up to its end of the bargain, at consideration damage to the mangroves and coral reefsAllure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Falmouth Jamaica  around Falmouth. But the residents of Falmouth are seeing little money in return.  The AP article quotes a local businessman saying: "We were promised that we'd be able to show people our Jamaican heritage, sell our crafts. But most of the tourists stay far away from the local people . . . we're on the losing end."

I have been to Falmouth and feared that it would be another Royal Caribbean project that benefited the cruise line and exploited the local community.  Three years ago I wrote an article critical of what I believed would be another Royal Caribbean scheme (like Labadee Haiti) to suck money from another Caribbean island and sail the loot back to the cruise line's coffers in Miami - "Historic Port of Falmouth - Jamaica's "Crapital" for the Oasis of the Seas."   

I followed this article up with "Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica?" Unfortunately, the people of Jamaica have a history of being exploited by foreign plantation owners, sugar barons, slave owners, and bauxite-mining companies.  Royal Caribbean is the latest robber baron to appear as the country's professed savior. But like other false prophets, it will do no better for Falmouth than those in the past who have taken greatly and given little in return to this beautiful island.

The AP article says that the people in Falmouth are "growing angry" and predicts that things will only get worse, quoting a local vendor: 

"The pot is starting to boil and, trust me, it will boil over if things don't change around here . . . why can't we, the people who actually live here, make a living off the cruise ships, too?"

The answer lies in history of the non-sustainable cruise industry.  Poor Caribbean countries like Jamaica are beholden to selfish billion dollar U.S. based cruise corporations.  In the end game, the local Jamaicans are victims of the exploitative cruise line system.    

 

 

Video credit: "Victims of The System" - Rootz Underground

Read our other articles about Falmouth:

Historic Port of Falmouth - Jamaica's "Crapital" for the Oasis of the Seas

Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica?

Royal Caribbean's New Port in Falmouth, Jamaica - At What Cost to the Environment?

Will Jamaica's Cruise Ship Woes Be Solved By A Margaritaville?

Cruise Law Visits Montego Bay Jamaica

Will Jamaica's Cruise Ship Woes Be Solved By A Margaritaville?

Jamaica's Gleaner newspaper reports that the average amount of money spent by a cruise ship passenger in Jamaica has dropped to just $71.  

The hardest hit Jamaican port has been Falmouth where Royal Caribbean convinced the county of Jamaica to spend over $160,000,000 so far to develop the port (at great destruction to the reefs and environment of Jamaica) on the promise that the U.S. passengers would spend hundreds of dollars each upon entering Jamaica.

Now that Jamaica took Royal Caribbean's bait, dug up its fragile coral reefs and bulldozed its mangroves, the island has learned that the mostly American passengers are spending no where near the promised several hundred of dollars while ashore.

Falmouth Jamaica - Royal Caribbean PortI won't say that I told you so, although I will mention that this is exactly what I predicted in my prior articles:

Historic Port of Falmouth - Jamaica's "Crapital" for the Oasis of the Seas

Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica

One of the problems I observed when I visited Falmouth last year is that the new port contains essentially two worlds - the new port behind the fence which the cruise line erected where the touristy shops are sponsored by Royal Caribbean which sucks in most of the money, and the original stores outside the fence where few passengers venture.  

Compounding the problem is the fact that most of the excursions sold by the cruise line immediately leave the port and take the passengers outside of Falmouth.

But not is all lost, according to the Gleaner.  A Margaritaville is going to open on the Royal Caribbean dock in Falmouth, inside the cruise line fence.  Per capital spending is suppose to increase from $71 to $120 a passenger.

A Margaritaville bar in the historic port of Falmouth?  Ugh.  

Will the promised money roll in?  Probably not.  

But whatever bounty the cruise line passengers bring to the Jimmy Buffet bar in Jamaica will undoubtedly be scooped up by Royal Caribbean and sailed back to Miami.      

 

Photo credit:  Jim Walker

Guilty Pleas in Celebrity Cruises Excursion Bus Robbery in St. Kitts

The St. Kitts & Nevis Observer reports today that five men accused of robbing a tour bus full of cruise passengers in November 2010 pleaded guilty to the crime.

Elroy “Stanny” Williams, Junior “Que” Sobratie, and Curtis Long were charged with four counts of robbery, one count of conspiracy and one count of assault with intent to rob, while Delvin Francis and George Welsh were charged as accessories to the crime.

The men were involved in the armed robbery of the 17 cruise passengers who were aboard a tour bus on its way to Brimstone Hill Fortress.

St. Kitts Cruise Ship RobberyThe robbery targeted 17 cruise passengers from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship. They were on a cruise sponsored excursion called the "Caribbean Journey Masters tour bus." While the tour bus was heading towards a historic site, rocks and branches were strewn across the bus' path. The driver exited to investigate, and the robbers threw a rock into the windshield of the bus. Two armed, masked men rushed from the bushes and entered the bus.

A local newspaper reported that seventeen passengers, including an infant, were aboard the bus at the time of the robbery. The cruise passengers were robbed of their money, cell phones, jewelry and other personal items.

We wrote a number of articles about the crime:

More Cruise Tourists Robbed, This Time In St. Kitts

Celebrity Cruise Passenger Robbers Face Trial in St. Kitts

U.S. State Department: Crime In Nassau, Bahamas Is Critical

Bad news for our friends in the Bahamas and cruise passengers intending to vacation there. 

The U.S. State Department's 2012 "Crime and Safety Report" has labeled New Providence island's (including Nassau) criminal threat level as "critical" with Grand Bahama's island's (including Freeport) level as "high."

"In previous years, most violent crimes involved mainly Bahamian citizens and occurred in 'over-the-hill' areas, which are not frequented by tourists," the report stated.  "However, in 2011 there were numerous incidents reported that involved tourists or have occurred in areas in tourist locations.

Nassau Bahamas - Cruise Ship - Crime "In late 2011, there have been numerous reports by cruise ship tourists and others regarding incidents of armed robberies of cash and jewelery. These incidents were reported during daylight and nighttime hours. In several cases, the victims were robbed at knife-point, and gold necklaces and jewelery were taken. "Cash for Gold" is a new business in the Bahamas that may have resulted in the increase of these type of crimes."

Criminal threat levels are ranked as low, medium, high or critical. Other countries in the region also categorized as "critical" are: El Salvador, Guyana, and Ecuador.

"The US Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships. In several incidents, the victim had been reportedly drugged."

Unlike the secretive cruise lines, the newspapers in the Bahamas do a very effective job reporting on issues of high crime.   

The Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape in the world according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime and violence.

Our firm has represented five women sexually assaulted on cruise ships in port in Nassau or ashore in the Bahamas. All of the women raped ashore ranged in age from 17 to 23 and were in seemingly safe locations in downtown Nassau near bars or stores within sight of the cruise ships.  

Bahamas Tourism Minister: Caribbean Islands Made A Mistake - Cruise Lines Now Own The Ports

A newspaper in the Bahamas published an interesting article quoting the newly appointed tourism minister, Obie Wilchcombe, in the Bahamas:  Cruise ships are " . . . floating shopping malls now, casinos and hotels. The Caribbean made a mistake 20 years ago when they didn’t limit what cruise ships could do; now the cruise ships own the towns. In Antigua and other places like that, they actually own shopping areas.”

Mr. Wilchcombe articulated what many merchants in the Bahamas and other Caribbean islands have been muttering under their breath for years.

The cruise ships have become bigger and bigger over the years, with more and more attractions being Bay Street - Nassau Bahamas - Cruise Portadded to the ships. Cruising has increasingly become an all inclusive vacation where the cruise ship is the destination itself and many passengers do not even come off of the cruise ships to shop.  The cruise ships are also sucking money out of the passengers before they come to port: “Everything is paid for ahead of time, and they just come with a few dollars in their pockets."

Mr. Wilchcombe also lamented that the cruisers who do come ashore have less money than before. The flood of new ships has changed the type of people (i.e., less affluent) who walk up and down Bay Street in Nassau.  

His goal is to attract a greater number of tourists to come to the Bahamas by air, who will stay in and eat at Bahamian owned hotels and restaurants.  

We wish Mr. Wilchcombe good luck with that.  Unfortunately, the cruise industry has benefited from its predatory relationship with the little Caribbean islands for many decades.  

Miami-based cruise lines enjoy a tax free income many times greater than the GNP of the Bahamas or any Caribbean country for that matter.  With few independent or sustainable industries, the Bahamas need the cruise lines far more than the cruise lines need it. Unrealistically low head taxes, deterioration of the port's infrastructure, unfair fees to shore-side excursions vendors, and cruise tourists who have already emptied their pockets on the cruise ships are signs of a master-servant relationship that continues to exploit the beautiful islands and people in the Caribbean. 

 

History of Bay Street and the Bahamas interest you?  Consider reading:

"Whose Bay Street? Competing Narratives of Nassau’s City Centre

I’se a Man: Political Awakening and the 1942 Riot in the Bahamas

 

Photo Credit: Liquid Latitudes

MSC Poesia Destroys Reef in the Bahamas - Cruise Ship with 26' Draft Sailed Into 15' Waters

The MSC Poesia cruise ship ran aground into a reef in the Bahamas this weekend while sailing to  Port Lucaya near Freeport, Bahamas.

The 93,000-ton cruise ship needs twenty-five feet of draft but sailed into only fifteen (15) feet of water.  The video below show that the vessel ground into and destroyed a substantial length of the fragile reef.

Several tugs were called to prevent the cruise ship from further grinding into the reef as the wind tried to push the vessel into more shallow water. 

MSC was not able to get off the reef until high tide.  According to Cruise Radio where I first learned of the grounding, the incident did not stop the cruise ship from tendering cruise passengers to Port Lucaya.  Ed Owen who writes for the Examiner also was one of the first to report on this incident.

Were you on the Poesia when it ran aground?  Do you have photos, video or comments to share? 

