FBI Investigates "Domestic Disturbance" Death Aboard the Emerald Princess

According to multiple news sources, the FBI is investigating the death of a 39-year-old woman from Utah aboard the Emerald Princess operated by Princess Cruises in Alaska.

The woman reportedly died aboard he Princess cruise ship after a "domestic dispute" leading to her "suspicious" death.

The cruise ship was diverted to Juneau, Alaska because of the criminal investigation, according to ABC News.

The FBI has special maritine jurisdiction to investigate crime at sea whenever a U.S. citizen is a victim or the assailant. 

July 27, 2017 Update: TIME magazine reports that the the U.S. attorney's office will hold a news conference later today with representatives of the FBI and Coast Guard in Anchorage to announce the filing of federal criminal charges against the suspect arrested yesterday by the FBI.

Jully 29, 2017 Update: CBS News Couple in Alaska cruise ship murder seemed like "perfect American family."

 Credits: photo KTVA. 

  

Murder Investigation Opened Regarding Disappearance of Crew Member from MSC Musica

Simone Scheuer SousaA week ago, we reported on the disappearance of a crew member from the MSC Musica on June 18, 2017 after the cruise ship left the port of Venice heading to Brindisi, Italy. 

The crew member is from Brazil, named Simone Souza Scheuer.

Today, the Italian newspaper Venezia Today reports that a murder investigation was opened by the criminal prosecutor in Brindisi, where the cruise ship ported after her disappearance. The article says that the offices of prosecutor Stefano De Milto Weddle acquired video footage from inside of the cruise ship and interviewed friends and co-workers on the ship. Other crew members have stated that the missing crew member had a disagreement with her supervisor and ended a two-year relationship with a co-worker. The news accounts did not mention a particular suspect in the woman's disappearance. 

The Chi l'ha Visto television program, which looked into the disappearance of an Italian crew member from a Princess Cruises ship a number of years ago, aired a special program into the crew member's disappearance.  

The last time that a woman disappeared from a MSC cruise ship was in February when a passenger disappeared from the MSC Magnifica.

Unfortunately, cruise lines like MSC fail to utilize the latest in automatic man overboard technology. Many say that a cruise ship is a perfect location for a murder, particularly when there are few automatic man overboard cameras installed on ships which would document and, possibly, deter criminal activity. The majority of mysterious disappearances at sea involved young women.

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

 Photo credit: Chi l'ha Visto?

Bus Driver Shot & Killed in Tourist-Filled Downtown Nassau

Nassau Bahamas Shooting DeathThis morning, a driver of a minibus, reportedly operated by Stuart Cove Dive shop, was shot and killed in downtown Nassau, Bahamas. The Facebook page of Nassau resident Tellis Virgil‎'s Speak Up Bahamas discussed the incident and includes a photograph of the crime scene. 

Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas is described as "Nassau's leading full service dive resort."

Five cruise ships are in the port of Nassau today: Carnival Pride, Carnival Elation, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Breakaway. 

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that police "were called to the scene of the shooting at East Street North, near Prince George Wharf around 7am where they discovered the body of an adult male by a Stuart Cove's minibus parked near The Crew Pub and entrance to the cruise port." 

It is currently unknown exactly when the five cruise ships arrived at the port and disembarked passengers ashore. Several of the ships disembarked their passengers after 7:00 a.m., if this is in fact when the shooting occurred. But many people commented that tourists were waiting to board the minibus when the shooting took place.

One of the comments to the Tribune article expressed concern that the "man was murdered on the doorstep of our cruise ship industry in broad daylight." Other people voiced their concerns on the Speak Up Bahamas Facebook page of the impact of this crime on Nassau. Several people commented that there are already two police officers from the Royal Bahamian Police Force on virtually every street corner in downtown Nassau to try and deter crimes which may affect tourists.  

Cruise Law News has repeatedly reported on the high crime rate in this port city.  The murder rate in Nassau is around 8 to 10 times higher than the U.S. murder rate per 100,000. The murder rate in the U.S. is around 4.5 per 100,000; the murder rate of the Bahamas is over 30 per 100,000.  Considering that the vast majority of murders in the Bahamas occur in New Providence where Nassau is located, the murder rate is probably over 40 per 100,000 for Nassau.     

I have been quoted as saying that Nassau is one gunshot away from cruise lines pulling out of Nassau. Nassau is viewed by the Miami-based cruise lines as a convenient deep water port with cheap dockage fares and low passenger head-taxes. But Nassau has been the subject of at least a dozen critical crime warnings by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. embassy in Nassau over the last several years. Cruise lines will probably still continue to call on Nassau because it is a close, money-making port (although it will lose cruise tourists to Cuba over the years to come). But things will drastically change should a cruise passenger become a murder victim in Nassau. 

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

Photo credit: Tellis Virgil‎'s Speak Up Bahamas

Is a Cruise Ship the Perfect Place to Commit a Crime?

MIndy Jordon Disappearance - NCLEarlier today, I mentioned the recent disappearance of a young Chinese woman from the MSC Magnifica.

It appears that she may have been a murder victim, according to the police in Italy who are investigating the case.  

If this is true, this is hardly the first time that a cruise passenger has been killed at sea. 

Cruise passenger Karen Roston was thrown overboard by her husband during an Admiral Cruises vacation. He was later convicted of the crime. 

Mindy Jordon went overboard from a NCL cruise ship when she went on a vacation with a husband reportedly with an abusive and violent background. 

The case of George Smith, of course, is perhaps the clearest example of a crime at sea, after he was reportedly thrown overboard by a man, who was also sailing on the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas as a passenger, who reportedly gave Mr. Smith a "paragliding lesson without a parachute." 

Micki Kanesaki DisappearanceA Chinese cruise passenger murdered his wife by pitching her overboard during a cruise aboard the Macau Success. He falsely claimed that his wife committed suicide.

A drunken passenger killed his wife during a cruise on the Carnival Elation to Mexico. 

A lawyer was arrested for allegedly strangling & throwing his wife, Micki Kanesaki off an Italian cruise ship several years ago. 

A woman from Vancouver, Canada, Fariba Amani, who was cruising aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship operated by the Celebration Cruise Lines, disappeared under mysterious circumstances during a cruise with her boyfriend.

Farabi Amani DisappearanceThere are many others who met with foul play on cruise ships. 

A Brazilian crew member, Camilla Peixoto Bandeira, working aboard the MSC Musica was strangled to death by her boyfriend. 

23 year old  Amy Lynn Bradley disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas under highly suspicious circumstances where it appears that she was abducted.

Carnival passenger Annette Mizener appeared to have been thrown overboard from a Carnival ship cruising to Mexico.  

A Holland America Line (HAL) crew member sexually assaulted, violently beat, and tried to throw a woman from her balcony on HAL's Nieuw Amsterdam. The crew member was arrested and sentenced Jennifer Ellis-Seitz Balconyto jail, although in most such cases there are no arrests or prosecutions.  

Other young, healthy and seemingly happy individuals have disappeared from cruise ships, with the cruise line wildly speculating that they probably committed suicide, like Denisa Markoska, and Angelo Faliva.

A murder investigation was opened after after a 53 year old woman went overboard from the Costa Fortuna

A young woman, Jennifer Ellis-Seitz, disappeared over the rails of her cabin's balcony resulting in the FBI investigating the conduct of her husband when other passengers commented on what they considered his highly strange behavior. The FBI eventually declined the case after finding no evidence of foul play. There was, of course, no automatic man overboard system in place.

It was the mysterious disappearance of Merrian Carver from the Celebrity Mercury back in 2004, and the resulting cover-up by the cruise line, which motivated her father, Ken Carver to create the International Cruise Victims organization.   

Several lawmakers have asked whether a cruise ship is the perfect place to commit a crime, largely Camilla Peixoto Bandeira - MSC Disappearancebecause of jurisdictional nightmares like this

The cruise industry is quick to label disappearances at sea as "suicides" even when the facts suggest otherwise. Read: "Suicide" - One of the Cruise Lines' Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Mike Driscoll, editor of Cruiseweek, a cruise publication, was recently quoted as saying "Most over-boards to date have been suicides."  He offered no statistical evidence to support this inaccurate claim. In fact, the majority of disappearances involve highly intoxicated individuals who go over the rails. Whether you view this phenomenon as the result of reckless conduct by the drunken passenger or the irresponsibility of the cruise line in over-serving their guests to make profits from the vast amount of alcohol sold during a cruise, there is no question that alcohol is involved in most disappearances from cruise ships.  You can track the last 288 case of overboards maintained by cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein and easily Annetter Mizener Disappearancesee that alcohol plays a significant role in most overboard cases.   

Unfortunately, it also appears that a cruise is a perfect location for a murder, particularly when there are few automatic man overboard cameras installed on ships which would document and, possibly, deter criminal activity.  

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

March 3, 2017 Update: Cops believe missing Dublin-based mum was murdered on cruise ship and thrown overboard in suitcase.

Photo credits:

Mindy Jordon - International Cruise Victims 

Denisa Markosa DisappearanceMicki Kanesaki - Orange County Register

Fariba Amani - Global News Canada

Jennifer Ellis-Seitz balcony - TODAY

Camilla Peixoto Bandeira - A Tribuna newspaper

Annette Mizener - ABC News

Denisa Markosa - Fokus newspaper (Macedonia)

Man Arrested for Murder of Wife Who Disappeared During Cruise

Costa Magnifica Overboard MurderNumerous newspapers are reporting that a woman cruising with her husband aboard the MSC Magnifica with their two young children (ages 4 and 6) on a Mediterranean cruise, starting in Civitavecchia, Italy, disappeared last week. The woman has been identified as Xing Lei Li. Her husband has been identified as Daniel Belling.

Italian police arrested the husband at Rome’s airport after his wife vanished from their cruise vacation and he didn’t tell anyone.

The ship had sailed to Genoa, Malta, Greece and Cyprus. Crew members noticed that the wife was missing when they did a head count at the end of the cruise. The cruise ship alerted police and informed them that the wife had been registered as a guest on the Magnifica's passenger manifest on February 10th, following a port call in Genoa, the day after the cruise started, but subsequently disappeared. 

A ship store employee said she remembered the couple and their two children in her store on the Costa ship, when the husband exhibited agitation and violence toward his wife.

Police seem to suspect that the husband may have thrown his wife overboard, although he denies this and claims that she is alive and may have returned to either their home in Ireland or returned to her native China.

Italian police are currently going through CCTV footage from the cruise ship. There is no indication that the MSC ship was equipped with a state-of-the-art automatic man overboard system which would have immediately alerted the bridge if a person went over the railing. 

There have been numerous incident like this over the years, although cruise industry supporters claim, without factual support, that most disappearances involve suicides.

Read: Is a Cruise Ship the Perfect Place to Commit a Crime?

Update: March 10, 2017 -  Italian police probe if cruise ship woman was murdered, stuffed in suitcase and thrown overboard.

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

Photo credit: Kyran O'Brien via Independent newspaper in Ireland.

 

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 

Backatcha' - Bahamas Warns Travelers of Police in the U.S.

Shooting of Philando CastileIn what many believe to be a political game of backatcha', the Bahamas on Friday issued a warning to its citizens planning to travel to the United States about the danger of interacting with police officers:

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken a note of the recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by policemen. We wish to advise all Bahamians traveling to the US, but especially to the affected cities, to exercise appropriate caution generally. In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police." You can read the entire advisory here.

The travel warning from the Bahamas comes after a week of protests in the U.S after three white police officers shot two black men in separate incidents a total of 11 times and killed them.

On Tuesday, two policemen shot 37-year-old Alton Sterling (left) six times in a parking lot of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On Wednesday, a policeman fatally shot 32-year-old Philando Castile (right) five times after a traffic stop of a car which he was driving with his girlfriend and her four year old daughter inside. The police did not attempt to administer first aid to either of the dying men. After Mr. Philando Castile Alton SterlingCastile was shot, the police arrested his girlfriend in front of her child who also witnessed the shooting and then was separated from her mother at the police station.

The governor of Minnesota commented that he was "appalled" by the shooting of Mr. Castile and the mistreatment of his girlfriend and said that police wouldn't have shot and killed Philando Castile if he'd been white. 

President Obama put matters into perspective, that blacks are more like to be stopped, searched, arrested and imprisoned than whites. He commented: "black drivers are more likely to be pulled over for traffic stops. After being pulled over, blacks and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites."

Here in the U.S., we have witnessed far too many black men whose lives ended prematurely by overzealous and poorly trained police officers. The images of Eric Gardner, who was choked by an officer and was then tackled by four other policemen, are impossible to watch and then are even more impossible to forget.  Mr. Gardner was restrained face down on the sidewalk gasping "I can't breath" eleven times before he became unconscious and later died. The police officers and later, the EMT's, didn't bother to perform CPR on this dying man either. 

Americans here in the U.S. are familiar with the names Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and Sandra Brown who all died during or after confrontations with the police. Each injustice seems to blend with the next in a seemingly endless video loop that shocks the nation's conscience.    

Yes, these deaths raise disturbing questions about race relations in the U.S. To me, it seems that the vestiges of racism are alive and well in the U.S.  The nation will soon face the specter of probable acquittals if there is a decision to prosecute the three police officers involved in the most recent shootings. U.S. history tells us that often the murderers of blacks will be found innocent of criminal charges. I have written before that "history shows that instances of racial violence are usually followed by injustice in the legal system." Sadly, these tragedies may end with additional violent riots that will inevitably follow if the the officers are acquitted.

Of course, none of this heartbreak and injustice has anything to do with travelers from the Bahamas who live in their own world of crime and violence. As I have mentioned many times, the Bahamas has an extremely high murder rate.  With a total population last year of around 388,000, the country experienced 149 murders which resulted in a per capita murder rate of around 38 per 100,000 residents (compared to the national U.S. per capita murder rate of only 4.5 per 100,000).  This is the murder rate of the country. If what many consider to be generally safe locations like the Family Islands outside of New Providence are excluded, Nassau is as unsafe as the U.S.'s most dangerous cities like St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, and New Orleans.  

The murders in the Bahamas rival the gruesome details of the U.S. shooting I mentioned above. The case of Edgar Dart, a traveler from Britain via Canada, who was bound and killed by three robbers when they broke into his mother's home armed with a gun and a machete, remains unsolved. The family was tied up with duct tape during the raid and Mr. Dart was killed after bleeding to death in front of his son, as well as in front of his brother, sister-in-law, and young nephew. 

Crimes against U.S., Canadian or British citizens in the Bahamas are rarely solved. Within the last two Garu Vanhoeckyears, the murders of American student Mason Hart, British diving instructor Gary Vanhoeck (left), and retired Canadian doctor Geoffrey Harding have not been solved. There are no arrests following assaults, robberies, thefts and muggings of Americans.

The U.S. State Department stated in one of the dozen warnings dating back over the last couple of years: "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."   

The Bahamas also has an incredibly high per capita rape rate. The Bahamas' rate of rape is 113 out of 100,000. In the USA it is around 28 per 100,000.  

Slate's Mike Pesca was precisely on point when he wrote today in an article The Bahamas Is Warning Its Citizens About the Dangers of the United States - The Truth is Bahamians are Safer Abroad than at Home: "Of course, the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are just the latest horrific incidents in what has become a blight on America. But the Bahamian government’s warning should not be interpreted as another data point in America’s shame so much as a statistical misinterpretation of actual danger. In fact, on average, a Bahamian who leaves his country to travel to the United States would decrease his chances of being murdered."

My thought is that Bahamians should be aware of the history of violence against blacks here in the U.S., to the extent that they are not aware of this reality with the non-stop international coverage provided by cable news.  But this warning seems designed to serve other purposes.  Many Bahamians, particular merchants concerned that repeated U.S. warnings about crime in Nassau is bad for the cruise business in Nassau, dislike the fact that the Bahamas is repeatedly the subject of U.S. State Department's "critical crime" warnings. One Bahamian reader commenting on the Bahamian warning told the Tribune newspaper in Nassau: "No I'm not saying that there's not a real danger for black Bahamians in the US, I'm saying I don't think the primary motivation for this advisory was to protect Bahamians. This was 'stick it to the US' policy."   

Other Bahamians who left comments on the Slate article singled out Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Minister Fred Mitchel, as having "a major chip on his shoulder about race issues and is very anti-USA" and "is hoping by 'sticking it to the man', as it were, he'll take some of the pressure off his government's total failure to address the crime problem."

The purpose of a governmental warning is to educate citizens about matters that they might not know about. I doubt that any Bahamians flying to the U.S. are unaware of the protests filling the cable news broadcasts about the killing of black men (and the murder of five white policemen in Dallas by a black man with a AR-15 which the Bahamian warning does not mention). However, first time cruisers to Nassau, filled with dreams that it is "better in the Bahamas," may think they are taking their family to a safe tropical island. They might not realize that they are traveling to an island where they are eight times more likely to be murdered than in the U.S.   

Update July 11 2016: Opposing Views addresses the issue: Bahamas Travel Advisory Is Just Tit For Tat.

Update July 12 2016 Update: According to the Tribune newspaper, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau released a new travel warning message "urging its citizens and US visitors in Nassau and Paradise Island to exercise heightened personal security awareness, pointing out that armed robberies and violent crime remain primary criminal threats."

More Fall-Out or No Fall-Out, Depending Who You Ask:  Mitchell: No Fallout From The Us Over Ministry's Travel Advisory

Photo Credit:  Shooting of Philando Castile - CNN 

Alton Sterling (left) and Philando Castile (right) - Twitter via Observer.

Gary Vanhoeck - BBC

Canada Issues Another Crime Advisory for the Bahamas

Canada has issued another travel advisory, warning that travelers to the Bahamas "should exercise a high degree of caution (due to) high rates of crime, especially in Nassau."

The Canadian government said that "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. Do not carry large sums of cash or wear expensive jewelery. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure Canasa Warning about Crime in the Bahamasat ail times. If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist. Home invasions are also of concern in Nassau."

The government also warned that "sexual assaults are on the rise in Nassau." Canada specifically warned that "there have been reports of jet-ski operators assaulting their clients in New Providence and Paradise Islands".

Two months ago the Nassau Guardian reported that a Bahamian taxi cab driver was arrested on charges that he raped a US woman visiting Nassau. 

Nassau's Tribune newspaper published an article in September 2014 about the last Canadian crime warning for the Bahamas. The US government, through the State Department and the US Embassy, has issued numerous warnings about crime in Nassau affecting cruise passengers and tourists.

We have written frequently about the high incidents of murder and armed robbery in Nassau (New Providence). Last year, the country experienced a record number of murders. 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.

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

Many cruise passengers chose to decide to stay on their cruise ships while in the port of Nassau.

June 9, 2016 Update:  The Nassau Tribune covered the Canadian travel advisory.  The Bahama Journal quoted the leader of the opposition party, Dr. Hubert Minnis, saying:

"“Record high murder rates, and countless stories of the latest violent crime dominating the front page of our papers have had a chilling effect on the entire country and it continues to bleed out beyond our islands. As horrific as the crime rate has become, what’s more astounding is the lack of action from the Government.” 

Photo credit: Tribune newspaper

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 

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. 

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

Nassau, Bahamas - the "Wild, Wild West"

I have written several dozen articles in the last several years about the high crime rate in Nassau.  The murder rate in the Bahamas is well over 30 per 100,000 compared to the U.S. murder rate of around 4.5 per 100,000. I have published articles about cruise passengers being raped and robbed ashore (29 cruise passengers were robbed in just two incidents). Cruise passengers on excursions have been targeted. 

