Jet Ski Operator Sexually Assaults Canadian Tourist in Nassau, Bahamas

 A jet ski operator in Nassau, Bahamas sexually assaulted a Canadian woman near Paradise Island yesterday afternoon, according to the Nassau Tribune.

The crime reportedly occurred after 1.30 P.M. on a cay near Cabbage Beach. The newspaper indicates that a jet ski operator took the young woman (in her twenties) on a ride from Cabbage Beach to a cay off Paradise Island where he sexually assaulted her.

An employee of the Atlantis resort told the newspaper that he observed the woman, shortly after the incident, crying and shaking on the beach. She indicated that the jet ski operator took her to a nearby cay Cruise Port Nassau Bahamaswhere he raped her. The news account says that the other jet ski operators"... don’t like him because he has a bad reputation. He has been accused before of groping a woman on the beach."

Over a half-dozen women have reported being assaulted by jet ski operators on Cabbage Beach in Nassau, Bahamas. The U.S. Embassy has warned of this specific danger several times. A year ago we wrote that, according to the U.S. Embassy, jet ski operators sexually assaulted five tourists in just 18 months

Bahamian officials previously discussed using police and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers to patrol the beaches on Paradise Island to address the crime problem, but such plans never materialized.

Many passengers cruise to Nassau under the illusion that it is a tropical paradise. But the truth is that Nassau has been the subject of more critical crime warning that any other cruise destination in the world. The Bahamas has a far higher rate of rape and murder than any U.S. port where passenger embarked for a cruise. The cruise lines don't issue warnings before selling cruises to Nassau but typically warn their guests of the high crime rate there only during the cruise.

The Nassau Tribune has written about the rape of tourists by jet ski operators before.

The National Task Force for Gender Based Violence, Bahamas had the worst record for rapes in the Caribbean. The report stated that "while the worldwide average for rape is 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)." The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita rate.

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June 15, 2017 Update: It seems that history is repeating itself

Photo credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Royal Caribbean Cruise Executive Concerned About Crime in Nassau

Oasis of the Seas Nassau BahamasThe Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that during a meeting between the CEO of Royal Caribbean International brand, Michael Bayley, and Prime Minister Perry Christie, the cruise executive stated that he is “concerned” about high levels of crime in the Bahamas. 

Mr. Bayley says that he has previously communicated his concerns regarding the issue of crime affecting his Royal Caribbean customers to the Bahamian government through the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).

He claims that his cruise line's ships bring around 1,700,000 guests to the the Bahamas each year. However, if his cruise customers do not feel safe visiting the country, they will no longer vacation in the Bahamas, he says. 

Many cruise passengers to Nassau have told us over the last few years that they do not get off of the cruise ship upon arriving in the Bahamas because of crime ashore. 

Mr. Bayley says that Royal Caribbean is "committed to maintaining a concrete relationship with the country and plans to double visitor numbers over the next 10 years."  If true, this is an ambitious goal given the high crime rate in Nassau and the opening of ports in Cuba to Miami based cruise lines. 

Ironically, the Royal Caribbean CEO was meeting with the Bahamian Prime Minister about the development of the cruise line's private destination in Coco Cay, Bahamas. With the development of a large fixed pier, the priavte cay will be able to receive larger cruise ships including the Oasis-class ships which carry up to 5,400 passengers.

As reflected in the comments to the article, many people feel that numerous  islands in the Bahamas are being developed as private resorts for the cruise lines to escape the problems with crime and trash which detract from Nassau's reputation as a top cruise port. 

In a PR news release, Royal Caribbean promised to increase the number of Bahamians employed by the cruise line in the next five years. This is an issue where the cruise line has failed miserably in the past. Compared to other countries like Jamaica where there are many thousands of cooks, cleaners and cabin attendants working in Royal Caribbean ships, there are relatively few crew members from the Bahamas working for Royal Caribbean.

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March 9, 2017 UpdateGovt Should Be Concerned At Cruise Line’s Worries.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas in Nassau, Bahamas - Baldwin040 - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Another Crime Warning for Travelers to Nassau, Bahamas

Bay Street Nassau Bahamas Crime WarningYesterday, the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) issued a security message for U.S. Citizens traveling to Nassau, Bahamas), titled Staying Safe during Spring Break in the Bahamas.

It starts with: "avoid being alone with strangers, jet ski, taxi, or scooter operators. Be particularly cautious on secluded beaches; criminals target such isolated areas. When traveling, use only clearly marked buses or taxis, as unlicensed taxi drivers have been linked to a variety of violent crimes."

The warning ""strongly" recommends that travelers "avoid patronizing jet ski rental operations" who "continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists."

It warns not to "allow yourself to be driven off alone with a scooter operator. Unlicensed scooter operators and rental services have been linked to assaults, including sexual assaults."

OSAC cautions against excessive drinking ashore - "Visitors found alone or incapacitated have been victims of sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Watch your drink at all times. Intoxicated young women may be targeted for drugging and sexual assault."

OSAC refers to the U.S. State Department's warning that "the criminal threat level for New Providence Island (includes Nassau and Paradise Island) is rated as critical." The critical crime warning reads:

"Armed robbery and sexual assault are major criminal threats facing U.S. citizens in New Providence. The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports indicating tourists have been robbed at gunpoint or Nassau Bahamas Cruise Travel Warningknifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of sexual assaults in tourist areas as well. The Bahamas has one of the highest incidences of sexual assault in the Caribbean . . "

If you are a parent of a teenager or a college student cruising to Nassau this month on Spring Break, I suggest discussing these issues. 

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

March 6, 2107 Update: The U.S Embassy in Nassau issues another crime warning, based on the OSAC report.

Photo credit: Jpatokal at wts wikivoyage - GFDL, commons / wikimedia (top photo of Bay Street in Nassau); TampAGS, for AGS Media - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia (bottom photo of cruise wharf in Nassau).

U.S. State Department Warns that Crime in Honduras Remains Critically High

The U.S. State Department yesterday updated its travel advisory to Honduras, stating that the level of kidnapping, crime, and violence in Honduras remains "critically high." (this warning supersedes the last warning in October 2015). 

The warning states that "criminal activity is a serious problem throughout the country and the Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly respond to, investigate, and prosecute cases. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world (it's homicide rate was 60 per 100,000 in 2015; in comparison, the U.S. rate is around 4.5 per 100,000). The warning further states that the U.S. Embassy recorded 37 murders of U.S. citizens since 2011, with three recorded since January 2016.

Cruise Roatan

Many tourist-dependent businesses and U.S. and Canadian expatriates on Roatan claim that the island is generally safe. The hotels, resorts, bars and dive-shops advertise Roatan as an idyllic, tropical, get-a-way vacation paradise. The State Department warning acknowledges that the islands are generally safer than the mainland of Honduras, but the crime is still higher than what most U.S. passengers would face at home.  The warning contains specific warning about Roatan:

"Roatan & Bay Islands: Roatan and the Bay Islands experience lower crime rates than the Honduran mainland. While the national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur. You should exercise caution, especially at night. If staying at a hotel resort, book tours and sightseeing through the resort or reputable tour companies. Coxen Hole on the island of Roatan should be avoided after dark.

If you are on a shore excursion from a cruise ship, take care to book only with reputable tour companies during your stopover in Honduras. The port agencies at Mahogany Bay and Towne Center have worked to improve taxi service to and from the ports."

The warning's refers to 2014 because a NCL crew member was shot and killed near the port that year. The Filipino crew member worked on the Norwegian Pearl. Previously in 2014, a number of tourists, including a mother and her two boys from a Royal Caribbean ship, were robbed at gunpoint while taking a private trip to the beach. Earlier in 2014, a family in a rental car with their three children vacationing on a Carnival cruise ship stopping in Roatan were shot at and robbed.  

One of the problems with Honduras is it is a key player in the international drug trade. The warning explains that "transnational criminal organizations conduct narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout the country and use violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out criminal activity."

Roatan has long been considered one of Honduras' "narco-islands."

There have been several instances where crew members from Honduras have been arrested trying to smuggle drugs on cruise ships, like this arrest in Roatan of a NCL crew member from the Norwegian Dream last year. Last year also saw five NCL galley workers from the Norwegian Sun arrested in Tampa when the cruise returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up cocaine. In 2014, police officers in Brazil arrested several Honduran crew members after finding 333 bags of cocaine weighing 100 pounds on the M/S Empress, owned by Royal Caribbean and operated at the time by the Royal Caribbean brand Pullmantur.   

Roatan has been home to a notorious list of major drug intermediaries who launder money by purchasing properties on the island. Members of the “Los Cachiros“ drug trafficking ring were arrested and numerous properties in Roatan were seized several years ago.  In 2014, a drug trafficker with connections to Colombia, Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, alias "El Negro, was arrested and millions of dollars in bank accounts and numerous of his properties in Roatan were seized.   Earlier this year, Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo's' "Honduras henchman" Franco "The Wizard" Daniel Lombardi, the financial operator of the Sinaloa Cartel in Honduras, was arrested and many of his properties in Roatan were seized.

The January 2014 New York Times article Security Concerns on a Honduran Island indicates that the U.S. State Department has warned since at least December 2013 that the “level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high.” 

If you travel or cruise to Roatan, the Times' article suggests visitors:

  • not to walk alone on the stretch of beach between West Bay and West End;
  • avoid unpaved roads to the beach; 
  • avoid Coxen Hole after dark; and
  • stick to the island’s main road unless you're with a group.

Photo credit: Jim Walker

U.S. Embassy Issues Warning About Crime in Nassau

Today, the United States embassy in Nassau issues a "Personal Security Awareness" security message about the crime problem in Nassau. The message says: 

"This message is to remind U.S. Citizens resident and visiting New Providence Island (Nassau) and Paradise Island to be mindful of their surroundings at all times and employ practical personal security awareness when in public and at home to avoid being a victim of crime.

Over the course of the past six months, the U.S. Embassy has received reports of a significant Nassau Bahamas Crimeincrease in armed robberies throughout New Providence, specifically targeting patrons of ATM machines, parking venues at various retail locations, and armed car-jackings.

For your safety, you should:

• Avoid using ATM machines located in isolated areas and consider using ATM machines located in shopping centers that have security coverage. Use the buddy system when using ATM machines.

• Keep your car doors locked and your windows rolled up as you drive. Keep valuables out of sight in your vehicles when parked (cell phones, laptops, cash, GPS or other valuables).

Armed robberies and violent crimes continue to be the primary criminal threat in The Bahamas – which in many instances have occurred in areas frequented by tourists."

There have been over a dozen crime warnings from the U.S. about Nassau, Bahamas in the last several years, from the U.S. embassy in Nassau and the U.S. State Department. The last warning was released just two months ago - Crime in Bahamas Remains Critical. In January of this year, the U.S. embassy in Nassau reported that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 U.S. tourists in just 18 months.

When I first started this blog in 2009, several of the first articles were about the armed robbery of cruise ship passengers in Nassau. In October 2009, the Tribune newspaper in Nassau reported that two "vicious robbers" held a group of 11 terrified cruise tourists at gunpoint and robbed them of cash and their possessions at the Queen's Staircase on a Sunday afternoon.  A month later, gunmen armed with a shotgun robbed and terrorized 18 Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise passengers on a Segway Tour. 

None of the gunmen were ever arrested. A cruise passengers said that the Bahamian police falsely told her after she was robbed that "this never happens here. Never." It seems that it has been downhill in Nassau ever since. 

Nassau has received, by far, the most critical crime warnings of any port in the Caribbean. Nassau has an ineffective police force and a broken legal system.  It is the one port which I say avoid at all costs.

July 13 2016 Update:  Is the Bahamas travel advisory a tit-for-a-tat for prior U.S. travel warnings? Is this U.S. security message retaliation for the travel advisory issued by the Bahamas?  Read:  Bahamas Wrong To Issue Travel Advisory To Black Men and U.S. Hits Back With Security Message To Citizens And Visitors In The Bahamas.

July 14 2016 Update: National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage insists that the U.S. embassy is “wrong” and the assertions made in their latest crime advisory regarding the Bahamas are “not true. Unfortunately, we have seen these type of denials by the authorities in Nassau as long as we have had this blog. Meanwhile, the Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis says Prime Minister Perry Christie and his administration have ignored the reality of crime. Dr Minnis says it is “frightening” for Bahamians to see the government continuously dismiss the crime warnings.

Photo Credit:  242 Breaking News 

41 Dead, 239 Injured in Terrorist Attack at Airport in Istanbul

Istanbul TerrorTerrorism hit the Atataturk airport in Istanbul last night as three suicide bombers exploded powerful devices that killed and injured a large number of people. The rising number of victims is currently 42 dead and 239 injured. ISIS is suspected as inspiring or directing the attack. 

Cable news repeatedly showed frightening images of massive explosions in a transit lounge as well as a gunman, running into the airport shooting a AK-47 assault weapon, who then is shot by airport security and drops his weapon only to blow his suicide vest up as he lies on the floor.

This latest attack comes on the heels of previous terrorist attacks in Turkey (including two prior attacks in Istanbul this year, including a car bomb earlier this month and a suicide bomber earlier this year as well as deadly car bombs in Ankara this year) which doubtlessly will have the effect of frightening people from traveling or cruising to Turkey. 

A number of newspapers have recently reported that the two terrorists attacks last year in Tunisia (which killed 17 cruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ships at the Bardo Museum in Tunis and, later, several dozens of British tourists on holiday at beach resorts in Sousse Tunisia) is Istanbul Terrorcausing the country's tourism industry to struggle. Skift reports that Tunisian tourist revenue was down 35 percent last year, at $1.5 billion, and caused the dinar currency to historic lows against the dollar and euro this month. 

This is bad news for the future of tourism in Turkey. There have been at least eight terror attacks in Turkey dating back a year.  USA TODAY today published an article today which notes that "the string of attacks have caused a big drop in tourism, a major source of revenue for Turkey. Many cruise ships that used to make port calls in Istanbul are bypassing the city."

The U.S. State Department "warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey" (i.e., near Syria). The June 27, 2016 warning, issued the day before the attack, said: ""foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations."

The CruiseArabia website says that "just two international cruise ships were in Turkish waters at the time of the attack Tuesday, both Wind Star and Royal Caribbean’s ‘Jewel of the Seas’ have continued with their cruise itineraries as planned.

At the time of writing Jewel of the Seas was in port in Kusudasi while Wind Star was anchored off Bodrum. Both Windstar Cruises and Royal Caribbean have refused to comment on whether any additional security has been put in place for passengers on shore excursions in the wake of the attacks."

Photo credit: Top - Fox News; Bottom AP via IndianExpress

Is There a Cruise Anywhere That Travel Writers Think is Dangerous?

I could not help noticing that USA travel writer Gene Sloan's article today entitled Afraid to cruise in Europe? Nuts! Now's a great time to go seems to be sponsored by Viking River Cruises.  The don't-worry-be-happy article starts after a 65 photo portfolio as part of an introductory summary of "Cruise ship tours: Viking River Cruises' Viking Skirnir" and then is followed by another 99 photos which were part of another article promoting Viking - "First look: Inside Viking Cruises' new Viking Sea." Just two days ago, Gene was hawking Viking cruises in another article - New Viking line plans epic, 141-day world cruise.

There's no question that cruising to Europe seems to be lagging behind cruises to other locations viking Cruiseswhich are perceived to be safer, like the Caribbean. We all know from comments by the cruise executives at Royal Caribbean following its last quarter that Americans Are Cruising Closer to U.S. Waters, due to the terrorist activities in Paris and Brussels.   

The number one location that we are asked about is Turkey.  To respond to such inquiries, we mention prior terrorist attacks there and the issue of immigrants from Syria and other countries, but the reader has to make up their own mind whether it is reasonably safe based on their own risk assessment.

But it's naive to think that cruising to the Caribbean is safer than cruising to Europe. I can readily say that cruising to the Caribbean will take you to some of the most dangerous ports of call in the world, not from terrorists mind you, but from common criminals. Some of the Caribbean ports have a lot of crime and high murder rates which make cruising to Nassau, St. Thomas and Roatan like cruising to East St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit except most U.S. citizens don't know any better.  Europe is far safer than the Caribbean in terms of rape, murder, harassment and theft. 

Regarding the threat of terrorism, we have written many articles pointing out what the true experts are saying, like U.S. and British naval commanders who are reporting about the threats of ISIS to Europe from North Africa. Take a moment and read the recent article by Captain Robert N. Hein, a career Surface Warfare Officer - Terrorists on the Ocean: Sea Monsters in the 21st Century via the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC). Captain Hein previously commanded the USS Gettysburg (a guided-missile cruiser) and the USS Nitze (a destroyer).  I also suggest that travelers consider the warning of retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis or the warning from the U.K. naval commander for NATO that ISIS presents a threat to shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Most experts seems to say it's just a matter of when and where, not if, ISIS will attack. The highly respected gCaptain reported yesterday that Captain William Nault, Chief of Staff with the multi-national Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), told Reuters that Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch remains a powerful force and poses a growing risk to ships.  

We have seen other don't-worry-about-a-thing articles from travel writers before, like the article in the Telegraph in February - Are Cruise Holidays Safe from Terrorism? written by U.K. cruise travel specialist Jane Archer, who appeared to us to ignore history and down-play the threat of terror.

Chances are remote, of course, that you will be attacked by terrorists when you cruise in or around Europe. The chances of being a victim of crime in the Caribbean are greater. But as far as cruises in either part of the world, you certainly aren't nuts if you decide to vacation somewhere else this summer. 

Photo credit:  By Viking Cruises - Viking Cruises, CC0, commons / wikimedia.org

Crime in Bahamas Remains Critical

Crime in the Bahamas remains critical, according to an annual report published by the U.S. Department of State.  

The U.S. report comes at a time when the Bahamas continues with a high murder rate.  The report says that "2015 was the most deadly year in Bahamian history."  Today the Nassau Guardian reports in an article titled "Two Die in Shootings" that two Bahamians were shot and killed in New Providence.

According to the U.S. report, the Bahamas has not released public comprehensive updated national crime statistics since July 2013. However, the murder rate in the Bahamas increased by 22 percent in Nassau Bahamas 2015. Police recorded 149 murders in 2015, up from 122 in 2014. (The Nassau Guardian reports there was a fewer number, 146, murders last year). 

With a population of a little over 400,000, the Bahamas has an extraordinary high murder rate of around 37 per 100,000. Considering that most of the murders are in Nassau (New Providence) the murder rate is even higher if the family islands are excluded. The murder rate in the U.S. is only around 4.5 per 100,000.    

The report concludes that "the preponderance of violent crimes reported were perpetrated against local Bahamians, and these occurred in areas of saturated criminality and not typically frequented by tourists." However, the report quickly adds that "despite strenuous anti-crime incentives sanctioned by the government of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas during the past year, New Providence witnessed a substantial increase of violent armed crimes in locations that are also heavily frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In many instances, these incidents resulted in fatalities. Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings, general theft of personal property, and sexual assaults remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists."

The report continues: "In 2015, several incidents were reported that either involved tourists or occurred in well-known tourist locations. Specifically, crimes were reported near popular tourist areas close to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas. While there is no indication that U.S. citizens have been targeted directly, criminals have become more brazen and creative in their methods. For example, several armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas. Armed assailants have placed random items in the street as impromptu roadblocks so unassuming drivers would stop and could be robbed. In separate instances, four Embassy employees were victims of a robbery."    