 

 

Video credit:   YouTube (Fredgbscuba) 

Cruise Passenger Found Dead in Cayman Islands

Cruise Passenger Drowns - Cayman IslandsToday the Cayman News Service reports that yesterday afternoon a seventy one year old cruise passenger was found dead in the water near an area referred to as the "Sand Bar."  This is a popular location where tourists can swim in shallow water near stingrays.

Police have identified the cruise ship passenger as Mr. Samir Rizk of Raleigh, North Carolina.

According to this news source, a spokesperson for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said that just before 2:00 PM on December 6th, the local police police received a report that "a man had been found in the ocean, near to Coral Gardens, floating in the water by people who were on a boat at the Sand Bar."  

The boaters lifted the man onto their vessel, but found he was unconscious and non-responsive to CPR.  

The news source further reports that the Joint Marine Unit’s ‘Niven D’ went to the location and transported the man to the Yacht Club where paramedics were standing-by.  He was then taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town, but was found to be dead on arrival.

A post mortem examination is scheduled to take place on this Friday, December 9th.  There is no indication regarding the name of the cruise line or cruise ship on which the deceased passenger was sailing.  It is also unknown whether the passenger was on an excursion, or a tender, or swimming or engaged in water sports.

If you were on the cruise and have information regarding this incident, please leave a comment below.   

December 8, 2011 Update: The Raleigh News and Observer newspaper has an article where Mr. Rizk's brother described him as an excellent swimmer and marathon runner, having completed a marathon just two months earlier.  He questions how no one observed his brother in distress in such a popular and often crowded area.

 

Photo credit:  photos4travel / @patrix99

Haiti's Historic Sites a Cruise Excursion? Royal Caribbean the Steward of Henri Christophe's Legacy?

This weekend I ran across an interesting opinion piece from Caribbean News Now.  Entitled "Turning Haiti's Historic Sites into Tourist Destinations," the article begins with a quote from an article I wrote in January 2010 following the horrific earthquake in Haiti: 

Is it appropriate to sail into the idyllic port of Labadee, Haiti on a pleasure cruise when the dead remain unburied and the impoverished country writhes in chaos? (Cruise Law News, January 19, 2010)

Labadee - Haiti - Royal CaribbeanThe opinion piece was written by Anthony L. Hall, who publishes an interesting and well written blog called the iPinions Journal.  Mr. Hall discusses developing tourism around two of Haiti's historic sites - the ruins of the Palais de Sans Souci, which was the residence of Henri Christophe, Haiti’s revolutionary war hero and first president, and the Citadelle Laferrière, which is a fort he built in anticipation of fighting off the French.  

Mr. Hall is critical of Royal Caribbean's attitude toward Haiti, which he compares to " . . . resort developers throughout the Caribbean who have been invited over the years by local governments to treat vast areas of their pristine coastline as exclusive, almost hermetically sealed enclaves for visiting tourists."  

But he is not content hurling "belated moral indignation" at what I have often characterized as the worst cruise line in the world.  Instead, he suggests that if Royal Caribbean could develop these historical sites as shore excursions, and in the process raise money for a ten mile stretch of roadway from its private port of "Labadee," the cruise line might "make itself a better corporate citizen and earn an unprecedented amount of international goodwill."

In theory that would be great. 

But Royal Caribbean as the steward of the historic residence and fort of the first President of free black Haiti? 

Oy vey! 

From a historical perspective, it's a repugnant notion.  The cruise line's private enclave of "Labadee®" is a name that Royal Caribbean trademarked as a variation of Marquis de La'Badie who settled in Haiti in the 1600's.  That's right, Marquis de La'Badie, the French slave owner, whose descendants fought against Henri Christophe and his army of former black slaves. 

Royal Caribbean wasn't thinking of the 1791 Slave Uprising or the Haitian revolution when its snabbed the 260 acres of sovereign Haitian land to create its own enclave.  It ignored Haiti's black national hero when it went about marketing its slice of Haiti.  So why should Royal Caribbean be Henri Christophe - Haititrusted to be the steward of such historic sites when it already staked its presence on the island bearing the white de La'Badie slave owner name?

Putting history aside, there are practical business concerns that make it unlikely that Royal Caribbean will open up the gates and send its passengers outside of its barb wire fences which surround Labadee without expecting to make lots of money using the Citadelle as a shore excursion. 

The cruise line makes tens of millions of dollars a month keeping the thousands of passengers locked in Labadee where their only sources of fun are drinking, renting jet skis, para-sailing, and zip lining.

For Royal Caribbean to invest in developing these sites, it would need a deal where the venture would be highly profitable and it would probably demand the name rights to market the project.  Would it advertise these sites to its passengers as part of the Royal Caribbean "Private Destinations?" 

Royal Caribbean has already drafted plans to develop the Citadelle for its guests.  You can see the cruise line's plans here.

For the past 25 years, Royal Caribbean has accomplished little in Haiti outside of Labadee, other than a $425,000 school which it named after itself as a publicity stunt but it still could not figure out how to feed the school kids or provide them with transportation to the school bearing its name.   

Mr. Hall's challenge to Royal Caribbean to rehabilitate its image and make itself a better corporate citizen is laudable.  But this is a corporation which consistently underachieves when it comes to the interests of Haiti.  

Royal Caribbean will never help Haiti develop the historical Haitian sites associated with Henri Christophe without demanding that it control the operation, name the project, and profit the most from it.  It makes too much tax-free money keeping its passengers safely ensconced in its fantasy creation of Labadee®.   And for historical reasons, the notion that a corporation like this should be the steward of the legacy of Henri Christophe is a farce.    

 

For other articles about my view of Royal Caribbean and Haiti, consider reading:

Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

The Royal Caribbean School in Haiti - A Genuine Commitment or a Publicity Stunt?

Royal Caribbean: $6,800,000,000 in Tax-Free Income, But No Lunch Money for the Kindergarten Students in Haiti?

 

Photo / Images credit:

Top:  Not My Tribe

"Injured on a Cruise Ship?" - Lawyer Advertising in Jamaica

Today we began advertising in Jamaica, as I mentioned in an earlier blog.  The ad below will begin appearing in some of the newspapers in Jamaica, and a variation will appear on some of the billboards in Jamaica.

I have been a lawyer for 28 years.  I have never advertised on television, radio, newspapers or billboards.  We have relied on our reputation developed over the years and recommendations from one client we have helped to the next potential client who finds himself in a similar situation.

I have always viewed "billboard lawyers" with disdain.  Florida is littered with huge billboards looming over the highways advertising lawyers with 1-800 I N J U R Y telephone numbers.   

I do not think I have ever seen any of these "billboard lawyers" actually in the courthouse.  Probably because they don't really go to court or actually handle cases.  Many of these lawyers take the calls from their 1-800 numbers and then refer the cases to other lawyers to handle.  Lots of Americans point to the lawyer billboards as endemic of the so-called "litigation explosion" which many people think plagues the U.S. 

Unlike the U.S., Jamaica has a culture where litigation is not encouraged.  Plus there are virtually no Jamaican lawyers who advertise.  Injured crewmembers are often from countries like Jamaica where few people file lawsuits, there is no legal advertising, and it is difficult to obtain basic information about your legal rights. Cruise lines often take advantage of this type of situation.

Over the next few months, Jamaicans will see our firm's name and photos on billboards, in newspapers, and on the radio throughout the country.  We know first hand that there are many Jamaican men and women who dedicated their careers to cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, only to be sent a one way ticket home and forgotten when they are seriously injured and can no longer work at sea.  Advertising in Jamaica will help level the playing field against the cruise lines.  We are educating these crewmembers regarding their right to obtain compensation here in Miami when they are disabled from cruise ship employment.

So, it is with mixed feelings that I am about to become a "billboard lawyer."   But not just any "billboard lawyer."  A Jamaican billboard lawyer.  

But unlike U.S. billboard lawyers, you will see the lawyers in our firm in the courthouse here in Miami fighting for the rights of our clients who the cruise lines have abandoned in Jamaica.      

June 28, 2011 Update:  We modified our ad, with a non descript cruise ship and a different background.

 

Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica?

Last week I traveled to Jamaica to visit clients in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.  During our trip, we also attended to some matters in the port town of Falmouth where Royal Caribbean parks its new mega-ships, the Genesis class Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas. 

Falmouth is the capital of Trelawny parish, Jamaica, located on Jamaica's north coast near Montego Bay.  

Falmouth Jamaica - Cruise PortFalmouth was named after the birthplace of Sir William Trelawny in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain. In the late 1700's, Jamaica was the world’s leading sugar producer.  At the turn of the 1800's, one hundred sugar plantations in Trelawny parish provided sugar and rum for export to Britain. Falmouth has a notorious past because it was a center for the slave trade from Africa.  Based on its rum, sugar and slave business, it became one the wealthiest ports in the "New World." 

Falmouth has since fallen on hard times; its quaint Colonial architecture appears now largely in a state of ruin. 

Several years ago, Royal Caribbean had a problem.  It designed its new "Genesis" class cruise ships (Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas) but few ports could accommodate them. These mega ships were far too big to dock at the Freeport / Montego Bay facility. 

The cruise line approached Jamaica and proposed a deal where Royal Caribbean would agree to use Falmouth as a port for its new cruise ships - provided that Jamaica would spend around $120 million deepening its port and creating a new facility to handle the new ships.  The trade-off to Jamaica for this investment would supposedly be the infusion of money into Falmouth and the surrounding parish when the Oasis and the Allure, each with over 6,000 passengers, arrived in town. 

Falmouth has a population of around 7,500.  In theory, the population of the town would essentially double any time one of the Genesis class ships arrived at port, with lots of Americans with cash in their pockets.  