The Nassau Guardian wrote an article after interviewing me a couple of years ago: U.S. Attorney Raises Concern over Crime - Bahamas "One Gunshot Away" from Cruise Line Exit. The response by the locals was mostly denial and to plaster me with hate e-mails. Since then, crime has steadily Crime Nassau Bahamasincreased. 

There is no doubt that Nassau is plagued by runaway crime (this year the number of murders will reach a record high). There are far more crime warnings issued for by the U.S. State Department for the Bahamas than any other country in the world. The unemployment rate for young men is record high and rising. Nassau is filled with guns. The police are ineffective. The legal system is broken.

Many cruise passenger stay on the cruise ships when they reach Nassau.   

Make no doubt about it. Tourists and cruise visitors to Nassau need to be warned, it's dangerous in the Bahamas.

Today, I read an article in the Tribune newspaper: American Businessman Considers Leaving The Bahamas After Business Is Robbed. Here's what the victim told the Tribune:

"This place has become the Wild, Wild West . . . It’s like having a group of people arguing over how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. The boat’s going down with everybody on it. And unfortunately here we see a deterioration of the quality of life . . .

We have a higher per capita murder rate than New York City does, than a lot of major cities in the US do. And nobody seems to be getting it."

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

Cruise Crime, Dangers & Doubts Linger

The cruise industry is trying to put the bad news behind it.  Cruise lines are announcing more and more cruise ships coming on line. The industry is moving into the Chinese market with great fanfare. Today Carnival said that it is ready to start cruising from Cuba. Travel agents and reporters are faithfully reporting the positive stories and trying to add to the excitement.

But there is a steady stream of bad news that simply won't go away.

A couple of days ago, a NCL crew member went overboard from the Sun but the ship security didn't know about the missing crew member for 13 hours and never bothered to turn the ship around for a Cruise Ship Crimesearch and rescue. The Coast Guard shut the search down before the public knew what happened, 

Australian television just broadcast a special insight into the cruise industry titled "Murky Water: The Dark Side of the Cruise Industry," which looked at a part of cruising that many people may be disturbed to learn - sexual assaults, drugs, excessive alcohol and the loss of passengers overboard. An Australian newspaper reported, just today, that "most incidents on cruises go unreported because victims fear their attackers may throw them overboard. Crew members who fall victim also face the threat of losing their job if they complain. It is estimated that one person goes overboard on a cruise ship every two weeks . . . "  

This year, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of an U.S. woman who was brutally attacked on a HAL cruise ship in the Caribbean.  The room service attendant beat, choke and raped the women in her cabin over an incredibly violent 45 minute period of time and then tried to thrown her overboard.  The danger of permitting male cruise employees to use master keys have proven to be an irresponsible and dangerous practice over the years, Another service employee pleased guilty this year to using his master key to open a woman's cabin door at night and sexually assault her on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Quantum of the Seas

But all the while, the cruise industry markets itself as safe and responsible. Its a shame that the marketing and lobbying association of the cruise industry, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), is also the part of the industry that interacts with the Federal agencies responsible for enforcing the few laws that relate to passenger safety issues.   

Mark Brimble, president of the Australian chapter of the International Cruise Victims, recently told a victimology conference: "The cruise industry is cleaning up its image but it may not necessarily be cleaning up its act."  

The Security Management publication in an article titled Safety at Sea by Holly Gilbert Stowell, explained today how the U.S. Coast Guard has permitted the cruise lines to slide on their legal requirement to install effective automatic man overboard systems. At a bureaucratic level in Washington D.C., the Coast Guard seems more motivated in keeping the cruise lines happy than saving lives at sea.     

The article said that there are "two wildly different pictures of crime statistics are painted by cruise lines and by industry critics. For example, in 2011, victims reported 563 incidents of crime aboard cruise ships. But cruise line websites only documented 102 of those crimes" according to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein who obtained the FBI data under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request."

The article also quoted me explaining that the FBI ". . . may be great at dealing with white collar crime but they’ll just say that they’re not interested in getting themselves involved in bar fights and people smashing each other with beer bottles or women who are raped."

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut met today with the family of George Smith who disappeared from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas ten years ago. Senator Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts have proposed legislation mandating the use of safety technology and man-overboard detection that could have prevented Mr. Smith’s disappearance.

But the cruise lines have done little over the past decade to improve passenger safety. The cruise industry reminds me of an addict in denial and unable (unwilling) get past step one in a twelve step recovery program. Passengers and crew members will continue to disappear at sea as the Coast Guard and cruise lines work together to dismantle the man overboard system legal requirements. The Coast Guard will continue to posture for cozy jobs with the cruise lines and its lobbying organization. Lives which could be saved will be lost 

The cruise industry has wasted the last decade. It could have agreed to real changes, fully implemented the man overboard technology, and put the issue behind it. But it resisted change, taken the easy cuts and engaged in a massive PR game. The cruise lines have proven once again to be more determined to overcome a bad image than to learn from their bad conduct.

 

WFSB 3 Connecticut

A Decade of Injustice: The George Smith Case

This weekend will mark 10 years since George Smith disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005. 

Mr. Smith was on a honeymoon cruise with his newlywed bride, Jennifer Hagel, who we later represented on behalf of Mr. Smith's estate against the cruise line over his disappearance.

I have written about this terrible tragedy many times, including writing a series of articles about some of George SmithCruise Mystery the details about the case. 

I have always thought that the case involved foul play, and that George Smith was tossed over-the-rails.

The case was mentioned routinely on television and cable news back in 2005-2006. We were interviewed on a regular basis. Royal Caribbean sent a slew of people to appear in the media like the former captain (whose opinions were ludicrous) as well as PR representatives, crisis communication experts and even the CEO of the cruise line. They tended to cast aspersions against Mr. Smith, or his bride, or both, or played dumb. They never ever produced videos in the cruise line's possession. 

What Royal Caribbean didn't disclose to the media back then was that it had a video recording of some of the other passengers who were last with Mr. Smith in his cabin early on the morning in question. After Mr. Smith's disappearance, the men were recorded mocking Mr. Smith. One of them then said: "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." This video was in the possession of the cruise line by the end of the cruise and, later, in the possession of the FBI which did not disclose it to any of the family members. It eventually became known to the Smith family only around 7 years after the incident.

The greatest mystery about this cruise line crime case is not what happened to George Smith; it's why the FBI shut its investigation down and why the Department of Justice didn't arrest those responsible long ago.

What do you think of the Captain's excuse that George Smith may have been smoking a cigar on the balcony and just lost his balance?

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

CBS is airing an episode on 48 Hours tomorrow night about the case. A preview is below:  

 

 

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. 

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

Photo Credit: top Jim Walker; bottom seatrade-cruise  

A Normal Weekend in Nassau

The Bahamas Weekly reports that four Florida residents wre arrested this weekend for possession of pot on a cruise ship moored in Nassau, Bahamas.

The newspaper reports that the incident occurred on Sunday, May 24, 2015.

The report says that "officers from the Tourism Policing Unit acting on intelligence went to a cruise ship moored at Prince George Wharf, where they found the four suspects in possession of a quantity Nassau Bahamasof marijuana."

Snagging America cruise passengers on cruise ships in the Port of Naasau is big business in the Bahamas. I write about it frequently. The local police don't bother obtaining a search warrant or establishing probable cause before barging into cruise ship cabins and hauling the passengers off to jail. It's easy revenue for the island.    

The article doesn't specify the anount of pot (which the Bahamas calls a "dangerous drug"). But if these arrests are similar to the last dozen or so at the port in Nassau, probably not more than a few joints.   

Meanwhile Bahamas Weekly reports that the police are asking for public assistance in apprehending the criminals associated with two armed robberies and the murder of a woman whose lifeless body was found over the weekend in a pond near a service road with injuries to her head.

The murder count in the Bahamas, now at 60, is heading for an all-time high.     

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

Photo Credit: BrokenSphere via Wikipedia Commons 3.0

British Man Murdered, U.S. Cruise Passenger Arrested for Marijuana

I did a double-take when I read a newspaper headline today:  British Man Murdered in the Bahamas, American Arrested on Drug Charges.  

It wasn't that the murder in the Bahamas surprised me. Murders in and around New Providence (Nassau) seem to be a daily occurrence in the Bahamas. Violent homicides and shootings are reported routinely by the Tribune, Nassau Guardian and Bahamas Weekly newspapers. Nassau is heading for a record number of gun related murders. The Bahamian legal system is broken and the society is frayed. The crime is so bad in the Bahamas that the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, and the Canadian government issued a record-number (six) crime warnings in Nassau Bahamas Crimejust the last 16 months. 

Today the murder stories in the Tribune newspaper in Nassau include Mystery Over 49th Murder Of The YearBritish Man Killed at Dive Centre, and this dreadful one - Mother Found Dead And Tied To A Tree

What surprised me today is that a newspaper decided to lump yet another unsolved murder of a British citizen with something as mundane as a U.S. cruise tourist getting busted for a joint or two on a cruise ship at the Prince George Wharf.   

The local police in the Bahamas are clueless in solving homicides. They seem to focus their efforts conducting warrant-less searches for marijuana at the port. They enter cruise ship cabins without a hint of probable cause and arrest tourists for small quantities of pot (which they call a "dangerous drug"). It's an easy way to shake tourists down for a thousand or two dollars. They should be called revenue agents.  

One of the chief complaints we hear from cruise passengers sailing to Nassau is that they are constantly harassed by the local citizens to buy pot the second they step off the cruise ship. You can easily buy pot at the Straw Market and up and down Bay Street. The drug dealers, police and judges are all eating from the same trough. Meanwhile, the murderers in Nassau are running free in the streets. 

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

Photo Credit: Tribune 242 Newspaper

Retired Canadian Doctor Murdered in the Bahamas

Multiple news sources in Canada are reporting that a prominent retired doctor from Canada was violently murdered while on vacation in the Bahamas.

Canadian Broadcasting Cor[oration reports that Dr. Geoffrey Harding, age 88, was stabbed to death during a home-invasion robbery last Thursday. 

CVT says that he was an accomplished family doctor who practiced in small communities in Canada before retiring 10 years ago. His son-m-law described him as living a modest life, and not a wealthy man by any means: “He didn’t have any money. It wasn’t like he was living in a mansion there or anything like that. It Geoffrey Harding Murdered in the Bahamaswas a very modest two-bedroom bungalow." 

The police in the Bahamas arrested a 43-year-old Bahamian late Saturday night, but refused to disclose that the murder victim was Canadian. Unfortunately, we have seen the local police in the Bahamas (called the Royal Bahamas Police Force) acting like a tourism bureau before.  

The newspapers in the Bahamas are also down-playing the incident. The Tribune newspaper described the Canadian doctor merely as a "Caucasian man."  This is how the police released the information. The Nassau Guardian did not report on the murder.

In the last 15 months, the United States has issued six (6) critical crime warnings for the Bahamas via the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, warning tourists of armed robbery, kidnapping and sexual assault there. The last warning was in February.

The murder took place on Long Island, an island in the Bahamas.

Canada warned its citizens of violent crime in the Bahamas last year. A visitor from Canada was killed in front of his family during a horrible home invasion robbery last April.  Last May, a young Canadian tourist was stabbed 7 times in the chest, back and stomach when thugs robbed him of a gold chain.

There is nowhere in the world with so many critical crime advisories.

Cruising to the Bahamas? Beware.

April 7 2015 Update: Local Bahamians say that Long Island is peaceful and crime is rare but just last December a 53 year old woman had her hands and feet bound and was stabbed to death, according to the Nassau Guardian.

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

 

Photo Credit: CBC

HAL Jumps the Gun (Again), Calls Deaths a "Murder-Suicide"

Yesterday a cabin attendant discovered two cruise passengers dead in their cabin on the Holland America Line (HAL) Ryndam.

The proper  procedure for the cruise line to follow is for the crew member(s) to immediately leave the cabin, lock the door and call security who, in turn, will secure the cabin and assign a security guard to safeguard the crime scene until the FBI team boards the ship. 

The cause of death of the couple cannot possibly be determined until the FBI has conducted its forensic work, the bodies have been removed from the cruise ship, and a medical examiner has concluded a thorough examination of the bodies with the assistance of other forensic experts, pathologists and toxicologists. This is a time consuming process (we are still Ryndam Murder Cruise Ship WKBNawaiting medical examiner reports from cruise deaths last summer).

There's no information regarding how, why or when the deaths occurred, but HAL quickly announced that the case "appears to be a murder-suicide." The cruise line didn't bother to wait for a medical examiner's report or for the experts at the FBI to perform their work. 

So how can a cruise line make an instantaneous determination of the cause of two dead people in a cabin? It can't, certainly not without violating protocols and entering the cabin and conducting a quick amateurish attempt at acting like a crime scene investigator where it is likely to accomplish little other than spoliating the evidence.  

HAL announced to reporters that it was an apparent "murder-suicide" strictly as part of its PR strategy. That's what it wanted the press to report.  There are now literally hundreds of newspapers using this phrase in their reports of the cause of the cruise ship deaths. Many newspapers and news sources, including the Associated Press, have dropped the word "apparent" and said that the husband murdered his wife and then committed suicide based on HAL's rush to judgment. 

HAL's PR people wanted to dispel any notion that a crew member may have been involved in the couple's death. HAL is still reeling from the bad publicity created when a crew member violently beat, raped and tried to throw a woman off her balcony on the Nieuw Amsterdam last year.

This is not the first time HAL has pulled such a stunt.

Washington resident Amber Malkuch was 45 years old when she disappeared from the HAL Zaandam in 2009 while sailing to Alaska. But before the Alaskan State Troopers concluded their investigation, a member of HAL's PHolland America Line Cruise DeathR department and CLIA's PR team, Sally Andrews, announced to the media that it appears that Amber took her own life. The "suicide" conclusion was reported on major news stations. 

This surprised not only Amber’s friends and family, but it dumbfounded the Alaskan State Troopers who had yet to review photographs and video, conduct interviews or analyze toxicology reports. The Anchorage Daily News reported "Troopers Miffed at Cruise Line’s Rush to Judgment." The Seattle Post Intelligencer quoted a representative of the Alaskan State Troopers saying: 

We’re the people actually looking into the exact cause of death . . . We’re the ones doing the interviews and looking at the evidence . . . And if we haven’t been able to make a determination, how can the cruise line who isn’t trained?"

Investigators never concluded that Amber took her own life. Her family continues to search for answers. Meanwhile you can still read the headline on FOX News: Cruise Passenger Goes Overboard in Apparent Suicide, six years later.

Does Holland America Line care about what the evidence in death cases reveals? In the world of cruise line PR (perception vs. reality), what matters most to the cruise lines seems to be the public’s perception that cruise ships are safe rather than the reality that perhaps they are not.

Determining the cause of cruise ship deaths is the role of experts - the FBI, medical examiners, and other qualified forensic specialists - not the cruise lines' PR departments.

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

Photo Credit: WKBN 

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

 

Have a comment? Leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

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

Bloody Nassau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Another Murder in Roatan . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roatan

Tragedy in Roatan: Two Boys, Two Young Men Murdered

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

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

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

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

Teleprensa Noticiero reports that two suspects were arrested. 

2014 has been a violent and tragic year in Roatan. 

Roatan Honduras

Photo Credit: Teledifusora Insular Facebook Page

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

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."

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

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: cosmologicalcabbage.blogspot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune

Nassau, Bahamas Crime Watch: Time For Another State Department Warning?

Latore Mackey, the press secretary to the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, was shot in the neck and killed early Monday morning.

Mr. Mackey's death was the fifth in less than 36 hours according to the Tribune newspaper in Nassau. 

Violent crime in out of control in Nassau. 

Young gun-totting men are on the rampage. The Tribune reports that four men, 18, 20, 22 and 24 Nassau Bahamas Crimeyears old, were arrested for the murder. 

In March, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau last issued a crime warning, advising 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 referred to a number of armed robberies which occurred in the last two weeks.

That was the third critical crime warning for the Bahamas since December 2013.

The most recent warning stated, in part:

"Armed robbery and violent crime remain major threats facing both U.S. citizens and residents of the Bahamas, including in areas frequented by tourists on New Providence and Grand Bahamas Islands. In the past year, a number of U.S. citizens have fallen victim to armed robbery."

The vast majority of the armed crimes are by local citizens against local citizens in the Bahamas. But these crimes are rarely solved and that's especially true when the victims are tourists.

I remain of the opinion that the tourism dependent islands are "one gunshot away" from the cruise lines concluding that it too dangerous to unload boatloads of cruise passengers in Nassau. Many cruise passenger tell me that they stay on the ship when the cruise calls on Nassau.

I don't blame them. 

When government employees are gunned down while driving on Market Street, it's time for the U.S. State Department to issue another warning to tourists traveling to Nassau.  

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

 

Image Credit: The Tribune

Another Murder in Roatan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. 

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

Murder at Sea? CBS' 48 Hours Updates DIsappearance of George Smith From Brilliance of the Seas Nine Years Ago

Its been nine years since George Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.

CBS focuses on new developments in the cruise ship mystery, in a 48 Hours story entitled "Murder at Sea?"

Its introduction says: a newlywed vanishes off the cruise ship where he was honeymooning - 9 years later, "48 Hours" reports on the renewed push to find out what happened to George Smith. 

You can watch the program below: 

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

Murder in Roatan: A Peaceful, Tranquil Paradise?

Roatan Honduras came onto the radar of Cruise Law News in January of this year when a U.S. family who took a Carnival cruise to the island was robbed at gun point while driving in a rental car. The bandito shot the car up, terrifying the three children in the car as well as their parents, who had no idea that they had taken the kids to such a violent place for a family vacation. 

The mother subsequently left us a message saying:

"My Husband, 8, 14, 15 year old daughters and I were shot at, robbed and almost killed after returning Roatan Honduras Crimefrom one of the Roatan Beaches. I find it hard to believe that cruise lines would be wanting to increase tourism to Honduras. People innocently go there to enjoy it's beauty unaware of the danger lurking. My heart goes out to the family of the Norwegian cruise line crew member that was just killed there in broad daylight."

We subsequently reported about several other tourists robbed or assaulted at gun point this year. We were also the first in the U.S. to report on the murder of a NCL crew member in Coxen Hole.

What struck me most about Roatan when I began speaking to local residents and people who fled the island was not just the crime and sense of lawlessness. I was surprised by the extraordinary efforts of the expatriate U.S. citizens who live in Roatan to create the false and misleading impression that the place was a safe, tropical paradise.

Today in reading the local Insular Teledifusora Facebook page, I see that a local man identified as Rodrigo Mendoza Nelson was shot multiple times. His body was dumped along a road from Coxen Hole to Sandy Bay near an entrance to a place called "Mud Hole" late last night.

The images of the lifeless body on the Teledifusora Insular page are graphic.

Roatan Honduras Crime The web page also shows several crude images of men who were quickly arrested for the murder. 

A week ago I wrote about another murder of a local man who was bludgeoned to death near the  Balfate colony area.

None of these images or stories will be seen by tourists to Roatan.

Nor will the expatriate citizens running the tour or dive shops, or the restaurants or bars, or the resorts or realty companies mention these incidents to cruise ship passengers. 

 

Image Credit: Teledifusora Insular

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

2014 Bahamas Crime Report: Armed Violent Crime Escalates

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

It is a grim report.

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

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

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

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

Cruise lines are finally warning the passengers about the problem.