"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. The Embassy issued five separate Security Messages for U.S. Citizens in 2015 (Spike in Crime, Recent Armed Robberies, Credit Card/ATM Fraud, Jet ski Sexual Assaults, and Crime during the Holiday Season). Police recently warned women to be extra vigilant after a recent spike in the number of reported sexual assaults in Nassau. The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated; and in 2015, there were reported sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet-ski operators. The majority of these sexual assaults were reported to have occurred on relatively “safe” beaches within the confines of Paradise Island and heavily frequented by tourists and Embassy personnel. As a result of this trend, on January 6, 2016, Embassy Nassau put the use of jet-skis operated by local nationals in New Providence off-limits to all Chief of Mission personnel/agencies domiciled in The Bahamas."

The U.S. State Department report touches upon the fact that there have been sexual assaults on American tourists by jet ski operators in Nassau. The U.S. Embassy in Nassau reported that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 U.S. tourists in just 18 months.

Last month we pointed out that in 2005, according to the National Task Force for Gender Based Violence, Bahamas had the worst record for rapes in the Caribbean. The report stated that "while the worldwide average for rape is 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)." The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita.

We previously named Nassau as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world in 2004. As the report indicates, things have gotten worse in Nassau since then. Most of the cruise line do not warn passengers before they buy a cruise which includes Nassau, but they warn the passengers with shipboard publications before reaching Nassau. Many frequent cruisers decide to stay on the cruise ship.

Photo Credit: By TampAGS, for AGS Media - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia 

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral: "I'm Surprised ISIS Has Not Gone After Cruise Ships"

Military.com reports that retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis stated at a naval / private industry conference that the next attack by Islamic State militants may be directed to a navy ship or a cruise ship.

The military.com website quotes the distinguished retired naval commander saying: "We have an organization that has demonstrated they are highly innovative and I don't rule out a Cole-like event," referring to the 2000 event when an al-Qaida group rammed a boat filled with explosives into the U.S. destroyer U.S. S. Cole. The terrorist attack occurred when the naval ship was being refueled in the U.S. S. Cole - Cruise Ship TerrorismYemeni port of Aden. 17 American sailors were killed and 39 service men and women were injured. 

According to military.com, the commander said: "I'm surprised [Islamic State militants] have not as yet moved into the maritime world and gone after cruise ships, which I think are a logical and lucrative target for them."

He mentioned the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship by Palestinian militants who murdered Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer.

The article mentioned that Commander Stavridis said that ships were "most vulnerable when they were first getting underway and going out to sea," not when they were pier-side or out on the open ocean. "If I were an Islamic State planner, that's what I would be looking at," he said.

This is one of the scenarios which I have mentioned in articles like al Qaeda Planned to Seize Cruise Ships, Execute Passengers which I published four years ago and How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen which I published last year.

Some cruise lines have temporarily dropped ports in North Africa (Tunis) and in the eastern Mediterranean (Turkey) due to concerns with terrorist attacks.  

Photo Credit: Department of Defense via military.com

Bahamas Has Worst Record for Rapes in Caribbean

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that the Bahamas leads the Caribbean in the number of recorded rapes, according to a report by the National Task Force for Gender Based Violence.

The Tribune says that "over a 10-year period, from 2003 to 2013, there were 1,109 reported rapes, according to police statistics. In addition, from 2008 to 2012, annual police reports documented 9,045 incidents where females were the victims of assault in the country. These reports also alluded to there being numerous cases of domestic violence of a non-sexual nature."

Rapes in the Bahamas increased in 2015 when compared to 2014.

The report stated that “the Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape per capita in the Caribbean. The UN Woman narrative on gender-based violence in the Caribbean cites ‘while the worldwide average for rape was 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)."

The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita. 

The Bahamas also had a record number of murders last year, which were primarily in Nassau (New Providence). The murder rate in the Bahamas is far more than 30 per 100,00, compared to the U,S, per capita rate or around 4.5 per 100,000

These statistics are something to keep in mind during your next cruise to Nassau. 

U.S. State Department Warnings: Mexico & El Salvador

Yesterday the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning for Mexico. The warning applies to only certain locations in Mexico and warns U.S. citizens of traveling to certain places in Mexico due to threats to safety and security. According to the U.S. State Department, U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery by organized criminal groups in various Mexican states.

You can read the warning here.

We have heard from cruise passengers of sporadic problems in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. The majority of ports in Mexico (with the exception of Acapulco which we recommend against visiting) are not subject the U.S. warning.  We covered the last crime warning from Mexico earlier this year. Our evaluation has not Mexico Crime Warningchanged.

The State Department also issued a crime warning for El Salvador last week. Violence in this country is out of control. The current murder rate in El Salvador is among the highest in the world, an annual rate of 103.1 murders per 100,000 citizens for 2015. In comparison, the U.S. rate is 4.5 per 100,000. 

It has become a more dangerous country for tourists even since my article last summer.

It's so dangerous that the Peace Corps just announced that it was leaving the country.  

Mexico and El Salvador attended the Miami Cruise Shipping (photo above) to promote destinations there for cruise passengers.  

With crime warnings in these countries as well as in the Bahamas and other countries in the Caribbean, families from the U.S. seem  to have fewer and fewer cruise destinations not on the U.S. State Department's list of countries suffering from high crime rates.

Photo credit:  Jim Walker

U.S. Embassy in Nassau: Jet Ski Operators Sexually Assaulted 5 Tourists in 18 Months

The AP reports that the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas yesterday has singled out operators of jet skis following the latest sexual assault of a U.S. citizen by a man on a jet ski on Cabbage Beach. We reported that the police in Nassau arrested a Bahamian on January 2nd following the rape.

According to the AP account, the embassy reported there had been five sexual assaults of U.S. citizens by jet-ski operators in Nassau since July. The actual warning refers to July of 2014.  In addition, the embassy "banned its staff from using jet-ski rental companies because of insufficient regulation. It recommended U.S. citizens not use them either."  The recommended ban applies to Cabbage Beach and Miami Cruise Ship Crime - NassauCable Beach.

You can read the warning from the embassy here.

In 2014, the New York Times published an article about the high crime rate in Nassau, in general, and watercraft operators there in particular after the embassy issued a similar crime warning last year. The Times interviewed me in the article, after jet ski operators sexually assaulted at least three American tourists. The embassy warned of "increasingly brazen" crimes sweeping the Bahamas. 

The article said that the prime minister convened a special national security meeting last year after allegedly devising "several crime-fighting strategies." The Bahamas never disclosed these so-called new strategies to the public. The long-standing problem with rogues associated with jet ski operators assaulting tourists seems to have continued until today. Many in the Bahamas are critical of Prime Minister Cristie who has repeatedly told the press throughout the year that his government would roll out new policies to counteract the rise in crime but such plans never materialized. 

The Tribune news paper in Nassau said yesterday that the Bahamian arrested for the alleged rape was was not a water sports operator but “just a man with a Jet Ski and a boat hanging on the beach."

The newspaper also said that Bahamian officials are discussing using police and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers to assist her ministry in patrolling the beaches to address the problem. 

One person commenting on the article said: "This is just what our tourists come here to see, machine gun toting cops and marines on the beach fraternizing with the jet-ski operators. What a scene of tropical paradise."

The recent warning from the U.S. Embassy is one of over ten crime warnings from various government agencies about Nassau in a little over two years.

Many cruise ship passengers still don't know that when they get on a ship here in Miami heading for the Bahamas, they are heading to a country with a national crime rate many times higher than the U.S. rate. The cruise lines don't issue warnings before selling cruises to Nassau but typically warm their guests of the high crime rate there during the cruise.

More Per Capita Murder than Detroit: Nassau Continues with Mayhem in 2016

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau, a newspaper anyone thinking of cruising into the Bahamas with your family should read, blasts the following headline today: Four In Hospital After New Year Shootings.

The Bahamas reached a record murder rate in 2015 of 148 homicides, reported by the Tribune. Putting this murder rate into perspective, the U.S. murder rate is around 4.5 per 100,000 people. The Bahamas, with around 330,000 people, has a per capita murder rate of approximately 44.4 per 100,000, That's right, the Bahamas has a per capita rate of approximately 10 times that of the U.S. The Bahamian country's per capita murder rate places it among the most violent and dangerous cities in the U.S., a little higher than Detroit (43.5 per 100,000) and New Orleans (39.6 per 100,000).  

Now, defenders of the Bahamas will argue that the Bahamas consists of almost 700 islands; most of Nassau Bahamasthem have not experienced a single murder in a long time. They are right, most of the murders have been in New Providence (Nassau). But this actually makes the per capita murder rate significantly higher in Nassau, where the majority of cruise ship passenger are unloaded, when you calculate the Nassau per capita murder rate based on its population of around 250,000. 

When I started this blog in 2009, there were two incidents in Nassau (which you can read about here and here) where two groups of cruise passengers from Disney and Royal Caribbean ships were robbed at gunpoint. The first group were visiting a popular tourist spot on a Sunday (Queen's Stairway in downtown Nassau) and the other group were on an official cruise line "Segway excursion."  I mention these facts now because many people in Nassau will try to convince you that only drunk cruise passengers "looking for trouble" (i.e., looking for drugs or prostitutes or those who wander "over the hill") are at risk for being a victims of crime. Given the lackadaisical response by the Bahamas police to these violent crimes and the fact that cruise ships were not even warning of the crime problem back then, I have written about this issue repeatedly. 

Enough passengers have been robbed or raped in Nassau for the U.S Embassy, the U.S. State Department, the U.K. and Canadian Foreign Affairs Offices to issue 10 crime warnings in less than 2 years. 

Travel Weekly just featured an interview with Joy Jibrilu, Director General, Ministry of Tourism, of the Bahamas. I was stuck with just how out of touch she sounds with the reality of the crime around her that threatens to scare knowledgeable vacationers away from considering Nassau as a vacation place. Compare her interview with the frank talk of Adrian Gibson who wrote an opinion piece for the Tribune a couple days ago titled A Young Man's View: The Matters That Must Be Resolved In 2016. Among other issues, he points out that arrivals by cruise ship are falling and and "crime is out of control."  

Cuba will soon provide a much safer and many say a far more interesting port than downtown Nassau. However, in the cruelest of ironies, Ms Jebrilu mentions that many "Americans and Europeans will be thinking about where they’re going to take their vacations." She adds that "where they may have gone to North Africa, even to places in Europe or Turkey, I think they’re going to think twice and wonder if they should stay closer to home (because of international terrorism) . . . we have proven to be a very safe destination."

I suggest that Ms. Jibrilu walk over to the Prince George Wharf when all of the cruise ships from Miami and Fort Lauderdale are crowded into port and interview the tourists who decide to stay on the ships rather than tour Nassau. I think she will quickly find out that whereas ISIS may be the last thing on their minds, many U.S. passengers will tell her that they are keeping their families on the ships because of fear that they will have a gun pointed in their faces if they walk down the gangway.  

Photo Credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Creative Commons / Wikipedia

Cruise Ship Terrorism: "The Elephant in the Room" for 2015

We are just a few hours before placing 2015 is in our rear view mirror as we start upon a fresh New Year. So what are the memories which come to mind when we think of taking a cruise in 2015?  And what are the lessons that the cruise industry learned in 2015 which will ensure that history does not repeat itself in 2016?

I started the draft of this article by listing all of the ship fires this year, as well as the cases of passenger and crew member overboards, children drowning in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards, and sexual assaults of children and women. But all of these incidents, no matter how tragic, don't come close to the scope of the death and mayhem associated with the murder of two dozen cruise passengers by terrorists in Tunis, Tunisia.  

The incident which kept coming back to me as I wrote this article was the massacre of twenty-two Tunis Terror Attackcruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ships in Tunisia. This terrifying incident involving cruise ships which were docked at the La Goulette cruise port in Tunis should have brought the reality of radical Islamic terrorism directly to the attention of cruise executives in the U.S. and Europe. We warned about incidents like this happening a month prior in ISIS Poses Terrorist Threat to Cruise Ships in Mediterranean. The passengers, however, received no warnings from the cruise operators which sent bus loads of tourists to the Bardo Museum without making any security arrangements whatsoever. 

The day before the massacre, the cruise executives presented a “state of the cruise industry” speech at the annual trade convention on Miami Beach, Cruise Shipping Miami. The CEOs of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), and MSC Cruises discussed building bigger ships and expanding into new markets such as Cuba and China. The CEO of NCL, Frank Del Rio, remarked that “Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon could be more lucrative than Cuba.” The convention audience politely applauded and the other cruise executives smiled. I couldn’t help tweeting “have you heard of ISIS?

With the blood of twenty-two dead passengers on their hands, the cruise lines doubled down and announced that there were no indications that terrorism could strike a cruise ship or its passengers and crew in Tunis. The cruise industry not only refused to take any responsibility for the massacre but the spokesperson for the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) boasted that "cruise ships are a safe and secure place for our guests in the rare event of a shore side incident." MSC Cruises USA CEO Rick Sasso said "There was no hint of terrorism or uncertainty in Tunisia before the attack . . . There are a zillion ports around the world, and we follow all of them. . . There was nothing going on there that indicated this should've been a concern."

The truth is that Tunisian soldiers were engaged in ongoing battles against Al Qaeda when the MSC and Costa ships sailed there. There were prior suicides bombers which targeted hotels and museums filled with tourists. The U.K. had issued a prior warning of a terrorist attack on tourist sites and the U.S. repeatedly urged caution. ISIS was recruiting young men from mosques in Tunis to be trained and radicalized in Libya. The signs of trouble were all there.

The most frequent question which I have received this year is "is it safe to cruise in the Mediterranean with my family?" Yahoo asked me to write an opinion piece about the cruise industry shortly after disaster struck at the Bardo museum. In response, I penned Is Cruising Safe? A Chilling Look at an Industry Under Siege which provides my thoughts about the issue of safety and international terrorism.

The cruise industry needs to wake up. Tunis was preventable. Greater attention to Al Qaeda and ISIS is necessary to avoid a similar if not worse attack on innocent passengers. Dangerous ports need to be avoided. In the past, Princess Cruises used security teams / police to accompany tour bus excursions in Egypt. Maritime security teams are also required in foreign ports of call to address the risk of waterborne attacks. Cruise lines are overflowing with cash. The cruise industry collects around $45 billion a year, pays their crew members peanuts and doesn't pay U.S. taxes. The industry needs to start investing some of those tens of millions of dollars into substantial security to keep their guests safe. 

NCL's executive Del Rio, who salivated over record profits in Tunis and other risky Arab/Middle Eastern ports earlier this year was interviewed by Travel Weekly last week. Of course he remains bullish about cruising in 2016 but said that terrorism is always the "elephant in the room."  Well it's time that the cruise lines began talking about the elephant.

In the past couple of weeks, travel agents and travel writers have written articles about whether cruise lines are prepared for radical Islamic terrorism. A Florida travel agent wrote "A Boatload of Reasons Why You Should Feel Secure on a Cruise Ship" for Travel Pulse. Australian travel writer Michael Gebicki wrote "How Do Cruise Ships Guard Against Terrorism?" Neither article explains what cruise lines are actually doing or provide any reason why you should feel protected on a cruise ship. Both articles are just spinning the story to assure that travel in places like North Africa and the Middle East are not disrupted. These articles don't even admit that most cruise lines do not have any weapons on the ships to repel an organized attack up the gangway. Take a look at the pitiful way cruise ships responded to the threat of pirates and you can quickly realize that the industry is unarmed and not prepared to protect the passengers or crew. 

Cruise ship security teams seem to have their hands full responding to drunk passengers on their ships.  A well organized attack by ISIS will send the weapon-less security guards scurrying into the ship. The obvious will then become apparent - that cruise ships are sitting ducks.  We already know that al Qaeda has planned to seize cruise ships and execute passengers years ago. The difference today is that terrorists are no longer interested in holding hostages, but are motivated to simply kill and terrorize as many people as possible.

There will be travelers who read this and will respond that the threat of terrorism is everywhere; just ask the residents of Paris or the citizens in San Bernardino, California. Don't be afraid because the terrorists will already be winning, they will say. Perhaps so.  But my thoughts are that a family looking for a relaxing vacation who picks a cruise vacation to the Mediterranean on a huge cruise ship fiiled with thousands of other passengers is just asking for trouble. 

Photo Credit: Bottom AFP

Jet Ski Operator Sexually Assaults Tourist in Nassau, Bahamas

A Bahamian newspaper reports that the police department in Nassau, Bahamas arrested a jet ski operator this past weekend after he allegedly sexually assaulted a female visitor.

The Tribune newspaper says that the alleged sexual assault happened on Friday off Cabbage Beach near Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas.

The woman reported topolice officers that around 3 P.M. she was Nassau Bahamassexually assaulted by a man on a jet ski.

Last week, we reported on the 10th crime warning issued for Nassau by the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. State Department in less than 2 years. There is simply no more dangerous place to go on a cruise vacation than Nassau. 

We have discussed the danger of sexual assault and Bahamian jet ski operators before, as the warnings specifically mentioned the prior sexual assaults of girls on the beach by the popular Atlantis resort.

A year ago, the Tribune published an article about a U.S. tourist who said that she was sexually assaulted by jet ski operators on the beach by the Atlantis resort.

Coincidentally, the Director General of Tourism, Joy Jibrilu, recently spoke about tourism in the Bahamas. She was quoted today commenting about how to remain "on the cutting edge of the ever competitive tourism industry." She said "the Bahamas is seen as a high-end or expensive destination and stressed that customers must be given value for money."  There is nothing remotely "cutting edge" about tourism in Nassau. In truth, the cruise visitors I talk to view Nassau as a crime ridden port where they stay on the cruise ships for safety reasons.

Many Bahamian tourism and police officials are downplaying if not covering up the crime problem against tourists.

Nassau is suffering through a new record of murders this year. The crime rate in the Bahamas is well over 30 per 100,000 with the majority of the shooting deaths occurring in Nassau. The U.S., by comparison, has a murder rate of less than 5 per 100,000.

How long will Miami-based cruise ships continue to sail into this crime filled trap?

December 12 2015 Update:  This article seems to have hit a nerve in Nassau.

Photo Credit: "Prince George Wharf in Nassau Harbor" by TampAGS, for AGS Media - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Wikipedia

Latest Crime Warning For Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau Bahamas crime This weekend, I received a telephone call that a 19 year old U.S. woman was robbed and assaulted in downtown Nassau on Saturday after arriving in a cruise ship and then taking a taxi from the port. She had just left a Disney cruise ship at the port in Nassau. The victim had her purse, wallet, and cell phone taken from her in the armed robbery. She reported the crime to the police in the Bahamas. The crime has not been disclosed by the Bahamian police so far

Yesterday. the U.S. Embassy in Nassau has issued a warning called a "Security Message: Holiday Season Security Awareness."

Dated December 1, 2015, the warning didn't mention the November 29th incident called into our office, but stated: "The U.S. Embassy in Nassau strongly advises U.S. citizens in The Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being a victim of crime. The holiday season is upon us and along with the 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, such as the carjacking of U.S. citizens at Jaws Beach in western New Providence on Thursday, November 26."