Jamaica jumped at the deal. No environmental impact statement or detailed economic analysis was prepared.  The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) prepared promotional materials suggesting that "the destination will deeply reference the town's history, offering visitors a unique sensory experience of the Colonial era."  Royal Caribbean's President Adam Goldstein signed the deal with Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding and promised to deliver 400,000 passengers a year to Falmouth over the next 20 years, with an expectation that each passenger would spend over $100 in the port. 

So is Royal Caribbean living up to its promises to Falmouth?

The Allure of the Seas was in Falmouth when we arrived.  To my surprise, there were relatively few cruise passengers sightseeing, eating in restaurants, or buying souvenirs in town.  It was hard to determine whether the passengers were remaining on the gigantic Allure city-to-itself cruise ship, or they had left in tour buses.  

There are few signs that Royal Caribbean has invested anything in Falmouth.  There is a new plaza in the middle of the town which replaced a traffic roundabout.  There are a few newly planted Falmouth Jamaica - Royal Caribbean Cruise palm trees desperately in need of irrigation.  

We asked a number of store owners and local Jamaicans what they thought about the new port.  A few restaurant owners were appreciative of the cruise ships which brought crew members looking for a place to eat and relax.  But no cruise passengers were inside.  Most Jamaicans expressed mixed feelings, complaining that the passengers are loaded up in cruise-line-arranged tour buses inside of  the port, where excursions sold are largely for the benefit of the cruise line and then the passengers are quickly bused out of Falmouth towards Ocho Rios and Dunn's River Falls.   

Were Royal Caribbean promises to Falmouth just sweet talk and part of the seduction of Jamaica to belly up over $100 million to dredge a deeper port for the Oasis and Allure mega ships which could not port in Freeport?  Will even a dime of the hundreds of millions of dollars in cruise line profits ever find their way into schools for the kids of Falmouth or the sick and infirm in the modest medical center at the outskirts of this historic old town?    

When we left Falmouth to drive over to Ocho Rios, we parked and looked back at the new port.   I took a photo of the Allure of the Seas looming over the few two story buildings at the port which were not knocked down during the "revitalization" of Falmouth.  I could not help but think what an appropriate image of the relationship between this huge cruise company and the little town of Falmouth.

Counting all passengers and crew, the Allure contains more people than all of Falmouth.  When the cruise ship left to sail back to Miami, it was leaving with literally tens of millions of dollars destined for the cruise line's coffers.  Aside from the money spent on Bob Marley t-shirts and wood carvings, few U.S. dollars remained in Falmouth.           

As a history major, I believe that the answers to questions about the future remain firmly planted in the past.

Jamaica has a history of being exploited by foreign plantation owners, sugar barons, slave owners, and bauxite-mining companies. 

In the end, Royal Caribbean will do no better for Falmouth than those in the past who have taken greatly and given little in return to this beautiful island.  

Falmouth Jamaica - Allure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean Cruise

Miami New Times: Couple Sues Carnival Cruise Lines After Teenage Daughter Killed in Virgin Islands Gang Shootout

The lawsuit we filed this week of behalf of our clients for the death of their daughter, Liz Marie Perez Chaparro, has been covered in the Miami New Times and USA Today this week.  The article, written by Tim Elfrink, for the Miami New Times is entitled "Couple Sues Carnival Cruise Lines After Teenage Daughter Killed in Virgin Islands Gang Shootout."

"Liz Marie Perez Chaparro was celebrating her quinceañera on a Carnival cruise with her parents last summer when an employee convinced the family to join an excursion in St. Thomas. What he didn't mention, Chaparro's family says, is that a heated gang war was raging in the area.

Liz Marie Perez Chaparro - Death - Carnival Cruise Chaparro died on a tour bus when a shootout exploded between the rival gangs at a funeral, peppering the young tourist with bullets. Her family filed suit against Carnival today, alleging they should have known the violence was likely.

Chaparro and her parents, Ceferino Perez and Aida Esther Chaparro, live in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They saved for ten months to pay for her quinceañera cruise last July, they told the Virgin Island Daily News.

On July 12, one of the first nights of the cruise, Perez was drinking on deck when a cruise employee sold him on a trip to Coki Beach, a popular sandy stretch in St. Thomas.

But Perez didn't know that the Virgin Islands at the time were riding an all-time high homicide streak, he says in his lawsuit. Already that calendar year, the islands -- with a population of 100,000 -- had seen 43 murders.

What's more, Perez says, the week before a gang member had been shot and killed at a mall near Coki Beach and his gang had planned a funeral at a cemetery near the beach on the day of the excursion.

"(Carnival) should have known there was a high risk of an attempted gang revenge killing at the funeral," Perez says in the suit.

Either way, soon after Perez and his family boarded the bus for Coki Beach it was trapped on a two-lane road blocked by the gang members.  When a shootout broke out, their bus was caught in the crossfire.

Fourteen-year-old Liz Marie Chaparro died on the scene.

A Carnival spokesperson didn't immediately return a phone call and an email about the lawsuit this morning; we'll update the post when we hear back."

 

A copy of the lawsuit is available on line here (via courthousenews.com). 

Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn their passengers of dangers in the ports of call.  For our article about this terrible crime, read: More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas.

Cruise Law Visits Montego Bay Jamaica

Falmouth Jamaica - Royal CaribbeanI just returned from a three day trip to Montego Bay. 

My co-counsel, Jonathan Aronson, and I met with several of our clients who were seriously injured while working for Miami based cruise lines and have been languishing in Jamaica after being dumped back at home.  Seeing our clients, in their local communities, with their kids, brings a sense of reality and urgency to our relationship with them.   

We visited the port in Freeport / Montego Bay, the new Royal Caribbean development in Falmouth (more about that to come later), and headed over to Ocho Rios to meet the family of one of our clients who needs surgery after a cruise line accident.

A good trip.  

The country of Jamaica is beautiful.  Its people are filled with courtesy and generosity. 

Over the course of the next week, we will talk about some of our experiences in Jamaica, and the relationship of this proud Caribbean country with the Miami-based cruise industry.

Photo: 

Above - Jim Walker - Falmouth with Pullmantur Horizon cruise ship in background.

Below - Jim Walker - Kevin, with wife, son and Jonathan Aronson

Jamaica - Montego Bay - Cruise - Crewmember

 

Cuba: "Send in U.S. Cruise Ships and Watch Change Come"

I have written a couple of articles about the the cruise industry and Cuba lately, U.S. - Cuba Politics: No Cruise Ships In Havana and Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Immigrants.  Notwithstanding the U.S. embargo of Cuba for over the past four decades, there is no question that U.S. based cruise ships will stop in Havana as an integral part of their Caribbean cruise itinerary in the near future.   Old man and evil dictator Castro was not a cruise ship fan, complaining that the cruise passengers brought little money but a lot of trash to his decrepit island.  But his younger and more pragmatic brother has signaled that cruise ships are welcome in Cuba.    

Cruise Ship - Havana Cuba But when will it happen?  President Obama promised to improve better relations with Cuba which is just 100 miles from Key West - about the same distance from Miami as Disney World in Orlando.  But so far, nothing.

The newspapers have recently been filled with articles about cruise ships from other countries, like England, Canada, and Russia, sailing into Cuba.  The U.K.'s Guardian carried the headlines "Cubans Give Warm Welcome to British Cruise Liner," the Latin America Herald Tribune declared "Cuba Expects Rise in Cruise Visits," and the Cuba Press blasted "Cuba Trying to Attract Canadian Cruise Tourists."

One of my favorite cruise bloggers, Captain Greybeard in England, wrote about a British cruise ship, the Thompson Dream, receiving a warm reception in Havana last week:   

"Cuba rolled out the red carpet for Thomson Dream and her 1,500 passengers yesterday on the cruise ship's first call at the capital, Havana.  Showgirls in sequined bikinis and feather head-dresses, a salsa band and dancing schoolchildren were among the welcoming party, and disembarking passengers were handed shots of rum."  Sounds like fun.

So what is the U.S.'s problem?  The world wants to know.

Frank Barrett, Travel Editor of the the U.K's Mail On Sunday, today writes an amusing yet insightful blog on the issue of cruising to Cuba.  He asks "why does America treat its neighbour like a pariah state?"  His solution, "send in the cruise ships and watch change come."  I agree.  Here is his most excellently written article:

"As 95 per cent of Americans are apparently unable to locate Texas on a map and think that Illinois is a country in Africa, you have to admire the persistence with which the US government has maintained its hate campaign against Cuba (for American readers: Cuba is an island 100 miles south of Key West.  Again for American readers: Key West is the nethermost point of Florida, a US State).

Walk down the main street of Big Butt, Idaho (a US State) and my guess is that 99 out of 100 people would have no idea where Cuba is, or who Fidel Castro might be (Clue: nothing to do with engine oil).

Cuba - Cruise Ships And yet, in certain recondite corners of the American government Dr Strangeloves let their missile launching fingers stray towards the red button whenever anyone mentions the word 'Havana' (capital of Cuba).

American diplomats spend so much of the world's resources in the Middle East trying to broker peace amongst the Israelis and Palestinians, you wonder that they don’t think about declaring peace nearer to home.

But still Americans risk being burned at the stake for the mere heresy of looking at a Cuban holiday brochure.  If they dared to travel there, they would promptly be zapped by a drone missile.
In terms of size and population, Cuba is less significant than a US state like Ohio, and yet it is treated with all the severity of Iran.

Cuba ought to be a key stop on Caribbean cruise itineraries. Yet no American cruise company can touch it with a barge pole.

So three cheers to Thomson for last week including Cuba on the itinerary of the Thomson Dream, the first large cruise ship to visit the island for five years.

Barack Obama came into office promising to build bridges with Cuba - and seems to have done almost nothing.  Thomson has done more with one cruise ship visit.

America needs to learn that, when it comes to fostering political change, tourism is the most effective weapon.  Trying to isolate Cuba has simply strengthened the Cuban will to resist.  Send in a thousand American cruise ships and revolution in Cuba will be inevitable  .  .  ."