Here's a portion of the the official report:

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

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

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

Crime Threats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Top - Nassau Bahamas Press

Roatan, Honduras - Update on Crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World 

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers

Bahamas 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."

Have a thought? Leave a message below or join the discussion on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Global News

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.

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers

The last two weeks has been an eye opener for knowledgeable tourists thinking of traveling to Roatan. A cruise line employee was gunned down near the port. The bloody death was widely reported in the local newspapers which published gruesome photographs of the dead crew member.

As a result, a major cruise line temporarily pulled out of Roatan. A major excursion company also canceled all tours of the island expressing concerns for the safety of cruise passengers.

The story revealed some disturbing information about the island.  A number of tourists, some arriving by cruise ship and some by air going to dive, have been robbed at gun point and machete point this year. 

Hundreds of people have left comments on our website and Facebook pages about what they think of Roatan Honduras Murder CruiseRoatan. Many islanders and expatriates who bought homes and invested in businesses in Roatan swear that the beautiful island is perfectly safe. Others have stated that it is a dangerous place, with corrupt and/or incompetent/indifferent policemen, where crimes are covered up.

I have received a wide range of responses to my articles, including curses and threats from those who feel an obligation to protect the island's reputation, whether it be for sincere, patriotic reasons or in the calculated defense of their financial investments. I have also received comments from expatriates who have fled the island in fear, or who are stuck with their debt on the island, saying you-have-no-idea-how-bad-it-is-here. 

The most expressive of expatriates in Roatan have informed me of the dangers they perceive presented by what they describe as the thugs in gangs or crack-heads desperate to feed their drug habits. These types intimidate the good people in the community who are afraid to swear out complaints to the police out of fear of retribution. There is animosity between the islanders and the people from the mainland where murders are so frequent as to earn Honduras the infamous designation of having the highest murder rate in the world since 2010. Honduras and the Bahamas are the only cruise destinations in the Caribbean with critical crime warnings from the U.S. State Department.     

Some defenders of Roatan argue that things will get better and justice is possible in Roatan, pointing out that the police quickly apprehended the man who shot and killed the cruise line employee. (Photo above) But others point out that police work really didn't solve the murder. Rather, the mayor's $5,000 reward led to the alleged murderer's friends shooting him in the leg and then calling the cops for the reward money. Some people has posed the question to me - do you want to live in a place where a ship employee will be gunned down for a $250 cell phone and the crime will be solved only when the murderer's friends commit another crime by shooting him for a $5,000 reward?

It is with this backdrop that I read an article today in the Huffington Post entitled "Your Next Trip Should Be to Roatan, Honduras. Here's Why."

It's what I call a "puff-piece" by a travel writer, extolling the quiet "authentic island charm" and the "warm and friendly" people. There is no mention of murder or robbery or crime in the article - only images of the beautiful blue waters, the white sandy beaches, and the thick green forests of the "paradise island of Roatan." 

The article has seemingly been liked and re-tweeted by virtually every resort, dive shop, and bar on Roatan Honduras CrimeRoatan.

Is Roatan the "paradise" portrayed by the article? The article mentioned several resorts and tourist attractions. Did the travel writer pay for her stay on the island or was this a quid-pro-quo great review for a free vacation?      

Some people have warned me that if I travel to Roatan to check things out for myself, not to take a taxi or rent a car.  Some of the tourists and locals have been held up by the taxi drivers. Tourists renting cars have been ambushed when they leave the main roads (photo right). If you complain to the police, I am told, there is an even chance the police will do nothing or, worse, they will be in cahoots with the crooks.

I have written before about travel writers ignoring crime and violence and painting a false and misleading image of travel destinations: Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

As I said before, travel writers who ignore the murders and violence in the Caribbean ports are not doing anyone a favor. And they are providing a grave disservice to the next unsuspecting family who travels to Roatan blindly looking for paradise.  

April 21 2014 Update: Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World 

 

Read: Crime, What Crime? - Bay Village Voice January 2006  

Photo Credit: Cruise Critic (bottom) 

More Trouble for Cruise Tourism in Roatan

The Telegraph reports that Cruising Excursions, a company which operates tours exploring Roatan's "fishing villages, mangroves, iguana farms and beaches," announced that it is canceling its tours on the island.

An excursion company representative said that “a string of reports of robberies, violence against visitors and now this horrific murder have forced us to suspend our cruise excursion programme on this beautiful island. "

The newspaper further quoting the spokesperson saying that it is “very sad for the majority of law Roatan Hondurad Cruise Crimeabiding island residents, especially those who make a living from tourism but we cannot recommend cruisers go ashore until we are reassured that measures are in place to protect visitors."

The excursion company also said that all bookings have been canceled with full refunds.

Roatan is in crisis mode trying to respond to the murder of a Filipino crew member from the Norwegian Pearl a week ago. We previously reported on the horrific crime

The excursion company's withdrawal from Roatan is significant because it was based not only on the recent homicide but on what it describes as a string of violent robberies this year. 

We reported on prior armed robberies in January and March

Roatan attended the Cruise Shipping Miami convention in Miami Beach last month to promote its port. I stopped and took a photo of the booth. I thought that it was just a matter of time before something like this happened.

 

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

A Week the Cruise Industry Would Like to Forget

This week has been a public relations disaster for the cruise lines and the travel industry.

A Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member from the Norwegian Pearl was gunned down in Roatan after he walked off the ship to call his wife and check on his child back in the Philippines (suspect photo below right). A Disney crew member sexually molested a 13 year old girl on the Disney Dream.  A visitor from Canada was murdered and his family terrorized in the Bahamas. A MSC cruise ship, the Magnifica, was raided by the police and labor officials in Brazil for human rights violations. Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ships infected hundreds and hundreds of guests with norovirus aboard the Grandeur of the Seas and the Crown Princess

You can read about the stories here.

A month ago I attended the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM) and listened to NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan Roatan Murder Suspect Cruisesay: "we are ruled by public opinion; unless we can keep our business running right we will always be on defensive." The NCL boss added: "a period of operational excellence and no media incidents are needed."

A month ago I wrote that the continuous stories about mistreatment of crew members, sexual assaults, and children victimization will continue to damage the cruise industry's image. Its like reputation death by a thousand cuts. I heard no PR plan by the cruise lines at CSM to turn things around.  I said at the time that the cruise lines were just "hanging in the balance hoping for the best."

Well the best didn't come and cruise executive Sheehan didn't get his prayer answered for "no media incidents."

This week Sheehan pulled his cruise ships out of Roatan after one of his crew members was murdered last Sunday, but the move is just temporary. His ships will again start calling on Roatan at some point. But the danger is still there. Many cruise passengers, from Carnival and Royal Caribbean, as well as other tourists, have been robbed at gunpoint or machete point in Roatan earlier this year.

Crime in Roatan will not magically stop.  Other cruise tourists will undoubtedly be robbed. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world not to mention dysfunctional police and legal systems. Where do the cruise line go instead? Belize? The Bahamas? Their crime and murder rates are also some of the worst in the world.

Roatan, Belize, and the Bahamas are all beautiful but they are all dangerous places to visit. What families want to save up all year and go on a Caribbean vacation to get away from the stresses of their lives just to end up in some of the most dangerous countries in the world?

A new Harris Poll revealed that the cruise industry's image is sinking. The poll says that the U.S. public questions the safety and reliability of cruising. The poll cited the numerous norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships as one reason for the lack of confidence in the cruise industry. The poll was taken before the Roatan shooting or the Disney child molestation case this week.

Bahamas Crime Watch: British Tourist Shot Dead in the Bahamas

The BBC reports that a British citizen from Winnipeg, Canada was shot and killed while visiting the Bahamas earlier this week.

56 year old Edgar Dart was visiting his mother in Emerald Bay, Grand Bahama after his father died. The BBC says that around 7:00 AM on Tuesday, a masked gang of three robbers broke into his mother's home armed with a gun and a machete. The family were tied up with duct tape during the raid and jewelry and personal items were stolen.  Mr. Dart was killed in front of his son, as well as in front of his brother, sister-in-law Edgar Dart - Murder Bahamasand young nephew. 

The Daily Mail reported that “they were forced to look on helplessly as Edgar lay on the floor bleeding to death in front of them. It took him around an hour to die . . . and there was just nothing they could do for him.” 

A family member said: "His young son was there as well - it is barbaric, horrific and just really shocking."

No arrests have been made.

The death was reportedly the 30th murder for the Bahamas this year. The local newspapers, the Nassau Guardian and the Tribune, mentioned the story but do not mention the gruesome details.

The Daily Mail quoted Mr. Dart's brother saying "The police report on the killing is very scant. Crime is on the increase on the island and they do not want such matters reported because they fear it will damage the tourist industry."

We have reported on the high crime rate in the Bahamas on many occasions. Read:

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

U.S. State Department Issues Another Crime Warning About The Bahamas

Bahamas "One Gunshot Away" From Cruise Line Exit
 

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

Honduran Police Arrest Bay Islands Resident in Murder of NCL Crew Member

A number of news sources are reporting that the national police and special forces in Honduras arrested a suspect last night for the murder of the Norwegian Cruise Line crew member in Roatan.

The Honduran newspaper Tiempo reports that an arrest of Guzman Ramirez has been made in the murder of NCL assistant cook "Jacob."

The suspect was hidden in the home of relatives, located in Coxen Hole, just 400 meters from the murder scene.

Guzman Ramirez Roatan MurderWhile capturing the suspect, the police seized a .38 caliber revolver, allegedly involved in the murder. (The newspaper states that the crew member had two gunshot wounds, one in the left arm and another in the chest).

The newspaper states that the suspect was detained for drug possession in January but was quickly released by the police. 

The Honduran police originally arrested two other suspects but released them.

The newspaper also states that the suspect is originally from the Bay Islands and is not from the mainland of Honduras as many people thought. Many people in Roatan have informed us that the Bay Islands are peaceful and their crime problems mostly stem from the mainland.  

You can see other photographs of the suspect and the arrest here - CAPTURADO HOMICIDA DE FILIPINO.

We were the first in the U.S. to report on this terrible crime. You can read the initial accounts here.

NCL quickly announced that it is pulling its cruise ships from Coxen Hole for at least a week. 

Royal Caribbean is continuing to sail to Roatan although passengers from that cruise line have been robbed at gunpoint.  

Carnival is still sailing to its facility at Mahogany Bay in Roatan despite cruise passengers been robbed at gunpoint

Honduras is one of only two countries (the Bahamas is the other) subject to a critical crime warning from the U.S. state department.  You can read the warning here. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world and has had such a record since 2010.

Will NCL's CEO Kevin Sheehan Pull the Norwegian Pearl, Dawn & Jewel Out of Roatan?

Last month Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) pulled its cruise ships out of Tunis after Tunisian officials at the port prohibited Israeli passengers from entering the country.  

It could have been confusion over visa and immigration issues, but NCL issued a stern public statement condemning what it perceived as discrimination against its Jewish clients. 

“We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests. We are outraged by this act . . . "

Yesterday we were the first to report that a Filipino crew member was shot and killed in Roatan. A bandito gunned the crew member down for his cell phone. The crew member bled to death on a main street near the port.

No, the crime was not unforeseeable. No, it was not rare. The U.S. State Department has issued a critical crime warning. Since 2010 Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. The New York Norwegian Pearl Cruise ShipTimes wrote about crime problems in Roatan in January. We published articles this year like this and this about the escalating armed violence in Roatan against U.S. citizens. Women and children have been terrorized by armed criminals in this deceivingly idyllic island. Now a crew employee is dead. 

How will NCL react?

Will NCL be outraged?  Will NCL tolerate such violence? Will NCL send a strong message to Roatan?

Is a Filipino crew member killed in Roatan worth the same as two dozen cruise guests discriminated against in Tunisia?

I certainly think so.  

Roatan has done little to address the armed robberies against cruise passengers and tourists this year. Its reward of a paltry $5,000 (U.S.) for the bad guy responsible for the death yesterday seems awfully meager. I suppose that an island where a criminal will kill for a $250 cell phone will be motivated by a $5,000 bounty for the killer. 

NCL's CEO must act decisively. Sheehan must pull his ships from Roatan. A message must be sent that this is unacceptable. 

Anything less will be an in insult to the NCL crew members and to the memory of Filipino crew member "Jacob."

April 8 2014 Update: NCL just posted this on its Facebook Page:

"Norwegian Cruise Line is shocked and saddened by the tragic death of a crew member from Norwegian Pearl in Roatan, Honduras on Sunday, April 6, 2014.

Police reports indicate the crew member was killed during an attempted robbery while in Roatan. Local officials are investigating and have the alleged suspect in custody.

In an abundance of caution for our guests and crew, we have cancelled calls to Roatan this week for Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Jewel.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the crew member."

April 10 2014 UpdateHonduran Police Arrest Bay Islands Resident in Murder of NCL Crew Member

 

Read our prior article: NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras 

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras

This evening we received reliable information that a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member was shot and killed in Roatan, Honduras earlier today.

The crew member reportedly was from NCL's Norwegian Pearl cruise ship.

The only information we received is that a Pearl crew member named "Jacob" from the Philippines was killed by a gunshot today while the Norwegian Pearl was in Roatan today. The murder apparently occurred when the gunman was trying to rob the crew member of his cell phone a short distance form the cruise ship. 

NCL Norwegian Cruise Line Pearl This year we have posted two articles warning about the high crime rate in Roatan. We published the articles last month and in January:

Travel Crime Warning: Tourists Assaulted, Robbed & Terrorized in Roatan, Honduras

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

The U.S. State Department issued a warning that the murder rate in Honduras is the highest in the world. 

Before I learned of the murder today, I received the following message on this blog: 

"Honduras is rated the number 1 murder country in Central America for a reason.  . . . People, just remember this, anyone who lives there or owns property there is going to paint you a rosy picture of this place because they can't leave or they have their money invested there. Avoid Roatan."

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

Update: The Teledifusora Insular Facebook page identifies the Filipino crew member as Jacob Bagan. It states that the police are searching for someone called "Barrabas" who shot the man and then left his bicycle at the scene. The new mayor of Roatan offers a reward of 100,000 Lempiras (a little over $5,000 U.S.) for the capture of the murderer. There are numerous photographs on the Facebook page, including one of the deceased man that is graphic. Other newspapers are covering the story, including this one, which contains very disturbing images (warning). 

Below is a video from Roatan of the Mayor being interviewed.

April 7 2014 UpdateWill NCL's CEO Kevin Sheehan Pull the Norwegian Pearl, Dawn & Jewel Out of Roatan?

April 10 2014 UpdateHonduran Police Arrest Bay Islands Resident in Murder of NCL Crew Member

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Visitor 7  

U.S. State Department Issues Another Crime Warning About The Bahamas

Two and a half months ago, I was on the front page of the Nassau Guardian warning cruise passengers about crime in Nassau Bahamas following a critical crime warning from the U.S. Embassy.

Yesterday the U.S. Embassy in Nassau issued another crime warning, advising 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 referred to a number of armed robberies which occured in the last two weeks.

This is the thrid critical crime warning for the Bahamas since December 2013.

The most recent warning states, in part: 

"Armed robbery and violent crime remain major threats facing both U.S. citizens and residents of The Crime Cruise Ship Passengers Nassau BahamasBahamas, including in areas frequented by tourists on New Providence and Grand Bahamas Islands. In the past year, a number of U.S. citizens have fallen victim to armed robbery."

The advisory also suggested that U.S. tourists should "monitor local news stations for updates" and maintain a "high level of vigilance."

You can read the warning here

We have written over a dozen articles about the high crime rate in Nassau. Before booking a cruise, we suggest reading:

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

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

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

Carnival-Owned AIDA Cruises Pulls Out of Margarita Island, Venezuela After Murder of Passenger

Margarita Island Venezuela Cruise MurderToday there is a report in El Universal newspaper that German cruise line AIDA Cruises announced the suspension of its two next port calls on Margarita Island, Venezuela. 

Last week we reported that a 76 year old passenger was shot and killed while ashore on an excursion from the Aida Luna cruise ship.

Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world. 

The newspaper quoted the president of the Nueva Esparta Chamber of Tourism, stating:

"This was expected to happen, because security has a direct effect on tourism; hence we insist on saying that time has come to go from words to action. Not only we need police, but the fact of the matter is creating wellbeing in the region in order to minimize crime; there is the need to combat impunity with all the strength we have."

In many ways, there are other countries in the Caribbean which are exactly in this Venezuelan island's precarious situation. I was interviewed by the Nassau Guardian last month about the high crime and murder rates in Nassau and the threat presented to cruise passengers. I said that Nassau was "one gunshot away" from losing its cruise ship business.  I expect Carnival to up and leave if and when a Carnival passenger is shot.

In Margarita Island, which is in the Caribbean, this turned out to be the case.     

The Aida Luna is owned by Carnival Corporation and operated by AIDA Cruises.

I suspect other islands in the Caribbean are holding their breath, afraid that a cruise tourist will become a murder statistic.  

 

Photo (Map) Credit: David Gouaze 

Cruise Passenger Murdered in Venezuela's Margarita Island

Yesterday a cruise passenger was murdered while ashore in Venezuela's Margarita island.

The international press reports that "a gunman shot dead an elderly German tourist on Venezuela's Margarita island," in the latest incident "illustrating the country's rampant crime." 

Reuters identified the dead man as Goldhahm Hors Kurt, age 76, from Germany.

A German cruise blog explains that the cruise tourist had gone ashore on an excursion from the Carnival owned Aida Aida LunaLuna cruise ship. The crime occurred at a tourist shop in a shopping center.

The El Universal newspaper says that two armed robbers on a motorcycle tried to rob the tourists. A struggle ensued and Mr. Kurt was shot and killed.

Venezuela's murder rate is one of the highest in the world, and reflects a trend we have observed of substantially higher crime against tourists in the Caribbean region. Last month a former Venezuelan beauty queen and soap opera star Monica Spear was shot and killed when she returned to her homeland. 

The Venezuela Tourism Minister tweeted (@IzarraDeVerdad) his condolences and said that authorities were pursuing the criminals. However, newspapers state that over 90% of murders in Venezuela remain unsolved.

The Aida Luna is a Sphinx class cruise ship, owned by Carnival Corporation and operated by AIDA Cruises.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Frank Schwichtenberg / GNU Free Documentation License 

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.

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

Nassau Bahamas - Crime WarningThe newspapers in Nassau continue to report the high rate of armed robberies and murder. 

If you are thinking of taking a cruise to Nassau, don't trust the U.S. based cruise lines or U.S. travel agents to be transparent with you. That would be a mistake. There are hundreds of millions of dollars to be made in cruise fares, cruise excursions and cruise commissions from people sailing into Nassau. 

The local newspapers in Nassau are straight forward in reporting crime. The crime problem mostly affects the local Bahamians but it also involved crimes against cruise passengers and tourists. Check out these local newspapers in Nassau: Tribune; Guardian; Bahamas B2B, Bahamas Press, and Nassau Punch. And check out the Bahamas Police Depatrment. Bookmark them and read the news articles and information for a couple of weeks before you book a cruise. 

Here are a few highlights over the last month:

United States Issues Another Crime Warning For The Bahamas: 2 days ago the U.S. Embassy issued yet another crime warning. The new advisory warns US citizens traveling in the Bahamas of a “crime spike” in the country. "The Embassy said that a number of US citizens had fallen victim to armed robbery and two had been murdered in the last eight months." Read the chilling advisory here.