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau covers the crime warning.  There have been an unprecedented ten (10) warnings of crime in by the U.S. State Department and/.or U.S. Embassy in Nassau within the last 20 months or so. You can read some of our articles here and here

We picked Nassau last year to be the most dangerous cruise destination in the world.  This year, there is a record high number of murders in Nassau.

Crime tape - Crime Will Destroy Us! bahamas B2B

December 3, 2015 Update:  A number of readers ask me why do the cruise line still sail to Nassau when it is so dangerous?  My response is cruise lines are still sailing to Nassau because of these interwoven issues; (1) it is a highly profitable port for the cruise lines to include in its itinerary (2) it is an inexpensive port for the cruise industry to travel to and is convenient to cruise ships leaving Southern Florida (3) it has a deep port and is accessible to the cruise industry's monster ships like the Oasis and Allure; (4) cruise lines have limited liability (only liability for failure to warn) when cruise passengers are victimized during excursions in dangerous ports; and (5) cruise lines are primarily motivated by financial profit and will market the cruise as calling on an "exotic" destination and in the process will down-play the dangers of armed robbery and assault.

U.S. Issues Worldwide Travel Warning Due to Terror Attacks

Cruise Ship SecurityThe U.S. State Department has alerted its citizens of possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. "Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests."

The warning, which technically ended on Tuesday, advises U.S. citizens to exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile incidents including the October 31st bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, killing 224 people. on a flight from Sharm El-Sheikh to St Petersburg and the recent November 13th attacks in Paris. 

President Obama spoke this afternoon on the terror alert and stated that there is no "specific and credible" threat to the U.S. Even assuming that to be true, there have no doubt been prior terrorist incidents which have affected cruise passengers. Cruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ships were massacred in Tunis last earlier this year.  We have predicted how the next terrorist attack against a cruise ship will take place

But what can a cruise passenger do? Not much it seems. There is no right for a refund if there’s a terrorist incident in a country where a cruise passenger is traveling to. Passengers from Viking River Cruises, for example, traveled around Paris in Viking buses after the recent attacks waiting for their cruises because they had no right to cancel their upcoming cruises. it goes without saying that the mere threat of an attack is a not legal basis to cancel a cruise with any reasonable expectation of obtaining a refund. Read Five Myths About Travel Insurance and Terrorism.

Bahamas Reaches Record Murder Rate, as Chief of Tourism Police Says "Downtown Nassau Safe For Tourists"

The Bahamas just reached 128 murders for the year, a new record for the country. By way of comparison, in 2014, there were 328 murders in New York City with a population of 8,500,000 or roughly 3.85 per 100,000 population. The Bahamas is on the way to 150 murders in 2015, which with a population of 360,000 population, is about 42 per 100,000. Most of these crime occur in Nassau (New Providence).

But you would never know it listening to the Bahamian tourism officials.

The Bahamas Weekly has an interesting article today titled "Downtown Nassau Safe For Tourists, Nassau Bahamassays Top Cop." It quotes Chief Superintendent of the Tourism Policing Unit Leamond Deleveaux saying: “The downtown area is a very safe place. You can’t get it any safer.” Mr. Deleveaux also says: 

"We don’t have any reports about crimes against tourists."

“I know of no major incidents reported to the police. I am amazed that people say there are crimes against tourists in New Providence. This is myth and not factual.”

In truth, there have been many many assaults, robberies, thefts and muggings of U.S. tourists and residents written about by the newspapers in Nassau. 

The U.S. State Department has currently placed the Bahamas under a critical crime warning and cites armed robbery as a major criminal threat facing U.S. citizens in The Bahamas. "The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports of tourists robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau, to include the cruise ship docks and the Cable Beach commerce areas; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. Burglaries, larcenies and “snatch-and-grab” crimes happen in Nassau and U.S. citizens have been victims of these crimes. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as in casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships." 

Earlier this year, we pointed out that Nassau has been the focus of 7 crime warnings by the U.S. and Canada dating back to January 2014 with several sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, reportedly committed by jet ski operators on Paradise Island.

Mr. Deleveaux needs to be reminded of the murder of American sailor Kyle Bruner in Nassau. His murderers, who shot him just feet away from the Paradise Island Bridge in Nassau, were convicted last week.   

I last wrote about chief superintendent Deleveaux last December in my article Bloody Nassau about a particularly dangerous weekend when seven Bahamians were shot and three were killed. He claimed that tourists in Nassau are virtually immune from crime. He told the Guardian newspaper in Nassau "to be honest with you, crime against tourists are almost non-existent despite what you hear or is printed in the media."

Photo Credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media Creative Commons Wikipedia

New Critical Crime Warning for Honduras

Roatan HondurasAlthough crime in the country of Honduras has declined in the past two years, the U.S. Department of State continues to warn that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains "critically high,"

The State Department website warns that:

"Crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly respond to, investigate, and prosecute cases. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

The State Department says that the country's murder rate has decreased to 66 per 100,000 in 2014, down from its peak of 86.5 per 100,000 in 2011.  The murder rate so far this year is less than last year, although it is far more than the murder rate in the U.S. which is around 4.5 per 100,000. 

The warning for Roatan says that crime there and in the Bay Islands is lower than the Honduras mainland. There were efforts last year to improve tourism security.  However, "as on the mainland, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur, and rates are still high by international standards."  

"If you are traveling on a cruise ship, you should take safety precautions, avoid unfamiliar areas, and take care to book only with reputable tour companies during your stopover in Honduras."

The State Department indicates that "the vast majority of cruise line passengers in Honduras experience no problems, but incidents of armed robbery and carjacking have been reported.

We have written many article about crime in Roatan after the murder of a NCL crew member in 2014 as well as the robbery of cruise passengers and murder of local citizens.

The last critical crime warning for Honduras was issued in May 2015.

Photo Credit: Westbrowncanada Creative 3.0 Wikipedia

Bahamian Buffoonery: Nassau Politicians Spat Over Carnival Cruise Crime Warnings

Crime BahamasThe Bahamian newspapers report today on a dispute which has arisen between the government of the Bahamas and the competing party, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), over Carnival Cruise Line's apparent intention to issue crime warnings to its passengers.

A DNA official produced copies of e-mails which seem to reveal that Tourism Director Obie Wilchcombe failed to respond to repeated concerns from Carnival about the crime problem in Nassau. Mr. Wilchcombe denied receiving the emails.

The DNA official contended that Carnival was going to issue Nassau "crime warnings" this week. The Tribune newspaper says that that Mr Wilchcombe "angrily refuted Mr McCartney’s allegations" and claims that "Carnival had yesterday confirmed to him it was not intending to issue such Nassau 'advisories.’"

Both parties, to me, seem out of touch with reality. There is no question that crime in the Bahamas, including the rape and armed robbery of tourists, is a major problem for the country. Carnival's decision to warn its customers of the danger in the port is not dependent on whether the tourism officials respond to Carnivals' inquiries. I thought that this cruise line was already warning its passengers about the high crime rate in  Nassau. 

For those cruise passengers and travel agents in the know, it is common knowledge that there is an epidemic of crime in Nassau as the country heads to a record high number of murders. Many cruise passengers know that it is prudent to stay on the cruise ships when they arrive in Nassau. 

The problem remains for those tourists who are swayed by the marketing images of Carnival and the Bahamas and who cruise their families into the Nassau-war-zone with no knowledge of the considerable danger there.

Carnival owes its customers honesty. The cruise line should disclose to their guests the dangers in Nassau. The local politicians are just a sideshow. Carnival owes its passengers the same warnings that the U.S. and the U.K. and the Canadian governments have provided to their citizens.  Neither the PLP nor the DNA want to truth to be known - that Nassau represents an unreasonable danger to tourists.

Photo Credit: Caribbean 360

Crime in St. Lucia Worries Cruise Merchants

St. Lucia The St. Lucia Times reports today that, according to the the Saint Lucia Vendors Association, crime is escalating to the point that cruise lines may consider dropping Saint Lucia from their itinerary. Five years ago, Norwegian Cruise Lines, (NCL) dropped St. Lucia because of attacks on cruise passengers (see below).

The president of the vendors association described several incidents of what he said are "daily muggings of both visitors and locals in the Saint Lucia capital."

Last year I named St. Lucia as the tenth most dangerous port in the world.  I cited:

55 Celebrity Cruise Passengers & 2 Crew Members Robbed at Gun Point in St. Lucia.

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

Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia.

U.K. Couple Attacked on Yacht in St. Lucia, Husband Killed.

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

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Photo Credit: Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saint_lucia_mountain_resort.JPG#/media/File:Saint_lucia_mountain_resort.JPG

Like a Broken Record, U.S. Warns of Crime in Nassau

As reported in the Nassau Guardian yesterday, the United States Department of State again warned U.S. citizens about traveling to the Bahamas because of high crime.

A recent travel advisory posted on the Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) website warns visitors of an increase in armed robberies in tourist areas in New Providence (Nassau).

The reports says that “an apparent two-year rise in armed robberies in The Bahamas has spurred Cruise Law Jim Walker Nassaunumerous warnings by foreign governments to their citizens visiting the country. Given the large volume of US tourists that visit The Bahamas and recent criminal incidents in popular tourist destinations, American visitors to tourism hubs in Nassau should be cognizant of heightened criminal risks.”

I have lost track of exactly the number of warnings issued by the Unites States, whether it be from the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. 

I have also conveyed numerous warnings from the U.K. and Canada official governmental sites.

I have been warning cruise passengers of the dangers in Nassau since I started this blog in 2009. 

There is a major problem in Nassau with armed robbery, murder and rape.

There have been around a dozen warnings from these three countries in the last couple of years, more for any other tourist destination.  

There have been 111 murders in 2015 in the Bahamas, primarily in Nassau. The country will establish a record number of murders this year. The murders include citizens of the U.S., U.K. and Canada. 

Nassau was recently embroiled in a controversy when two Disney cruises crew members were terminated from their jobs after making a satire video of the capital city, portraying it as a dirty, smelly crime-filled port.

Nassau is one port which I recommend avoiding. Many passengers stay on the cruise ship when it gets to port out of safety concerns. 

Nassau: A Dangerous Dump?

The Tribune newspaper in the Bahamas has a headline Lawyer Says Nassau ‘Is A Dangerous Dump.' It quotes me talking about Nassau, something I have done in the past when the Nassau Guardian quoted me saying that the Bahamas are 'one gunshot away' from cruise line exit.

My personal opinions about the problems in Nassau are irrelevant, of course. There is no dispute that Nassau has a major crime problem. Just read the Bahamas Tribune (which I do every day) or  the Nassau Guardian, Bahamas Weekly or other Bahamian newspapers. Cruise passengers and crew members contact me regularly about what's happening in Nassau. Insiders at the cruise lines are not happy with Nassau as a port of call.  Serious crime, rape and murder, is a daily occurrence. Why any family sailing from Miami gets Nassau Bahamas off the cruise ship in Nassau is beyond me. 

Since Friday, the Tribune reported on a half dozen murders and a dozen shootings in the Bahamas.  

That's a lot of dead people and gunshot victims. There are only around 250,000 people in Nassau (New Providence) and only around 330,000 people in all of the 700 or so Bahamian islands (New Providence, Grand Bahama, the family islands, etc.) The murder count for the year is already well over 100 with three and a half months to go. That's to be compared with around 225 murders or so a year in Metro Miami-Dade which has 5,500,000 people, 22 times more than Nassau. This year there will be a record murder count in the Bahamas.  2015 will go down in history as the most murderous year in the history of the Bahamas. Until 2016, of course.  

Crimes against U.S., Canadian or British citizens in Nassau are rarely solved. Within the last two years, the murders of American sailor Kyle Bruner, American student Mason Hart, British diving instructor Gary Vanhoeck, British tourist Edgar Dart, and retired Canadian doctor Geoffrey Harding have not been solved, There are no arrests following assaults, robberies, thefts and muggings of Americans. The police in Nassau never arrest criminals or child predators on cruise ships flagged in Nassau.   

The U.S. Embassy and the U.S. State Department routinely warn about the threat of criminal violence in Nassau.

But most families flying or cruising into Nassau don't know of the incredible violence there. And I will keep warning, to whomever listens, of the risks in this dangerous dump.

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Photo credit: BrokenSphere Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons - Wikipedia.

New Crime Warnings for the Bahamas

"New Crime Warnings - Brits, Canadians Put Citizens on Alert" read the headlines of the Nassau Guardian yesterday. 

The newspaper reports that the governments of Britain and Canada issued advisories to their citizens about the rising armed crimes in New Providence and Grand Bahama. 

Britain updated its travel advisory to state that: "There have been incidents of violent crime including robbery, which is often armed and sometimes fatal, in residential and tourist areas of New Providence, Nassau Port bahamasGrand Bahama and Freeport. The number of break-ins and robbery incidents reported to the British High Commission has increased."

Canada's warnings state that Canadians "should exercise a high degree of caution.  Crime occurs mainly in Nassau and Freeport. There has been an increase in armed robberies targeting tourists in Nassau. Incidents take place in populated and isolated areas, and even in daylight hours high rates of crime, especially in Nassau."

Canada warns travelers to stay alert to your surroundings at all times, even in areas normally considered safe. Avoid deserted beaches and do not walk alone, particularly after dark. Sexual assaults are on the rise in Nassau . . . Foreigners have reportedly been sexually assaulted by water sports rental operators." 

Canada issued a warning about the Bahamas after a young tourist was repeatedly stabbed during a robbery.

The newspaper also reports that the United States Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) on Thursday tweeted, “When a jet skier starts shooting at the beach, do you reconsider The Bahamas?”

Most tourists from Britain, Canada and the U.S. arriving in Nassau via cruise ship do not realize that the port is much more dangerous than their home countries.

Last year we named the Bahamas as the number 1 most dangerous cruise destination in the world. Nassau's tourism business is in a precarious position with murders and crime increasing dramatically and Cuba about to open to U.S. tourists.

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Photo Credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Creative Commons / Wikipedia

U.S. Issues Travel Warning for El Salvador

El Salvador CruiseThe U.S. Department of State issued another warning to U.S. citizens that crime and violence in El Salvador continue to be at high levels. U.S. citizens traveling to El Salvador should remain alert to their surroundings. This travel warning supersedes the last warning (November 21, 2014). 

Since January 2010, 34 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador with only 6 convictions of those murders.  During the same time period, 419 U.S. citizens were victims of crime including violent crimes.

Like other Central American countries, El Salvador lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases and to deter violent crime.

Last year, we picked El Salvador to be the ninth most dangerous cruise destination in the world. Here's what I wrote: 

"El Salvador is one of a few countries which is subject to a "critical" crime warning from the U.S. State Department. It has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. In 2012, it suffered from a murder rate of 69 per 100,000 people. By comparison, the murder rate in Massachusetts, with a similar geographical area and population, was 2.6 per 100,000. Murders and crimes against U.S. citizens are rarely solved."

Fox News picked El Salvador as the second most dangerous cruise port in the world. There are two cruise ports, La Union and Acajutia. The major cruise lines avoid them but Fred Olsen has sailed there and Azamara is scheduled to do so next year.

The latest murder rates (2014) is 68.6 per 100,000 inhabitants (the U.S. murder rate is less than 5 per 100,000). There are numerous violent gangs. In addition to violent crime, a common crime affecting U.S. tourists credit is card skimming. U.S. citizens have been victimized at well-known restaurants, hotels, and El Salvador retailers.

This year I visited the El Salvador booth at Cruise Shipping Miami (photo above).

Last month, the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) held its 2015 regional meeting in El Salvador to promote cruising to Central American countries. 

In March, El Salvador Tourism Minister José Napoleón Duarte (photo) met FCCA / Carnival chairman Micky Arison at Cruise Shipping Miami in March to promote his country to the cruise industry.

You will find no mention of this latest crime warning by the FCCA, CLIA, Carnival, or El Salvador tourism representatives. 

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Photo Credit: top Jim Walker; bottom seatrade-cruise  

Carnage Continues in Nassau Bahamas

Nassau Bahamas CruiseThe Bahamian newspapers report that 4 men were murdered in Nassau on Friday and Saturday. 

The Tribune reports that the police engaged in a shoot four with armed men early yesterday. One man had an AK-47 assault rifle. The police killed one man and arrested two others. The fourth suspect is being sought.

The Tribune says that another man was shot and killed outside of a nightclub early this morning.

The murder list has reached 54 so far this year. if this rate continues, Bahamas' murder rate will elevate it to one of the most murderous countries in the greater Caribbean, Central and South America, behind only Honduras, Venezuela, Jamaica and the USVI. 

Other murders include a well known designer and a security guard at the Atlantis Resort. They were both beaten to death. 

The United Kingdom recently announced a travel advisory warning U.K. citizens of the danger of armed Nassau Bahamas Crime Warningrobbery and murder in the Bahamas. This was the eighth crime warning for the Bahamas since January 2014, totaling the warnings from the U.S., Canada and the U.K. 

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

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Photo Credit: DEK Brown

8th Violent Crime Warning for the Bahamas in 16 Months

Nassau BahamasThe U.K.'s  Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued "foreign travel advice" for travelers to the Bahamas. The U.K. crime warning says

"There have been incidents of violent crime including robbery, which is often armed and sometimes fatal, in residential and tourist areas of New Providence, Grand Bahama and Freeport. The number of break-ins and robbery incidents reported to the High Commission has increased. There are police patrols in the main tourist areas.

Be vigilant at all times and don’t walk alone away from the main hotels, tourist areas, beaches and downtown Nassau, particularly after dark. Take care if travelling on local bus services after dusk on routes away from the main tourist areas. Do not carry large amounts of cash or jewellery. Robbers may be armed."

I first learned of the crime warning from Travel Weekly

Incredibly, this is the eighth crime warning for the Bahamas in the last 16 months.

In 2014, Bahamas was the subject of 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. There have been 2 prior crime warnings from the U.S. for the Bahamas this year. With this latest U.K. warning, that's a total of 8 warnings.

I have never heard any country being the recipient of 8 crime warnings in such a short time period. The U.S. warnings are much more specific, mentioning that U.S. tourists have been raped and robbed at gunpoint. 

We last wrote about the sorry state of affairs in the Bahamas earlier this month. We received a number of interesting comments to the article which you can read here. Many people avoid a cruise itinerary which includes the Bahamas, or they stay on the cruise ship when it reaches Nassau. 

I picked Nassau as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world last year.

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Photo Credit: Bahamas B2B

FlowRider Accident Seriously Injures Passenger on Independence of the Seas

FlowRider The Independence of the Seas returned early to Fort Lauderdale this morning because a passenger sustained a serious injury yesterday.

Several passengers emailed me stating that the Royal Caribbean passenger sustained major head trauma after he fell on the FlowRider. It is unclear exactly when or how the accident occurred, but the Independence of the Seas returned to port in Fort Lauderdale this morning around 3:00 A.M.

Flowriders are exceedingly dangerous. There have been numerous broken ankles, wrists, elbows, shoulders and necks and even one death on Royal Caribbean cruise ships when a passenger broke his neck and was killed. We believe the FlowRiders are unreasonably unsafe, defectively designed with negligent instructors. 

Most passengers do not realize that the Royal Caribbean waiver which the cruise line forces passengers to sign is illegal and unenforceable under Maritime Law.  

Don't forget to read: FlowRider Accidents: Royal Caribbean Liability Waivers Are Unenforceable!