 

Credits:

Havana Poster      cruiselinehistory.com

Photo             AP via Fort Mills Times

Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Immigrants

Cuba - Rafter -Intercepted - Rescued - Cruise Ship  The news today is filled with stories about a cruise ship which "rescues" rafters adrift in the Atlantic.

What the news reports fail to mention is that the "rafters" were trying to get to Florida.  They are  probably already back in Cuba pursuant to U.S. immigration policy. 

Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas cruise ship reportedly "rescued" six people who were floating on a raft near the Bahamas. 

A passenger on the cruise ship spotted the raft and the ship stopped.  As most of the news reports claim, the cruise ship then "rescued" the people on the raft.

An employees of a Houston news station FOX 35 employee (Scott Schroeder)  was on cruise ship and reported that the raft looked like "it was a group of tires tied together with green burlap and a makeshift sail."  

The make-shift raft had apparently been at sea for 15 days.  The Fox employee says the captain of the ship told the cruise ship passengers that there were seven people on board the raft and one of them died.

As tragic as this is, the indignity is that the survivors, probably related in some way to the deceased "rafter," will be deported back to the evil Castro regime in Cuba.  If they made it ashore to the U.S. they would one day be raising their children in Miami (God bless them).  But if they are "caught" in the water by the U.S. Coast Guard, they will be "deported" / "repatriated" back to Cuba to face, at best, an uncertain future.   

Perhaps this is a "rescue' in the minds of the happy-go-lucky cruise passengers and the PR people at the cruise lines, but according to the Cubans in the raft seeking freedom in Miami - they undoubtedly feel that they are screwed.

May 15, 2011 Update:  Royal Caribbean "rescues" another boat of Cubans fleeing Castro: Allure of the Seas "Rescues" Migrants Fleeing Cuba.

Rescue - Repatriation - Cuban Refugess - Cruise Ship

 

Credits:  Fox 35 Houston

The Royal Caribbean School in Haiti - A Genuine Commitment or a Publicity Stunt?

The Miami Herald published an article on Friday entitled "New School, New Hope for Young Haitians" about Royal Caribbean Cruises building a new school in Labadee on the 260 acres which it leases from the Haitian government. 

The article points out that the new 6,500-square-foot campus consists of six buildings, twelve classrooms, administrative offices and a computer lab.  Around 230 students from nearby villages, from kindergarten to fifth grade, will study at the new school.

Royal Caribbean School Labadee Haiti - L'Ecole Nouvelle Royal CaribbeanThe construction was overseen by a Miami company Innovida which used lightweight yet sturdy materials which can withstand an earthquake and high winds. 

As much as a school facility like this was needed in Haiti, I could not help but to think what a meager expenditure a project like this represents considering the financial resources of this cruise line.  It made me think of two basic questions:

1. What, if anything, has Royal Caribbean done for Haiti in the last 25 years?

Royal Caribbean has been in Haiti for over 25 years.  This is the first development of anything remotely benefiting the local people.  The cruise line was roundly criticized when it sailed into its "private destination" in Labadee earlier this year, after the devastating earthquake to the south in Port-au-Prince, a PR nightmare which I wrote about in an article "Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers." 

The Miami Herald article mentions that the new school cost only $425,000 to build.  Royal Caribbean collects over $6,000,000,000 (billion) a year and pays no U.S. Federal income tax because it is incorporated in Liberia and its cruise ships fly foreign flags.   Its last "investment" in Haiti was the multi-million dollar zip line amusement ride in its "private destination" of Labadee for the exclusive of its paying guests.  Haitians are kept on the other side of the cruise line's barb wire fence

Everytime a cruise ship like the Oasis of the Seas sails with 5,000 or 6,000 passengers to Labadee, the cruise line collects millions and millions of dollars in cruise fare each cruise.  An investment of $425,000 from a corporation like this is peanuts.

2. What, if anything, does the cruise line plan to do in the future?

There was some talk about this being one of, maybe, two schools to be built in Haiti.  That's it.  I doubt that there will be a second school.  I hope I am wrong.  But there are no discussions of anything resembling a multi-million dollar building project, like you see when a new port is constructed and hundreds of millions of dollars are budgeted.  

Is this the extent of the cruise line's investment in the host country?  When you think of what commitment really means, is $425,000 reflective of this cruise line's sense of loyalty and duty to Haiti?  Probably so.

Royal Caribbean School Labadee Haiti - L'Ecole Nouvelle Royal CaribbeanSeems like a pittance.

There are a number of online photographs of the school opening, such as the Innovide's Royal Caribbean School photo page.

You can see Royal Caribbean's CEO, Richard Fain, attending the opening ceremony, cutting the royal blue ribbons, standing in front of the sign for the "Royal Caribbean" school, posing in front of a banner proclaiming the opening of the "Royal Caribbean" school," and smiling for the camera in front of Haitian school children wearing "Royal Caribbean" blue polo shirts emblazened with the "Royal Caribbean" name and the "Royal Caribbean" logo.

These photos make me feel rather squeamish.  Is this a marketing stunt?

When I clicked on Fain's Chairman's Blog, I could not help but note that one of the first comments to his article about the new school reads as folllows: 

"I really love the RCI brand, but was it necessary to brand all of the kids?"

December 4, 2010 Update: Interested in a true commitment by a corporation to education? Read: What the Cruise Industry Has to Learn From My Cousins Back in Arkansas

 

Photo credits:

Photo 1:  Innovide

Photo 2:  Ricahrd Fain's Chairman's Blog

 

U.S. - Cuba Politics: No Cruise Ships In Havana

When my friends in my home state of Arkansas ask me how I like living in Miami, I give them the same answer - I love it, because I have always wanted to live in a foreign country.

Cuba - Cruise Ship Miami is the melting pot of the Caribbean.  It is the number one place where immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Belize and Columbia decide to live once they reach the U.S.  Miami is an exciting, international and great place to live.  More than 50% of the residents here are Hispanic. The dominant personality of the city is unquestionably Cuban - we have a Cuban Mayor, Cuban Judges, Cuban politicians, Cuban restaurant and shop owners. 

 The heart of our firm - our office manager - is 100% Cuban.

Most Cubans living in Miami live here because they were dispossessed from their native country in the early 1960's.  Not surprisingly, the most hated person in the world according to the people of Miami - is Fidel Castro.  However, people in Miami are questioning the blockade of Cuba which has existed for close to 50 years.

Yesterday the Guardian newspaper in the U.K.  ran an interesting article about ending the blockade - Time for the Cuban Travel Ban to Go.  The article cited a poll indicating that most Americans support easing travel restrictions to Cuba - Poll: Three-Quarters Favor Relations with Cuba

Part of the blockage involves the prohibition of U.S. based cruise ship sailing to Cuba.  So it was with interest I read an article, US Blockade Stops Cruises from Landing in Cuba," written by a Cuban reporter about the cruise industry and the effects of the ban against U.S. ported cruise ships sailing to Cuba.  Here is the article:

"Thousands of cruise ships sail the waters around Cuba every year, but few of them are able to anchor in the island because of the US economic, financial and commercial blockade.

Granma newspaper said the Torricelli Law approved by Washington sanctions ships from any country that dock in Cuban ports by banning them from putting in at the US for six months.

The Cuban daily comments that 98 % of Caribbean cruises are controlled by the American industry Cuba - Cruise Ship - Cruise to Cubaand 70 % of liners sailing in the region have Florida as mother port.

According to Granma, in 2006, when the American cruise company Royal Caribbean bought the Holiday Dream ship from the Spanish Pullmantur Cruceros, more than 50 crew members from Cuba were not allowed to work onboard anymore.

This way, Pullmantur Cruceros put an end to its contract with the Cuban company ARIES Transportes S.A. of the Ministry of Transportation, which had established that the Holiday Dream would make 52 stopovers every year in Havana and Varadero's harbours.

Cuba´s location, the conditions of its ports and hotels and the historical and cultural wealth of its people are winning cards for the development of the cruise industry of the island.

If the US blockade didn't exist, more than 1,000 cruise ships could land in the Cuban ports every year generating a traffic of 1,2 million passengers.

According to figures by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, Cuba would have an income of 125 million dollars a year."

 

Although the U.S. prevents cruise ships to sail to Cuba, there are German and British cruise ships which sail to the Cuban ports of Havana and Santiago.

Has anyone cruised to Cuba?  Do you have photos or video to share?  

 

Credit:  Escambray - Digital newspaper of Sancti Spiritus province, Cuba
 

Crimes in the Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call

I have written many articles about the high crime rates in many of the Caribbean islands frequented by cruise lines - Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers.  Consider the following articles in the last year alone: 

Antigua - Cruise Passengers Attacked & Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet and Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Bahamas 18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the BahamasEleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau, and Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe?

Guatemala - Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala  

Mexico -  Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Ships From L.A. Due To Crime In Mexico

St. Lucia - Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia and 14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia

St. Thomas - More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

 

Cruise lines have port agents in all of these destinations and are familiar with the crime which exists in these beautiful, tropical locations.  Do you think that cruise lines should warn passengers of the substantial dangers which exist in the ports they select to disembark their passengers?

Cruise Ships and Crime in the Bahamas

TIME Magazine just published an article entitled Cruise Ship Port Call: Gauging Crime on the Bahamas. 

Time addresses the November 2009 armed robbery of cruise ship passengers during Segway shore excursions in Nassau, Bahamas.  Cruise Law News was the first one in the U.S. to report on the robbery in our article - 18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas.

TIME comments that "none of the passengers were injured, and all were compensated by the cruise lines."  Unfortunately, this is not true.  Several of the passengers were physically injured, being hit and kicked, and one of the robbers discharged his shotgun hear the head of a woman lying in the ground.  Many on the tour were emotionally traumatized.  No Royal Caribbean passengers were compensated for their injuries.

Aside from this inaccuracy, the article correctly concludes that crime is on the rise in the Bahamas and explains that tourists are now being targeted.   