Two tourists were robbed of their belongings and a rental car at gunpoint: "The man and woman were on Jaws Beach in western New Providence when they were approached by two men who Crime in Nassau Bahamasproduced a weapon, took a backpack containing cash and other items." The U.S. Embassy says that the robbers carried an "assault rifle."

"Nassau is Bloodier Than New York" From the Tribune in Nassau: "New York City is much, much safer than small New Providence, despite that US city’s massive size. Of every 25,035 New York City resident, only one was murdered in 2013. Conversely, of every 2,100 Nassauvian, one was murdered in 2013."

Tourism Conference To Debate Issue Of Crime: "US Embassy officials issued a crime warning to Americans living in and travelling to New Providence and Grand Bahama. In the advisory, the murders of two Americans over the past eight months and numerous armed robberies were pinpointed."

Challenging the Status Quo of Crime in the Caribbean:  "2014 began with crimes rates soaring ridiculously high in the Caribbean."

Are Bahamian officials safe?  In December, the Acting Prime Minister Philip Davis was robbed at gunpoint. A few days ago, 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 enought to stick up the Acting Prime Minister and the police are stealing from the Prime Minister.

"Two men armed with guns robbed a pre-school while more than 100 students attended classes." From pre-schools full of children to the highest governmental officials, no one seems safe in this beautiful island. 

 

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

Photo Credit: 

Top: Bahamas B2B

Bottom: Tribune

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

A Cruise Passenger's Perspective: Local Newspapers in Nassau, Bahamas Paint Grim Image of Armed Robberies & Murders

On Friday, I published an article regarding whether travel agents and cruise lines are warning passengers about the high rate of violent crime in Nassau. My article followed an article in the Tribune newspaper in Nassau reporting on the cruise industry's concern with crime against its passengers and crew members, as well as the U.S. State Department warning of the risk to tourists of armed robbery. 

My impression is that whereas Carnival is warning its passengers of high crime ashore in Nassau, the other cruise lines are not. And while some travel agents are transparent with their clients and tell them the sad news about Nassau, many have a cavalier attitude of "crime happens everywhere" or "nothing Nassau Bahamas Crimehas happened to me there" type of approach.

The article - Is Your Travel Agent or Cruise Line Warning You of Crime in the Bahamas? - also hit a nerve with the residents of the Bahamas. In comments to my article, I received two reactions from the Bahamas community. One sentiment was "yes, its dangerous here." The other reaction was a mixture of denial and strange patriotism "no, don't malign my country, Miami is more dangerous."

But the truth is that Nassau is more dangerous than Miami, New York, or Los Angeles, and does not compare well to even Detroit which is the murder capital of the U.S. In terms of armed robberies and murders, a U.S. citizen cannot travel to a more dangerous city in the U.S. compared to Nassau. And unlike these U.S. cities, Nassau is dependent on tourists arriving by cruise ship. The Miami-based cruise lines are finally talking about pulling out of Nassau if such high crime affecting their guests doesn't improve.   

The Bahamas used to advertise that "it's better in the Bahamas." I don't know if it does anymore. A more accurate description would be "it's more dangerous in the Bahamas."

Perhaps some of the remote islands of the Bahamas are safer, but that's not where the cruise lines unload thousands of people a day.

Last month, the Acting Prime Minister of the Bahamas was the victim of armed robbery (see photos on our Facebook page here).  Earlier this year, a 74 year-old female U.S. diplomat was the victim of an armed robbery on a Sunday morning downtown Nassau while walking to church. A few months ago, we wrote about the open letter to the Tribune newspaper about crime penned by Bahamian Senator Bostwick who talked about "regular random robbery of tourists."   

Many in the Bahamas dependent on the U.S. dollars of the cruise passengers say that violence finds only those tourists who "go over the hill" looking for drugs or sex. Similarly, many U.S. travel agents tell their clients that everything will be fine if you stick with the other passengers in the cruise approved excursions ashore.

But I will always think of the Bahamas as the only place where armed robbers have targeted cruise passengers to rob in bulk on multiple occassions. I'm talking about the armed robbery of 11 passengers visiting the Queen's Staircase on a quiet Sunday afternoon and, a month later, the armed robbery and terrorizing of 18 cruise passengers during a cruise excursion to a nature's preserve.

I have been accused of exaggerating things. My response is don't read my blog. Read the local newspapers in Nassau - the Tribune and the Guardian.  They are filled daily with stories of violent crime. I selected ten front page headlines from the Tribune in the last month or so to post on our Facebook page. Here are a few recent headlines:

"Man shot down in street," "7 shot, 1 killed at peace party," Murder count over 2012 total," and "Four dead in 36 hours of violence." The headlines go on and on.

You can see the articles from the Tribune here.

I doubt any cruise lines or travel agents want any of their customers to read these articles when deciding their cruise itinerary.  

Bahamas Cruise Crime Controversy Continues: Is the Carnival Warning Adequate?

Newspapers in Nassau continue to cover the bickering over whether Carnival Cruise Line should be warning its passengers about the high rate of crime in the Bahamas. 

In an article last week, we pointed out the criticism leveled against Carnival by the Atlantis mega-resort that Carnival's warning letter provided to cruise passengers had the potential to scare them from leaving the cruise ship and coming ashore with their money.  Local vendors in Nassau were making the same complaints.

A Senator in the Bahamas, John Bostwick, jumped into the controversy by publicly accusing Carnival of unnecessarily frightening its passengers over crime in Nassau to divert them to the cruise line's new Cruise Ship Crime - Nassau Bahamasprivate island, Blackbeard’s Cay.

Shortly after these accusations against Carnival, Senator Bostwick wrote a letter to the Tribune newspaper talking of "regular random robbery of tourists" at gunpoint, including a 74 year-old diplomat robbed in Nassau while walking to church and the armed robbery of tourists outside of Atlantis. He also complained that there was a developing sex industry at the port involving boys. 

Mr. Bostwick recommended an urgent saturation of tourist zones with CCTV cameras, increased police funding, and additional police patrols, K-9 units & undercover operations.  He also suggested the removal of all "vagrants, negative characters and known criminals" from downtown and efforts to avoid Nassau turning into a place of sex and narco-tourism.

Meanwhile, the latest news is that the Bahamian Tourism Minister, Obie Wilchcombe, has promised to investigate the Senator's accusations against Carnival.  

In a showdown between Carnival and the tourism-dependent Bahamas, the cruise line has the upper hand. Carnival can pull out of Nassau in a second and leave the island reeling. Just ask St. Croix, Acapulco and Mazatlan. 

Carnival responded to the controversy by pointing out that it sent the Bahamas with a “draft” warning during a May 2013 meeting of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) members. A vice president of Carnival stated “the Bahamian government was made aware in advance that cruise lines were planning to warn their guests.”  

The Bahamas Tribune newspaper contains the language of the Carnival letter to its guests:

“The US Embassy in Nassau recently issued a security message advising US citizens traveling to the Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being a victim of crime.

The Bahamian government is taking this situation very seriously and has committed to providing significant additional security personnel and resources, with particular focus on the tourist areas.

We wanted to bring this to your attention as a reminder to enhance your personal security by exercising good judgment and taking certain precautions as you would when visiting any foreign destination.

If you decide to venture into town, we encourage you to stay in the main tourist areas, return to the ship before sunset, and refrain from wearing any jewelry or carrying large sums of cash or other valuables.

Compared to the grim warning of the situation in the Bahamas contained in the U.S. State Department on-line warnings, the Carnival letter is rather innocuous and is really not much of a warning at all. It's incomplete and understates the critical nature of the crime problem in Nassau.

It's often hard for the cruise lines and the local tourism officials in the Caribbean ports of call, which rely on U.S. dollars from cruise passengers, to have a transparent conversation about the risks associated with crime in the ports of call.

Just today, an article was published in a newspaper in Trinidad & Tobago about the harm to the country's tourism industry caused by travel advisories about robbery, kidnapping and sexual assault involving cruise passengers and tourists.

It seems like many tourism officials in countries in the Caribbean view scary travel advisories as the problem rather than crime itself.

 

Photo Credit: meted.ucar.edu

Three Cruise Lines Plan to Return to Mazatlan: Will They Provide Bullet-Proof Jackets to Passengers?

The L.A. Times Travel Section reports today that three cruise lines have announced that they plan to return to crime-plagued Mazatlan.

First, Holland America Line's Veendam will return in November. Norwegian Cruise Line's Star will return in December. The third line, Azamara, will sail the Quest to Mazatlan in February 2014.

In 2010 and 2011, Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and Holland-America stopped calling at the Mexican port.  As the newspaper states, most of the cruise lines listed crime in the port as a major concern.

Mazatlan Mexico Crime - Cruise ShipThe issue of crime against cruise passengers in Mexican and Caribbean ports has been a hot topic on this blog. Read our article two and one-half years ago: Cruise Lines Skip Papua and Mazatlan, But Sail Passengers to Nassau - the Cruise Crime Capital of the World.

Don't miss reading the Gadling article: Mazatlan and Cruise Lines, Not a Good Match Anytime Soon which was published in May 2011.

But that was over 2 years ago, the Mexican tourism people say. The officials of Mazatlan assure the cruise lines that the city has new security precautions. The police and army have allegedly cracked down on crime and they invested in security cameras, accordingly to Mazatlan officials who commented to the L.A. Times. 

The L.A. Times writes that city officials hope the three cruise lines will signal to other lines that "Mazatlan is a safe, enjoyable port where the margaritas are large and luscious, the shrimp tasty and the scenery grand."

Sounds like a good Mexican restaurant in Miami to me. Someone needs to provide me with more detailed and assuring information before I pay to sail my family to Mazatlan and go ashore. 

 

Photo Credit: Mazatlan - AOL / Gadling

Nassau Bahamas Killing Spree: Cruise Line Warns Passengers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A knowledgeable blogger recently summed up the mess in Nassau:

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

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

Cruise Line "Voluntary" Crime & Man-Overboard Disclosures: Royal Caribbean's Data Is Incomplete and Misleading

Senator RockefellerYesterday Royal Caribbean and a couple of other cruise lines "voluntarily" posted a limited amount of data on their websites regarding cruise crimes and disappearances of people from cruise ships.

Of course there was nothing remotely "voluntary" about the cruise lines' conduct.

Last week Senator Rockefeller convened a hearing where he introduced legislation intended to compel, under penalty of law, all of the CLIA cruise lines to divulge incidents of disappearances from cruise ships and theft, homicide and sexual assault on ships. On the day of the hearing, the president of Royal Caribbean, Adam Goldstein, announced that his cruise line, as well as Carnival and NCL, would agree to post crime data without the necessity of legislation.  Cruise executive Goldstein said that his cruise line would begin posting the crime and man overboard information on August 1st.

The cruise lines have been resisting and dodging disclosing truthful crime statistics over the course of the last 7 Congressional hearings I have attended. Cruise CEO Goldstein's new promises of transparency were made for PR purposes to try and stave off the tough legislation introduced by Senator Rockefeller. 

Senator Rockefeller is skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted to self-report accurate crime statistics. The Associated Press quoted Senator Rockefeller stating: “If we’re really going to make a difference for consumers, I believe it’s going to take legislative action to make sure this industry is required to give customers the information they need and deserve when they’re making a decision about taking a cruise."

The CEO of the International Cruise Victims organization, Ken Carver, is also skeptical that the cruise industry can be trusted, The AP quoted Mr. Carver's belief that crimes reported by cruise lines are vastly lower than reality, because the initial investigations are handled by cruise line security personnel rather than law enforcement officials.

The skepticism by Senator Rockefeller and cruise victim advocate Carver is well founded. There is a well documented history of the cruise lines providing incomplete and misleading crime data to Congress and the American people. In some instances the information released by the major cruise lines is patently false.

In January 2007, the LA Times published an article looking into the problem of crime on cruise ships, entitled "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters." The article points out that Congressman Shays previously called for Congressional hearings where he requested crime statistics from the cruise industry. The cruise lines resisted the legislation arguing that it can be trusted to provide honest information. At several points in the hearings, when cruise line representatives extolled their safety statistics, Congressman Shays seemed skeptical. "I do not think we have all of the statistics," he told representatives of major cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean informed Congressman Shays that 66 sexual assaults occurred over a three year Adam Goldstein Senate Hearrng Cruise Ship Crimeperiod on its cruise ships. However, in a case we handled against Royal Caribbean involving 12-year-old twins who alleged that a crew member molested them, the cruise line was forced to hand over the internal records requested by our firm after a judge threatened to fine it $1,000 a day if it failed to comply. 

The Royal Caribbean data revealed not just 66 incidents, but 273 reports from passengers who said they were victims of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during a shorter time period. The LA Times quoted me saying that Royal Caribbean "redefined things and in the process, magically, poof, what used to be a crime no longer existed. Then they served up these numbers and thought they could get away with it."

So with this history in mind, let's take a look at what Royal Caribbean just posted yesterday as part of its "voluntary" disclosure on its website.

It disclosed just three persons overboard for the time period beginning October 2010 through the end of June 2013. There is no information regarding these incidents on the cruise line's skimpy website chart. There is no way a consumer can understand what happened. One of the three incidents involved a young woman who went overboard in September 2012. You can read about in detail on our website here, here and here

What's even more troubling is that Royal Caribbean did not reveal that 8 other people went overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships and the ships operated by its subsidiary Celebrity Cruises for the time period in question. Consider  the following man overboard incidents which occurred in the Royal Caribbean / Celebrity fleet:

January 2011 - Passenger disappeared from the Liberty of the Seas

March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Grandeur of the Seas. 

March 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Constellation.

May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Eclipse

May 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Millennium (see cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's database)

December 2011 - Crew member disappeared from the Summit

January 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Monarch of the Seas. 

February 2012 - Passenger disappeared from the Allure of the Seas. 

September 2012 - Crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas.

October 2012 - Another crew member disappeared from the Serenade of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean's website indicates that the cruise line intends to reveal only those overboard situations involving U.S. citizens. But there is no reason to hide man overboard incidents involving passengers of other nationalities and crew members. Disney Cruise Line, for example, discloses overboard cases involving non-U.S. citizens.

The truth is that at least 11 people went overboard for the time period in question. But Royal Caribbean disclosed only 3 incidents. That's only around 27% of the true number.  If a cruise ship is a floating city, why exclude all of the crew members and non-U.S. citizens who are members of the city? Royal Caribbean includes crew members and non-U.S. passengers as part of its population in determining crime ratios, Allure of the Sea Crime Statisticsbut then excludes crew members and non U.S. citizens when they are victims. That manipulation of the data distorts the true crime ratios. 

The only explanation for doing this is that the cruise line wants to present an image that is markedly different from the truth. 

Royal Caribbean's "voluntary" disclosure reveals exactly why the cruise industry cannot be trusted. Senator Rockefeller, like Congressman Shays long ago, has every reason not to believe the cruise lines' "voluntary" statistics.

The American people and citizens of countries around the world deserve to know the truth about crime and overboard cruise passengers and crew members. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean like to keep the public in the dark.

A well drafted law with stiff penalties is the only way to shed light on what really happens on cruise ships far out at sea. 

California Can Prosecute Lawyer Accused of Throwing Wife Overboard from Cruise Ship

Lonnie KocontesYesterday a judge held that a man accused of strangling and throwing his wife overboard from an Italian cruise ship should stand trial in California. The court rejected the argument of the cruise passenger's defense lawyers that the state prosecutors in Orange County lacked jurisdiction to prosecute the crime which occurred in international waters off the coast of Italy. 

The case involves a cruise ship crime alleged to involve Lonnie Loren Kocontes, a 55-year-old former Orange County attorney who s accused of killing his ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki, while they were on a cruise in May of 2006.

A local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles explains that during questioning in 2006, Kocontes told police that his wife was allegedly depressed and she likely jumped overboard. However, her body was found and an autopsy revealed that she had been strangled.

A case against Kocontes has previously been dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. However, the prosecutors immediately filed a new case, alleging murder with special circumstances of killing his wife for financial gain by transferring more than $1,000,000 from his ex-wife’s bank accounts and property to himself. 

Island Escape Cruise ShipThis is a case we have reported on before: Charges Dismissed Against Cruise Passenger Accused of Strangling and Dumping Ex-Wife Overboard.

You can read our first article about the case here.

The incident occurred aboard the Island Escape cruise ship.

The case is far from over. Expect an appeal to be resolved next year.

 

Photo credit: Top - CBS; Bottom - VIP.it

When Will There Be Justice for George?

George Smith Cruise Ship DisappearanceIt has been eight years since George Smith disappeared from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 4, 2005.

The cruise line initially stated that it had no idea what happened. But in 2012 it was revealed that Royal Caribbean took possession of a video shortly after the incident which implicated several men who were last seen with Mr. Smith. The video shows one of the men saying "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."

The FBI took possession of the video back in 2005 and did not reveal the contents to any of the families.

Seeking justice on the high seas when crimes occur is often a difficult task. The FBI has a poor record prosecuting crimes on cruise ships. It often seems that the FBI is more concerned with not embarrassing the cruise lines than obtaining justice for victims of crimes and their families.

The George Smith case is a good example of justice denied. But the case is still "open" and has been transferred from the FBI's office in Connecticut to the FBI office in New York. Say your prayers that there's an arrest and prosecution.

You can read a series of articles about Mr. Smith's disappearance here.

 

Photo Credit: CBS

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.    

Charges Dismissed Against Cruise Passenger Accused of Strangling and Dumping Ex-Wife Overboard

Two days ago we reported on a ruling made by a judge in California holding that a cruise ship passenger accused of strangling and throwing his former wife overboard from a cruise ship in Italy could be prosecuted in state court.

But yesterday, the same judge reconsidered his ruling and decided that he did not have jurisdiction over the criminal case filed against Lonnie Kocontes and dismissed the murder charges. The prosecutors then promptly re-filed charges against Kocontes, in an effort to keep him in jail in Orange County, California for allegedly murdering his ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki.

Lonnie Koncontes Cruise Ship MurderWe hailed the judge's original ruling as significant because state prosecutors usually do not have jurisdiction to pursue criminal case when the crime occurs outside state territorial waters. The alleged crime involving Kocontes occurred during a cruise from Italy raising the issue whether the criminal prosecution should be pursued in Italy, or in a federal court in the U.S. or in state court in California. The judge's latest ruling, that California has no jurisdiction, illustrates the problem prosecuting criminals on cruise ships on the high seas.

The case leaves me wondering whether Kocontes, a lawyer, researched the issue of maritime jurisdiction over cruise ship crimes before going on vacation with his ex-wife who had over a million dollars in her accounts in California.  

 

Photo Credit: Orange County Register

Cruise Ship Passenger Can be Tried in California State Court for Murdering Ex-Wife

Crimes on cruise ships on the high seas often fall into jurisdictional no-man's lands where prosecutions are impossible to pursue. 

But yesterday a judge in Orange County, California ruled that local prosecutors can try a criminal case against a cruise passenger accused of strangling his ex-wife and tossing her off a cruise ship in Italy seven years ago.

The Orange County Register reports the Orange County judge ruled Wednesday that California law does not prevent prosecutors from handling cases which arise outside of California. 

In a case we have mentioned before, cruise passenger Lonnie Kocontes was arrested in February for killing his ex-wife for financial gain.  Kocontes and Micki Kanesaki, although divorced, lived together in Lonnie Kocontes - Cruise Ship MurderCalifornia and went on a cruise together in 2006. She went overboard in the Mediterranean Sea. Her body washed ashore the next day and the coroner found evidence that she had been strangled before going into the water.