Danger on the High Seas - Royal Caribbean's Deadly FlowRider. Don't watch video if you are squeamish. 

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Video Credit: Jim Walker

Mexico Travel Warning

If you are cruising to Mexico, be sure to read the Mexico Travel Warning issued yesterday by the U.S. State Department. 

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain places in Mexico due to threats to safety and security posed by organized criminal groups in the country.

"Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major drugs trafficking routes."

"Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere, and U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, and highway robbery. While many of those killed in organized crime-related violence have themselves been involved in criminal activity, innocent persons have also been killed. The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department Acapulco Mexicoof State as murdered in Mexico was 81 in 2013 and 100 in 2014."

The cruise ports seem largely unaffected by violent crime and there are no specific warnings. However, in Acapulco, the State Department recommends not going to areas further than just "two blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas."

The state of Guerrero (where Acapulco is located) was the "most violent state in Mexico in 2013, with 2,087 homicides and 207 reported cases of kidnapping. Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable."

Last year I recommended avoiding cruising to Acapulco.

Photo Credit: N. Parish Flannery. Instagram: @nathanielparishForbes via Forbes.

Another Critical Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas

The U.S. State Department has issued a critical crime warning for Nassau, Bahamas today. The warning is titled Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Nassau (Bahamas), Nassau Violent Crime.

The warning states that U.S. citizens residing in and traveling to the Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being a victim of crime. The warning states that armed robbery remains a major criminal threat facing U.S. citizens with the crime threat on New Providence listed as “critical.”

The last warning from the State Department or the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas was just last month when the State Department issued the 2015 Bahamas Crime Report which revealed that armed robbery and sexual assaults were increasing. 

The most recent warning focused on violent incidents on March 22nd and 23rd which occurred in areas heavily frequented by U.S. citizen visitors and residents. One victim was was stabbed and killed and the other man was critically wounded and robbed. 

We picked Nassau as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world last year.

In 2014, Bahamas was the subject of 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. With the 2 warnings this year, that's a total of 7 warnings. I have never heard any country being the recipient of seven crime warnings in just 15 months. The last U.S. warning in 2014 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.

The Nassau Guardian reports that there are 34 murders so far this year, up 35% from this time last year which was a particularly deadly period of time in the Bahamas. There were 23 murders this time last year.

The homicide rate for the Bahamas is over 30 per 100,000. In the U.S. the homicide rate is only 4.5 per 100,000. Most tourists and cruise passengers to Nassau don't understand this.

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Photo Credit: Tribune 

U.S. Issues Another Critical Crime Warning for Honduras, Including Roatan

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe United States Department of State just issued a warning to U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains "critically high."  

The warning is similar to the critical crime warning issued by the U.S. State Department last year

The warning states that ". . . crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and police often lack vehicles or fuel to respond to calls for assistance. The police may take hours to arrive at the scene of a violent crime or may not respond at all. Members of the Honduran National Police have been arrested, tried, and convicted for criminal activities. Many more are under investigation. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

"Honduras has had one of the highest murder rates in the world for the last five years. The U.S. Embassy has recorded more than 100 murders of U.S. citizens since 2002."

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe warning specifically mentions Roatan:

"Roatan and the Bay Islands are geographically separated from Honduras and experience lower crime rates than the Honduras mainland. The national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security. However, as on the mainland, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur, and you should exercise caution, especially at night." 

The warning also includes cruise passengers. The warning says that although the vast majority of cruise line passengers to Roatan experience no problems, there have been reports of cruise passengers who have been victims of armed robbery and carjacking. We wrote about such incidents here and here. The warning fails to mention that a cruise ship employee was gunned down last year in broad daylight near the port, which we wrote about here

The U.S. warning says although crime remains "critically high," violence allegedly has declined in the past two years according to the State Department. Despite such assurances (no statistics provided), children in Honduras fleeing violence and drug gangs and trying to enter the U.S. remain a critical problem for U.S. - Roatan Honduras CruiseHonduran relations. President Juan Hernandez is committed to the militarization of Honduras (with the support of the U.S.) to try and stem the flow of drugs from Colombia to the U.S. But there recently have been armed confrontations between National Police and the Military Police, both of which have been accused of corruption, which many see as a new level of chaos and corruption. 

A problem plaguing both mainland Honduras and Roatan is that the vast majority of murders are carried out with total impunity. This is exactly the case with a number of killings which I wrote about on Roatan last year, like this and this and these killings involving four boys and young men whose bodies were retrieved and placed in a pickup truck while a NCL cruise ship was moored nearby. 

Meanwhile expatriate resort owners, tour operators, land owners and travel writers are assuring tourists and retirees that Roatan remains paradise.

March 3 2015 Update: Honduran Police Clean Up Declared A Failure

 

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Photo Credit: LaPrensa - top; Teledifusora Insular - bottom. 

2015 Bahamas Crime Report: Armed Robbery and Sexual Assaults Increasing

The U.S Department of State just released the The Bahamas 2015 Crime and Safety Report. Armed robberies, property theft, and purse snatchings remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists.  

The report noted that the Bahamian government has not made public comprehensive, updated national crime statistics since July 2013. However, the U.S. report indicates that the murder rate increased in 2014. Crimes, including armed robberies of tourists by perpetrators with knifes or guns, Crime Nassau Bahamasoccurred in areas frequented by tourists including areas close to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas.  The report stated:

"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. As a result, the Embassy has issued five security messages for 2014 (Spike in Crime, Recent Armed Robberies, Credit Card/ATM Fraud, Jet ski sexual assaults, and Crime during Holiday Season). Police 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 resident was kidnapped and raped. The water sports rental industry is loosely regulated; in 2014, there were four reported sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet-ski operators: three incidents on Paradise Island and one on Cable Beach." 

You can read the local article in the Bahamas entitled US: Crime Is Now At Critical Level by the Tribune newspaper in Nassau. The Tribune points out that the police commissioner said that (unspecified) serious crimes in the Bahamas decreased in 2014 compared to 2013; however, the US. report says that violent crime increased over the same period.

The Nassau Guardian has an interesting debate in its newspaper issue today regarding this issue. Minister of State for National Defense Keith Bell said that the government of the Bahamas is taking the crime situation very seriously. But FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest said that the Bahamas is not taking the U.S. warnings seriously enough. "The point is that we as a country, that sells itself as a safe, friendly destination for work and for play, this cuts to our economic survival," the Guardian quotes Mr. Turnquest.   

Last year, we picked Nassau as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world.

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Photo Credit: Nassau Guardian

Will New Cruise Safety Law End Cruise Industry's Lies About Crime?

As I mentioned in my article two days ago, ICV's Ken Carver Outlasts Cruise Industry, Ken Carver has been on a crusade to bring greater safety and transparency to the cruise industry since 2004 when his daughter Merriam disappeared on a Celebrity cruise to Alaska. In my opinion, it was not only the loss of his daughter which motivated Mr. Carver, but the despicable way that the cruise line treated him that turned him into a lifetime advocate for families who lose a family member on the high seas.  

According to ABC 15 Phoenix, "Kendall Carver said his story is proof that the cruise industry hasn't been honest about crimes committed on board. He said he hopes new legislation will keep what happened to his daughter from happening to anyone else." 

"Every two weeks somebody goes missing on a cruise ship. Merriam's case was just one of the ones that happens every couple of weeks."  

Mr. Carver and the organization which he founded, International Cruise Victims, have brought international attention to the problem of missing persons and crime on cruise ships. This morning, the U.K.'s Daily Mail published an article about Mr. Carver and the new cruise safety law entitled "New Regulations Force Cruise Companies to Publish Online Crime List Documenting Statistics for Thefts, Rapes and Murders Committed on Ships." 

 

What are the Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations for 2015?

One of the focuses of Cruise Law News is not only crime on cruise ships, but crimes in ports of calls. 

Cruise lines have a legal obliCrime in the Caribbeangation to warn passengers of crimes which occur in the ports of call where they take their passengers. Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have agents in the ports and have first hand knowledge regarding which ports are dangerous. 

Cruising is not considered by the courts to be just "point to point" transportation, as in the case of the airline industry which has no duty to warn of crime in a destination the passenger picks to vacation. The ports of call are considered to be an integral part of the cruise experience. Cruise lines must tell their passengers if its safe to proceed down the gangway with their children. Unfortunately, cruise passengers have been mugged, raped and shot and killed. The problem is that many cruise lines don't bother to tell their guests what their crew members already know. Some crew employees don't get off the cruise ship in certain ports because of the fear of being a victim of armed robbery, but the cruise lines refuse to pass this information on to the passengers. 

Next week, I'll publish the "Most Dangerous Cruise Destination of 2015." You can read my last list here. I'd like to hear from our readers which ports they have found to be dangerous, what experiences about crime ashore they wish to share, which itineraries they totally avoid, and what ports they chose to stay on the ship.

The cruise industry is too busy promoting the image of idyllic ports of paradise and selling excursions to tropical wonderlands to be honest with you. Next week we'll give you our predictions regarding which ports you're most likely to be at the wrong end of a gun during your cruise vacation.

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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.

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.

Honduras: A Dead Beauty Queen and Another Murder in "Paradise"

Roatan, Honduras came onto my radar this year when several tourists contacted us after being robbed or sexually assaulted at gunpoint during cruise stopovers. Later we were the first to report on a Norwegian Cruise Line crew member who was shot in the head for his cell phone in Coxen Hole near the cruise port.

The Foreign Policy blog says that "7,172 people were murdered in Honduras in 2012. Much of the violence plaguing Honduras is drug and gang-related. The country is a shipment point for drugs bound for the United States, and fierce gang wars have broken out to control that lucrative territory." SFGateDestiny Roatan Honduras says that Honduras is "imbued with narco culture represented by the image of a man who moves in a big car, drinks, takes drugs, walks around armed and is bad. The culture of violence and death."

Fox News Latino describes Honduras as being caught in a "homicidal bloodbath" which involves not just "gangsters, drug traffickers and police officers" but "taxi drivers, journalists, abused women and other nameless innocents."

You can now add to that list beauty queens and hair dressers.

The latest murder in Roatan involved a well-liked hair stylist in Sandy Bay named Luis Alfredo Garcia. Known as "Destiny" to his friends and customers, he was the personal stylist to Miss Universe Honduras (no connection to Miss Honduras).  Two days ago, he was found dead in his apartment at the Coral Stone Plaza. News accounts describe a gruesome scene where his throat was reportedly slit, with some accounts suggesting that his arms and legs may have been bound with rope. The expatriates in Roatan are taking steps to try and solve the crime, knowing that the local police are inept and unmotivated to do so.

Destiny's murder followed the murder last week of Miss Honduras, 19 year-old Maria Jose Alvarado, who was gunned down along with her sister, Sofia, age 23, by her sister's jealous boyfriend who buried their bodies along a remote river bank near the border with Guatemala. (Ms. Alvarado's murder reminded me of the murder this year of beauty queen Monica Spear who was gunned down by armed robbers in Venezuela, another exceedingly dangerous country). 

According to ABC News, a top law enforcement officer said that Honduras' image has been "stained forever by this horrible crime."  ABC also noted that "the country has the world's highest homicide rate for a nation not at war, with an estimated 90 to 95 killings per 100,000 people (some says that the Roatan Hondurashomicide rate has dropped down to around 79 - 80 per 100,000). Street gangs and drug traffickers are the de-facto authorities in many areas, enforcing their will through violence, fear and extortion."

The expatriate residents in Roatan are quick to try and distance them from the criminal madness on the mainland of Honduras. The dive-shop owners, resorts, realtors and tour operators go as far as to describe the Bay Islands as an idyllic "paradise." They claim that they don't even lock their doors at night.

But there are far too many stories about crime and murder in Roatan to consider the "it's paradise" stories as anything other than marketing aimed at naive retirees from the U.S. or Canada. In a one week period from November 13th to November 20th, the Televisual Insular TV station in Roatan reported on the robbery of a U.S. citizen, multiple rapes, multiple thefts to fuel crack habits, a machete attack, and the burglary of a pastor's house. The articles include photographs which portray a sense of poverty and desperation in the Coxen Hole neighborhood next to the port.  

Roatan has hardly escaped the scourge of the cocaine trade. International drug trafficker Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, alias "El Negro," owned multiple properties in Roatan where he ran his criminal drug empire shipping cocaine from Colombia before he went into hiding. (The new Honduran government seized his money, automobiles and properties in Roatan and the U.S. finally extradicted El Negro to Miami earlier this year).  

Honduras is trying to clean up its act and market itself as a destination for the ever-growing cruise Roatan Hondurasindustry.

A French newspaper reported on the incredibly tight security which met passengers in the new cruise port in Trujillo, Honduras when the Norwegian Jewel arrived last month. Two naval boats and 500 military soldiers and police officers and several hundred plainclothes officers patrolled a radius of 70 kilometers, while a plane flew overhead.

I have a hard time reconciling the assurances from the tourism people that a cruise location is "safe" with the reality that it's necessary to assign a small army to a port of call to protect the guests.   

Honduras is one of the few cruise destinations subject to a critical crime warning from the U.S. State Department ("Although Roatan / Bay Islands . . . 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"). I named it the second most dangerous cruise destination in the world earlier this year. 

Whether it's Roatan or Trujillo, Honduras is one tropical "paradise" that I don't plan to visit anytime soon.

 

November 23 2014 Update:  Honduras is a corrupt and violent place, where journalists are killed and witnesses are intimidated. Since posting this article, I have received numerous threats of violence from Honduras and the Bay Islands. One reader, Dale Woods Jones, posted: "They need to cut his tongue out so he don't talk and cut his hands off so he don't write a load of garbage about the islands."

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Photo Credits: Top - Twitter; Middle & bottom - LaPrensa

Should the Bahamas Be Permitted to Register Cruise Ships?

Nassau BahamasThree Shots In Just 12 Hours reads the headlines in the Tribune newspaper today. Other articles in the local newspapers in Nassau include Tourist: I was Victim of Sex Attack by Jet Ski Operators.

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau has issued a warning to U.S. citizens of the danger of women (including girls) being sexually assaulted by jet ski operators on Paradise Island near the Atlantis resort.  

The murder count in the Bahamas just reached 106 for the year and is rising. Last year 111 people were murdered there. The body count will exceed that number this month. The vast majority of the homicides involved local citizens and occurred in Nassau (New Providence) with a population of only 250,000.  By contrast Miami-Dade County has a total population of 5,500,000 with only 229 murders (Miami-Dade has twenty-two times as many people and only twice as many murders as Nassau).

Compounding the problem is the inability of the local police in the Bahamas to solve these crimes and prosecute the criminals. The same police officers who can't solve a crime when a U.S. tourist is robbed at gunpoint in downtown Nassau are often tasked with investigating crimes on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships.

Cruise lines like Carnival, Disney, NCL and Royal Caribbean register many of their cruise ships in Nassau to avoid U.S. taxes, labor laws and safety regulations. By flying "flags of convenience," the Miami-based cruise ships divest the U.S. authorities  from law enforcement duties. In cases where U.S. citizens are victims, the FBI has special maritime jurisdiction and are permitted to become involved (although the FBI rarely does).

But when the victim is not a U.S. citizen (over 95% of the crew are not) the FBI has no jurisdiction and the responsibility to investigate crime on Bahamian-flagged ship falls to the Bahamas. 

This is, of course, an absolute joke. There are well over a thousand ships registered in the Bahamas, including not only cruise ships but tankers, bulk carriers, and cargo ships of all types. Does anyone really think that the local police in Nassau have the interest or resources to fly to Bahamian cruise Bahamas Flag of Convenienceships around the world and solve crimes when they can't solve a crime when a tourist is assaulted in front of their own police station?

I have never heard of the police in Nassau ever solving a single crime on a Bahamian-flagged cruise ship.  But if you are a crew member from the Philippines assaulted by another crew member from Central America, it's the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) who has jurisdiction. The BMA won't do anything but may (but usually not) delegate responsibility to the Nassau police. The local police, in turn, will simply not show up.

Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, the Quantum of the Seas, has dominated the news as of late. There's endless news about all of the technological marvels on the ship. But Royal Caribbean registered the ship in crime-infested Nassau.  When the first violent crime occurs on the Quantum, don't expect anyone from the Bahamas to show up and investigate.

 

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Don't forget to read: An "Outlaw Industry" Watched By "Paper Tigers"

Photo Credit:  Tim Clarke / Tribune

Violent Protests Disrupt Cruises to Acapulco

The last time that I wrote about Mexico I'm sure that I angered the tourism representatives there: Three Cruise Lines Plan to Return to Mazatlan: Will They Provide Bullet-Proof Jackets to Passengers?   

Taking your family to a place like Mazatlan, Acapulco or most any port in Mexico seems unnecessarily risky to me. Admittedly, the majority of cruise tourists have an enjoyable time in Mexican ports like Cabo or Cozumel. I have received more than my fair share of hate emails after writing articles about my view of Acapulco: Seven Tourists Raped in Acapulco: What is the Cruise Industry's Spin? and Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?  

It never ceases to amaze me that people vacation Acapulco Mexico Protests in destinations where the local tourism officials try to convince you that it's safe when the city is filled with the federal police riding around in armored personnel carriers with machine guns.    

I have been watching CNN lately and reading articles about the abduction and apparent murder of forty-three students in Mexico. The latest news is that the mayor of southern Mexican city of Iguala, José Luis Abarca, was arrested. It seems that Mr. Abarca was angered that the students interrupted an event that his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, was giving in an effort to succeed him as mayor. So the mayor reportedly instructed the local police to apprehend the students. Then the local cops turned the students over to a drug cartel who slaughtered the kids, burned their bodies, and dumped them in a river.

There are violent protests now in Acapulco (and other locations) about the corrupt mayor and police department being in cahoots with a murderous drug gang. I make it a point never to cross a picket line and I certainly won't cross a protest line formed by the parents of abducted children and their supporters. 

The Washington Post discusses this dreadful story in Mexico: Violent Protests Hit Acapulco’s Tourism. The Post says that "three years ago, 180 cruise ships docked in the city. So far in 2014, just five have made port calls . . . "

In my opinion that's five port calls too many. 

Mexico seems like a lawless country where there is considerable collusion between Mexican officials, the local police and organized crime. I don't see the point of risking your family's lives by sailing south of the border.

 

Photograph Credit: Eduardo Verdugo / AP

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. 

 

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

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

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?

 

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

Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune

Can a Canadian Porn King and the Cruise Lines Keep Cruise Passengers Safe in the Banana Coast in Honduras?

This week the "Banana Coast" cruise port in Honduras opens for mega-cruise ship business.

The travel publications all appear to have written essentially the the same article announcing with great fanfare that large cruise ships will begin calling at the port in the Bay of Trujillo, Honduras. Billed as the newest cruise port in the western Caribbean, the facility in Trujillo (mainland Honduras) will host the arrival of Norwegian Cruise Line's (NCL) Norwegian Jewel on October 15th.  

Ships from Holland America, Silversea, Oceania and P&O Cruises will follow. 

Banana Coast Travel Agent Central and TravelPulse each describe the new port as including a jewelry shop, a shop selling organic frozen coconut drinks, a duty-free liquor, a gift shop, and kiosks offering refreshments and souvenirs crafted by local artisans. Sounds like every other cruise port in the Caribbean designed to separate cruise visitors from their cash as soon as possible. 