The Bahamian government sent TIME statistics detailing crime against tourists in 2009, showing only one murder and 19 cases of armed robbery — 18 of which came in the single November Segway excursion robbery.  This statistics are incomplete.

The Bahamas did not tell TIME about another crime spree we wrote about - Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau.   We have also represented women raped in Nassau and are aware of other tourists robbed in Nassau.

Crime during cruises is an issue which neither the cruise lines nor the tourist dependent Caribbean islands like to discuss.  It's disappointing see the Bahamas tourism officials covering up the facts like this.

The Tourism Minister in the Bahamas recently took cruise line officials on a tour of the country to show that there are increased police patrols and closed circuit television cameras have been installed in areas of downtown Nassau.  The Nassau Guardian explains that tourism officials are trying to reassure the cruise line that it's sate to bring their guests to Nassau.  

TIME also mentions to "steer clear of Jamaica. Experts agree that it's currently the most dangerous country in the Caribbean."

Bahamas Crime - Cruise Passengers 

For other stories about crime in the Caribbean, read:

Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe?

Nassau Welcomes Oasis of the Seas as Bahamas' Murder Count Reaches Record-Breaking Level

Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

 

Credits:

Newspaper article    bahamasuncensored.com

Passenger Jumps From Cruise Ship To Avoid Arrest For Sexual Assault

Harold Crooks - Carnival Liberty Cruise ShipIt does not get any stranger than this.

The Jamaica Observer reports this morning that police in Jamaica arrested a Carnival cruise passenger who jumped from Carnival's Liberty while the cruise ship was in port in Ocho Rios. 

It turns out that this was no ordinary passenger.  The police arrested Harold Crooks who was the former commandant in the Island Special Constabulary Force in Jamaica. He was a crime and security expert who had made recommendations to combat crime in Jamaica and other Caribbean islands.  Crooks was under investigation for sexually assaulted a minor.  Earlier this year, he had fled Jamaica to Canada.  His Jamaican lawyer stated that  Crooks would not return to Jamaica because he had no faith in the justice system there. 

The Jamaica Observer reports that Crooks dared local cops to come get him in Canada if they "could stand the cold."  Well, it turns out that it was Crooks who couldn't stand the cold in Canada by booking a cruise from the U.S. back to Jamaica!  When he found out that the police were coming to get him, he put on a life preserver and jumped overboard. 

Now he will get the face the heat. 

 

Credits:

Harold Crooks photograph  Rudolph Brown / Jamaica Gleaner

 

Cruise Job Search Leads to Death In Trinidad

A number of newspapers in Trinidad are reporting on the death of Michelle Samaroo of Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, who disappeared on April 26th when she traveled to Arouca to obtain a job on a cruise ship.  Ms. Samaroo had responded to an advertisement in a local newspaper and had told her family that she was going to a cruise placement agency. 

Ms. Samaroo was requested to take $5,000 TT ($790 U.S.) for a visa and medical examination as part of the hiring process.  She did not return home and her family mounted an investigation.  The unidentified hiring agency allegedly informed Ms. Samaroo that she did not qualify for the job and returned her money.

Michelle Samaroo - Trinidad Ms. Samaroo's body was found on May 14th.  The  cause of death was not determined.

We represent many men and women from Trinidad, St. Vincent and other islands in the Southern Caribbean.  We have heard many stories about unscrupulous hiring agents who try and extract payments up front or "bonuses" from young men and women when they are hired to work on Royal Caribbean or Carnival cruise ships.  Sometimes the "bonus" will be equivalent to several months of a crew member's salary.

The "hiring agents" in the Caribbean are unregulated, even though they conduct the pre-employment screening and coordinate the medical evaluations of the prospective crew members for the U.S. based cruise lines.

Many young women like Ms. Samaroo dream of traveling to a U.S. port to join a cruise line for a better life for themselves and their families back home.  

A website focusing on abduction in Trinidad, Missingtrinbagonians, raises a number of questions about this case:

What is the name of the placement agency?   What is the name of the owner of the agency?  Why hasn’t a copy of the ad been reproduced by the newspaper which ran it?  Has anyone else used this agency’s services?  What is the name of the clinic where the medical examination was conducted?  What is the name of the doctor who performed the examination?  Have records been found for her appointment?  Did the doctor corroborate the information given by the placement agency?

Other questions to be asked.  Which cruise lines use this hiring agency?   Are the cruise lines aware of these type of hiring practices?     

 

 

Credits:           

Photograph          Missingtrinbagonians 

Video         TV 6 Trinidad 

"Crash Dummy" Released From Jail - Who Paid The Bail?

BVI Platinum News reports that Roland Allen, the driver of the cruise tour bus involved in the excursion accident in Tortola, was released from prison "after someone successfully posted bail for him."

Earlier last month, Mr. Allen - also known as "Crash Dummy" - was placed on $60,000 bail where he had to pay $25,000 in cash and sign a $35,000 surety.  His lawyer had informed the Court that Mr. Allen did not have the money to make bail.

The question arises who paid the bail?  Was the money gathered by friends or family members?  Or did  anyone acting on behalf of the excursion company or cruise line come up with the money behind the scenes?    

The newspaper reports that Mr. Allen will return to Court on April 21st for another hearing.  His trial on charges for reckless driving leading to the death of a Princess Cruises passenger and multiple injuries to other passengers will be scheduled later this year.

We have written many articles about this case

Do you have information regarding the source of the bail money?  Please contact us. 

Cruise Excursion Bus Driver Unable To Make Bail - Remains Jailed

Roland AllenBVI Platinum News reports that Roland Allen, the driver of the bus carrying Princess Cruises passengers on an excursion into Tortola, cannot make the $60.000 bail and will remain imprisoned.

The article shows a photograph of Mr. Allen, nicknamed "Crash Dummy," wearing a red sport shirt, waving with his mouth open. It is not the type of photo I would want if I were a criminal defense lawyer and my client stood accused of causing death by reckless driving.  He looks like a jokester.

The prosecutors are still preparing the case for trial. The article mentions that the prosecutors are  awaiting statements from U.S. witnesses. The Magistrate scheduled another hearing for April 21st.  

Mr. Allen's lawyer requested a modification of the bail.  The Magistrate said no.  So "Crash Dummy" remains in jail.

We have written many articles on this sad case,

 

Credits:

Photograph                    BVI Platinum News

Princess Cruises Excursion Accident - Sad Sight Remains In Tortola

A reader sent us a link to the photograph below which, if you have been following our blog for the past month, you should recognize is the site of the tragic cruise excursion bus accident in Tortola in February.  One young man died and several other passengers from a Princess Cruises cruise ship were injured as the bus sped down "Windy Hill" road and crashed into the side of the hill before flipping over in the road.

Tortola Cruise Excursion Bus Accident - Princess CruisesAlthough the accident occurred almost one month ago, rocks and debris remain on the road.  In a post entitled "Not My Job Mon," several readers of Travel Talk Online have commented on the embarrassment of the government of Tortola being unable to clean up the accident site over the past many weeks. 

One reader commented: "Maybe the "Crash Dummy" could clean it up in his orange jump suit!! That is crazy!!"

You will recall that "Crash Dummy" is the cruise excursion bus driver, Roland Allen, who is in jail awaiting trial for dangerous driving.  We have covered Mr. Allen's driving record and criminal record in previous blogs.  

It is unacceptable that a cruise line like Princess Cruises would use an old bus driven by a known reckless driver with a criminal record. 

Tortola's tourist board convened press conferences following the deadly bus crash and promised to look into this accident.  They vowed to improve the safety of the taxis and buses carrying cruise passengers and other tourists. 

Is this just happy talk to appease the cruise lines? 

Why hasn't the tourist board erected a memorial on the side of the road to remember the young man who died?   Why hasn't Tortola installed "caution" or "slow down" signs on the hill to remind other drivers to be careful?

Or at least pushed the rocks off the road to avoid other accidents?     

 

Credits:

Photograph     Travel Talk Online 

More Trouble for Princess Cruises Excursion Bus Driver

BVI Platinum News reports that cruise excursion bus driver Roland Allen is in trouble with the Tortola police again.

Roland Allen - Tortola - Cruise Excursion - Bus DriverMr. Allen - known in the community as "Crash Dummy" - was the driver of the green excursion bus which crashed on "Windy Hill Road" on February 24, 2010  while transporting cruise passengers from a Princess Cruises' cruise ship.  One cruise passenger died and multiple others were injured.

A few days before the bus accident, a theft occurred when someone broke into a home and stole various items including a laptop computer. Mr. Allen's girlfriend, one Emesha Henry, came into possession of the stolen laptop. The newspaper reports that  Ms. Henry resides from time to time at Mr. Allen's apartment.  It is less than clear from the article whether Mr. Allen or his girlfriend or someone else committed the burglary.

According to this news source, when police arrived on the scene of the excursion bus accident, the police asked Mr. Allen about his girlfriend.  Later, a police officer overheard Mr. Allen speaking on his cell phone.  As it turns out, Mr. Allen had called his girlfriend and told her to remove a stolen laptop computer from his apartment and hide the stolen item in a vehicle parked outside.

The police thereafter arrested Ms. Henry and charged her with handling stolen goods. A trial is scheduled for June 2, 2010. There is no indication in the news article that Mr. Allen was charged with any wrongdoing, although it would appear that he should be charged with aiding and abetting his girlfriend in the criminal offense if this story is accurate.  

Another article in the BVI News reports that the police suspect Mr. Allen to be involved in the burglary.  The article reports that the thief stole "gold plated earrings, gold rings, gold ankle chain, a lap top, a notebook computer, designer handbag and a silver ring . . ."

We have reported on Mr. Allen's troubles in prior articles:

How Did Princess Cruises Excursion Bus Driver "Crash Dummy" Earn His Nick Name? - Why Does He Have A Police Record? 

Did Princess Cruises Check the Driving Record of Excursion Bus Driver, Crash Dummy? 