When Kocontes returned to California, he began transferring more than $1 million from Kanesaki's bank accounts.

The judge's ruling is significant because typically state prosecutors do not have jurisdiction to pursue criminal case when the crime occurs outside state territorial waters.  The exception to this general rule is Florida which enacted a state law which permits the state to prosecute criminal on the high seas when the cruise leaves a port in Florida.  

You can read our prior article here: Cruise Ship Passenger Pleads Not Guilty of Strangling His Ex-Wife & Throwing Her Overboard

Cruise Ship Passenger Pleads Not Guilty of Strangling His Ex-Wife & Throwing Her Overboard

In a disturbing case we have covered over the years, U.S. lawyer, Lonnie Loren Kocontes, entered a plea today of not guilty in the strangulation death of his ex-wife, Micki Kaneski, during a cruise off of the Italian coast seven years ago.

This case seems to stand in stark contrast to the cruise industry's claim that murders don't occur on cruise ships.

Kocontes met Kanesaki in the 1990s at a Los Angeles law firm where he worked as an attorney and she worked as an administrative assistant. They later married in 1995. 

Kacontes Cruise MurderKocontes was fired from his job after he was arrested in 2000 for charges of sexual contact with a minor that were later dismissed. In 2001, they divorced to protect their assets from civil litigation. They continued to live together, but their relationship deteriorated.

In May 2006, the couple vacationed in Italy and sailed aboard the Island Escape cruise ship. On May 26, 2006, the cruise ship was sailing between Sicily and Naples, when Kanesaki went overboard. Her body washed ashore the next day in Calabria in southwest Italy. An autopsy was performed. An Italian medical doctor concluded that she had been strangled before she went overboard.

Kocontes claims that Kanesaki left the cabin around 1 a.m. to get a cup of tea. Kocontes reported her missing after he woke up and claims he couldn’t find her. Italian police boarded the ship, seized records and videotapes and took statements from the crew.

Prosecutors say that Kocontes strangled Kaneski to death on board the ship and then threw her overboard.

Kocontes later began transferring more than $1 million from Kaneski’s bank accounts into joint accounts he held with his new wife. That prompted the FBI to begin seizure efforts which were dismissed by a federal judge in California.

The Orange County Register covered the story back in 2006, and quoted Kanesaki’s mother saying that her daughter was in good spirits before the cruise. ‘‘I can’t imagine what happened to her. There’s no reason to believe it was a suicide.’’

A newspaper in Italy published an article "The Perfect Murder."

The case reminds me of the murder of Karen Roston by her husband Mark Roston aboard Admiral Cruises' Sundancer some 20 years.

Guilty Plea Entered in Murder of Cruise Ship Passenger in Antigua

Nina Elizabeth NilssenOver three years ago, a U.S. cruise passenger, Nina Elizabeth Nilssen, age 30, was murdered while vacationing in Antigua near the English Harbour / Falmouth area. She had been cruising with her parents, an uncle and aunt, sister and brother-in-law aboard the Royal Clipper, a tall masted ship operated by Miami based Star Clippers. 

The murder was terribly tragic as she was ashore with her family to attend the marriage of her sister. 

A 27-year-old man, Tishara Daniel, was arrested for attacking Ms. Niessen and stabbing her in the neck while she was walking near Windward Bay Beach in Pigeon Point.

Yesterday he pled guilty to the murder. He will be sentenced on July 5 for the crime. 

The cruise line pulled out of Antigua following the crime but returned five months later.  

You can read our prior articles about the crime and ensuing events here.

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 

 

 

48 Hours Update: "New" Evidence in Disappearance of Cruise Passenger George Smith

Cruise Passenger George SmithSaturday night, CBS's "'48 Hours" will air what is being described as "important new evidence" in the mysterious disappearance of George Smith during his honeymoon cruise. The episode is called "48 Hours: Murder at Sea?"

You may recall that George Smith from the Greenwich Connecticut area was enjoying his honeymoon with his newly-wed bride Jennifer Hagel when he disappeared from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005, leaving a blood-stained awning behind him. 

The cruise line quickly concluded that Mr. Smith was intoxicated and must have been sitting on a balcony railing and fell overboard, and it reported this self-serving opinion as its official report to the flag state. Royal Caribbean ignored the fact that four young men were last seen in the Smith's cabin and that there were sounds of an argument and loud noises consistent with a struggle, followed by a resounding "thud" on the awning below.  

Gregory Rozenbeg - Cruise Disappearance of George SmithWe represented George's wife, Jennifer, who instructed us to retain noted forensic scientist Henry Lee in the face of the cruise line's lack of cooperation.

Last year, CBS reported that the FBI had possession of a videotape taken by the four men where they talk callously of George's death. The video captures one of the men saying "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." Cruise passenger Greg Rosenberg reportedly flashes gang signs and says "Told ya I was gangsta." 

We have written prior articles about Gregory Rozenberg such as "Disappearance of George Smith Update: Do You Have Information About Gregory Rozenberg?"   Rozenberg's mugshots are readily available online, including the one to the right taken last fall.

Royal Caribbean concealed this tape from us throughout our representation of Jennifer Hagel. The tape's existence was revealed by the FBI last year to the lawyer for the Smith family. 

Its disgraceful that the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice have not proceeded with a criminal case. Its been going on eight years since George's disappearance. A prosecution is long overdue.

Read our other articles about the case:

Disappearance of George Smith - Trouble as the Cruise Ship Sails to Kusadasi

A Frantic Call Back to Connecticut

Media Frenzy Follows Case of "Missing Honeymooner"

Dr. Henry Lee Boards the Brilliance of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Blocks Dr. Henry Lee's Dummy Experiment

The International Cruise Victims Organization Is Born!

Royal Caribbean Captain Says Its Just an Accident Involving a Bloody Nose

Larry King Live & the "Missing Groom Mystery" 

 

Murder Aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas?

Enchantmemt of the Seas Cruise Ship MurderLast night I received an email from a person who follows cruising who received information that there may have been what is being described as a "murder / suicide" on an unidentified Royal Caribbean cruise ship. There was a vague posting of the alleged incident on the Disney boards

This morning I received another email from a passenger who just disembarked the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship.  The person's email is as follows:

"Just got off Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas. They were detaining everyone on the 7Th floor and the police were there collecting statements. The crew wouldn't say what was going on but other passengers said there was a murder/death on the 7th fl. Post if you hear anything about it."

My understanding is that the Enchantment OTS is moored in Baltimore at the moment.  

Enchantment of the Seas Cabin 7110If you have any information about this alleged incident, please leave a message or post a comment on our Facebook page.

Update March 25 2013:  I received the following information this morning from a person who wishes to remain anonymous:

The deceased person is reportedly a woman in her 60's who allegedly was found on the floor by her husband.    

She reportedly had fallen inside the cabin earlier the same evening and hit her head and went to bathroom where she fell again this is when husband called for help. Nurses arrived to the cabin to attend the situation however she was pronounced dead at 5 AM.

(Please note that I cannot verify any of this information or any comments below). 

The cabin was thereafter sealed at some point until arrival into port where investigations will begin.

We were also provided with a copy of a photo of the door of the cabin in question which shows a plexi-glass cover over the key hole and key card slot with a lock around the handle.  

The FBI has told news stations in Baltimore that there are "suspicious undertones" surrounding the death.

A local CBS news station in Baltimore aired a short video on the investigation.

March 28, 2013 Update: The AP is reporting that an "autopsy shows that a Virginia woman found dead aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship died of natural causes.

FBI spokesman Rich Wolf has identified the woman as 64-year-old Katherine Kennedy, of Midlothian, Va. He says Kennedy died of heart disease.

Her husband found her dead Sunday in her cabin on the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship. FBI agents met the ship when it arrived in Baltimore on Monday to begin investigating the unexplained death.

Wolf says Kennedy also had a laceration on her forehead, but authorities determined that she got the cut when she fell down. They said it had nothing to do with her death."

Photo Credit:

Top: Rageousgtx at en.wikipedia

Bottom: Anonymous

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

Yesterday evening I received a tweet from a Twitter friend in Antigua: "several cruise passengers witnessed a day light killing in the tourism area of #antigua today." Later I was told that an "attempted robbery at one of the shops led to a gunman shooting the woman in the head. She died on the spot around 1.30."

This morning the Antigua Observer covered the sad story: Mother of 5 Gunned Down in Heritage Quay

The newspaper says that "a 38-year-old mother of five was gunned down in broad daylight yesterday – the latest in an alarming spate of shootings and robberies across the country." The victim was working as a sales person at First Gadget Electronic Store on Thames Street.

The store is located in the heart of St John’s within the cruise tourism zone Heritage Quay.

Antigua - Cruise IndustryAntigua has had its share of violence and crime in areas frequented by cruise passengers. Last month an altercation between a store owner and cruise passengers escalated into a highly publicized fight between the cruisers and the police in St. John's.   

More serious incidents over the last few years involved a young woman from a cruise ship being murdered ashore, cruise passengers attacked and robbed (ironically while tourism and cruise officials were meeting to discuss the issue of safety of cruise visitors in Antigua) and six cruise passengers from Brooklyn arrested after disputing a cab fare and getting into a fight with the local police.

Caribbean countries like Antigua have  precarious relationships with the cruise lines. Some cruise lines temporarily stopped calling in Antigua following the murder of a passenger from the Star Clippers in 2010.

In 2009, Carnival suddenly pulled out of Antigua - Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato.

The murder of the store employee in the tourist area comes at a time when Antigua announced that it formed a new police unit to protect tourists from crime and its tourism officials announced that they were optimistic about attracting tourists to the island notwithstanding the increase in violent crime.

The police and government officials are involved in trying to deal with the PR fall-out in the tourism sector. There is a reward offer of $50,000 for info leading to the arrest of the gunman and there is talk about asking for the death penalty (public hangings).

Tragic incidents like this will continue to make the local citizens frightened, and continue to plague the island's relationship with the big Miami based cruise lines that unload thousands of people into Heritage Quay. 

  

Photo Credit: vibesantigua

Lawyer Arrested for Allegedly Strangling & Throwing Wife Off Cruise Ship

Lonnie KocontesLonnie Kocontes, age 55, was arrested last week on a murder warrant in the death of his ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki, who went overboard from an Italian cruise ship seven years ago.

Kocontes, a lawyer licensed in California, was arrested in Florida where he was living. He was booked into into the Pasco County Jail where he is being held without bail. 

He is charged with one count of "special circumstances murder for financial gain." 

Kocontes met Kanesaki in the early 1990s at a Los Angeles law firm where he worked as an attorney and she worked as an administrative assistant. They later married in 1995.

Kocontes was reportedly fired from his job after he was arrested in 2000 for charges of sexual contact with a minor that were later dismissed. In 2001, they divorced to protect their assets from civil litigation. They continued to live together, but their relationship deteriorated. 

In May 2006, the couple vacationed in Italy and sailed aboard the Island Escape cruise ship. On May 26, 2006, the cruise ship was sailing between Sicily and Naples, when Kanesaki went overboard. Her body washed ashore the next day in Calabria in southwest Italy. An autopsy was performed. An Italian medical doctor concluded that she had been strangled before she went overboard.

Kocontes claims that Kanesaki left the cabin around 1 a.m. to get a cup of tea. Kocontes reported her missing after he woke up and couldn’t find her. Italian police boarded the ship, seized records and videotapes and took statements from the crew.

Island Escape Cruise ShipProsecutors say that Kocontes strangled Kaneski to death on board the ship and then threw her overboard.

Kocontes later began transferring more than $1 million from Kaneski’s bank accounts into joint accounts he held with his new wife. That prompted the FBI to begin seizure efforts which were dismissed by a federal judge in California. 

The Orange County Register covered the story back in 2006, and quoted Kanesaki’s mother saying that her daughter was in good spirits before the cruise. ‘‘I can’t imagine what happened to her. There’s no reason to believe it was a suicide.’’ 

A newspaper in Italy published an article "The Perfect Murder." 

The case reminds me of the murder of Karen Roston by her husband Mark Roston aboard Admiral Cruises' Sundancer some 20 years ago.

 

Photo Credit: VIP.it

Tonight: Update On Missing Cruise Passenger George Smith

As I mentioned earlier this week, tonight the Nancy Grace program takes a look back at the mystery of the George Smith case. 

Mr. Smith "disappeared" from the Brilliance of the Seas during his honeymoon cruise with his newlywed wife, Jennifer Hagel, in July 2005.

There has been some mystery and intrigue over the years. But there have been developments this year which point the finger squarely at some of the men last seen with Mr. Smith as being involved in his disappearance.      

Seven years ago, Nancy Grace interviewed me on her show about the case (we represented George's widow, Jennifer)George Smith Disappearance - Cruise Ship. Ms. Grace spent more time attacking Jennifer, than focusing on those responsible for George's death and the cruise line which tried to cover it up.

The photo to the right is of George and Jennifer at the beginning of their honeymoon cruise. (We distributed the photo at the Congressional hearing into Mr. Smith's death in 2005).

This was a couple deeply in love, with a life together ahead of them. 

Let's hope that tonight's program is really an update on who was involved in George's death over seven years ago, and not a platform to attack his wife, Jennifer.

This is a case where there needs to be an arrest of those who were involved in George's death and those who covered it up.

Was Cruise Passenger Murdered in the Mediterranean?

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's website refers to a case of an Israeli passenger who went overboard in the Mediterranean Sea during a vacation cruise earlier this month.

According to the Y News Net newspaper in Israel, the passenger was identified as a 43 year old Israeli taxi driver from Hadera who did not return from a leisure cruise to Cyprus he went on three weeks ago.

Police officials said there was a chance that the man had fallen off the ship and drowned.

However, an Egyptian newspaper, al-Masry al-Youm, reported that the man had been shot dead. 

The police launched an investigation into the incident after learning of the man's disappearance, taking collecting statements from the ship's crew and passengers and checking security cameras.

The man was reportedly seen in the ship's bar and pool area a day before the ship docked at Haifa Port.

The body was discovered by Egyptian authorities and was transferred to Israel on Friday. It was taken to a forensic institute, where the circumstances of death are being examined.

Cruise Passenger Charged with Attempted Murder in Man Overboard Case

Viking Cinderella Cruise ShipA Swedish newspaper reports that a 28 year old man who forced a younger man to jump off the deck of a cruise ship is under arrest in Stockholm on suspicion of attempted murder.

The incident occurred aboard the Viking Cinderella cruise ship, operated by the Viking Line, last Sunday as the ship was moored at the Stadsgårds terminal in Stockholm.

The man who went overboard was threatened and jumped 88 feet into the water. The newspaper indicates that he managed to survive the fall and swam back to the pier and then got back onboard the ship. He was subsequently taken to the hospital.

Both men were passengers.

A Swedish police officer said:

"He was really lucky to survive. If he'd twisted in the slightest, we would have been killed by the impact with the hard water."

The 28 year old man was apprehended by the ship's security and then arrested by the police. 

 

Photo credit:  The Local newspaper

FBI Cruise Ship Crime Cover-Up Continues

Journalist Robert Anglen has an article today in the Arizona Republic entitled "Stats Don't Fully Account For All Cruise-Ship Crime."  The article was also published in USA TODAY and discusses the false and misleading cruise ship crimes statistics in the FBI database which mentions only 2 cruise ship crimes for the second quarter of this year. 

You will recall that the cruise lines were suppose to be required to report the hundreds of crimes which occur each year, pursuant to the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Law.  But the language of the new law was altered at the last minute to permit the cruise lines to cover the crimes up.  Lawmakers said the FBI demanded the alterations to benefit the cruise lines.  There is no doubt that the cruise lines and Bogus FBI Cruise Ship Crime Statisticstheir trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), were behind the last minute shenanigans.

Mr. Anglen wrote an article earlier this year (in June) entitled "Law Shields Industry On Cruise-Ship Crime Information" which exposed the manipulation of the law which was originally designed to require greater transparency from the cruise industry.  The public was suppose to be able to access an accurate public database with all of the crime allegations available. But the behind-the-scenes alteration of the law has resulted in an unprecedented concealment of crimes by the cruise lines with the full cooperation and assistance by the FBI.

Is it just a coincidence that many of the top security personnel at the cruise lines today used to be senior FBI officials?  The FBI has an open dialogue with the cruise lines but routinely keeps the victims in the dark.

This cozy relationship between the FBI and the cruise lines is a great disservice to the cruising public.

The article mentions Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims organization. 

Mr. Anglen's article also quotes me referring to the FBI database as "bogus" and only 2 crimes in the last quarter as "lies." These comments were from from a blog I wrote in August - "Lies, Lies & Lies - FBI & Cruise Industry Continue to Publish Bogus Cruise Crimes Statistics."

The cruise lines must be chuckling after thumbing their collective nose at the legislative process. They have proven that foreign off-shore industries can easily circumvent the U.S. democratic process, as long as they have friends in high places.  

 

Photo credit: FBI

Seven Year Anniversary of Disappearance of Cruise Passenger George Smith: When Will the FBI Make an Arrest?

Yesterday was the seven year anniversary of the disappearance of George Smith from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship.

You will recall that Mr. Smith was on his honeymoon cruise with his newlywed bride, Jennifer Hagel, when he went over the railing of his balcony early on the morning of July 5, 2005.  Although the cruise line quickly concluded that this was just an "accident," passengers took photographs of a blood-stained awning and heard sounds consistent with violence in Mr. Smith's cabin.

George Smith - Disappearance - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Murder?I have always believed that Mr. Smith was a victim of foul play.  Mr. Smith's wife retained our firm to represent her and the interests of Mr. Smith's estate.  The deeper we looked into the case, the more certain we were that this was no accident. 

Last year we wrote a series of articles Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later.  We discussed what happened on the cruise and how the cruise line and the media responded to Mr. Smith's disappearance.

Two months ago, CBS interviewed a former Assistant FBI Director who discussed a video tape recorded by three passengers last seen with Mr. Smith. The day after Mr. Smith's disappearance, these passengers (known as the "Russian men" - the two Rozenbergs and "Rusty" Kofman) were eating breakfast in the cruise ship's dining room when they began filming each other.  According to the CBS program, the men were recorded laughing about the situation and mocking Mr. Smith.

The camera then stops on one of the three men (who was not identified) who said: "We gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."

Obviously this statement is incriminating, considering Mr. Smith went over the railing of his balcony and the Royal Caribbean security report on the morning of the disappearance states that young men were seen leaving the area near the Smith's cabin at around 4:30 AM.

With this statement as well as other evidence we are familiar with in the case, it is disturbing that the FBI has not made an arrest.

It's long overdue. 

  

 

Cruise Crime Debate Continues

The recent articles about the FBI assisting the cruise lines in covering up ship crimes has sparked a re-newed interest in the safety of cruise passengers on the high seas.

Fox News published an article this morning "How Safe Is Your Cruise Ship" mentioning the cruise lines' talking points that cruise ship crime is "extremely rare."  For a different point of view, Fox News interviewed cruise expert Ross Klein who has testified before Congress that a cruise passenger "is twice as likely to be sexually assaulted on a cruise ship than on land."

Fox News also mentioned our law firm's experiences representing cruise sexual assault victims, including children.

The debate whether cruise ship crime today is "rare" or "routine" consists essentially of opinions without a quantitative foundation because the FBI is hiding the actual crime statistics from the public, as Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims Organization discusses in the video below.

It should be up to the public, not a corporation with a conflict of interest, to determine exactly what is "rare" or "routine" based on the actual crimes statistics which are currently being hidden. .