The official website of the Banana Coast says that the Bay of Trujillo was the first mainland landing spot of Christopher Columbus in 1502 during his fourth voyage to the New World. It also says that this part of Honduras has a rich cultural heritage and visitors will experience the culture of the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna, an indigenous group who have lived in the area for centuries. 

What the developer and travel publications aren't saying is that there has been considerable controversy surrounding the development of the Honduran port and condominium projects. 

One of the principal developers of the mega-tourism project in Trujillo is Randy Jorgensen, general manager of Grande Trujillo Authoridad. He's a Canadian multi-millionaire who reportedly became wealthy in the pornographic video business. Several publications call him the "Canadian Porn King" (photo below with former Honduran President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa). He created Adults Only Video (warning XXX). Canada's Macleans magazine reported in 2001 that Jorgensen had been "accused of making X-rated films with underage girls in his vacation home in Honduras," according to Media Lens organization.

Jorgensen and others are accused of converting the beautiful Honduran coast into a large scale tourism project that includes vacation condominiums and the cruise ship facility, which have displaced and destroyed the indigenous Garífuna communities. The developers are accused of illegally obtaining the land and expelling the Garífuna people from the Bay of Trujillo.

Travel Pulse says that cruise tourists will be "welcomed by local Garifuna performers . . .  and dancers in colorful attire." Sounds to me like a faux Disney World recreation of the displaced local inhabitants for the amusement of the arriving U.S. cruise passengers.

In related news, Cruise Critic reports that the airstrip at the Mayan site of Copan in Honduras will open in December and will provide flights for cruise passengers to travel to Copan as a shore excursion. Cruise Critic says that this will "allow passengers, for the first time, to make an excursion off the island (from Roatan) to the country's interior."

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been working with the cruise lines and representatives of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) to market Copan as a cruise Randy Jorgensen "Porn King"attraction

There's no mention in any of the travel publication hullabaloo of the fact that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, or that it is subject to critical crime warnings from the U.S. State Department.

Real estate developers and agents, resort owners, dive and water-sport companies, and land-owners in the Honduran cruise port of Roatan have touted Roatan as a crime-free paradise, even though cruise passengers and crew members have been victims of violent crime and one NCL crew member was killed there this year. The U.S. expatriates claim that as an island, Roatan is much safer than the mainland of Honduras. 

So what's going to happen when the cruise lines disembark passengers in the Honduran mainland or fly passengers to the country's interior? The murder rate in Honduras has ranged between 70 and 90 per 100,000 in the last several years compared to 4 to 5 per 100,000 in the U.S. What safeguards do the cruise lines, the Honduran president, and the Caninadian porn businessman have in mind, if any, for those cruise tourists arriving in Trujillo?

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

Photo Credit: Top - Banana Coast via Travel Agent Central; Bottom - Honduras Living The Top 10 Reasons to Invest in Trujillo Honduras  

November 21, 2016 Update:  The Canadian porn king and the Caribbean paradise.

 

Cruise Safety: Be Prepared Before Things Go Wrong (Via Travel Channel)

The Travel Channel just posted a cruise safety video as part of it's Travel 911 series (be prepared before things go wrong on a cruise ship).

Its a very friendly sounding video that says that there's nothing better than a cruise, but bad things can happen on cruise ships.  

Here are some tips:

  • Bring anti-bacterial wipes and avoid public bathrooms. And check out which ships have high scores on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
  • Attend muster station drills. They are mandatory before the ship sails and can be a life-saver.
  • Limit your drinks. The number one reported crime during cruises is sexual assault. The victims are usually intoxicated.
  • Don't flaunt your jewelry, handbags, or money. Yes, there are thefts during cruises.
  • Be extra-safe during shore excursions. Keep your cash and jewelry in the cabin safe and wear a traveler's pouch.   

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

 

Senator Rockefeller Announces Witness List for Hearing to Examine Cruise Passenger Safety

This afternoon, Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, announced the witness list for its Full Committee hearing this Wednesday, July 23, 2014, at 2:45 p.m. titled “The Cruise Passenger Protection Act (S.1340): Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers.”

Date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Hearing Start Time: 2:45 p.m.
Senator Rockefeller Cruise Hearing Location: 253 Russell Senate Office Building

There are three cruise ship victims who will be testifying Laurie DishmanAmanda Butler and Kimberly Ware.

The hearing will address sexual assaults, unsafe conditions and sub-standard medical care aboard cruise ships. 

The hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website.

Click on the website 10 minutes prior to the hearing. The comments by Senator Rockefeller and other senators, the victims testimony, and questions and answers will be streaming live.

I will be attending the hearing on Wednesday in support of my friend and former client Laurie Dishman. 

last year I attended the hearing before Senator Rockefeller with my youngest son, John. (See photo). This year I will be attending with my oldest son, Madison. 

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

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

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.

Bahamas Crime Watch: How Do You Manage a Country's Reputation With Stories Like These?

News accounts of violent crime against both tourists and residents in the Bahamas continue to be regularly published in the international and local press. 

David Jessop, the Managing Director of the Caribbean Council, has written insightful articles this year regarding the damage to the image of the Bahamas caused by articles in social media regarding such crime. He states that that the Bahamas, like other Caribbean islands, doesn't have the social media skills necessary to promptly and effectively minimize damage to the country's reputation when tourists become victims of violent criminal acts. I suggest reading his articles: Social Media and Managing Mitchell Nini Crime BahamasReputation published in January, and Reputational Damage published a few days ago in the Bahamas Tribune.

But how does the Bahamas manage its reputation when its newspapers are regularly filled with gruesome stories of violence virtually every day?

On April 30th the local newspapers in the Bahamas reported that a jury acquitted three Bahamian men in their 20's of the "near-fatal stabbing" of a Canadian tourist, Mitchell Nini. Mr. Nini was stabbed 7 times in the chest, back and stomach when the thugs robbed a gold chain from Mr. Nini's friend. 

I have written before that tourists injured during violent crimes in Nassau cannot find justice in the archaic Bahamian legal system, although the Bahamian tourist police seem effective in boarding cruise ships at the wharf and arresting U.S. citizens for small amounts of pot

I first learned of the acquittal of Mr. Nini's attackers when his friends and family posted the news of the acquittal on Facebook and Twitter.  The articles posted by his mother on Twitter indicate that the three men confessed to the crime but later claimed that the police beat them into signing the confessions. 

The Canadian press published New Brunswick Man Warns of Traveling After Being Stabbed in Bahamas. The newspaper article shows a photo of Mr. Nini recovering from the vicious attack in the hospital while saying that tourists should stay clear of the island. He told the Global News "Whether you feel like you’re safe on the resort, as soon as you step off the resort you’re in a war zone.”

Mr. Nini's reference to a "war" is appropriate.

Bahamian Prime Minister Perrie Christie told that Tribune newspaper last week that the government is "developing new crime fighting strategies to win the 'war' that they are fighting against the 'hostile young men' in the capital."

Meanwhile, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader Branville McCartney made the news stating that he does not feel safe given the ongoing scourge of crime in the Bahamas. He told the Tribune “I don’t feel safe in this country . . . We live in paradise, but we are paralysed by fear. We are in prison in our own homes because of the criminal element running amuck in this country.”

There is good reason for even the politicians to be afraid of crime in Nassau. In December, the Acting Prime Minister Philip Davis was robbed at gunpoint. Then in January a police officer assigned to guard a residence of the Prime Minister Christie was arrested on suspicion of stealing a television at the residence. The latter is a petty crime I know, but you have to shake your head when the bad guys are bold enough to stick up the Acting Prime Minister and the police are stealing from the Prime Minister.

What's the response from the Bahamas to these and many other stories about trouble in paradise?  I have received many comments from the citizens of the Bahamas chastising me for suggesting that the out-of-control crime in Nassau also exists throughout the many islands which make up the country. But there are too many stories about crime against tourists outside of Nassau as well.

Last month Edgar George Dart, a 56-year-old British citizen who lived in Canada, was shot and killed and slowly died in front of his family after three masked intruders burst into his mother's home in Freeport. And a 14 year-old U.S. girl was raped on one of the out islands just ten days ago.   

Violent crime is a part of life in Nassau. Dangerous young men with knives and guns are menacing the residents and tourists alike. Do the families on Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise ships know that a war is raging in Nassau and even the top politicians in the Bahamas are afraid of crime and have been victimized themselves? How can a country even attempt to manage its reputation as a paradise for tourists when the local residents are paralyzed by fear? 

Watch the video of Mr. Nini below: 

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

Bahamas Weekly: The Bahamas - Still Paralyzed by Fear: "Over the past two weeks, newspaper headlines have recounted horrific stories of violence, murder and mayhem which have gripped communities here in New Providence and on Grand Bahama Island; cementing crime and the fear of crime as one of the country’s most pressing national issues."

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Photo Credit: Global News

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:

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World

Caribbean Crime Cruise ShipThe last thing that a family going on vacation wants to think of is being victims of crime. Cruise lines spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year creating idyllic illusions of tropical vacations on beautiful Caribbean beaches.  But behind that slick marketing facade lies danger.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently released a Global Study on Homicide 2013. The Huffington Post posted an article based on the study entitled the 10 Countries With The World's Highest Murder Rates

The most dangerous countries mentioned in the study read like a cruise line itinerary: Honduras (No. 1), Venezuela (No. 2), Belize (No. 3),  El Salvador (No. 4), Guatemala (No. 5),  Jamaica (no. 6),  St. Kitts - Nevis (no. 8), and Colombia (no. 10).  The UN executive summary says that Caribbean countries are home to to 8.5% of the world's population, but they account for about 27% of world crime. 

I made my own list of the most dangerous countries you can cruise to.  No, its not scientific in nature based on empirical evidence. It's anecdotal in nature based on information we receive from cruise passengers who contact us and complain about being a victim of crime in a port of call. 

99% of the people who contact us, both passengers and crew, are victims of crime in the Caribbean countries. A few people complained of being pick-pocketed in Italy. But we have received no reports of guns or knives from people visiting European or African ports ever. Of course, ports in Australia and New Zealand are fabulously safe. We have also never received a complaint about crime in the Asian ports.

We know what people will think when they read the list. "Crime occurs everywhere. Just use common sense. Stay with the cruise line excursions ashore." I say nonsense to that. The fact is that crime occurs in certain places far more than others. No one has ever contacted us about crime during a Seattle / Vancouver / Alaska cruise.

"Common sense" is no help when a port advertised as a peaceful getaway has a murder rate 25 times more dangerous than where you live and no one has bothered to tell you that. Some of the Caribbean countries have high homicide rates, one as high as around 90 murders per 100,000 people, whereas the average city in the U.S. is a little over 4 homicides per 100,000. 

The tourism officials in the islands? Worthless. They'd just as soon sell you a straw hat as a wooden box to transport your body back home.  And don't think that being on an official cruise tour is safer than exploring on your own. A busload of U.S. tourists may look like Fort Knox to a gang of armed banditos in an impoverished country, as you can read below.

Many people living in these Caribbean countries will be insulted and say how can you point the finger at us when you have cities like Detroit or Newark? But who on earth would ever vacation in one of these U.S. cities? Everyone knows Newark is dangerous. But few people who just bought a St.Lucia Cruise Ship Crimecruise realize that Nassau is also dangerous. 

The other problem facing cruise tourists in the Caribbean is that once you are victimized, the crooks are rarely apprehended. There is little justice. Of the last 50 U.S. citizens killed in Honduras, for example, the local police have solved just 2 cases.

Here's my list:

10. St. Lucia: This island is a good case study on what can go wrong during a cruise excursion. 69 cruise passengers were robbed at gun point on just two excursions. There were no warnings by the cruise lines or the local tourism officials, even though there had been prior crimes against tourists. The St. Lucia tourism officials lied to the victimized passengers, telling them that nothing like this had ever happened before.

55 Celebrity Cruise Passengers & 2 Crew Members Robbed at Gun Point in St. Lucia.

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

Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia.

U.K. Couple Attacked on Yacht in St. Lucia, Husband Killed.

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

9. El Salvador: El Salvador is one of a few countries which is subject to a "critical" crime warning from the U.S. State Department. It has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. In Carnival Cruise Passenger Robbed2012, it suffered from a murder rate of 69 per 100,000 people. By comparison, the murder rate in Massachusetts, with a similar geographical area and population, was 2.6 per 100,000. Murders and crimes against U.S. citizens are rarely solved. 

8.  United States Virgin Islands (USVI):  The cruise industry already abandoned one of the major islands in USVI, St. Croix, after tourists were murdered over a decade ago. Cruise ships are still sailing to the other major island, St. Thomas, after a 14 year old girl from a cruise ship visiting St. Thomas was murdered.

There are way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI are a place for a family to vacation. The leading maritime case involving a cruise line's duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore involves St. Thomas.

Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas.

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call.

Antigua Crime Cruise Ship7. Antigua: Like other beautiful but impoverished islands in the Caribbean, Antigua seems like paradise but it has seen more than its share of tragedies. The murder of a young woman during a cruise for her sister's wedding led to the cruise company dropping the island as a port of call, but it quickly returned. Travel writers and cruise bloggers tend to hide the ugly side of ports of call in exchange for free perks.

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Cruise Passengers Attacked & Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet.

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

Murder in Antigua: Store Employee Shot in Cruise Tourism Zone Heritage Quay.

6. St. Kitts - Nevis:  Another pretty but poor island where cruise passengers have been robbed "in bulk." The disparity in wealth between the locals and the affluent cruise passengers often leads to armed robberies.

17 Cruise Passengers Robbed in St. Kitts.

Visitors Warned About Safety in St. Kitts After Tourist Robbery.

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Sexual Assault During Sailing Excursion in St. Kitts & Nevis.

Mexico Cruise Ship Murder5. Mexico: This country has suffered some of the worst crime stories over the years. Drugs and be-headings are usually not in the tourists areas, but the tourist spots suffer from the nation's poor image. Places like Acapulco are literally defended by army soldiers.   

Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico.

Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas - Is It Safe to Cruise to Mexico?

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Gang Rape in Cozumel.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico.

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

Mexico Vacation Awareness.

4. Guatemala:  Guatemala is not a place where you should think of renting a car and driving in remote areas, as ambushes of tourists and armed robberies are not uncommon. Many people consider El Salvador equally dangerous to cruise tourists.

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala.

3. Venezuela:  Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates. Crime has increased substantially over the last few years.

Cruise Passenger Murdered in Venezuela's Margarita Island.

Roatan Crime 2. Honduras:

Roatan Honduras has been in the news lately following the murder of a NCL crew member who was gunned down in a gruesome crime for his cell phone. The expatriate land and business owners are campaigning that crime is rare, but they are suffering violence and many break-ins and burglaries of their homes and businesses.

We have chronicled several armed robberies of cruise passengers and the sexual assault of a U.S. tourist this year. Like many other Caribbean islands, the police are either indifferent or corrupt. The legal system is somewhere between barbaric and non-existent. 

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras.

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers.

U.S. Department of State Critical Crime warning.

Cruise Ship Armed Robbery1. Bahamas: We have been warning about crime in Nassau ever since we started this blog in September 2009. In October 2009, two "vicious robbers" robbed a group of 11 terrified cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean ship by gunpoint in Nassau. In November 2009, 18 cruise passengers were robbed during excursions from Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships.

Crime has gotten worse in Nassau. We receive more complaints about crime in Nassau than all of the other ports in the Caribbean combined. Armed robberies, sexual assault of teenagers and young women, and the murder of a tourist makes this port a dangerous place to take your family. The second you step off the cruise ship you're likely to be offered drugs.

The U.S. State Department has issued multiple critical crime warning for the Bahamas.

The Bahamian archaic legal system is indifferent to the plight of U.S. crime victims and the country is inept at solving crimes in port or on Bahamian-flagged cruise ships.  

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

Cruise Passenger Beaten and Raped in Nassau.

U.S. Attorney Raises Alarm Over Crime - Bahamas "One Shot Away" From Cruise Line Exit.

U.S. Embassy in Nassau Issues Critical Crime Warning.

 

Additional Reading: The New York Times published an story called "When Crime Comes to Barbados Cruise CrimeParadise." Written by Michelle Higgins in the Times' "Practical Traveler" section, the article suggests that crime is rising in the Caribbean islands such as Belize, Dominican Republic, and St. Lucia.

Dis-Honorable Mentions:

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

Caymans: Police in Cayman Islands Investigating Sexual Assault of Cruise Ship Passenger.

St. Marteen: Crew Member Shot in St. Maarten.

 

April 23 2014 Update:  St Lucia OnLine: St. Lucia ranked in top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world (read comments to article).

St. Maarten Island Time: Port of St. Maarten Not Listed in Cruise Law News Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World - Destination must remain safe, secure and hospitable.

Barbados Nation News: US Blogger Takes a Swipe at Barbados.

Nassau Guardian: U.S. Based Attorney Lists Bahamas As "Most Dangerous" Cruise Port

The website Cruise Line Fans released its Top 5 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations a couple of years ago, as follows: 1. Antigua,  2. Jamaica,  3. Brazil,  4. Nassau Bahamas,  and 5. cruise ships.

The website Crew Center lists: Mexico, Brazil, Nassau Bahamas, Barcelona Spain and Naples Italy.

Nassau Tribune: U.S. Girl Strangled, Sexually Assaulted in the Bahamas.

 

Photo Credit: 

Crime tape - Crime Will Destroy Us! bahamas B2B.

St. Lucia armed robbery - DBS TV St. Lucia via the Times.

Acapulco killings - "Drug Related Killings on the Rise in Acapulco."

Nassau armed robbery - Caribbean 360.

Barbados Shooting: Splash News/Alamy.

Former Norwegian Cruise Line Captain: "Let's Not Wait for a Cruise Line Disaster to Protect Passengers"

Former Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Safety Manager and and Master Mariner Bill Doherty has prepared an industry paper which has been submitted to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Senator Jay Rockefeller.

Captain Doherty is a principal in the expert maritime consulting firm, Nexus Consulting.

His cruise industry paper is entitled "Let’s Not Wait for a Cruise Line Disaster to Protect Passengers." 

William Doherty Nexus ConsultantsCaptain Doherty has over 45 years of experience in the maritime community and is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He was the Head of Maritime Affairs for the Chief of Naval Operations during Operation Desert Storm. He previously was the manager of safety at NCL. His industry paper advocates for greater resources to be dedicated toward passenger safety and security.

Captain Doherty states that “cruise lines do not currently have a global plan to address ‘worst case scenarios. Similar to the oil industry’s unpreparedness prior to the ‘Exxon Valdez’ disaster in Alaska, there is no coordinated, global system in place in case of a disaster aboard a cruise line – and here we’re talking about human lives. We’re advocating a plan to preemptively safeguard souls at sea in case of tragedy. Let’s not wait for a cruise line to have an ‘Exxon Valdez moment' before we protect future passengers."

Captain Doherty previously testified before the U.S. Senate regarding cruise ship safety issues following the Costa Concordia disaster. He was featured in a New York Times article about the increasingly gigantic size of the modern cruise ships (and whether it is possible to safely evacuate such a ship). He was recently quoted in the Popular Mechanics article This is How to Prevent Cruise Ship Disasters.

His paper is a must read if you are interested in a true mariner's view of cruising and what must be done to make it safer. Read the paper here.