Brake Malfunction? Defense Lawyers for Princess Cruises and Bus Driver Disagree on Cause of Tortola Excursion Accident 

Police Arrest Driver of Princess Cruises Excursion Bus In Tortola 

The readers to the BVI Platinum News article are having a field day with Mr. Allen's involvement in this alleged crime.  To say the least, it is repugnant that "Crash Dummy" was engaged in such conduct as a cruise passenger was dying following the crash.

"Cindy" writes: "If this is the case, how many more unsolved robberies or more serious crimes is this young man responsible for?"

"Got a side job?" writes: Seems like "crash" also goes by the name of "smash and grab."

"Good job" writes: "What a call to make after your driving just caused a man his life!!!"

In the comments to the BVI News article, Mr. Allen is referred to as "crash" and "smash and grab," and his girlfriend, Ms. Henry, as "crash chic."   

 

Credits:

Roland Allen  photograph    BVI Platinum News
 

Tortola Tourist Board - Let Cruise Excursion Bus Story "Die Naturally"

BVI News and BVI Platinum News continue their excellent coverage of the tragic and deadly crash of the  Princess Cruises' excursion bus in Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI) with an article entitled "It could Have Been Worse."

PR Nightmare

The BVI Tourist Board is trying to manage the public relations nightmare of the death and multiple injuries of U.S. cruise tourists on a bus with no seat belts being driven by a bus driver with an arrest history and prior conviction record for reckless driving nicknamed "Crash Dummy."

The Director of the BVI tourist Board, Ms. Hadassah Ward (photograph below, left), is struggling with crisis management efforts following this debacle.  Ms. Ward scheduled a press conference yesterday where she announced that "it could have been worse."

Tortola Excursion Bus Accident - Princess CruisesI'm not sure I understand exactly how it "could have been worse."

A young man died needlessly on a cruise excursion, purchased by his loving parents for his birthday, because of the obvious negligence of the excursion company and cruise line which saw fit to associate itself with a substandard tour company which hired a known reckless driver nicknamed "Crash Dummy" operating a bus not suited for mountainous terrain.

Ms. Ward should have said "this should have never happened."

Instead we see Ms. Ward and her "Tourist Board" worrying about the image of her island and fretting about the press and the blogs covering the tragic story.

Muzzle the Press?

Ms. Ward announced that "one of the Board’s role is to monitor the media  . . .  to ensure accurate information is being disseminated.  Ms. Ward  also said she would monitor the "posted pictures of the accident . . . because it will be there for the next 10 to 20 years . . . "

Mr Ward is quoted as saying: "everyone is reading the blogs and newspapers… so we don’t want the information to be misconstrued where people will be affected in terms of liability . . . we need to understand that the blogs are read internationally."

She also noted that "good attitude from the Tourist Board officials" quelled any videos and photographs from being circulated online by the 16 tourists who were involved in the accident.

Ms. Ward concluded her remarks by stating "I am a great believer in letting the story die naturally . . ." 

This is the essence of tourist boards and cruise line PR people - they just want the story to go away.

Cruise Excursion - Princess Cruises - TortolaWe reported in a prior blog that this is not the first cruise bus excursion to run off the road and injure cruise passengers in Tortola - "Brake Malfunction? Defense Lawyers for Princess Cruises and Bus Driver Disagree on Cause of Tortola Excursion Accident."  Nothing was done after that disaster. 

History is repeating itself.  

Let's Be Happy & Forget about It

So we have the Tortola Tourist Board trying to puzzle the press and control the images of the tragedy for PR purposes. 

And the island and cruise line people behind the scenes just want the story to die naturally . . . 

And then what? 

Another season of substandard buses, with no seat belts, with reckless drivers . . . and another round of unsuspecting cruise passengers taking their families on the next bus driven by a "Crash Dummy"   . . .  

Comments From Tortola:

Here are some of the comments to the BVI News story that the Tortola Tourist Board is concerned with:

An accident waiting to happen is no accident. Hiring a driver with driving infractions and one of which was reckless driving to operate your tour bus is irresponsible and negligent. The owner of the tour bus too, is guilty of negligence which contributed to this vehicular homicide. Just because these tourists were given a heap of hush money as incentives not to file a lawsuit (we hope) and to keep things quiet, doesn't mean that TB should be issuing insensitive words " It could have been worse" because frankly, it could not have been worse . .

Tortola - Cruise Bus - Crash Dummy - Princess CruisesCould have been worse?? Oh it's just one life....I mean come on. You're talking about insurance and all that...I mean if we have people operating and transporting persons and they have no license to drive or no insurance to operate heir vehicles then we have a very serious flaw in the system! Don't give me that could have been worse story. With as much violations this guy should he even be driving much less responsible for transporting this many people? These are peoples lives we're talking about! 

License or no license, hiring a driver with a record of driving infractions including reckless driving, whose nickname is Crash Dummy should be good reason to revoke his license to operate a tour bus. Lackadaisical, slackness, don't care with attitude are words to describe the way business is conducted in this place from top to bottom.

March 11, 2010 Update:

Two newspaper stories from Tortola today address the efforts of the Tourist Board to assist the parents of the deceased cruise passenger, Mr. Rumphrey.  The BVI News has an article "BVITB Reports on its Efforts to Assist Family of Tourist Killed in Road Accident."  The BVIU Beacon also reports on the Tourist Board's efforts to assist the affected passengers in an article "BVITB Aids Family of Man Killed in Wreck."  Ms. Ward is quoted saying: "Yes, bad things do happen in paradise, but when they do happen, you have a support group.”

 

Credits:

Photograph of Ms. Ward         BVI News

Photographs of bus                   BVI Platinum News    

 

Royal Caribbean Continues Shipping Relief Items to Labadee, Haiti - Is It Enough?

Syracuse New York local news station Channel 10's "Travel with Val" takes a look at Royal Caribbean's controversial decision to continue sailing to its "private resort" of Labadee, Haiti. 

While the cruise line is shipping pallets of food and supplies to Labadee and committed $1 million from its net proceeds, is this enough from a corporation which grosses over $6 billion and pays no taxes? 

 

 

We have written many articles on the relationship between Labadee and Royal Caribbean.

 

Credits:   

Video               Syracuse New York local news station Channel 10's "Travel with Val"

Hope for Haiti Now

Haitians are in the worst crisis the country has seen in the last 200 years.  Haiti needs your help.

The Hope for Haiti Now fundraiser organized by George Clooney raised over $60,000,000 so far. The corporate donors have contributed little but have made a big deal about it.  The power to help Haiti lies with individuals like you.  I know that many of you following our blog made your contributions.  You are better for it.

Hope for Haiti Now

Take a moment and go to Hope for Haiti Now  and make a contribution. Or contact us and consider making a donation to the Red Cross.  Better yet, keep it simple, text HAITI to "90999" and a donation of $10 will go to the Red Cross. We will match your individual contribution up to $500 (total of $25,000).  Please acknowledge your pledge on our comments below or send us an email.

By the way, the performances were great.  My favorite was the closing song by Wyclef (below).

 

 

An Open Letter to Royal Caribbean Passengers Cruising to Labadee, Haiti

Haiti is in turmoil. Over one hundred thousand Haitians lay dead in the streets and rubble of Port au Prince alone.  The anguish and suffering of millions overwhelm our senses. 

There is a raging debate taking place in U.S. newspapers, television and the internet, as well as in the comments to this blog. Is it appropriate to sail into the idyllic port of Labadee, Haiti on a pleasure cruise when the dead remain unburied and the impoverished country writhes in chaos?

You must have conflicted feelings if you have a ticket on a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Caribbean this month.

But the fact of the matter is that the cruise line made a decision to sail to its “private destination” of Haiti irrespective of the public debate. In an interview yesterday, the President of Royal Caribbean, Richard Goldstein, explained to National Public Radio (“NPR”) that the decision to continue business as usual in Haiti was a “pretty easy decision . . . a no-brainer.”

A "no-brainer?"  Did he really say that?  Believe me, this is not a corporation racked with a social conscience.

But in the next ten days, almost 20,000 Americans - most of whom have a conscience as well as a brain - will sail to Haiti on Royal Caribbean cruise ships:

On January 22nd the Jewel of the Seas will sail to Labadee, Haiti with 2,501 passengers. On January 23rd the Independence of the Seas will sail to Labadee with 4,370 passengers. On January 24th the Freedom of the Seas will arrive with 5,400 passengers. On January 30th the Navigator of the Seas will arrive with 3,114 passengers. And on January 31st the Liberty of the Seas will end the month with 4,375 passengers.

So those of you who are cruising to Labadee in the next 10 days acutely realize that you have already paid for your cruise. Unless you cancel, and believe me you will lose your fare because in the eyes of the cruise industry there is no such thing as a conscientious objector, you will be in Haiti shortly. Whether you like it or not.

So what can you do? How can you make a difference?

Royal Caribbean issued high profile press releases about donating a million dollars over the next year or so based on the net proceeds of the money you spend in Labadee. So if you spend $170 on a zip line and a jet ski - and the cruise line figures that its costs are around $160 for these Labadee - Haiti - Royal Caribbean Private Destinationservices - it may donate $10 to Haiti. Coming from a foreign corporation which does not pay U.S. taxes and collects $6,000,000,000 (billion) from tax-paying U.S. citizens each year? 

Not too impressive.

Especially compared to Carnival, with no relationship whatsoever with Haiti, which pledged to donate $5,000,000 - $4,000,000 more than Royal Caribbean.  

Royal Caribbean also released photographs (in the Nation of Why Not?" blog) and video to the media showing a small number of pallets of water and meager food supplies. 

Not too impressive. 

So its up to you to make a difference. Try and think outside of the box.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Don’t pay for the zip line, or jet skis, or para-sailing when you arrive in Labadee. Royal Caribbean will take most of your money and eventually send a pittance to Haiti after deducting its “expenses.” Instead, put $100 in an envelope and take it to the 12 foot fence which keeps the Haitians away from you and their beach. Hand the envelope to the people who are gripping the fence and desperately staring into the beach at you. Tell them to use it for their families and friends down south. If all 20,000 of you do it - that’s $2,000,000 by the end of the month.