 

The George Smith Cruise Disappearance Case Returns to Nancy Grace

The case of missing cruise honeymooner George Smith returned to cable news tonight.  Nancy Grace hosted a one hour show filled with all types of legal and psychological "experts" who knew nothing about what happened on the ill fated cruise but nonetheless speculated wildly about what is now a seven year old case.   I'm not a Nancy Grace fan, but let's hope the renewed media attention leads to an arrest and closure for the families involved.

Last summer we wrote a series of articles about Mr. Smith's disappearance:Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later

 

 

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)

New Clues Emerge in Case of "Missing Honeymooner" George Smith?

In the video below, MSNBC interviews the editor of the Greenwich Magazine which published an article this weekend about the death of George Smith.  We mentioned the new article, written by Timothy Dumas, last week in our blog: "New Information in the Unsolved Murder of Cruise Honeymooner George Smith."

You will recall that Mr. Smith disappeared off of the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas in July 2005. Although the cruise line tried to shrug the event off as a drunken accident, suspicions pointed to four men last seen in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005.

The "new" clues include a video of the men on the cruise ship.  The men recorded themselves at some point on the cruise ship after George Smith's disappearance and may have said something incriminating.

There is also mention that the criminal investigation may be transferred from the Connecticut FBI to the New York FBI where some of the men live.

The video below shows  a number of old photographs associated with the case including a press conference I held in Miami in January 2006 (second photo, below right).   Last summer I published a series of articles about the case: Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later

Update George Smith Cruise Ship Disappearance Here is the transcript of the interview:

New details have surfaced in the disappearance of George Smith who vanished from his honeymoon cruise in 2005. Greenwich magazine's Cristin Marandino discusses the case with MSNBC's Thomas Roberts.

"There is some new information about to talk about in the case of a Connecticut man lost at sea on his honeymoon. it happened seven years ago. you'll probably remember that George Smith went overboard while on his honeymoon in 2005. The FBI investigation into his death is still open.

Greenwich Magazine has exclusive details about new evidence that may lead to an arrest.  Explain to all of us -- you said yourself this is a story with a lot of twists and turns.  What's the new evidence that may lead to an arrest?

Well, good morning.  There is a bunch of new evidence going on here.  One of the probably biggest and most exciting pieces that really is going to hopefully help push this case forward is the existence of a videotape that is in the possession of the FBI. On that videotape there are certain individuals that make very self incriminating statements following the death of George Smith.

Cristin, when you talk about videotape, this is not surveillance video from the actual ship. This is something shot after the event itself?

No, that is correct.  This is a videotape that the gentlemen made of themselves. And in their room, sort of passing around a flip phone.

So lots of people remember this. This was a beautiful young couple on their honeymoon. This was such a horrific incident. there was, you know, correlations, though, or kind of scandalous questions brought up about what this couple was doing that night, how much both parties had been drinking, and things trying to make them look somehow as if he deserved this in some way, shape, or form.  The family has disputed that.  The wife has moved on. even gotten a settlement.  How is the family responding to this new information that you're working on?

The family is obviously thrilled about this new information, and they have been working very carefully with a Greenwich based attorney, Mike Jones, who in large part has been responsible for helping to push this forward and making sure that this evidence does get into the right hands, which now it has. and, yeah, there's been a lot of misconceptions, a lot of in inconsistency with this case.  And i think Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker - Cruise Ship Crimethat's what we tried to do and why we tried to get in the game at this point, put all of that stuff to rest, and really start talking about what did happen and helping to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And, you know, exonerate the people that should be exonerated and put a little bit of a light on people who maybe should be looked at more closely.

When you talk about the family, explain the relationship between George Smith 's parents and his wife.

At this point, I think everybody's sort of moved on. I think it's, you know, as you said, Jennifer has moved on.  She is also living in Connecticut. I don't -- you know, i think they are just living their own lives.

if you were to guess, hazard a guess as to when we may hear of an arrest or arrests are made, what timetable would you suggest?

I really at this point don't know.  And the people that i have spoken with, the hope is that because of this tape, and because of the fact that they are trying to get the case transferred from the Connecticut FBI to the New York FBI, which is a good sign on a lot of levels.  One, it shows that two of the targets that they are looking at do indeed live in New York. So it shows they are trying to push it forward in that way.  And that this tape is out there, and the information is out there that this tape exists. so hopefully, you know, i would say hopefully soon.

It's certainly a case that gripped the attention of the American people. And i can imagine for the Smith family, it will be nice if they can find some forward motion and see justice in all of this. But we'll continue to watch. Cristin, thank you for your coverage this morning." 

Watch the video below. If you don't subscribe to Greenwich Magazine, read the first part of the article "Mystery at Sea" here.

  

 

Press Release: New Information in the Unsolved Murder of Cruise Honeymooner George Smith

Greenwich Magazine - Mystery at Seas - Murder of George Smith  A publishing company in Connecticut issued a press release today indicating that there is additional evidence to support the conclusion that George Smith was murdered during his honeymoon cruise in July of 2005. 

Greenwich Magazine indicates that its June edition will contain "new information released for the first time" which will provide additional proof that "could lead to the criminal indictment of suspects in one of the biggest unsolved murder cases in Greenwich, Connecticut history." 

The press release also mentions an "incriminating videotape." 

The story is called Mystery at Sea, and was investigated and written by Timothy Dumas.  Mr. Dumas previously authored the book Greentown, Murder and Mystery in Greenwich, America's Wealthiest Community, which chronicles the murder of Martha Moxley.

The press release states that Mr. Dumas conducted extensive interviews and waded through depositions, cruise ship files, incident reports and witness statements. It appears that he has been working closely with the Connecticut lawyers representing Mr. Smith's parents and sister.  

Last summer I published a series of articles about the case: Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later

I'm looking forward to reading the article at the end of this month.

Let's hope that the new information leads to an arrest.

 

Credit:  Greenwich Magazine

Read Sun Sentinel's Cruise Crime Database (and Don't Forget the Cartoons)

With cruise safety hearings coming up later this month in Washington, the debate will resume regarding how many crimes really occur on cruise ships.

The cruise lines will say that crime is rare but will not refer to any database to support their their self-serving conclusion.  Cruise lines do not reveal their own internal crime statistics, except when ordered to do so under the threat of sanctions by a court.

But there are some on-line sources of information.  In addition to this blog, there is of course the web site Cruise Junkie by cruise expert Ross Klein who tracks cruise ship crimes.  

Another interesting source is a database by the Fort Lauderdale newspaper, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, which listed cruise crimes from December 2007 to October 2008.  You can look at the hundreds of various crime allegations, some petty and some very disturbing, here.

Unlike the Miami Herald which is beholden to the cruise lines which advertise in the Miami newspaper, the Sun Sentinel has maintained a sense of journalistic integrity when it comes to reporting on things that go wrong during cruises.

The Sentinel also has a sense of humor about the cruise industry.  Take a look at the cartoon which ran last week after several Princess cruise ships returned to Fort Lauderdale filled with passengers sickened by norovirus:

Chan Lowe - Cruise Ship Norovirus

" . . . viral diseases, crimes of violence, theft, seasickness, weight gain, liver damage, possibly getting stuck at the dinner table for the entire journey with people who deny the theory of evolution … sounds like the kind of vacation from which lasting memories are made . . ."

The cartoon and comments are by Chan Lowe who has been the Sun Sentinel’s editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years.  

 

Cartoon credit:  Chan Lowe / South Florida Sun Sentinel / Tribune Media 

Disappearance of George Smith Update: Do You Have Information About Gregory Rozenberg?

Gregory Rozenberg - George Smith - Cruise DisappearanceThis weekend saw a renewed interest of the public into the disappearance of cruise passenger George Smith with the airing of a "update" of the unsolved case by Dateline NBC called "Overboard."

The Dateline program focused on the four men last seen with Mr. Smith: Gregory Rozenberg, Zachary Rozenberg, Rostislav ("Rusty") Kofman, and Josh Askin.  These four cruise passengers were in Mr. Smith's cabin after 4:00 AM in the morning shortly before Mr. Smith went overboard. 

Although Dateline suggested there is a new focus by the FBI on these four passengers, the truth of the matter is that the FBI focused on these four shortly after Mr. Smith's death in July 2005 - over six and one-half years ago.

Many news sources, including the New York Post, are reporting that the "Russians" (the two Rozenberg brothers and Rostislav Kofman) all reside in New York and allegedly are now subject to the scrutiny of the FBI "mafia team" in New York.  Hogwash.  Greg Rozenberg lived in South Florida (Boca Raton) for years.  He has spent years in a prison in Florida.  He now lives in Dade City, Florida.

Greg Rozenberg has been arrested multiple times in Florida for various alleged offenses ranging from driving with a suspended license to possession of cannabis to trafficking oxycodone.  His mug shots are readily available on line, including the one below taken in 2009.  

The Dateline show showed snippets from the deposition of Mr. Rozenberg which was taken by one of the lawyers for the Smith family while Mr. Rozenberg was in jail in Florida.  My impression of the Gregory Rozenberg - George Smith - Cruise Disappearancecomplete deposition is that the Smith family's lawyer did his best to try and lead inmate Rozenberg to testify against Mr. Smith's wife, Jennifer Hagel.  To see a lawyer for the Smith family try and lead a felon into implicating a completely innocent widow is one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen. 

Jennifer Hagel passsed a FBI polygraph in 2005.  The FBI never considered her a suspect in her husband's death.   

You can watch parts of the video deposition of Greg Rosenberg shown on dateline here.

We will show other portions of the two hour Rozenberg deposition, and explain why that deposition was taken, in another article.

Do you have information about Greg Rozenberg, or fellow cruise passengers Zach Rosenberg, Rusty Kofman and Josh Askin, which may provide answers to solve the George Smith case?

 

Photo credits:

Top:  Greg Rozenberg's Facebook

Bottom:  Palm Beach Sheriff's Office 

Update on Disappearance of George Smith From Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Ship

George Smith Disappearance Update This evening Dateline NBC will air what it is calling an "update" on the story of missing cruise passenger George Smith who disappeared under suspicious circumstances during his honeymoon cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship in the summer of 2005.

I am glad to see that Mr. Smith's case  is receiving additional attention.  

I have always thought that foul play was involved in Mr. Smith's disappearance.  Hopefully the renewed media attention will motivate someone to come forward with information which may help solve the case.    

That being said, I am skeptical whether anything "new" will be revealed by the Dateline program tonight.  

Dateline advertises that its program will tell " . . . the story of an active, ongoing investigation whereby FBI agents won't talk on the record.  However, the cruise line Royal Caribbean has conducted its own internal investigation and Dateline has the exclusive update about what George Smith Murder Updatehappened aboard the ship in the early hours of July 5, 2005."

Let's keep a few things in perspective.  Mr. Smith's disappearance, or murder as many people including me believe, occurred on July 5, 2005 - six and one-half years ago. 

In 2005, Royal Caribbean provided us with copies of photographs of the cabin and awning, statements, security reports and other information about Mr. Smith's disappearance.  The case was discussed regularly on all of the nightly cable news shows and major networks which broadcast a great deal of information about what happened on the night in question. 

Royal Caribbean's investigation into what happened ended in 2005.  The cruise line defense lawyers who were sent to the cruise ship have subsequently switched to representing passengers and crewmembers.  Believe it or not, they are now employed by a firm which sues Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines.  There has been no "internal investigation" by Royal Caribbean into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Smith's death for over 6 years. 

Now, lets consider the so called "open and active" FBI investigation.  Six and one-half years George Smith Death Update - Dr. Henry Leeago, the FBI was investigating the case, although I would consider it rather amateurish.  The FBI had not even interviewed the passengers on either side of the Smith's cabin a month after the cruise.  These individuals were first interviewed by Joe Scarborough on cable news.  The investigation did not get serious until we boarded the cruise ship with forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee and a team of investigators.  It was only after we retained Dr. Lee did the FBI test the carpet in the cabin for blood stains.

Our firm was in constant contact with the FBI (we represented George Smith's widow Jennifer Hagel) in 2005 and 2006.  It was clear to us that the FBI investigation lost steam in early 2006.  A  Grand Jury was convened and called witnesses but returned no indictments against anyone.  There has been no real investigation by the FBI for well over five years as best as we can tell. 

What the Dateline television show will discuss are certain documents, photographs and video which the cruise line has been offering to the families since June of 2006.  At that time, we reached a settlement with Royal Caribbean where the cruise line would pay $1,060,000 in compensation, as well as turn over all of the cruise line's documents, photographs, CCTV images, statements and other information in order for the families to try and learn what happened to Mr. Smith.  Much of the George Smith Murder - Cruise Ship  information was confidential and privileged which  the cruise line had no legal obligation to disclose.

The Smith family objected to the terms of the settlement.  A probate court in Greenwich upheld the settlement, finding that it was fair and in the best interests of all concerned.  But the Smith family appealed the Greenwich probate court's ruling and this delayed the cruise line's release of information.  Several years later, Royal Caribbean increased its settlement offer by $250,000 for a total of $1,310,000 and again agreed to provide exactly the same documents, photographs and information it offered back in 2006.

In 2010, Royal Caribbean turned all of its internal information over to the families.  There was nothing new in these documents most of which we obtained in 2005.  The attorney for the Smith family provided copies of these documents to the producers of Dateline which tonight will disclose the "new" information.      

Jennifer Hagel - Disappearance of George Smith In truth, Dateline is now airing the same old photographs, cruise line documents and statements which we obtained in 2005 and which the cruise line has been offering to all of the families since 2006.

The Smith family apparently has a new theory into their son's death, namely that he was killed in an attempted robbery.  The New York Post contains a quote, this morning, from the Smith family's lawyer that “The family believes it was a robbery-gone-bad." 

The New York Post's article contains the provocative title: "Feds' Mafia Team Join Probe into Disappearance of Conn. Newlywed."  The alleged "mafia" connection to some of the men last seen with Mr. Smith and who were in his cabin around 4:00 AM on the morning of his disappearance is nothing new.

The Post also published a couple of CTTV images of Mr. Smith and his wife Jennifer Hagel which Royal Caribbean released several years ago.  

Last summer, we published a series of articles on the sixth year anniversary of Mr. Smith's death:George Smith Disappearance Update

Trouble as the Cruise Ship Sails to Kusadasi

A Frantic Call Back to Connecticut

Media Frenzy Follows Case of "Missing Honeymooner" 

Dr. Henry Lee Boards the Brilliance of the Seas 

Royal Caribbean Blocks Dr. Henry Lee's Dummy Experiment 

The International Cruise Victims Organization Is Born! 

Royal Caribbean Captain Says Its Just an Accident Involving a Bloody Nose 

Larry King Live & the "Missing Groom Mystery"

Do you have information which may solve this case?   Please let us hear from you.

  

 

Photo credit:  Bottom 2 photographs (CCTV images) Royal Caribbean / New York Post

Carnival Murder Case Reveals Out of Control Cruise Booze

Yesterday there were multiple news accounts of the sentencing of Carnival cruise passenger, Robert McGill, to life in jail for the brutal murder of his wife aboard the Elation cruise ship.

The crime occurred after McGill reportedly drank a half bottle of Mezcal and seven or eight beers while ashore in Cabo San Lucas.  The Southwest Riverside News reports today that McGill was "so inebriated he could not negotiate the ship’s gangplank without assistance upon returning from a shore visit."

After he killed his wife in an intoxicated rage, he cleaned himself up, placed a "do not disturb" sign on the cabin door, and proceeded to the top deck where he drank beers from a bucket as the Carnival Cruise Beer Bucketcruise ship sailed back to San Diego.

It is disturbing to me that the shipboard security would permit a passenger who is so-drunk-that-he-can't walk-straight onto the ship without escorting him to the ship doctor or placing him in the brig until he sobers up.  Certainly the security guards manning the gangway entrances are going to notice someone reeking of booze and stumbling through the metal detector like this.

What are Carnival's procedures when security observes passengers in such a high state of intoxication?  I'm not sure.  I know that many cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, consider such intoxication to be a violation of the passenger's code of conduct, which permits the cruise line to intervene and place the passengers in the brig for their own safety and that of other passengers.  

But in reality does any cruise line actually enforce this policy?  Did anyone on the Carnival Elation care when McGill stumbled aboard with a gut full of Mezcal and 90 ounces of cervezas consumed ashore in Cabo?

If Carnival had acted responsibly, McGill would have spent the evening and night in the brig to sober up and no one would be reporting on such a violent crime.   But it didn't.  Not only did Carnival let such a drunken passenger onto its ship, but it served McGill a bucket of beer after he killed his wife.  So much for not serving drunks. 

I know, many people reading this will say its not Carnival's fault, its a matter of personal responsibility.  Yes, personal responsibility plays a big part in life.  McGill should have acted Robert McGill - Cruise Ship Booze responsibly and not drank to excess, assuming that alcohol played a part in the murder.  But Carnival has a legal obligation of exercising its corporate responsibility to protect its guests as well.  There is a correlation between drunken passengers on cruise ships and violence, just like a connection between drunken bar patrons and bar fights.  

Two years ago, I blogged about the danger of violence and drunk Carnival passengers - Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships.

You can watch video of drunken passenger fighting in this article from last year - More Cruise Ship Violence - A Drunken Brawl On Carnival's Dream.

In this case, Carnival looked the other way when McGill staggered aboard.  Carnival profited by selling McGill beer later.  Buckets of bud lite beer on Carnival ships go for $25 for five beers, which would cost less than $5 a six pack ashore.

The LA Times has an interesting photo of Mr. McGill being escorted off the crew gangway by a FBI agent, as passengers are seen boarding the passenger gangway above to begin their cruise on schedule.

It seems that Carnival's motto is load em' off, load em' in. Let the drinking begin . . . 

Court Rejects Mezcal-Scorpion Defense, Sentences Cruise Passenger to Life for Killing Wife Aboard Cruise Ship

Robert McGill - Murder - Carnival Elation Cruise ShipA life sentence in jail was imposed today on a cruise passenger by a Federal District Judge for a murder on a cruise ship which occurred two years ago. 

In July 2009, Robert and Shirley McGill cruised to Cabo San Lucas aboard the Carnival Elation cruise ship to celebrate Mr. McGill's 55th birthday and his wife's retirement.  

But following heavy drinking ashore in Mexico, McGill strangled and beat his wife to death in their cabin.  McGill was arrested when the Elation arrived in San Diego.

We wrote about the cruise crime last year - Prosecutors May Seek Death Penalty In Carnival Cruise Murder Case.

McGill apologized for his actions at the court sentencing today although he didn't explain why he killed his wife.  

Mezcal - Scorpion Made Me Do ItHis defense attorney argued that McGill was a good man who made a horrible mistake after getting drunk. 

According to the AP, the defense lawyer argued that his client hallucinated after drinking a half bottle of Mezcal and seven or eight beers.  He was so intoxicated that he had to be helped up the gangway after drinking in Cabo.  McGill said he believed a scorpion that was in the Mezcal bottle had "set him off."

U.S. Chief District Judge Irma Gonzalez said she didn't buy the scorpion-made-do-it excuse.

The Court noted that after killing his wife, McGill cleaned himself up and then went to an upper deck to smoke a cigar.   Other news accounts report that he ordered a bucket of beer which he continued to drink as the cruise ship headed back to the U.S.

Life In Jail For Cruise Passenger Who Threw Wife Overboard

Yesterday, a jury convicted a Chinese passenger of murder after finding that he threw his wife off a cruise ship.   