About Captain Bill Doherty: Captain Doherty is a 1967 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a licensed US Coast Guard Master-Unlimited tonnage, and qualified First Class Pilot, Prince William Sound, Valdez, Alaska. Captain Doherty has served on numerous U.S. Navy warships and was the Head of Maritime Affairs for the Chief of Naval Operations during Operation Desert Storm. Over the course of his career, he has commanded tankers, container ships, research vessels, high-speed ferries, and was an instructor at his alma mater. Before retirement, his latest position was as Safety Manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines. Captain Doherty now serves as the director of maritime affairs for Nexus Consulting, and has appeared as a cruise safety expert before the United States Senate.

About Nexus Consulting: Nexus is an ISO 9001:2008 certified Maritime Safety and Security Firm was established in 2005 with a focus on security operations in high-threat theaters and cruise passenger safety. In 2008, Nexus Consulting was the first maritime security firm to advocate for armed security teams embarked on commercial ships. In 2009, in the wake of the Maersk Alabama hijacking (made famous in the acclaimed film “Captain Phillips”), Nexus embarked one of the first armed security teams on commercial vessels to protect US mariners, and has been providing security services to protect merchant mariners ever since.

Correction to headline: Captain Doherty was the former safety manager at Norwegian Cruise Lines. I erroneously referred to him as a former captain at NCL.

CSM2014: Who Will Be the First Cruise CEO to Claim Cruising is the "Safest, Safest, Safest" Vacation? And Where Are the Safety Audits?

Last year at Cruise Shipping Miami, all of the cruise CEO's talking at the "State of the Cruise Industry" presentation covered the CLIA talking points that cruising was "safe" and the cruise industry is also supposedly "highly regulated."

The hyperbole was extraordinary.

CLIA's Christine Duffy began the cheerleading by first announcing that the Carnival Triumph fire was "rare." Carnival's President Gerry Cahill topped her by saying: “Something like this is very rare." NCL's Kevin Sheehan's won the award by claiming that cruising was the "safest, safest, safest" vacation Cruise Shipping Miami 2014option.

Cruise executives never discuss actual statistics about fires, accidents and crimes on cruise ships. They would rather tell you their self-serving opinions than provide you with the actual facts and let you form your own opinions.

In truth, there have been over 90 cruise ship fires between 1990 and the present. That's hardly "rare." The "safest, safest, safest" form of transportation does not catch on fire every 4 months.

The horrific sexual assault which recently occurred on the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam should be a reminder that sexual assault is the number 1 crime reported on cruise ships. There will be no mention of that.

And there will be no meaningful discussions about other current topics, like the controversy surrounding recently released video and photos of MSC Cruises crew members dumping bags of garbage and debris - allegedly into the waters of Brazil. Pierfrancesco Vago, Chairman of MSC Cruises, will be speaking this morning. I'm sure no one will ask him about that.  I say that the chances are 50 / 50 he will claim that his cruise line is a "guardian of the seas" or something equally clueless. 

Last year, Carnival's Cahill told us that Carnival intended to conduct safety audit all of its ships. CLIA also promised regular audits as well.

I instantly tweeted "will the audits ever be disclosed of the public?" Of course not. This is just one of those things that cruise executives say. All the travel agents and vendors at CSM then politely clap.

So here we are at CSM again. Soon the CEO's will tell us that everything is great.

Who will be the first executive to tell us that cruise accidents and crimes are "rare" and cruising is the "safest" vacation you can have?

Human Resources FAIL: Cruise Lines Don't Conduct Background Checks of Their Crew Members

Following the horrific crime perpetrated by the Holland America Line crew member against the passenger on the Nieuw Amsterdam cruise ship on Valentine's Day, the cruise industry is pulling out all of the stops to convince the public that the cruise lines carefully screens their employees.

But it's not true. 

Cruise lines don't vet their crew members.

The foreign flagged, foreign incorporated cruise industry delegates the obligation to third-party foreign hiring agents to try and screen the applicants. Countries like Indonesia, India, and the countries in the Cruise Ship CrimeCaribbean & Central America have no computerized electronic data-base base of criminals, perverts, sex offenders or pedophiles which can be carefully cross referenced with social security numbers, driver's license numbers, and passport numbers. There is no infrastructure in a place like Nicaragua or Goa to search to make certain that the prospective employees isn't a sociopath.  There are no U.S. human resource specialists involved. It's a random, unsophisticated, "hit-or-miss" task conducted (or not) by hiring agents far-far-away who make money when they place people from around the world on U.S. based cruise ships.  

In places like India and the Caribbean, the hiring agents often accept (require) money from the applicant in order to get a job on a cruise ship. The system is often based on bribery.

In places like Jamaica, the applicant has to obtain a certificate from a constable certifying that the applicant has no criminal record. But there is no computerized data-base for the local police in Ocho Rios, for example, to check whether a Jamaican has committed a crime in Negril or Kingston or other places in Jamaica. After a favor from an uncle or a little pay-o-la to a policeman who's making only $250 a month, anyone can appear with a stamped "I'm-not-a-crook" certificate and hop aboard a cruise ship.

We have seen the official cruise line hiring agents in India tell the applicants that unless they list the Four Seasons, or the Hyatt, or the Hilton as a prior job, they would not be hired as a waiter on a Celebrity cruise ship. Falsification of a resume is not only a common practice, it's often required by the cruise lines' hiring agents.

There's no chance of screening out pedophiles or child molesters. Think your cabin attendant is carefully screened and vetted? No country in Central America or the Far East has a state-of-the-art database tied to someone's criminal history.  If a pedophile shows up with a certificate from God-knows-who that he is not a criminal, he's welcome aboard.

The worst ones involved in this rotten system are not foreign countries but the cruise lines themselves. If a crew member aboard Disney has been fired on suspicion of molesting a child, Disney won't tell Carnival or Royal Caribbean. The security personnel of the cruise lines meet every 60 days. They may discuss the risk of a jihadist terrorist attack, but they don't tell each other about pedophiles in their own cruise ship's kid's centers or rapist-employees who molest teenage girls during cruises. They just fire them and hope they go away.

We have seen cases where a crew member who was fired after he drugged and raped our client ended up later on a Princess cruise ship, and another crew member who was fired after raping another one of our clients later join a NCL cruise ship.

Cruise lines tout that crew members are "vetted by the U.S. Government prior to issuance of a visa." Hogwash. All a crew member needs is a C1/D visa. That's called a "seaman's visa." There is no investigation or rigorous screening at all.  A "seaman's visa" is also called a "transit visa."  It permits a foreign crew member simply to transit through the airport and be taken to the ship.  It's easy to obtain and essentially just involves an administrative task to obtain one. There is no interview; it's just paper work.  It's completely different from a B1/B2 tourist visa which requires an interview and a strict review of a candidate's background. Most tourist via applicants are rejected; seaman transit visas are rarely turned down.

A couple of years ago I wrote about a former Eastern European who allegedly raped a child in California. He was on the "Most Wanted" list in a city in California. But he was hired to work on a Carnival cruise Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Shipship which routinely sailed into and out of California. He previously worked on other cruise ships after he allegedly raped the child. Crew member Kaloyanov was a fugitive from justice for 8 years but was safe working in the cruise industry. 

U.S. Customs and Immigration officials in California, who are suppose to check the crew and passenger rosters every time a ship enters a U.S. port, failed to realize that Kaloyanov was a criminal suspect - even though he was on a "Most Wanted" database of a city in California!

The resourceful California police finally caught up with the crew member when they Googled his name and found photographs of him on line standing in front of a cruise ship. The police then determined that Kaloyanov had worked for Carnival Cruise Lines for four years, as a fitness instructor and the manager of a hair salon on a Carnival ship.

Its a shame that the cruise lines' "rigorous" pre-employment screening does not even include Googling the applicant's name.  You can read about this case: 

Most Wanted Rape Suspect Arrested On Carnival Cruise Ship - Worked As Manager Of On Board Hair Salon      

My view:  99% of crew members are honest, hard-working individuals trying to support their families back home. But there are perverts, predators and nut cakes everywhere. The problem is that cruise lines try and save money by sloughing their obligations off to mostly disinterested or sometimes corrupt far-away agents that they don't vet themselves. There is no way this doomed system will successfully weed out the criminals who will prey on unsuspecting cruise passengers and their children.

 

I suggest reading: USA TODAY's "Who's working on the cruise ships you're sailing aboard?"

Please leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credits:

Top: Broward Country Sheriff's Office

Bottom: Wikipedia / Cybergoth

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Police Refuse to Release True Rape & Shooting Statistics

Cruise Crime Nassau BahamasWe have recommended in prior articles that people thinking of cruising to the Bahamas should first read the local news papers in Nassau.

Today the Tribune published two interesting articles which cruise passengers and crew members should consider reading.

The first article is entitled "Hospital Reports Show 40% More Rapes Than Police Statistics." The newspaper reports that "Princess Margaret Hospital (where tourists are often seen after being raped in Nassau or on cruise ships arriving in port) officials dealt with 147 rape cases in 2013. However, official crime statistics released by the authorities last month, reported 104 cases."

A governmental official told the Tribune:

“Clearly there is a huge discrepancy with what the police are publishing. I don’t want to come out and say they are fudging the stats, but the actuality is that the police are not being upfront with the public on crime.”

Crime Nassau BahamasThe second article is entitled "Hospital Says 519 Shot Or Stabbed Yet Only 10 Attempted Murders Recorded."

519  people were shot or stabbed in 2013 according to Princess Margaret Hospital records, yet only 10 attempted murders were recorded by the local police department.

The newspaper concluded that the statistical disparities raise questions about the possible deliberate manipulation of crime statistics.

A doctor at the hospital told the newspaper that the "impact of violent crime on providing care to patients has been unbelievably onerous."

We have mentioned many times that crime has reached an epidemic level in Nassau.  

Mostly against the local citizens, the violent armed robberies and sexual assaults also affect cruise passengers who disembark in Nassau thinking it is a tropical paradise.

The U.S. Embassy and State Department have already issued two critical crime reports about murder, armed robbery and rape in Nassau in the last six weeks based on the "official" Bahamian crime statistics.

Cruise passengers traveling to Nassau should read these articles.

They should consider that the rapes, shootings and stabbings in Nassau are even worse than the local Bahamian police are reporting.

Disney's Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas: Are Passengers Staying on the Cruise Ship?

Crime Nassau BahamasToday I received something from a cruise passenger who reads this blog that I don't see very often - a cruise line providing warnings to their passengers about crime in a port of call.

We have written a number of articles recently about the high rate of crime in Nassau.  The U.S. Embassy released the warning from the U.S. State department calling the armed robbery and murder rates in the Bahamas to be "critical."

The Nassau Guardian interviewed me about the problem and I said that Nassau was "one gunshot away" from the cruise lines leaving.

We have heard that Carnival and Disney are warning cruise passengers to be careful going ashore in Nassau. This is the first actual written warning we have ever seen.

I think the warning is missing some things, like a reference to the fact that the U.S. Department of State issued an official warning and characterized the armed robbery rate as "critical."

The warning is a bit watered down too. Disney says that you need to take precautions in Nassau "as in an large city" or in any "tourist destination." The truth is that Nassau has a higher violent crime rate than any large U.S. city other than, perhaps, Detroit. Everyone knows about Detroit being dangerous. But lots of tourists are fooled into believing that Nassau is a tropical paradise.

And what on earth does Disney mean when it says use the same level of precaution like you were in "any tourist destination." Like you were in Disney World? The warning loses its effectiveness. Lots of travel agents say things like this. "Crime occurs everywhere," but that's an assurance not a warning. The truth is that crime occurs more often in certain places, like Nassau. The point is that crime in Nassau is critical. Its unlike any other tourist destinations. That's the point of the State Department warning in the first place.

As I have suggested in prior articles, we suggest that people thinking of buying a cruise to the Caribbean first read the daily newspapers in Nassau before selecting Nassau as a destination on your cruise itinerary.  The Tribune (photo, above), the Bahamas Press and the Guardian are excellent sources of information. 

The passenger who sent us the warning, a mother traveling with her children, commented:

"I have never seen such a busy port day on board the ship. Hard to find room in a pool or a chair. Looks like many stayed on board."

I'm wondering how many passengers are deciding to stay on the ship, when they reach Nassau, because of concern that their family members could be a victim of crime.

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

Disney Cruise Crime Warning in Nassau

Nassau Bahamas: "One Gunshot Away" From Losing Cruise Lines

Yesterday the Nassau Guardian published an interview of me discussing the crime situation in Nassau which cruise passengers face when disembarking at the port.

You can read that interview here: "U.S. attorney raises alarm over crime - Bahamas 'one gunshot away' from cruise line exit says maritime lawyer who represents victims." My opinion is that Carnival and the other cruise lines will let matters in Nassau play out as they long as they can. But an armed robbery of a passenger ending in death will probably result in the cruise lines pulling out, as they have done in the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix) and Mexico. 

Today the cruise line responded to my interview. A representative of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Jim Walker Cruise Lawyer Nassau CrimeAssociation (FCCA) was interviewed in an article "Passenger perception is the key for cruise lines." Her opinions were interesting. She said that its not the crime, but the passengers' perception of whether Nassau is dangerous, which is important.  I suppose that raises the issue of whether the cruise lines and travel agents are warning passengers before they buy their cruises, which doesn't seem to be the case.   

As matters now stand, most travel agents don't warn passengers about Nassau. When challenged on social media whether they issue warnings to their clients about armed robbery in Nassau (which the U.S. Department of State warns about), most travel agents didn't want to talk about it.

Carnival warns passengers before they cruise into Nassau. The FCCA representative disputes the term "warning." She said that the advisories are "merely information the cruise lines are obligated to provide."

So we are left with the reality versus perception game. Expect a renewed effort in the media from the Bahamas tourism officials to convince the U.S. public that cruising to Nassau remains safe, irrespective of the actual crime rate. 

Confidence in Cruise Ship Safety Sinks: Air Travel Perceived Much Safer & More Reliable

Bad news for the cruise industry as it tries to salvage its sunken image. 

A recent Harris Poll concluded that that perceptions of the safety and reliability of the top cruise industry brands are not only low but continue to decline.

The average "Trust Score" shows the steepest decline for Carnival, although trust in the other major cruise lines has fallen significantly.  

The intention of the public to buy a cruise has declined across the board with Carnival again being the hardest hit.

Over six in ten Americans (62%) agree that air travel is much more reliable than taking cruises and the majority (56%) agree that air travel is much safer than taking cruises.

Roughly half of Americans agree that they're less likely to take a cruise now than they were a year ago, with this sentiment proving stronger among those who have never taken a cruise (56%) than among those who have (43%).

The poll finds that even several moths past the Carnival Triumph debacle, which crated creating a "low tide for the industry as a whole," the perception of a dangerous and unreliable cruise industry continues. "The industry as a whole, as well as the Carnival brand specifically, may still be facing rough seas."

Costa Concordia Cruise Disaster

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 

 

 

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

Earlier this week I wrote an article about a 4 year old boy who almost drowned in a pool on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship.

I advocated having a lifeguard at every pool on a cruise ship, especially on Disney ships which cater to families with kids.  Lifeguards are needed because parents are not perfect, and there is a tendency for parents to let their guards down when they are on vacation.  And why shouldn't Disney do it?  Like Carnival, Disney pays no U.S. taxes on its enormous cruise revenues by registering its ship overseas. It has money to burn. 

Disney Cruise Ship PoolDisney also claims that it trains over 1,000 lifeguards each year for its resorts and cruise ships. 

Kids deserve to have their parents and the cruise line working together to keep them safe.

A few people agreed, but most were quick to blame if not condemn the parents of the child who was pulled from the pool. The comments on my Facebook page were harsh.

Today I received a nice email from a concerned cruiser. She makes some good points, which Disney should consider:

"Hi Jim,

My family and I disembarked from the Disney Fantasy in Cape Canaveral on Sat March 30. While we had a terrific time, I was saddened to hear that a 4 year old boy nearly drowned getting on that ship just hours later. That news has pretty much spoiled my good memories because I have trouble bearing to reminisce about my good time in the midst of another’s tragedy. My prayers are with the boy and his family.

While on our 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Fantasy (Mar 23 to 30), I noticed that the pool areas where extremely chaotic and in my opinion an accident just waiting to happen. The design of the “Donald Pool” where the boy nearly drowned is what I would consider unsafe. The pool is over 5 feet deep but has very small width and length. It cannot accommodate the number of kids on the ship safely without kids being jumped on and kicked in the head etc. Also, because of the very small length and width compared to depth, there is not enough room around the edges for parents to adequately supervise the children. When my kids were swimming I had a very difficult time finding any room around the pool to watch them. I tried to get into the pool with my children and the lack of room in the pool resulted in my being jumped on, kicked in the face, etc. Also, the perimeter of the pool has a shallow area that pushes parental seating (and therefore supervision) even further away and obstructs the view of the children in the deep water.

In addition, there is a gigantic screen TV showing Disney movies that easily diverts people’s attentions.

Crowded Disney Swimming PoolThere are a very limited number of deck chairs around the pools but these are inadequate to allow supervision of the children and often only serve to block the view of other adults relocated to being further back away from the pool due to its design. I was very uncomfortable that Disney had no lifeguards at the pool but they had more than one person coming around to the deck chairs asking if you would like an alcoholic drink.

Finally, Disney in most of its show’s encourages adults to relax and allow their kids to roam the ship unattended. In fact one of the comics that they have in their shows makes a joke about parents not letting kids out of their sight and says “it’s a ship, where can they go”!

The design of the pool, the atmosphere of the ship, the easy access to alcohol and the lack of lifeguards are simply drownings waiting to happen, no matter how vigilant the parents. Unless Disney makes some changes to their procedures, and assumes a better level of corporate responsibility, I unfortunately suspect we will see more drownings on the Disney Fantasy in the years to come.

With deep concern and prayers for all . . ." 

 

April 8, 2013 Update:  According to the Orlando Sentinel, the child is struggling with his recovery at the Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando.  

Photo Credit: USA TODAY
 

Book Cruises Carefully Travel Agent Suggests

WWBT NBC12 in Richmond aired a consumer video today about the types of questions which consumers should ask before selecting a cruise. 

The video was produced in response to the recent troubles at sea with the stranded Carnival Triumph cruise ship, and the recent "suspicious death" aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship earlier this week which have left some passengers thinking twice about taking a cruise.

A travel agent from Richmond explains that all cruise lines have a passenger contract in effect. She suggests that cheap prices may mean riskier sailing.

 

NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Safety at Sea? Dangerous Practices on MSC Cruise Ship

MSC Unsafe at Sea A reader of Cruise Law News sent me these photographs today showing crew members on an unidentified MSC cruise ship washing the tops of tenders.  

The two crew members to the left seem to be wearing life vests but its less than clear whether they are wearing harnesses and are tethered to the ship.

Upon closer inspection, the bottom photo shows an employee obviously wearing no life vest or harness.

A slip and fall from that height would be a good way to drown or suffer serious injury.

Crew members who contact us often talk about "ship life."

"Ship Life" seems to be the state of reality that actually exists on cruise ships.  It is different from what the company policies and procedures say and what the cruise line projects as the company's image.

Sometimes upon the rush to get the job done, there is pressure to cut corners and not use the proper safety equipment. The same pressure to proceed to get the work accomplished often exists even if the proper equipment is not available or the equipment is faulty or not adequately maintained.