2. Bring a case of water with you. Jam it into your duffel bag. Bring it into Labadee. Throw it over the fence. If all 20,000 of you do it, that's 20,000 cases - or close to 500,000 bottles of water.

3. Pull out your cell phone now. Text HAITI. (It feels good). $10 will go to the Red Cross. If all of you do it, Haiti will receive another $200,000.

In the next ten days, you and your fellow 20,000 cruisers have the opportunity to provide the Haitians with almost $2,500,000, one-half million bottles of water, and a lot of hope. That’s a heck of a lot more than Royal Caribbean is even thinking about providing for the next year.

And in February, we can talk about tearing that damn security fence down which Royal Caribbean erected to keep its “private destination” isolated from the reality of Haiti and its suffering people.

Labadee Security Fence - Outside Looking In

 

Credits:

Haiti dead     taranakidailynews.com.nz

Labadee security fence            Rudbeckia Flickr Photostream  "A Haitian view of Labadee"

 

Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

Following the devastation and destruction of Port of Prince, Royal Caribbean faced the potential public relations nightmare of sailing its mega cruise ships into its private resort of Labadee with Haiti - Earthquake - Poverty - Sufferingthousands of affluent Americans partying and gorging themselves while over 100,000 Haitians lay dead and decaying in the streets and millions more already impoverished Haitians face hunger and hopelessness.     

The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. reported that Royal Caribbean's decision to go ahead with scheduled cruises into Labadee "divided passengers." One passenger commented on the popular Cruise Critic forum that he was "sickened" by the thought of frolicking in the Haitian port while other suffered:

"I just can't see myself sunning on the beach, playing in the water, eating a barbecue, and enjoying a cocktail while [in Port-au-Prince] there are tens of thousands of dead people being piled up on the streets, with the survivors stunned and looking for food and water . . .  It was hard enough to sit and eat a picnic lunch at Labadee before the quake, knowing how many Haitians were starving," said another. "I can't imagine having to choke down a burger there now.''

Another article "Cruise Ship Docks at Private Beach in Haiti for Barbeque and Water Sports" debates the appropriateness of all of this. The comments range from pointing out the "grotesqueness" of the spectacle of thousands of partying Americans in an idyllic beach to the nonchalant attitude - "life goes on . . . and as always, life is for the living."

There has always been an uneasy disconnect between the opulence of a cruise ship like Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas and a country as desperately impoverished as Haiti with a poverty rate of around 80 to 85 %.  Most Haitians are forced to survive on less than $2 a day.  The U.S. passengers on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, on the other hand, spend more for the Labadee - Haiti - Inside the fence - isolated from povertycruise, drinks, casino chips, and excursions than most Haitians will see for decades.  In addition to the Independence, Royal Caribbean's Navigator, Freedom, Enchantment and Liberty of the Seas, as well as its subsidiary Celebrity Cruises' Solstice, will all call on Labadee this year. 

The disparity between the haves and the have-nots will become even more pronounced as the $1,400,000,000 (billion) Oasis of the Seas, which visited Labadee in December last year, will begin arriving every other week in Labadee starting in May.

The executives at Royal Caribbean know how to make a hard bargain with Caribbean islands which have little economic bargaining power. CEO Richard Fain cut a deal where for only $6 a passenger (paid by the passenger), Haiti turned over a 260 acre tropical waterfront paradise of Haitian sovereign land for Royal Caribbean to consider it "private property" bearing the trademarked name "Labadee®." Yes, that's right.  This is a name that Royal Caribbean trademarked  as a variation of the French slave owner Marquis de La'Badie who settled in Haiti in the 1600's.

Many years ago an article revealed the hypocrisy of this whole endeavor.  Entitled "Fantasy Island:  Royal Carribean Parcels Off a Piece of Haiti," the article explained that Royal Caribbean began docking in Haiti in January 1986 after the ruthless dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier leased the land to Royal Caribbean.  He thereafter fled to France and the country turned into chaos for the next decade. 

Cruise Ship - Party - Eat, Drink and Be MerryRoyal Caribbean's timing was perfect.

The article continues: "plagued by a ravaged economy, residual political unrest, and 7,000 unemployed soldiers, the Haitian government was willing to bargain . . . Royal Caribbean got dirt-cheap entry, minimal regulation, and tactful silence."  The Haitian government earns less than $30,000 a week from the Royal Caribbean cruise ships, but, as Haiti's minister of tourism said: "we need to start somewhere."  Haiti was desperate. Royal Caribbean was Haiti's only choice.

Many argue that for the past many years, Royal Caribbean has not promoted or invested in Haiti.  Instead, as the article explains, it "exploited an acquiescent government and dictated its own terms of entry."  Its plan was to sell U.S. customers on an imaginary paradise.

Travel agents took the cue from Royal Caribbean and marketed the port as a "private island."  The fact that it was no island at all, but part of the mainland of Haiti, didn't bother the travel agents or the cruise line.  And it worked.  Consider a cruise review a couple of years ago:

One of the best Private Island experiences you could ever wish for! Labadee has four beaches and facilities for lots of people! Labadee is owned and operated by Royal Caribbean for the exclusive use of it's own passengers only . . .  Royal Caribbean maintains a nice lunch area on the island.  Here you can graze at your heart's content,  The cuisine was hamburgers, hot dogs, Haiti - Earthquake - Disasterchicken, ribs, various salads, and deserts. No charge. It's all included in the cost of your cruise!

Even last week, the Miami Herald ran a headline, cluelessly referring to Royal Caribbean returning to the "island" of Labadee. But the pretense of an island is only half of the illusion. Not only did Royal Caribbean fail to promote Haiti, it didn't even refer to Labadee as being in Haiti.  Rather it referred to Labadee as part of Hispaniola (the island comprising the Dominican Republic and Haiti) to try and keep the image of Haiti's poverty, violence, and civil unrest away from its customers.  

Labadee might as well be an island, considering that Royal Caribbean hires armed guards to patrol the 10-12 foot fences which isolate the Haitians from the cruise line's "private island."  Royal Caribbean keeps the locals away from its passengers who are "happily ensconced on the shores of paradise" with no idea that just over the walls are shanty-towns, sweat shops, and hungry and impoverished Haitians. The money spent in the private paradise of Labadee doesn't spread far beyond the fences. The article points out that all of the food, drinks, and even the tropical fruits and vegetables all come from Miami.

So now after isolating itself physically, financially and figuratively from Haiti for the past 20 years, Royal Caribbean is trying to justify not disrupting its business while not seeming indifferent to a country it has been indifferent to for 20 years. It just spent big bucks ($50,000,000) building a new wharf - one of the few locations which can handle the new mega ship Oasis of the Seas - as well as the world's longest zip line and an alpine coaster.  Royal Caribbean is banking on bringing the Oasis' 6,000 captive passengers onto that new wharf and charging them for the new zip line ($65), or wave runners ($80) or para-sailing, etc.      

In the last few days, Royal Caribbean has made a big deal talking about offloading pallets of food for Haiti. Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas sailed with only 60 cases of food and water  last Friday according to the Royal Caribbean President's "Nation of Why Not?" blog. That's just four pallets. The blog has some photographs of the few pallets from the Independence of the Seas - four pallets of flour, tomato sauce, can goods, and water bottles. Four pallets?  Considering that on a typical seven-day cruise Labadee - Haiti - Royal Caribbean "Private Destination"the cruise ship's passengers consume over 100,000 pounds of food and 12,000 gallons of alcohol over the course of over a hundred thousand meals- the photograph of the meager provisions sitting on the dock dwarfed by the huge Independence of the Seas seems like a sick joke. 

Subsequent articles mention that other cruises have included up to 40 pallets of food, photographs of which no one has seen, but if true this still is a pittance given the enormous needs of the Haitian people and the huge capabilities of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. 

Supporters of the cruise line point out that Royal Caribbean also pledged to donate a million dollars to Haiti over an unspecified period of time.  It talks about using the net profits collected from the passenger's monies spent in Labadee.  Whether this occurs over the course of 6 months or a year remains to be seen.  Now a million dollars is a lot of money to me and probably anyone reading this article, but it is peanuts for a cruise line like Royal Caribbean. 

Royal Caribbean collects around $6,000,000,000 (billion) a year.  And because it registered its business in Liberia and its cruise ships fly the foreign flags of Liberia or the Bahamas, it pays $0 in federal Income taxes. $0.     

Why only a million dollars?  That will accomplish little. Even Royal Caribbean's competitor Carnival promised to send $5 million to Haiti, and it has no relationship with Haiti.  The $6 a passenger deal which Royal Caribbean struck with the leaders of Haiti rips the Haitian people off.  $6 to go into a 260 acre private paradise?  Well established ports in Alaska collect $50 a passenger in head taxes just to step off of the cruise ship. 

Americans are generous people. For the next two years, Haiti should receive $100 a passenger.   With 6,000 passengers from the Oasis of the Seas alone coming into Labadee a week, the country could receive $600,000 a week Richard Fain - President Clinton - Adam Goldstein - Labadee - Before Disasterrather than the current pittance of $30,000.  Each  passenger can pay $50 and the cruise line can pay the other $50.

If the cruise line can collect $65 for a 2 minute zip line in Labadee for fun, it can sure as hell can pay $50 a passenger to Haiti to deal with the humanitarian crisis unfolding before its eyes.

$600,000 a week could begin accomplish something.

But instead the cruise line is talking peanuts.  And its PR people have created the illusion that the Royal Caribbean executives are in Haiti walking the streets and helping the people.  

Royal Caribbean's website shows a photograph of CEO Fain and President Goldstein (above) walking with President Clinton with the mountains of Haiti in the background, next to headlines:

"HUMANITARIAN AID TO HAITI."  