The Standard newspaper in Hong Kong reports that Wang Weile, age 49, shook his head in disbelief when the seven member jury returned its guilty verdict.  The judge then sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Charlie Chan's Murder CruiseAs we reported in our article about this bizarre crime earlier this week - Sea Burial or Cruise Murder? - the cruise passenger claimed that he accidentally injured his wife while trying to keep her from committing suicide.  When she lost consciousness, he thought that she was dead. 

Wang claims that he suddenly remembered that she wanted a burial at sea.  He then pitched her overboard to honor her wishes.

The couple have a nine year old child.  

However when he took the stand at trial, he retracted the "sea burial" story.  He admitted being partially responsible for his wife's injuries, explaining that he struggled with her after she asked him to leave her alone and find another woman.

He also alleged his wife wanted to borrow 400,000 yuan (around $63,00) for her niece's business.

The incident occurred on the Macau Success, a casino cruise ship, while it was in Hong Kong waters.

As bizarre as Wang's defense sounds, the guilty verdict was not unanimous. 

One juror voted to acquit Wang.

Sea Burial or Cruise Murder?

What do you do if you accidentally knock your wife unconscious when she tries to commit suicide on a cruise?  Do you throw her overboard after suddenly remembering that she wanted to be buried at sea?

Yes, pretty far fetched.  But that is exactly the defense offered in a criminal trial against a Chinese cruise passenger who is accused of murdering his wife and then pitching her overboard during a cruise aboard the Macau Success last year.  

The Standard newspaper in China explains that Wang Weilie, age 49, stands accused of murdering his wife Yang Wenjuan, age 43, during a cruise on September 24th last year.

Macau Success - Cruise Ship Murder - Passenger OverboardA cruise passenger witnessed the couple on a deck when Wang pushed Yang's head backwards towards the railing.  He rushed to notify the cruise staff but returned to find the couple gone but blood covering the deck.

Cruise security guards observed bloodstains on Wang's fingertips.  He said the injuries to his fist, chest and knee were caused during a struggle to prevent his wife from killing herself.  However, when she lost consciousness, he threw her overboard.

A post-mortem examination found bruises, abrasions and a broken arm.  A pathologist concluded Yang "died of drowning after sustaining significant but otherwise non-fatal injuries."

According to an article published last year, the couple have a nine year old son.

The bizarre story reminds me of the violent death of cruise passenger Karen Roston whose husband threw her overboard on the last night of her honeymoon cruise from the Sundancer cruise ship operated by Admiral Cruises of Miami.  Scott Roston concocted a story that high winds blew her overboard as she ran on the jogging track on an upper deck.  But evidence introduced at his criminal trial indicated that the winds were just 4 - 5 mph. 

FBI agents found Ms. Roston's hair embedded in the rubberized jogging track along with a broken earring matching one she was wearing in a photograph taken at a shipboard dinner.  Her husband was observed with scratches on his face after her disappearance.  A medical examiner concluded from an autopsy that Ms. Roston had been strangled and then thrown overboard . . .

 

Photo credit:    shipphotos.com.au

Cruisemates Misses the Boat Regarding Overboard Passengers

Yesterday, Paul Motter's popular online cruise community "Cruisemates" published an interesting article entitled "Mainstream Media Stupidity over Cruising."  The article is about the weird and sad story of an irate and perhaps drunk father throwing his 7 year old son overboard during a cruise around a harbor in Southern California on a sight-seeing boat.   

Cruisemates was upset that most of the stories carried headlines that the incident occurred aboard a "cruise ship" as opposed to a tour boat. 

I was initially sympathetic to Cruisemates' plight.  Most media reports characterized the tour boat as a "cruise ship" when in fact the overboard incident occurred on a little 100 passenger tub cruising around the harbor.    

I was one of the first to blog and tweet about the bizarre story about the dad who pitched his crying 7 year old son over the rails and into the water (the child was rescued and is physically okay).  I was careful not to label it as a "cruise ship" incident.  And I also offered my perspective that I have never heard of a child ever being thrown from a cruise ship, or any other type ship, for that matter.  

But Cruisemates then went overboard in its defense of the cruise industry.  Passenger safety is a touchy issues for Cruisemates.  When the cruise lines were under siege in a series of U.S. Congressional hearings over the past many years inquiring into the disappearance of passengers on cruise ships, Cruisemates was on the front line defending the cruise industry in the media.  Every single overboard incident, according to Cruisemates, was a suicide or due to drunken recklessness.

Cruisemates's unequivocal defense of the cruise industry has been unwavering, but has left it blind as a bat.  Cruisemates writes yesterday:

"There is absolutely NO documented crime where a person, dead or alive, was ever thrown off of a cruise ship, and I expect the news media to know and respect that fact."

The family of Karen W. Roston may tend to disagree with this statement. 

Ms. Roston was 26 years old when she went overboard on the last night of her honeymoon cruise Scott Roston - Karen Roston - Murder - Cruise Ship Overboardfrom the Sundancer cruise ship operated by Admiral Cruises of  Miami.  Her husband, Scott Roston (photo right), claimed that high winds blew her overboard as she ran on the jogging track on an upper deck.  But evidence introduced at his criminal trial indicated that the winds were just 4 - 5 mph.

An article in the LA Times explained that investigating FBI agents found Ms. Roston's hair embedded in the rubberized jogging track along with a broken earring matching one she was wearing in a photograph taken at a shipboard dinner.  Mr. Roston was observed with scratches on his face after her disappearance.  A medical examiner concluded from an autopsy that Ms. Roston had been strangled.  Mr. Roston was tried for murder.  The prosecutor stated "she was strangled and then thrown overboard . . . " 

A jury convicted Mr. Roston of murder.  An appellate court affirmed his conviction in the case of United States v. Roston, 986 F.2d 1287 (9th Cir. 1992).  In affirming the murder conviction, the court noted: 

Here, there was evidence of a substantial struggle.  Parts of the decedent's earrings and remnants of her hair were found on the deck 11 1/2 feet from the railing where she went overboard.  The injury to her forehead was consistent with the prosecution's theory that her head had been smashed against the deck of the ship.  The hemorrhaging and bone warping in her neck indicated she had been strangled.  The cumulative effect of this evidence suggests that the decedent's assailant, over the course of a fairly prolonged struggle, intended to kill her.  Moreover, the killing process continued beyond the struggle and strangling.  The decedent was not dead, but only unconscious when she was pushed or thrown into the ocean.    

Cruisemates' claim that there is no documented crime where a person was thrown off of a cruise ship is false.  Its claim is disrespectful to the families of loved ones like Ms. Roston, and others thrown overboard from cruise ships.  

 

Photo credit:  AmericanTribune.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Brazilian Police Conclude MSC Crewmember Strangled to Death

In January last year, we reported on the death of Camilla Peixoto Bandeira, age 28, aboard the MSC Musica cruise ship.  Her boyfriend, Bruno Souza Bicalho, allegedly found Ms. Bandeira deceased in their cabin, claiming that she committed suicide by hanging herself with a sheet from an overhead pipe.

Camila Peixoto Bandeira - MSC Cruises Today, a newspaper in Brazil reports that the police concluded that Ms. Bandeira was murdered by her boyfriend, with the cause of death being strangulation with the hands.  The conclusions were based on medical and forensic analysis and investigations conducted by the Brazilian police officers aboard the ship.

Camilla's cause has been championed by her brother, José Godolphim Bandeira Netto, who publishes a blog about the family's ordeal. 

This case is now heading toward a prosecution of Mr. Bicalho for the murder of Ms. Bandeira.

We applaud Jose and Ms. Bandeira's family for their efforts in finding justice for Camilla.

 

Photo credit:  atribuna.com.br

St. Thomas Jury Convicts Killer of Carnival Cruise Passenger

Steve Tyler - Murder St. Thomas - Cruise - Liz Marie Perez ChaparroYesterday a jury in the U.S. Virgin Islands convicted a 22 year old man in St. Thomas of killing a young Carnival cruise ship passenger last July. 

The jury convicted Steve Tyson (photo left) of two counts of murder related to the July 12, 2010 shootout near the popular Coki Beach tourist attraction.

14 year old Liz Marie Perez Chaparro of Puerto Rico, was struck by a bullet as she and her family rode in an open-air safari taxi after disembarking from the Carnival Victory cruise ship 

Our firm represents the Chaparro family.  We wrote about the sad incident last summer More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Also killed during the incident was Shaheel Joseph, age 18, who is a local resident of St. Thomas.

St. Thomas has an astronomically high murder rate. The Coki Beach area is well known to local residents as suffering from gangs, drugs and crime.  Carnival did not warn the passengers of these facts prior to taking their cruise fares and sailing them into this dangerous port.

 

Photo credit:       virginislandsdailynews.com

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico

Numerous news sources are reporting that the body of crew member from Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was recovered from the ocean near Cozumel. 

Allure of the Sea - Cruise Ship - Crew DeathPolish national Ms. Monika Markiewicz, age 32, was employed by Royal Caribbean as a musician.  She disembarked from the Allure on Friday and did not return to the cruise ship.  The cruise ship then left Cozumel and sailed back to Miami.   

Her body was recovered on Saturday.   

An autopsy determined the cause of Ms. Markiewicz's death was "drowning" but noted that she suffered a blow to the head.  According to the Canadian Press, Royal Caribbean spokesman Cynthia Martinez said the information the company had received indicated "she was the victim of a violent crime, and did not drown accidentally."  "Tragically, we recently became aware that the crew member was a victim of a violent crime while ashore in a remote area in Cozumel," the statement said.

Royal Caribbean has had many deaths in the last two months.  Last week, a crew member was killed and the safety officer injured during a fire drill aboard the Allure's sister ship Oasis of the Seas.  A passenger's husband filed suit over his wife's death on the Brilliance of the Seas.  Three Monika Markiewicz - Cozumel Mexicoweeks ago, a passenger fell to his death from the Liberty of the Seas.  Two months ago a young cook was found dead on the Oasis of the Seas.  

This most recent death comes at a time when some cruise ships have pulled out of some of the ports in Mexico, citing concerns with crime.

Are you a crew member aboard the Allure?  If you have information about this incident, please leave a comment below. 

February 8, 2011 UpdateMexico, Cruise Ships & Crime Against Women

February 9, 2011 Update:  There are a number of articles which are confusing the names of the Royal Caribbean crew member, Ms. Markiewitz, with a cruise line passenger who also died in Mexico after leaving the cruise ship last Friday.  The Latin America Herald Tribune identifies the cruise passenger as Ms. Samantha Page Thomas.  This newspaper also indicates that Monika Markiewicz was also known as "Monica Warshal." 

February 10, 2011 Update:  A newspaper in Mexico also identifies the passenger and contains a strange explanation of events.  A press conference of the Mexican prosecutor is available on line.  Warning, the video contains graphic post mortem images of Ms. Thomas as well as a photograph of Ms. Markiewicz  face down in the water when she was found.  The prosecutor is quoted as saying that they were also reviewing the cruise ship's surveillance camera imges to see who the crew member was seen leaving the ship with or whether she may have gone overboard. 

A Mexican man was arrested today in Ms. Markiewitcz's death. Nelson Perez Torres, 24, who worked in a restuarant in Cozumel, reportedly confessed to hitting Monika Markiewicz in the head with a rock and then throwing her into the ocean.

Read our updated article:  Alleged Killer of Royal Caribbean Crew Member in Mexico Arrested - Family Maintains Son is Innocent

Resources:

Mexican Vacation Awareness

 

Photo credits:  

Top - Runekrem Flickr page

Bottom - AP Photo/Angel Castellanos

 

Death on a Fun Ship: What Really Happened on the Carnival Liberty?

Inconsistent information is emerging regarding the death of a passenger aboard the Liberty cruise ship operated by Carnival cruise line.

On  November 20th we wrote about the Passenger Death On Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship based on information from a local news station in Miami - WSVN -7.  After posting our article, we received a number of comments from passengers on the cruise indicating that the FBI treated the cabin as a crime scene.  Some passengers conveyed disturbing information, suggesting that the passenger may have been beaten and murdered.

No one other than the Miami Herald initially covered the story.  Unfortunately, the Miami Herald, a friend of the cruise industry, is known for looking the other way when things go wrong on Miami-based cruise Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship - Death - Murder - Fun Shipsships. Its skimpy article regarding the death involves little more than a quote from Carnival's PR department:  Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in a statement that "evidence suggests [the death] was medical related. In respect to the privacy of our guests, we are not able to release specifics on the nature of the medical condition.''

Some of the passengers are critical of the lack of basic information released by Carnival.  Its official statement that the death was "medical related" (aren't all deaths medically related?) raises more questions than provides answers. There are plenty of ways a cruise line can release information about shipboard incidents without violating an individual's privacy rights. 

The issue of the cruise industry's lack of transparency has been a topic of Congressional inquiry over the last five years, and cases like this one make it look like the cruise line has something to hide.  One of the readers of our blog, "Tomm," left the following comment:

".  .  .  do Carnival spokespeople think that we are ignorant? The FBI does not show up to medical crime scenes and stay there ALL day and then take bags of evidence with them as they leave. I have video of it that I will download Tuesday for others to see. I know things will happen when thousands of people are gathered but let's get some regulations passed so Marshalls are on board and people can have access to information.

Was this a violent crime, or a death due to a medical condition as Carnival wants everyone to believe?  Home of the "fun ships," Canival does not like publicity like this and wants everyone to forget about it.

Let's hope that other passengers and crew member on the cruise can provide additional information regarding this incident. 

If you have information, please leave a comment below.

November 24 Update:

A reader of Cruise Law News, Tomm, posted his video of what looks like eight FBI agents leaving the cruise ship in St. Thomas, taking with them bags of evidence.  The video is below. 

 

 

Photo credit:  Fodors

Video credit:  PTOMM100  Youtube

Passenger Death On Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship

Carnival Liberty Cruise Ship - Passenger DeathWSVN -7 NEWS (Miami) is reporting that a cruise ship returned to South Florida after a tragedy at sea.

A 36 year old passenger aboard the Carnival Liberty cruise ship sailing to St. Thomas was discovered by another passenger unconscious in her cabin. WSVN reports that the passenger received medical attention on the cruise ship, but she was pronounced dead two hours later.

The FBI is investigating the passenger's death and is awaiting the autopsy report. "It could be a possible homicide. It could be some other factor in the death of this individual, but we're still investigating this case at this time," said Harry Rodriguez of the FBI in San Juan.

There have been a number of passenger deaths on Carnival cruise ships in the last year.  We previously reported on the death of a Carnival passenger last July aboard Carnival's Elation cruise ship.  Robert John McGill was charged with the first-degree murder and kidnapping of his wife, Shirley, who was beaten and strangled in their cabin.  Our article is entitled " Prosecutors May Seek Death Penalty In Carnival Cruise Murder Case."  In February, a 32 year old female passenger, Kipi Holcomb, was found dead in her cabin aboard Carnival's Ecstasy.  The FBI indicated that there was no evidence of foul play and a toxicology report revealed that the pasenger's blood-alcohol level was .27 and she had cocaine in her system.

Were you a passenger on this cruise?  Do you have information to share?  Please leave a comment below.

November 22 Update:

Passengers are leaving some gruesome comments (below) suggesting that the death involved a homicide.  However, the Miami Herald states today: 

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in a statement that "evidence suggests [the death] was medical related. In respect to the privacy of our guests, we are not able to release specifics on the nature of the medical condition."

November 23 Update:

For additional info, please go to: Death on a Fun Ship: What Really Happened on the Carnival Liberty?

Cruise Passengers: Have You Been A Victim of Crime In St. Thomas?

Our firm is investigating the tragic death of a young girl who was shot and killed while ashore in St. Thomas during a cruise.  This child was one of hundred of thousands of passengers who sail into this beautiful island each year without realizing that St. Thomas has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.  It's murder rate this year at the time of the young girl's death was 42 in a population of only 100,000.

Unfortunately, most cruise lines did not warn their passengers of the substantial dangers which exist on this island upon disembarking from the cruise ship.   

Here is our blog on this terrible situation:

More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Have you been on a cruise and been a victim of a crime ashore in St. Thomas?

Are you a tourist robbed or attacked while visiting St. Thomas?

Do you know someone who was the victim of a violent crime in St. Thomas?

Please contact me - 305 995-5300 or send me an email - jwalker@cruiselaw.com

We need your help . . .  thanks!  Jim Walker 

Crimes in the Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call

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

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

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

Guatemala - Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala  

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

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

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

 

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

Cruise Crime: Husband Arrested After Throwing Wife Overboard

The police in Hong Kong arrested a 47 year old passenger after he reportedly pushed his 43 year old wife overboard from the MV Macau Success cruise ship yesterday.

The cruise ship made an emergency call to police at 7:40 a.m. reporting that a woman had been pushed into the sea at 7:20 a.m.   The police sent rescue vessels to the scene and pulled the unconscious passenger out of the water at about 8:10 a.m.  She as pronounced dead shortly afterward. 

Macau Success Cruise ShipThe police handcuffed her husband took him to the marine department's regional crime unit, in Sai Wan Ho. 

The South China Morning Post quotes a police officer stating: "Initial investigations indicate that the woman was pushed into the sea from the deck close to the front of the casino ship. Witnesses have been located. Officers also arrested her husband on board the vessel in connection with this murder case."

A week earlier a Chinese passenger jumped from a cruise ship after losing several hundred thousands of dollars gambling on the ship.

Epilogue:  Professor Ross Klein's Cruise Junkie tracks cruise ship overboards.  There have been over 130 in the last decade.  Most do not end up with either an explanation or an arrest Ike this case. 

 

Photograph Credit:        MV Macau Success - South China Morning Post

More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Lizmarie Perez ChaparroA 14 year Carnival cruise passenger was shot and killed today after arriving in St. Thomas aboard the Carnival Victory cruise ship.  Lizmarie Perez Chaparro was riding in a "safari bus" with her family when she was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout.

According to the AP, the young girl and her family had sailed from San Juan on Sunday. Another cruise ship passenger sustained a minor injury during the shootout. Another person, not from the cruise ship, 18-year-old Shahid Joseph, was also shot and killed. Mr. Joseph was attending a funeral for another young man murdered last month. 

Governor de Jongh issued a statement indicating that the deaths were caused by gangs waging "street justice" to settle their differences.

The tourist bus was hit by gunfire on its way to Coki Point Beach. Although this is a destination advertised by the cruise lines for snorkeling and scuba, Carnival denies that this was a Carnival excursion.

Carnival Victory - St. Thomas - Murder - Lizmarie Perez Chapparro

St. Thomas has been a hot spot for crime, including violent crimes against tourists for many years. Cruise lines face liability for subjecting their guests to harm and not warning them of the risk of such violence. 

There is a local blog by the Big Kahuna discussing the tragedy and the problem with crime on the island. The blog mentions that the astronomical murder rate is 42 this year in a population of only 100,000.  One of the readers left this comment:  "This morning I sat on the balcony and watched the Carnival Victory sail into port this morning. Unknowingly,that ship was bringing a little innocent girl here to be murdered. That’s difficult to grasp, it’s haunting . . ."

Carnival PR person Jennifer De La Cruz said Carnival suspended all excursions to the beach. The Carnival PR people crafted a statement that the incident was "unfathomable" and the Captain of the cruise ship used the word "shocked."  These are code words for "not foreseeable," meaning the cruise line is denying that it is responsible for sailing its guests into a port with high crime and street violence.   