We all remember the five deaths and three injuries in January when a Thomson Majesty lifeboat with 8 crew members dropped upside down into the water.   

What do you of the photo below?  Whose responsibility is it that work is not performed under these circumstances?

MSC Cruise Ship - Danger  

PS. I don't know who took these photos so please contact me if you want credit. Anyone know which ship this was and where it was docked? 

Leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Dead Ships & Endangered Passengers - Cruise Lines Ignore International Maritime Organization Guidelines

Yesterday the New York Times published an insightful article about the failure of the cruise industry to design their cruise ships with redundant engine systems such that if one set of engines is knocked out by a fire or explosion, another set of engines in a separate compartment would provide power to the cruise ship.

Entitled "Lack of Backup Power Puts Cruise Passengers at the Ocean’s Mercy," the article explains that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) proposed guidelines calling for cruise lines to to equip cruise ships with backup engines and generators. The redundant engine systems and back up systems are are needed not only to maintain electricity, refrigeration, and toilet operations, but to Carnival Triumph Engine Room Firemaintain power to prevent the ship from pitching violently in strong waves.

Just yesterday I spoke with a retired Coast Guard officer about what happens when a ship at sea loses all power. He expressed concern of how the cruise ship would be evacuated if the vessel loses power. There would be no way to lower the lifeboats!  

The newspaper explains that pursuant to the IMO recommendations, any cruise ship built after July 2010 is required to have redundant engine systems. But the cruise industry largely chose not to add backup systems to new cruise ships.

The IMO, a United Nations organization, has no authority to impose sanctions when cruise lines ignore the IMO's guidelines.

A naval architect, Larrie Ferreiro, is quoted in the newspaper explaining that a cruise line can design the ships either to put more equipment or more people on it: “The more passenger cabins you can fit into that envelope the more revenue you can get." Only 10% of the cruise ships have redundant systems, according to the NY Times.

In the unregulated world of cruising, this means that 90% of the cruise ships out there may become "dead in the water" when an engine room fire breaks out. That places passengers and crew at unnecessary risk of injury or death at sea.   

 

Photo Credit: Carnival Triumph engine room - US Coast Guard   

An "Outlaw Industry" Watched By "Paper Tigers"

Newsweek's Daily Beast Blog published an insightful article about the real issues behind the Triumph cruise ship fire. Entitled "Carnival Cruise From Hell," the article explains that the situation involves a lot more than just another stinky ship bobbing around on the high seas. Rather, Newsweek writes that the fiasco is "a troubling indicator of pervasive safety problems in a booming industry with little oversight."

Written by Eve Conant, the articles points out that last month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded the entire U.S. fleet of Boeing 787s over fire-safety concerns. But where is the maritime equivalent of the FAA overseeing the cruise lines? It has been outsourced to third world countries like the Bahamas which has neither the interest or capability of regulating the billion dollar U.S. cruise industry. 

Newsweek interviewed me for the article, but criticism from lawyers who routinely sue the cruise lines are often met with skepticism.  

Jim Hall - Cruise Danger - National Transportation Safety Board NTSBWhat's impressive about the article is that Newsweek interviewed a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Jim Hall.

Unlike recent NTSB officials who angled for lucrative consulting jobs with the cruise lines and gave the industry a free pass, Jim Hall earned a reputation for objectivity and credibility when he was the NTBS's top dog from 1994 - 2001. He was involved in investigatng serious accidents in both the aviation and cruise industries. He voiced his concerns that there would be continued problems in the maritime industry because there was no real oversight over the cruise lines.

Here are the recent comment's made by Hall to Newsweek:

Jim Hall, head of the National Transportation Safety Board during the Clinton administration, says the industry is watched over by “paper tigers” like the International Maritime Organization and suffers from “bad actors” much like in the poorly regulated motor-coach industry, which saw its latest fatal bus crash in Southern California earlier this month. “The maritime industry is the oldest transportation industry around. We’re talking centuries. It’s a culture that has never been broken as the aviation industry was, and you see evidence of that culture in the [Costa Concordia] accident,” says Hall.

Ships may seem and feel American but are mostly “flagged” in countries like the Bahamas or Panama in order to operate outside of what he says are reasonable safety standards. “It is, and has been, an outlaw industry,” says Hall. “People who book cruises should be aware of that.”

Cruise lines are an "outlaw industry" watched over by "paper tigers?"  Spot on.  And remember these comments are by a former chairman of the NTSB.  

L.A. Times Asks: Is Cruising Safer One Year After Costa Concordia?

The L.A. Times has an interesting article today about whether the new cruise safety proposals marketed to the public after the Concordia disaster are really making a difference.

Entitled Questions Linger One Year After the Costa Concordia Disaster, the article by L.A. Times reporter Mary Forgione asks some tough questions whether the cruise industry has taken the steps necessary to make cruising safer for the public.

Interviewed in the article are two cruise ship survivors who give the issue some true perspective. Weighing in for the cruise industry is former travel agent Christine Duffy, who is now head of the cruise Cruise Ship Safetytrade organization Cruise Line International Association, as well as cruise fan Carolyn Spencer Brown, who is the editor of the pro-cruise website and Expedia & Trip Advisor owned Cruise Critic.  

Ms. Forione interviewed me as the critic of the cruise industry, I suppose.

My take is that the proposals are rather modest. Plus there is no regulatory agency of any type which can actually enforce the proposals. The proposals are mostly happy-talk to try and convince the public that it's safe keep buying cruises. 

There are more pressing cruise safety issues to worry about that no one is talking about.

The risk of terrorism against a cruise ship is frightening, Consider this. But no one is discussing the inadequate, skeleton crews of security guards on cruise ships.

Nor is anyone focusing on the greatest risk to your family if you cruise. Sexual assault of children, girls and women. Just last week two officers aboard a Princess cruise ship were arrested on allegations that they raped a woman on the Grand Princess. No one is talking about that either. 

Family Won't Cruise Until Real Improvements to Cruising are Made

The Times Union newspaper has an interesting article today, about a family who survived the Costa Concordia disaster, entitled "Survivors Shun Ships After Duel with Death."  Written by Cathleen Crowley, the article explains that a family from Duanesburg, New York previously enjoyed cruising having vacationed on a dozen prior cruises. But on January 13 2012, their cruise aboard the Concordia quickly turned into a near death experience.

The story involves Joan Fleser, her husband Brian Aho, and their daughter, Alana, The family feels fortunate to have survived the ordeal which took the lives of 32 passengers and crew members, but "the chaos on the ship and the memory of the massive cruise liner leaning toward their tiny lifeboat still Cruise Ship Safetyinvades the family's thoughts daily."

Earlier this year, Joan and Brian attended Congressional hearings in Washington, D.C. which were convened to study issues on cruise safety following the Concordia debacle.  Joan told the Times Union: "It was very interesting and very upsetting seeing that the House Committee was stacked with representatives from cruise states and they were so pro-cruise industry." This is the same conclusion I reached when I attended the hearing.

I took a photo of the family at the hearing (together with Mississippi lawyer, John Eaves Jr.)

The family itemized a number of well-reasoned proposed safety improvements which you can read in the article here.  

The article also quotes Captain Bill Doherty who is director of maritime affairs for Nexus Consulting Group, a maritime consulting and security firm based in Virginia. Captain Doherty is a former naval officer and was the safety manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines. He is critical of the cruise lines inspection systems and lack of enforcement of existing safety rules.

Captain Doherty points out that the U.S. Coast Guard and government enforcement bodies in other nations outsource inspection duties to third parties, many of which are society groups funded by the cruise ship owners.

Royal Caribbean's Dangerous FlowRider: Is the Cruise Line Drafting a New Liability Waiver?

One of the most dangerous activities you can participate in during a cruise is found only on Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. It's the "FlowRider," a simulated surfing and water-boarding activity where a thin stream of water shoots up a sloped platform to create a wave-like flow of water.

Wipe-outs are expected. But what is not expected are the serious, life-altering injuries and, sometimes, even death.

You can see one such serious accident in the video below, where a young man falls on his neck. 

A considerable number of cruise passengers have been seriously injured on the Flowrider, which Royal Caribbean helped design and install on five of its cruise ships: one FlowRider on each of the Freedom class cruise ships (Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas) and two on each of the Oasis class ships (Allure of he Seas and Oasis of the Seas).    

You will read absolutely no warnings about the dangers of the FlowRider on Royal Caribbean's website. Nor will you see any warnings whatsoever posted around the FlowRiders on any of the cruise ships. Even after a passenger was killed when he fell while trying to surf, the cruise line decided not to warn cruise passengers that the activity is, well, deadly

The cruise line's approach to the problem has been to require all passengers who participate in the activity to sign an electronic liability waiver. The process of scrolling through the electronic keypad in a long line is so quick that it's clear that no one reads the waiver. Moreover, the waiver is legally invalid. Earlier this year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of appeal struck down the Royal Caribbean waiver finding that it violated federal law (46 U.S.C 30509) which prohibits contract provisions that attempt to absolve a shipping company from its own negligence.  

At the moment, Royal Caribbean has an illegal waiver, and still no warnings on-line or warnings posted around the FlowRider.   

So what is the cruise line thinking? 

Some people think that Royal Caribbean may be going back to the drawing board to try and draft a new waiver.     

In a recent message thread on the website of the popular on-line cruise community Cruise Critic, there is discussion that the cruise line is working on creating a new and improved liability waiver - apparently for the purpose of trying to navigate around the statutory prohibition found in 46 U.S.C. 30509.  

If that's true, the new waiver will be struck down too. It's too bad that the cruise line won't post warning signs on its website or on the seven FlowRiders on its cruise ships. There are lots of people who don't understand just how dangerous this activity is.

If Royal Caribbean is going to be the only cruise line promoting this dangerous activity, it needs to spend less time drafting illegal waivers and more time drafting effective warnings before the next unsuspecting passenger steps on a surf board and breaks his neck.     

 

Should I Send My Daughter on a Cruise?

Sexual Abuse of Children - Disney Cruise ShipOne of the web sites which I read from time to time is "TravelTruth." It is a site which describes itself as a "collaborative effort designed to offer the vacation consumer real world advice without exaggeration, deception, or sales bias. It is the ultimate insider’s view of how things really work, written by an award-winning team of travel consultants and journalists."  

TravelTruth recently addressed the issue raised by a mother who asked whether she should let her daughter vacation on a cruise ship in the Caribbean next spring.  The article is entitled "Bottom Line: Should My Daughter Do This Trip?"The article explains some of the dangers which we touch upon in this blog, namely the absence of independent police authorities on cruise ships, and the risk of sexual assault both on the ships and especially ashore in Mexico and the Caribbean islands.

If you are a parent thinking of taking your daughter (or son) aboard a cruise ship, consider reading the articles about the cruise lines below:

Sexual Assault of Children - Royal CaribbeanCarnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Disney, NCL, Oceania, Princess, and Royal Caribbean  

One of our goals at Cruise Law News is public awareness. Thus, the motto of our blog "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."  The TravelTruth site also provided a link to our blog for parents to read if they are considering taking their daughters on a cruise.  

Our goal is not to scare the public from cruising, but to educate the public that its not safe to let your guard down aboard cruise ships while cruising with your children.  

Photos:

Top: Disney cruise passenger Lucas George Wickes indicted for felony sexual abuse and aggravated sexual abuse of minor aboard Disney Wonder.

Bottom: Royal Caribbean crew member Fabian Palmer indicted for felony sexual abuse of minor aboard Adventure of the Seas.

27 Years After Hijacking of Achille Lauro, Can Cruise Ships Keep Passengers Safe in the Middle East?

Twenty-seven years ago today, the world saw terrifying television images of Palestinian terrorists holding passengers aboard the Achille Lauro cruise ship hostage. The terrorists demanded the release of 50 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. 

There were over 20 nationalities of passengers booked on the cruise, but the terrorists stated that Americans would be the first to be executed if their demands were not met.   

Leon Klinghoffer, age 69, was from New York City and was vacationing with his wife, Marilyn, and their friends, when the Achille Lauro sailed for Port Said, Egypt.  Although Mr. Klinghoffer was disabled and in a wheelchair, the terrorists picked him to be the first to die. They shot him in the chest and head, and Achille Lauro Cruise Ship - Terrorismthen forced two crew members to dump him and his wheelchair over the side of the cruise ship.

That terrible crime occurred in October 1985. Now 27 years later, are cruise passengers, particularly Americans, any safer?

We have seen civil unrest across North Africa. President Mubarek is gone from Egypt and Colonel Gaddafi of Libya is dead. Good riddance to both I say, but both countries now seem more dangerous to Americans than ever. Last month we saw anti-American demonstrations on the 9/11 anniversary in both of these countries, and the murder of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya in Benghazi.

On the front page above the crease of the New York Times this morning are several articles about violence in Syria with a photo of a Syrian firing a Kalashnikov rifle. I not sure who is fighting who anymore but they all seem to have the potential to take their violence to U.S. interests.

In April I blogged about a plot where Arab terrorists envisioned hijacking a U.S. based cruise ship, forcing the passengers to wear orange Guantanamo-like jump suits and then videotaping their execution. 

The World Cruise Industry Review concluded that the most likely terrorist scenario is the hijacking of a Anti American Protests - Egypt, Libya, Tunisiacruise ship and its passengers: "A cruise ship is boarded and commandeered, while perpetrators hold and potentially injure or kill passengers if demands are not met – as in the Achille Lauro attack."

27 years after Leon Klinghoffer's dead body was dumped into the Mediterranean Sea, the danger of terrorism against cruise ship passengers seems greater than ever before. Have cruise ships increased the number of security guards aboard their cruise ships? I doubt it. Every cabin occupied by a security guard means less revenue for the cruise lines.    

The current strategy seems to be to simply skip ports in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia until things calm down. But that's a short turn fix; when the street protests are over, there remains the risk of jihadists plotting a cruise ship to target. Will the cruise security teams be ready?

If terrorists can over-power several heavily armed U.S. Marines and kill our Ambassador in Libya, does anyone really think that they are safe sailing on a Holland America Line or Princess cruise ship sailing into Tunis or Port Said?

Does Carnival Warn Passengers of the Danger of Sexual Assault in the Cayman Islands?

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog about the police in the Cayman Islands making an arrest of a local man who allegedly sexually assaulted a cruise passenger who was visiting the island.

The newspaper article that my blog was based on was very vague and mentioned only that the alleged rape occurred on July 27th and the arrest occurred some three weeks later.  It took almost a month later after the arrest before the newspapers in the Caymans covered the story.  There still is no mention of where the incident occurred other than "in the George Town area."  

A reader of my blog alerted me that an article from another media source in the Cayman Carnival Elation Cruise Ship - Cayman Islands - Sexual Assault Islands, Cayman News Service, contained a bit more information. The article "Visitor Sexually Assaulted" states that the only cruise ship in the Cayman Islands was the Carnival Elation and the cruise passenger was a "teenage visitor (who) was assaulted during an onshore tour."

There are some interesting comments to the article written, presumably, by people in the Cayman Islands.  The first two comments are "Been here 30 years. Not new" and "Alot of rapes happen here and not reported or covered up."  

Other comments raise the issue why this crime was not reported earlier and why the police is not disclosing exactly where it occurred. I find it fascinating that the police did not disclose the name of the cruise ship, and it was only by deduction that the Cayman News Service figured out that the victim was from a Carnival cruise ship.

Last week I wrote an article about a case we are handling where a federal appellate court re-instated a lawsuit against Carnival arising out of its failure to warn a family of dangers ashore in St. Thomas leading to the shooting death of their 14 year old daughter.  The 11th Circuit Court of Appeal held that cruise lines like Carnival owe a duty to warn passengers of crime in ports of call that they are aware of or should be aware of. 

Crime in the Caribbean islands is a problem. Cruise lines promote the ports of call as tropical paradises. Passengers who are lured into the world of cruise fantasies often lower their guard. Cruise lines and the tourism bureaus in the islands are notorious for covering up crimes so as not to hurt their business. 

Did the alleged rape in the Cayman Islands occur during an excursion advertised and sold by Carnival? Has the cruise line warned other families of the crime over the course of the last two months?  Are other cruise lines which unload passengers in the Caymans warning their guests?

 

Photo credit: Jim Walker

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call

Twenty-seven years ago, a state appellate court in Florida held that a cruise line owes its passengers a duty to warn of known dangers beyond the point of debarkation in places where passengers are invited or reasonably expected to visit. Carlisle v. Ulysses Line Ltd., S.A.,475 So. 2d 248, 251 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1985). 

The Carlisle case involved a horrific incident involving four passengers aboard the S.S. Dolphin on a four-day cruise to the Bahamas. They were attracted to this particular cruise by promotional brochures advertising the beautiful beaches of Nassau. Upon arriving in Nassau, the two couples rented a jeep and headed for the beaches. Following the advice of the ship's cruise director, they traveled to a secluded beach and were ambushed by three masked gunmen who opened fire on them with shotguns. All four of them were wounded. Mr. Carlisle later died from a gunshot wound to his head. After the incident, the survivors learned from members of the ship's crew that other tourists and a member of the ship's crew had been victims of violent acts perpetrated in various places on the island. Bahamian police reported that the particular beach where plaintiffs were attacked was "very bad."

The cruise line denied that it had any obligation to passengers off of the cruise ship and further denied that it had a duty to warn of crime in the ports of call where it disembarked its passengers.  The appellate court in Carlisle disagreed, holding that the cruise line's legal duty to its passengers does not end at the gangway and it must warn of dangers where the passenger is invited to, or may reasonably be expected to visit. 

The court drew a distinction between "point to point" travel offered by an airline which clearly has no obligation to its passengers once they leave the airplane, and a cruise vacation where the cruise lines advertise (and profit from) the ports of call.  Cruise lines have an ongoing duty to their passengers throughout the cruise experience.  The decision makes sense.  The cruise lines frequent the ports of call on at least a weekly basis; they have agents in the ports; and accordingly they are in a position to know far more about the ports than a passenger. 

The federal trial courts in this jurisdiction have applied Carlisle, but the cruise lines have been trying to chip away at it for years.  Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have been trying to convince the federal judges that cruise lines should have no liability to the passengers once they step foot in port and they don't have to warn of dangers that they know about but their passengers don't.   

Recently, Royal Caribbean was successful in obtaining an order ending a case filed against it after a young woman was sexually assaulted by men in Cozumel.  The passenger alleged the cruise line knew that there Carnival Victory Cruise Ship were rapes and violent crimes against its passengers in this port but failed to warn them. You can read about this case, which is now on appeal, in our article: Royal Caribbean Smears Crime Victim & Gets Cozumel Rape Lawsuit Thrown Out Before Trial.    

Last week, in a case we are handling, the cruise lines received a major set-back when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the rationale of the Carlisle decision and stated that cruise lines do in fact have an obligation to warn cruise passengers of the danger of crime of off the ships.