The photograph looks impressive; any photo shoot with a President is worth hanging on your wall.  But neither Mr. Fain nor Mr. Goldstein have traveled to Haiti since the disaster.  And the photograph has nothing to do with humanitarian aid.  It was actually taken last year before the earthquake when President Clinton was visiting Haiti on an official visit as the United Nations special envoy. 

This U.N. trip was covered by Jason Maloney, of the Pulitzer Center, who ironically enough commented on Royal Caribbean's historical reluctance to support or even acknowledge Haiti. The center explained that there are "political sensitivities surrounding the ownership of the resort."  It called Royal Caribbean Pulitzer Center - Labadee - Haiti - Richard Fain - President Clinton - Adam Goldstein - Before Earthquakeout on its claim that Labadee is a “private beach destination” or the company’s “private island.”  It also ran a photograph (left) of CEO Fain, President Clinton, and Royal Caribbean President Goldstein (in baseball cap and shorts) when Clinton was visiting the cruise line's "private destination." 

It seems rather shameful for Royal Caribbean to pull out a photo which has nothing to do with the "humanitarian" crisis for its own PR purposes.

Royal Caribbean has a net worth of $15,000,000,000.  It has a (tax free) annual income almost twice greater than Haiti's gross national product. 

So in this context - Royal Caribbean's highly publicized pledge of a a measly one million dollars, random pallets of food and water, and a misleading photograph of the cruise line executives with an ex-President are - - - pitiful. 

Royal Caribbean is proposing nothing meaningful to address the profound problems of this impoverished and exploited country.   

 

To help Haiti, text HAITI and a donation of $10 will go to the Red Cross.  As of this posting, Americans have donated over $19 million via texting for Haiti.  

 For other articles on this issue:

South Florida Business Journal (Kevin Gale)

The Guardian "The Haves & Have Nots in Haiti" (Gwyn Topam)

Sphere "Vacationing in Hell: Cruise Ships Land in Haiti" (Dave Thier)

"Cruise Ships in Haiti and Misdirected Moral Outrage" @thethirdestate

 

 Credits:

Haiti - earthquake     AP (via Mail OnLine)

Royal Caribbean cruise ship        thewe.cc 

Haiti - earthquake                             @CarelPedre via @Mashable

Independence of the Seas                 "Nation of Why Not?" blog

Royal Caribbean executives (top)       Royal Caribbean's website

Royal Caribbean executives (bottom)     Pulitzer Center

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Historic Port of Falmouth - Jamaica's "Crapital" for the Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Cruises plans on using Falmouth, in Jamaica, as a port for its new monster of a cruise ship Oasis of the Seas.  There is a concern in Jamaica that Royal Caribbean is exploiting it's historic town in the process.

A Historic and Quaint "Colonial" Town - Sugar, Rum & Slaves  

Port of Falmouth Jamiaca Falmouth is the chief town and capital of Trelawny parish, Jamaica, and is located on Jamaica's north coast near Montego Bay.

In the late 1700's, Jamaica was the world’s leading sugar producer. There were hundreds of sugar estates and enormous wealth created by slaves for the rich estate owners. Falmouth was named after the birthplace of Sir William Trelawny in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain. At the turn of the 1800's, one hundred sugar plantations in Trelawny parish provided sugar and rum for export to Britain. Falmouth also has a notorious past because it was a center for the slave trade from Africa.  Based on its rum, sugar and slave business, it became one the wealthiest ports in the "New World." 

Falmouth is also considered to be one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved historic towns. Historic FalmouthMeticulously planned in the Colonial style, it is often compared to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, here in the United States. 

Royal Caribbean Makes a Sweet Deal

Several years ago, Royal Caribbean Cruises needed a port to accommodate its new "Genesis" class cruise ships (the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas).  These ships were far too big to use a regular port. 

The cruise line approached Jamaica and proposed a deal where Royal Caribbean would agree to use Falmouth as a port for its new mega ships - provided that Jamaica spend around $120 million deepening its port and creating a huge facililty to accommodate the two new mega-ships carrying over 6,000 passengers each.  The trade-off to Jamaica for this investment would be the infusion of money into Falmouth and the surrounding parish with the arrival of the new mega ships.     

Jamaica quickly jumped at the deal. No environmental impact statement or detailed economic analysis was prepared. The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) prepared promotional materials suggesting that "the destination will deeply reference the town's history, offering visitors a unigue sensory experience of the Colonial era."  William Tatham, Vice President of Cruise and Marina Operations at the Port Authority of Jamaica, proclaimed: “cruise visitors are looking for more memorable experiences, and this is certainly what Falmouth will be able to deliver.”

Royal Caribbean Cruise President Adam Goldstein  Royal Caribbean's President Adam Goldstein signed the deal with Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding  and promised to deliver 400,000 passengers a year to Falmouth over the next 20 years, with an expectation that each passenger would spend over $100 in the port. 

Jamaicans were promised a revitalized local economy with thousands of U.S. passengers spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every time the Genesis class cruise ships arrived in port.

Oasis of the Seas - a Self-Contained "Vegas with an Anchor"   

Fast forward to November 2009.  There is now little talk about passengers actually getting off the Oasis of the Seas and going into Falmouth.  Yesterday, the Charlotte Observer ran a story called  "Vegas with an Anchor," which quoted one the cruise ship's captains stating that “our hope, of course, is that people Oasis of the Seasdon't get off, because this ship itself is the destination. This is better than a lot of the islands.”

Paul Motter, the editor of the cruise community CruiseMates, echoed this sentiment: "I think it's going to be the first ship where people truly book just for the ship and hardly care where it goes."

Gadling, the online travel site, criticized the "nearly entirely inward-looking" experience of the Oasis of the Seas.  "With the aptly named Oasis, you don't need to leave the ship at all . . . As the Oasis passes by port after port, please pardon the passengers if they're not gathered at the rail watching the world pass by."

The thought of a megaship so big and self-contained that its passengers don't bother to disembark while in Falmouth is not lost on the people of Jamaica.  After spending and borrowing $120 million, they now realize that Royal Caribbean may have just taken them for a ride.

Oasis of the Seas - Looking for a Place to Offload It's Pee and Poo

In articles entitled "Why We Fail" and "Fantasies, Follies, and Frauds," John Maxwell of the Jamaica Observer warns of the  "transformation of our beautiful heirloom Falmouth . . .  to please the billionaire owners of Royal Caribbean Lines.  He writes:

John Maxwell - Jamiaca Observer"In beautiful and historic Falmouth, we are busy making a billion-dollar cosy corner for the Royal Caribbean Line on the alleged promise that they will be bringing 6,000 visitors a week to Falmouth. What we don't know is that we have probably been conned.

The Oasis of the Seas will make land-based hotels irrelevant. Instead of bringing visitors to Jamaica the new ships will bring an ersatz Jamaica to the visitors. Each of these ships will be human zoos specially designed to bemuse their clientele."

"Crapital" (sic) of the World?

Mr. Maxwell continues with his concern that Jamaica's town of Falmouth may become just a lovely place to unload the crap from the Oasis of the Seas' 6,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members:

"Given all this, the rationale for the Falmouth cruise shipping centre is simple: There's got to be somewhere to dump the huge amounts of waste generated by such a monumentally environmentally unfriendly project. Falmouth's destiny is to act as a relief point for the ship to be sanitized, resupplied with cheap Jamaican water and for the ship, its passengers and crew to offload their excrement in what will become the cruise crapital (sic) of the world"

Oasis of the Seas Allure of the SeasJamaica has a history of being exploited by foreign plantation owners, sugar barons, slave owners, bauxite-mining companies and now the mega ships of the $15 billion Royal Caribbean cruise line. 

Next year, the Oasis of the Seas will invade the historic port of Falmouth.  Later in 2010, the Allure of the Seas will follow.  When these floating-high-rise-shopping-centers cast a shadow over all of old town Falmouth, will Jamaica realize that it's once quaint port is being used for little more than a big latrine?     

 

Credits:

Historic prints of Falmouth   Falmouth Heritage Renewal

Adam Goldstein and Bruce Golding   Jamaica Ministry of Transport & Works

Oasis of the Seas   Kenneth Karsten via shipspotting.com

John Maxwell    Jamaica Gleaner

Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato

In an article in today's Miami Herald entitled "Carnival's Plan to Switch Port of Call Upsets Antigua," the newspaper reports that Carnival has dropped Antigua and Barbuda from its regular seven night Southern Caribbean cruise itinerary.

Antigua's tourism minister, John Maginley, told the Herald that Carnival informed him of their decision via e-mail:

There was no discussion, none,'' Maginely said. ``We're supposed to be partners in this thing, and all we got was an e-mail sent to the agent in Antigua that Carnival is pulling its boat. 

This will cost Antigua, which is dependent on tourism, more than $40 million annually.

This should serve as a wake up call for all ports of call which are dependent on cruise lines.  Carnival holds all of the cards in situations like this.  The notion that a sovereign country like Antigua is an equal "partner" to an 800 pound gorilla like Carnival is fanciful.  If a cruise line can make a better deal with an island next door, which charges a lower head tax, has fewer environmental restrictions, or is willing to foot the bill for a larger dock, then its "see ya later" as far as the cruise line goes. 

The cruise industry likes to promote the image that it is a responsible "partner" with the ports and their local business. Today the cruise line trade organization CLIA posted a link on Twitter @CruiseFacts to a video promoting the cruise industry in Portland Maine. CLIA suggests that its cruise line members are interested in developing and sustaining long term relationships with places like Portland and the "mom & pop" stores in its port. 

But Carnival's quick pull out of Antigua should be a warning to Portland and other small ports which bet their economic future on the cruise industry.

Cruise lines like Carnival are fickle lovers.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  Just ask the tourism minister in Antigua.  He received his "Dear John" letter that his country lost $40,000,000 via email.