The case involved a 15 year old girl who was celebrating her quinceanera with her parents and brother on a Carnival cruise. A gang-related shoot out ended up with the girl being killed in St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Carnival successfully argued at the trial court level that it had no obligation to the young girl or her family, but the federal appellate court reversed the lower court. The pertinent portions of the 11th Circuit's opinion are below:

"Liz Marie and Appellants (her parents and brother) took a vacation aboard a Carnival cruise ship, the M/V VICTORY. Appellants allege that an unidentified Carnival employee encouraged Liz Marie’s father and brother to visit Coki Beach and Coral World upon disembarking the ship in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. On July 12, 2010, Appellants left the ship and traveled to Coki Beach independently of the ship’s sponsored excursions in St. Thomas. On their way back to the ship from Coki Beach, Appellants and Liz Marie rode an open-air bus past a funeral service of a gang member who recently died in a gang-related shooting near Coki Beach. Cars of funeral attendees were parked along the narrow road, blocking the bus’s passage. While stuck in traffic, gang-related, retaliatory violence erupted at the funeral, shots were fired, and Liz Marie was killed on the bus as an innocent passerby.

                                                             *                  *                   *

Appellants’ complaint alleges the following: a Carnival employee encouraged Appellants to visit Coki Beach in St. Thomas; Carnival was familiar with Coki Beach because it sold excursions there; Carnival generally knew of gang violence and public shootings in St. Thomas; Carnival knew of Coki Beach’s reputation for drug sales, theft, and gang violence; Carnival knew or should have known of the gang member’s shooting and funeral taking place near Coki Beach; Carnival failed to warn Appellants of any of these dangers; Carnival knew or should have known of these dangers because Carnival monitors crime in its ports of call; Carnival’s negligence in encouraging its passengers to visit Coki Beach and in failing to warn disembarking passengers of general and specific incidents of crime in St. Thomas and Coki Beach caused Liz Marie’s death; and Appellants have suffered various damages, including the loss of Liz Marie’s life. This negligent failure-to-warn claim is more than a mere recitation of the elements of the cause of action. The facts alleged in the complaint are plausible and raise a reasonable expectation that discovery could supply additional proof of Carnival’s liability. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S. Ct. at 1965. We consequently conclude that the district court erred in dismissing Appellants’ negligence claim under Iqbal."

You can read the entire decision here.

This is a significant decision because crime in the Caribbean islands (as well as Mexico) has been increasing over the years. We have written several dozen articles over the last couple of years about the murder, robbery and rape of cruise passengers ashore in ports of call in the Caribbean. Take a minute and read about the rash of crimes where cruise passengers are targeted: Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico.   

Our firm retained appellate specialist Phil Parrish to write the winning brief. Carnival was represented by Curtis Mase and Valentina Tejera.  You can read the lawsuit our law firm filed here.

 

The case is receiving national and international coverage:

ABC News: Vacation danger: Is cruise ship liable for perils on shore excursions?

Virgin Islands Daily News: Court rules lawsuit over slain teen tourist should be heard.

 

Photo Carnival Victory cruise ship bajan.wordpress.com

Newsweek Magazine Weighs in on Cruise Safety Debate: "The Hidden Horrors of Cruising"

Today, Newsweek magazine and its online edition - The Daily Beast - weighs in on the 6 month anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster with a far reaching article looking at all aspects of today's cruise industry.

Cheap cruise fares? Certainly.  But at what cost? Long working hours, low pay, and exploitative working conditions. An injured india crew members says to Newsweek: “They never feel that we are humans . . . They believe we are machines.” But Costa counters: employees are a “precious resource whose rights must be safeguarded as an ethical and moral imperative.” 

Newsweek takes a look at a number of other cruise health and safety issues, like norovirus and sick crew members pressed into working while ill and who lie to passengers to keep the machine running.

I'm quoted a couple of times about the cruise industry's new safety policies (what a joke).

The article's title is not subtle: "The Hidden Horrors of Cruising," written by Eve Conant and Barbie Latza Nadeau.

Your travel friendly publications won't be re-printing the article anytime soon.

If you can't wait until the magazine arrives at your newsstand, you can read it online at the Daily Beast

Costa Concrodia - Cheal Fares & Hiden Dangers

"The industry hopes you won’t worry about such disasters next time you’re lured by an Internet ad for a $299 cruise."

Photo credit: Max Rossi / Reuters-Landov

Cruise Industry "Safety Tool Kit" Lacks An Important Tool - Honesty

Yesterday I read a press release by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) touting a "Cruise Industry Safety Tool Kit."

The kit is designed by CLIA to "educate and reassure" prospective cruise clients about safety at sea.

The materials contain brochures which can be customized with the travel agency's name on the front and includes questions and proposed answers to provide to customers who may be skittish about cruising following the Costa Concordia disaster and highly publicized cruise ship fires on the Royal CLIA Safety Tool Kit - Cruise Ship DangersCaribbean / Azamara Quest and the Costa Allegra.

Unfortunately the CLIA materials are incomplete and misleading. Consider this proposed question and answer:

Q: Is cruising safe?

A: Absolutely. Cruising is extremely safe, and incidents are rare . . .

If you are a travel agent and tell your clients that cruising is "absolutely safe" in order to make a sale, and one of their kids is victimized by a crewmember, you can be sued for fraud.  

CLIA also suggests that travel agents tell prospective cruisers that "as ships have grown larger, cruises have become safer than at any time in history." Considering the 32 deaths in the Costa Concordia just a few months ago (which CLIA is careful to omit), this may be another whopper that you may want to skip too. To make matters worse, CLIA's casualty statistics end as of 2011 and do not include the Concordia victims. 

The greatest omission from CLIA's safety kit is there is absolutely no mention of crime.  The greatest risk to a passenger is not the cruise ship catching on fire or sinking, it's sexual assault - like a cruise employee molesting your child or your teenage daughters being sexually assaulted by a crewmember or older passengers.  

Earlier this year we reported on a child supervisor who worked for many years on Cunard cruise ships who admitted to abusing at least 13 boys in and around the cruise ships' play zones.  We suspect that there are more victims than this.  

There has been a vigorous debate in our U.S. Congress for the past six years about the frequency of crime on cruise ships. One cruise expert who testified several times before Congress stated that the chance of being a victim of rape on a cruise ship is twice that of being sexually assaulted in your home town.  

Azamara Quest Cruise Ship FireThe safety kit also has a section where CLIA recommends certain messages for travel agents to post on Facebook and "tweets" to post on Twitter under #cruisesafety.  So far I have not seen any travel agents posting the CLIA info under this hashtag.

When interacting with your clients, the smartest thing a travel agent or cruise specialist can do is to disregard the CLIA propaganda. Here's my safety tip to travel agents:

Be honest with your clients.  

Anyone can Google "cruise ship crime" or "cruise ship fire" and read many hundreds of articles and see all types of disturbing images about all types of crimes and mishaps on cruise ships. Why tell a lie and lose your credibility, when your customers can find the truth about the dangers of cruising by a simple Google search?

 

"Cruise Safety Kit Logo" - Cruise Line International Association

Photo of Injured crewmember following Azamara Quest fire - IBN Live 

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Gang Rape in Cozumel

Cozumel - Cruise Ship CrimeCrimes against women in ports of call is a topic which I write about on a regular basis on Cruise Law News. Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn about the danger of crimes in the ports of call that they sail to on a regular basis.  Cruise lines sell an idyllic image of a care-free tropical vacation, but in reality they know or should know that there are dangers ashore waiting for their passengers.

One country I write about all too often is Mexico.  Drug related crime is increasingly creeping into the port cities. Gang violence will increasingly pose a threat to cruise passengers traveling to Mexico unless things turn around quickly in the future.

But a real threat to female passengers sailing to Mexican ports is violence, including sexual assault, against teenagers and young women.

A case pending in our court system should serve as a wake up call to cruise lines sailing to Mexican ports.  After Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas sailed into Cozumel, a young woman went ashore into the port to shop.  The lawsuit alleges that the cruise line provided her with a map of the shopping locations recommended by Royal Caribbean.  A gang of men brutally raped the young woman while she visited one of the recommended stores.  The lawsuit further alleges that it is believed that the men who raped the cruise passenger worked in the subject shopping area.

Like most crimes against cruise passengers in ports of call, there have been no arrests.  Ostensibly the alleged rapists may still be working in and / or around the shopping area in question.

Does Royal Caribbean warn cruise passengers of this danger?  No.  Cozumel is one of the few ports capable of accommodating the Genesis class cruise ships like the Allure and the Oasis.  No way will Royal Caribbean risk scaring its customers away from Cozumel when it has to sell 11,000 tickets for these two monster ships.

In fact, the cruise line touts Cozumel as one of the safer ports in the world.

Five months after the gang rape of the Royal Caribbean cruise passenger from the Oasis, a Royal Cozumel - Cruise Chip CrimeCaribbean crewmember from the Allure of the Seas was found murdered and floating in the water off of Cozumel.  The cruise line did not alert her or any other crewmembers or passengers of the earlier crime.  Indeed, after the murder Royal Caribbean issued a press release characterizing the crime as "isolated and uncharacteristic for Cozumel."   

It seems that Royal Caribbean forgot about the gang rape a few months earlier? 

The murder, like the rape, remains unsolved.

I have never heard of anyone in Mexico being tried or convicted of a crime against a tourist or a ship employee going ashore. There are several web sites discussing the reluctance of Mexican police to get involved in investigations in cases like this, such as Mexican Vacation Awareness which chronicles crimes and violence against tourists in Mexico.  Some of the local police in Mexico have even been accused of participating in crimes against tourists.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean conceal these dangers from their cruise guests.  It appears that even the stores on the cruise line's recommended shopping list may not be safe to visit.

 

Photo credit: AP Photo/Angel Castellanos

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

"10 Murdered in Mexican Pacific Resort City" reads the headline in Acapulco today, with a photo below of a bloody body lying in from of a scenic beach resort.  After such a horrific headline and photo, no one needs to read the actual article about the mutilated, dismembered and often decapitated bodies dumped in public areas of the Mexican city.

Two weeks ago, some 50 or so headless bodies were dumped on a highway near Monterrey, Mexico. The corpses had been mutilated with the dead's heads, hands and feet all cut off.

The official word from the Mexican authorities is always the same statement, carefully tailored not to scare the tourists and their U.S. dollars away - its just drug violence; don't worry the Zetas drug gang Violence Acapulco Mexico - Cruise Vacationdon't target cruise passengers; violence like this doesn't happen in cruise ports.

Perhaps it's true that there is more violence in a northern land-locked city like Monterrey, but how about a resort and cruise port like Acapulco?

A year and a half ago, USA Today asked the question in an article "Will Cruise Ships Bypass Acapulco Because Of Drug Violence?"  

Which cruise lines today are still sailing to Acapulco or, for that matter, Puerto Vallarta?  

I've written a number of articles about the dangers presented by violence in Mexico:

Two month ago, armed banditos robbed 22 Carnival cruise passengers who were traveling in a bus back to the port in Puerto Vallarta during a Carnival sponsored excursion.

Last November, armed robbers stuck up a Puerto Vallarta jewelry store while a Holland American Line cruise ship was in port.  The U.S. press didn't mention the story.

In October of last year, I posted this article: "Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas: Is it Safe to Cruise to Mexico?" after an unbelievable gun fight in broad daylight. 

Two years ago, I wrote: "Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Ships From L.A. Due To Crime In Mexico."

After I wrote my article about the crazy shoot-out in Cabo last year, I received hate e-mails for a couple of weeks. Not from Mexicans, but mostly from U.S. citizens who moved south and are selling real estate or involved in small businesses in places like Cabo or Puerto Vallarta.

There is no question that drug-related violence is out of control in Mexico.  But do U.S. passengers who have never traveled to Mexico really take the time to distinguish Monterrey from Mazatlan when there are reports of a dozen violent murders in a single day?     

An AP article last year said that although port officials and cruise industry representatives have tried to emphasize that most violence in Mexico takes place away from cruise destinations, the message has a hard time "competing with images of beheaded bodies on the news."

Working for the Mexican tourism board or as a travel agent in LA selling cruises to Mexico seems like impossible jobs in the face of such violence.  

My view?  There are a lot of safe cruise itineraries leaving out of Seattle to Alaska I would consider taking long before sailing my family south of the border.  

 

For additional information, consider:

Photo Blog - Drug Related Killings on the Rise in Acapulco

Five People Killed at the Port of Acapulco (March 2012)

How safe is Mexico for Tourists?

In Acapulco, It's Mayhem by the Beach

March 5, 2016 Update: Acapulco: Tourist Mecca and Cartel Murder Capital: "There were 903 homicides in Acapulco last year, 104 for each 100,00 inhabitants, the highest per-capita murder rate in Mexico, and fourth highest in the world. In the first two months of this year, there were 149 murders—an average of 2.5 per day. 

 

Photo credit: Latin America Herald Tribune / Reuters (photo taken August 2011)

Robbing Cruise Passengers in Bulk - Yes, It Happens!

Yesterday I talked about the recent armed robbery of 22 Carnival cruise passengers who were traveling in a bus back to the port in Puerto Vallarta during a Carnival sponsored excursion.

I mentioned that the cruise lines and tourism officials would quickly start a PR campaign to convince the public that robberies of large groups of passengers is rare.  But it's not.

There have been at least 100 passengers robbed at gunpoint (or machete) during excursions over the last 3 - 5 years; the majority of them were traveling in large cruise excursion groups. 

In 2007, 17 passengers from the Carnival Conquest cruise ship passengers were robbed at gunpoint during a cruise line sponsored excursion after sailing to Montego Bay, Jamaica. The excursion was to Cruise Excursion Bus - Cruise Ship Crimethe Lethe Estate, an old banana plantation.  The Carnival passengers were riding in a trolley when several bandits jumped out of the bush and robbed the 17 cruise tourists. cam. The passengers were terrorized as the gunmen pointed guns at the children on the trolley and took off with the passenger's jewelry, wallets, purses, cameras and money.  You can read the account in the USA cruise blog here.

Since I started Cruise Law News two and one-half years ago, I have reported on 4 armed robberies of cruise tourists in groups between 11 and 18 people. 

In November 2010, 17 Celebrity cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in a tour bus.  While the buds was heading toward a historic site, rocks and branches were strewn across the bus' path.  When the bus stopped, armed robbers threw a large rock into the front window and rushed into the bus and robbed the excursion group. 

In December 2009, 14 NCL passengers were robbed during a "safari" excursion in Anese-La-Reye by 4 masked men armed with guns and knives. The robbery occurred at beautiful waterfall advertised as a "perfect place to spend several hours in quiet reflection." 

In October 2009, a Bahamian newspaper reported that two "vicious robbers" held a group of 11 terrified cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean ship by gunpoint in Nassau.

In November 2099, 18 cruise passengers were robbed during an excursion in the Bahamas during an excursion into a remote natural preserve.  The passengers were part of a large Segway excursion which contained passengers from Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships.  

In addition to these incidents, there are dozens of other robberies of smaller groups, involving couples and families, which occur while the passengers are ashore.

When cruise experts and the tourism bureaus in Mexico and the Caribbean islands tell you that such crimes are "rare," take the time to educate yourself.  Don't trust your family's safety on representations from those who are trying to sell a product.  As the saying goes, those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it. 

AOL News: New Law Targets Dangers Aboard Cruise Ships

AOL News has an interesting article about cruise ship dangers.  Written by Tori Richards, the article is entitled "New Law Targets Dangers Aboard Cruise Ships."  It features Ken Carver, the President of the International Cruise Victims organization.

Here is the article reprinted from AOL News:

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 28) -- Missing persons. Assault. Child molestation. Rape. Death. Those are some of the extras the cruise ship lines don't tell you about.

The industry suffered a black eye for the recent nightmare cruise aboard the Mexico-bound Carnival Splendor, but that's just a small sampling of the safety issues plaguing one of America's favorite vacation modes, victim advocates say.

Carnival Splendor Cruise Ship - Cruise Vessel Security and Safety ActAll sorts of dangerous incidents happen on ocean liners. But beginning next year, portions of a new federal law will give the FBI authority over crimes that occur on ships that have docked at U.S. ports.

"It's like a town serving unlimited drinks with no police," Kendall Carver said of the cruise industry. His 40-year-old daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship in 2004.

"Every two weeks someone goes missing from a cruise ship somewhere in the world – and those are only the ones we know about," Carver said.

Last year, the FBI received reports of 349 incidents on cruise ships. It opened investigations into 32 cases involving "serious crimes" -- including one death, three missing people, 20 sexual assaults and six assaults with great bodily injury. The names of the cruise lines involved were not available, nor were statistics from this year, an FBI official told AOL News.

A database of FBI reports from December 2007 to October 2008, available on the Sun-Sentinel website, shows 363 incidents. The vast majority were on Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises.

None of this surprises Carver, who hears of incidents like this frequently as the founder of the non-profit International Cruise Victims which represents hundreds of people and is now in 20 countries.

Carver told AOL News he started the organization after spending years trying to find his daughter, Merrian Carver. During that time, he said, he ran into a cover-up by the cruise line, missing evidence and employees who were ordered not to talk.

The case has since been settled for an undisclosed sum, but Carver is still waiting for the answers he was looking for.

Merrian lived in Massachusetts and her father found an ally in the state's U.S. senator, John Kerry. They discovered that there were no laws pertaining to crimes aboard ships at sea. Soon they began to lay groundwork to change that.

"My daughter was the subject of five Senate hearings," Carver said. "The cruise lines spent $11 million in lobbyists to defeat this, but we still won even though we are just a group of regular citizens."

President Barack Obama signed the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act of 2010 on July 27.

"This law will finally do away with the murky lines of jurisdiction that have put American cruise ship passengers at risk in the past," Kerry said in a statement. He also noted Carver's help in getting the legislation passed.

It will be 18 months from the date of signing before the law is fully implemented. However, parts of it will be enforced in stages. Beginning early next year, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation must have guidelines to carry out enforcement. By summer, training standards must exist for ship personnel.

The law requires:  

  • Peep holes and security latches on all passenger and crew doors
  • Electronic video surveillance that documents crimes to be made available to law enforcement
  • Passenger security guides with information on reporting crimes to U.S. law enforcement
  • Limits on crew access to passenger cabins
  • Staff with knowledge and equipment to perform rape exams
  • Free and immediate access to law enforcement
  • Prompt reporting of crimes, which must be contained in a log

"It's too soon to tell if it will matter," said Mike Ehline, a Los Angeles attorney who handles lawsuits against cruise lines. "I'm still getting the same types of issues with the cruise lines refusing to hand things over. They always have some excuse – like the video was out that day, it got lost, or it was erased on accident."

A Carnival spokesman did not want to comment on the new law. However, noting the high number of incidents reported on the Sun-Sentinel website, he said that Carnival carries more guests than any other cruise line with an estimated 3.9 million passengers this year.

"We have a zero-tolerance policy for crime and any and all allegations reported to us by guests or made known to us via any other channel are reported to the FBI," Carnival's Vance Gulliksen said.

No one from Royal Caribbean was available for comment Friday.

According to language in the new law, "It is not known precisely how often crimes occur on cruise vessels or exactly how many people have disappeared during ocean voyages because cruise line companies do not make comprehensive, crime-related data readily available to the public."

It states sexual assault and physical assault as the leading crimes investigated by the FBI on cruise ships and it's difficult for law enforcement to gather evidence and conduct an investigation.

"Before, cruise lines would just say 'We are registered in this island or that, and we don't have to do this,'" Carver said. "Now, they will be banned from coming into our ports if they don't."

 

Story credit:  Tori Richards, AOL News

Photo credit:   Denis Poroy, AP (via AOL News)