A wanted poster of the suspect is in the St. Thomas Source.  This newspaper also has an excellent article about crime in the Caribbean: "Drugs, Gangs and Guns Fueling Caribbean-Wide Crime Surge."

A letter to the passengers signed by Captain Salvatore Messina is below.

   

Lizmarie Perez Chapparro - Carnival Cruise - St. Thomas Passenger Death - Crime

 

June 13, 2010 Update:  The El Nuevo Dia newspaper in Puerto Rico is reporting that Ms. Chaparro's family was cruising to celebrate her upcoming quinceanera and her parents' wedding anniversary.  The cruise line PR people and the tourism officials are in overdrive, announcing that the murder is "isolated" and the islands remain a "safe destination for tourists."

June 15, 2010 Update: The popular USA TODAY Cruise Log has a blog: "Shooting death of cruiser in Virgin Islands comes as killings there soar." 

June 16, 2010 Update:  Virgin Islands Daily News has an article "Cruise lines warn passengers about Coki Point shooting," discussing how many cruise lines are warning p[assengers about crime in St. Thomas and suspending excursions to the Coki beach area.  Cruise Critic has an interesting article "Who's Responsible for Warning Cruise Travelers About Dangers in Port?"

June 18, 2010 Update:  "Heartache wrenches those who knew slain girl."

Were you on the cruise?  What are your thoughts about crime in St. Thomas and in other  Caribbean ports of call? Please leave a comment below . . .

We have written a number of articles about the high crime rate in the Caribbean ports of call in prior articles:   

Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers  

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

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

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

 

Credit: 

Photo    Lizmarie Perez Chaparro     Javier Rivera / END via El Nuevo Dia

Photo Carnival Victory cruise ship         bajan.wordpress.com

Photo Carnival letter   alexbrown96's tweetphoto   via  St. Thomas Blog by the Big Kahuna

Cruise Line Shills, Norovirus, and Murder on the NCL Jade?

This has been another exciting week in the strange world of the cruise industry.  I thought that I would spend this Friday recapping some of the interesting cruise stories this week.   

Cruise Shills?

CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - Cruise Shill The week started with the travel site Tnooz picking up our article Cruise Crime and the Indifference of Travel Writers and asking Are Travel Writers Shills For The Cruise Lines? 

A number of prominent travel writers, including Pauline Frommer of the Frommer Travel fame, left comments.  Ms. Frommer was right on point in discussing the provisions of the new cruise safety law, which will be signed by President Obama next week.  And she was gracious in thanking the International Cruise Victims for pushing the new cruise law forward over intense opposition by the cruise industry and its shill organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  Other travel writers joined the debate, including a few cruise travel writers who could not help taking a cheap shot against our blog.

Royal Caribbean Norovirus

Readers of Cruise Law News continue to comment that Royal Caribbean is struggling with norovirus aboard its cruise ships.  There are 50 comments to our article Norovirus On Royal Caribbean's Jewel Of The Seas?  The last comment today reports that the Celebrity Constellation continues to have Cruise Ship Norovirus - Passenger Sicknessnorovirus on board, following the usual ill-fated last minute "additional sanitizing."

Stay tuned.  You will continue to hear stories of sick passengers - followed by "enhanced cleaning" - and then more sick passengers.  When will this cruise line release the test results of the potable water on its ships?  Tired of this cruise line always blaming passengers for not washing their hands?  Consider reading Cruise Ship Norovirus - Something in the Water?   

Murder on NCL's Jade? 

Several sources are reporting that a passenger was murdered aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Jade cruise ship earlier this week.

Canadian sociologist and cruise crime expert Dr. Ross Klein and the ever gossipy Cruise Critic community published passenger accounts that a passenger murdered his wife on the Jade.   

Did it happen?  I don't know.  I hope not.  But NCL will never say.

NCL Jade - Norwegian Cruise Ship JadeThis is one of the classic problems with the cruise lines.  They are terrified of bad press so they sweep the bad news under the rug.  But when the truth comes out, they look like they are hiding the ball.  The new cruise law will address this issue.  Cruise lines will be required to report crimes at sea and also provide a link on their web sites to the crime data. 

When the new cruise law takes effect, the public can cut through the gossip and finally take an an accurate account of cruise ship crime.   

 

Were you aboard the NCL Jade?  Do you have information to share about the alleged murder? 

Were you aboard the Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas or the Celebrity Constellation?  How is the cruise line handling the latest bouts of norovirus? 

If you have some information to wish to share, please leave a comment below.

FBI Investigating Death of Passenger Kipi Holcomb on Carnival Ecstasy

Kipi Holcomb - Death - Carnival Ecstasy  Multiple new sources are reporting that the FBI is investigating the death of a 32 year old woman from  Brazoria County, Texas aboard the Carnival cruise ship Ecstasy

Kipi Holcomb was sailing with who is described as either her fiance or her newlywed husband, whose identity has not been revealed.  Most news sources call the death "mysterious," although the Police News website in Galveston is reporting the death as a murder.  According to the Police News:

" . . .  a 32-year old Brazoria County woman and her fiancee set sail earlier this week from Galveston and she was dead when the ship docked in Mexico.  FBI Agents went to Mexico to conduct an investigation.  It was reported that the woman had been beaten to death and the primary suspect is the man she married aboard the ship.  Although FBI spokesmen have called the investigation routine, it is reported the woman's death was a homicide. The Galveston County Medical Examiner will perform an autopsy and issue an official ruling in the death."

This sketchy article does not identify who, if anyone, stated that physical violence was involved or concluded that the death was a homicide.

However, another news source suggests that there were no signs of foul play whatsoever.  A local newspaper in Galveston, TheFacts.com, writes that:

"FBI Agent Pat Villafranca would release few details in the death of Kipi Holcomb, 32 . . . Holcomb’s body was found Monday on the Carnival ship Ecstacy, which set sail from Galveston on Monday, federal agents said. Her body did not have any visible signs of trauma, Villafranca said. An autopsy on her body began Saturday at the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office . . .  FBI agents boarded the ship at Progresso, Mexico, on Monday after Holcomb’s body was discovered, agents said . . . FBI agents said they do not suspect foul play in the death.

 

 

Ms. Holcomb apparently died last Monday and her death was reported to the cruise ship on Tuesday.  It is less than clear whether her body was removed when the cruise ship reached Mexico, or whether she was returned to Galveston.

No news source other than Galveston's Police News is reporting this as a murder.  The death of a healthy 32 year old woman is certainly unusual and the FBI rarely travels outside of the U.S. unless there is a reasonable basis to suspect that the incident involved a crime. 

If this is in fact a murder, it is the second such case on a Carnival cruise ship recently.  We previously reported on the death of a Carnival passenger last July aboard Carnival's Elation cruise ship.  Robert John McGill was charged with the first-degree murder and kidnapping of his wife, Shirley, who was beaten and strangled in their cabin.  Our article is entitled " Prosecutors May Seek Death Penalty In Carnival Cruise Murder Case."  

A commentator to MyFoxHouston.com says that a scholarship fund has been established in Ms. Holcomb's memory:

Kipi Wiley-Holcomb Scholarship Fund
Brazosport College Foundation for Scholarship
500 College Drive
Lake Jackson, TX 77566

February 22, 2010 UPDATE:

A family member submitted a comment (below) and a video link from a local news station where the parents expressed the belief that the incident did not involve foul play.  

Galveston's The Daily News is reporting that the medical examiner's initial results indicate no external signs of foul play.  In an artice entitled "No Evidence of Trauma in Cruise Ship Death," the newspaper writes:

""An initial forensic examination of a woman found dead aboard a cruise ship revealed no signs of traumatic injury, authorities said Monday.

Kipi Holcomb, 32, of Brazoria County was found dead Feb. 15 in her room after the Carnival cruise ship Ecstasy left its home port of Galveston.

Upon the ship’s return to Galveston on Saturday, the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy, John Florence, a spokesman for the medical examiner’s office, said.

'There was no evidence of trauma in an initial look Saturday,' Florence said, noting the investigation would continue today.

The cause of Holcomb’s death will be determined pending a toxicology report, which can take from two to three weeks, Florence said."

For further updates, please read: "Family of Kipi Holcomb: No Foul Play In Death of Carnival Cruise Ship Passenger." 
 

   

Credits:

Photograph 1:                saltwatersportsman.com

Video:                               myfoxhouston.com

 

 

 

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

The Antigua Sun reports that two cruise passengers were attacked and robbed while ashore in Antigua yesterday after getting off a cruise ship. 

St. Johns Antigua - Crime - CruiseThe passengers were not identified but were described as a "British couple" who arrived in St. Johns yesterday.  They are sailing aboard the Fred Olsen cruise ship, Boudicca

The newspaper reports that the "daring daylight incident" occurred around 10:45 a.m. while the tourists were walking along Bay Street in the "Villa area" which is to the north of the St. Johns Harbour where the passengers disembarked. Three young men attacked the couple with "a piece of stick" and robbed them of a digital camera before fleeing. The couple was treated at the Mount St. John Medical Centre and then returned to the Boudicca.

Antigua's tourism officials already have their hands full following the highly publicized murder of Nina Elizabeth Nilssen who was killed in Antigua after disembarking from Star Clippers' Royal Clipper cruise ship.  This latest crime against a cruise tourist occurred while the executive members of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) were meeting with the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda and the local Cruise Tourism Association regarding cruise ships porting in Antigua.  In an article entitled "FCCA Team Gives Advise to Tourism Stakeholders," the Antigua Sun Florida Caribbean Cruise Association - FCCA - Antigua - Crimereports that the tourism and cruise people were discussing, among other issues, a "Crime Stoppers" forum when the robbery took place.

Although the media was invited to the meeting, no one would comment on the crime against the cruise passengers. 

Antigua has received a lot of unfavorable press over the last year following high profile murders of tourists.  One year ago, an article entitled "Tourist Murders, Robberies Threaten Antigua's Struggling Tourism Industry" labeled Antigua as "death island."  The article quotes the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association Nathan Dundas as stating ". . .  we have been asking for more security but all of our pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears."

Star Clippers recently announced that it would no longer stop in Antigua, due to concerns with crime.  Carnival stopped scratched Antigua off its itinerary last year, although it did not explain why.  Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises continue to make calls in Antigua.  

The cruise industry is big business in Antigua and Barbuda.  The Anitgua Observer newspaper reported earlier this month that cruise passengers spent around $48 million from November 2008 to April 2009, according to the FCCA.   

We have addressed the issue of crime against cruise passengers in the Caribbean ports of call in many recent articles:

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

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

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

Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

 

Credits:    

Photograph of St. Johns Antigua            Squidoo

Antigua tourism - FCCA meeting           ab.gov.ag (via eTurbo News - "Florida Caribbean Cruise Association meets with Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association"

Antiguan Murder Suspect in Death Of Nina Elizabeth Nilssen Held Without Bail

The Antigua Sun newspaper in Antigua reports on the preliminary arraignment of Tishara Daniel who is charged with the murder of Nina Elizabeth Nilssen in Antigua.

The Antigua Sun contains the first photograph of Mr. Daniel.

Trishara Daniel - Antigua - Muder Trial - Nina Nilssen

The article contains rather bizarre details of the suspect's clothing and shoes and what is described as nervous fidgeting by the defendant.

Mr. Daniel was held without bail and sent to prison waiting trial.  His lawyer can petition a higher court for bail.

His attorney is identified as Dane Hamilton Jr.

This will be a trial which will receive a lot of attention in the U.S. over the course of the next year. 

We have had a number of clients victimized on cruise ships and in ports in the Caribbean.  Obtaining a guilty verdict involving a crime against a U.S. citizen in a Caribbean courtroom is not as easy as it may seem.  There are many talented defense lawyers throughout the Caribbean.

Don't underestimate a dedicated and experienced defense lawyer versus local prosecutors, for a second. 

Our experience has been that jurors are sometimes more sympathetic to the local island citizen than the U.S. victim.  Perhaps this sounds cynical, so be it.  

We hope that this is not the situation with this case. But without a doubt, this will be a long and exhausting process for the families involved. 

 

Credit:

Tishara Daniel               Antigua Sun

Antiguan Police Arrest Suspect in Death of Nina Nillsen

The police in Antigua arrested a suspect for the murder of Nina Nilssen who died January 19, 2010 after taking a tender from the Star Clippers' Royal Clipper cruise ship to Pigeon Point Beach.

According to a newspaper in Dominica, the police arrested a 24 year-old Dominican man, Tishara Daniel.  The Washington Post reports that the suspect was carrying Ms. Nilssen's camera when he was arrested. The newspaper also reports that the police have "what is believed to be the weapon" that killed Ms. Nilssen. 

Fox News reports that Mr. Daniel confessed to the murder.

Last week, Star Clippers announced that it will stop calling at Antigua.  Star Clippers chief executive officer Mikael Krafft announced that it will monitor the security situation in Antigua and evaluate the cruise line's options. 

Last year, Carnival dropped Antigua from its itinerary. We have reported in prior blogs that there has been a number of attacks on tourists in Antigua.

A video of the police's press conference (parts 1 and 2) announcing the arrest is below:

 

 

 

 

 

For information on this tragedy, we have the following articles:

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Update on Death of Nina Nilssen - Royal Clipper Cruise

Controversy Surrounds Star Clippers' Response to Nina Nilssen Tragedy

    

Credit:

Police press conference                    Caribarena YouTube
 

Update on Death of Nina Nilssen - Royal Clipper Cruise

The U.S. national media has begun covering the sad story of 29 year old Nina Nilssen, who was killed in Antigua following the wedding of her sister a few days earlier aboard the Royal Clipper.

This is about the saddest story imaginable where Ms. Nilssen was murdered during a once in a lifetime wedding cruise involving her extended family. 

Ms. Nilssen is remembered as a musician and composer, and world traveler having gone trekking in South America and Mexico.  The San Francisco Chronicle quotes her friend, Iris Weiss, who grew up with Ms. Nilssen in Taos, New Mexico, commenting on the incongruity of her death: "she had traveled the world by herself and done all sorts of stuff that would seem more dangerous . . "

We commented on this tragedy in prior articles: Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua and Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.  We have read both criticism and praise of the cruise line's handling of this matter on our blog.

Anyone with information should contact the police in Antigua: The Criminal Investigations Department at 462-3913 or 462-3914, Dockyard Police Station at 460-1002.  (Area code 268).

There are a number of national television stations which have covered this story, below: 

 

  

 

 

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Cruise Law News was the first in the U.S. to report on the death of  Nina Elizabeth Nilssen in Antigua on January 19, 2010.  The story was then quickly picked up by our followers on Twitter, such as CruiseCritic and CruiseLog.

Stories about crimes against tourists in Caribbean ports, as sad as they may be, serve an important purpose.  Many people have a false sense of security when they go on a cruise for a vacation get-away or a romantic honeymoon.  But the fact of the matter is that unlike sailing to Alaska, there is an increasing amount of violent crime in the Caribbean ports of call.  We have written about this problem, and the cruise industry's tendency not to warn passengers, in a prior article: "Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers."

Royal Clipper - Star Clippers - Passenger Death - AntiguaIn researching Ms. Nilssen's death, I ran across an interesting blog written by Cynthia Boal Janssens who is one the bloggers on the cruise website All Things Cruise.  Ms. Janssens is described as a "veteran cruise writer who is also a former president of the Society of American Travel Writers."   

Ms. Janssens was one of the passengers traveling on the ill fated Royal Clipper cruise in the Caribbean.  She wrote an article which mentioned  the wonderful wedding of  Ms. Nilssen's sister after the Royal Clipper sailed from Barbados. She described later taking a tender to the marina in Falmouth Harbour in Antigua.  She walked with her husband to the Pigeon Point beach where Star Clippers held a barbecue for lunch, followed by swimming and snorkeling from the beach. In her article "We Spend Tranquil Days in Antigua and St Kitts But Tragedy Upset Everyone," she commented:

Unfortunately, we learned this morning that a tragedy occurred late yesterday on Antigua and although I really don’t want to write about it, I feel I must. A passenger from our ship was found killed on the beach late in the day (not the part of beach that our group was on). The young woman had last been seen at 3:30 p.m. after being part of a snorkeling group. Of course, we do not know who perpetrated the crime and the ship was in no way connected to this reprehensible act.

Her family disembarked the ship that night and sailing was delayed by several hours. Word spread quickly through the ship yesterday morning about the crime although few specific details were known until later in the day. Just before dinner an announcement was made that a family had disembarked because one of their party was missing and asked that any passengers with information should report it to the police. Then we were asked for a moment of silence. All in our group felt that the ship’s officials should have been more forthcoming.

Nina Elizabeth Nilssen - Murder - AntiguaI think that this incident reinforces a fact of travel that we should never forget. That crime exists everywhere . . .

I was surprised  to read this because most travel writers tend to shy away from cruise horror stories.  Travel writers seem to double as travel agents or they don't want to offend the cruise lines which give them free cruises.  I thought to myself that All Things Cruise had done its readers a real service.

The article touched upon a real human tragedy in a sensitive and respectful manner while adding a warning, which perhaps the cruise line failed to provide to Ms. Nilssen in the first place.

I downloaded her article and tacked it on the bulletin board in my home office. 

So when I clicked back on the All Things Cruise website this morning, I was disappointed to see that the article had been re-written.  And the title had been changed to "We Spend Tranquil Days in Antigua and St. Kitts."  There was no mention of Ms. Nilssen's murder or any criticism of the ship's officers. The "tragedy" disappeared.  It is as if the murder didn't happen. 

A "tranquil" day in Antigua? 

Dear God. A young woman had just been murdered and her family devastated. "A tranquil day?"

I do not know Ms. Janssens.  She undoubtedly is a nice and caring person.  But why did her story change?  Did the cruise line ask her to change it?  Why did she decide that the story that she felt compelled to write and her warning to cruisers were no longer needed?  

The cruise industry's reputation has taken a beating over the years. Cruise lines create the fantasy of care-free vacations and romantic honeymoons in order to sell tickets. But they lack transparency and candor when things go terribly wrong. Travel writers who ignore the murders, rapes, and violence in the Caribbean ports are not doing the cruise industry a favor.

And they are providing a grave disservice to the next unsuspecting family who decides to buy a cruise to the Caribbean. 

UPDATE (January 25, 2010 afternoon):

Ms. Janssens' article has reappeared and is now entitled:  "We spend tranquil days in Antigua and St. Kitts but these are overshadowed by the murder onshore of one of our passengers." 

 

Credits:

Royal Clipper                 All Things Cruise

Police in Antigua          Antigua Sun  "Police Hunt for Killer"

Crew Member Found Dead on MSC Musica Cruise Ship - Murder or Suicide?

A crew member aboard the MSC cruise ship Musica was found dead in her cabin, according to numerous news sources today.

Camila Peixoto Bandeira, 28, was reportedly found in her cabin by another crew member, a Camila Peixoto Bandeira - MSC - Musica - Murder - Cruise Shipbartender, who also worked aboard MSC's Musica (photo left).  He is identified as either her husband or boyfriend.

One article in Portuguese entitled "Polícia Federal Investiga Morte de Tripulante em Navio" (Federal Police Investigates Death of Crew Member in Ship) reports that Ms. Bandeira's "husband" allegedly found his wife in their cabin, claiming that she may have committed suicide by hanging herself with a sheet from an overhead pipe. The story in the article is that he went to work in the morning around 7:00 a.m. and returned shortly before 10:00 a.m. to find Ms. Bandeira dead. 

However, the article also reports that the Master, staff captain, and ship doctor suggest that the case may have involved a murder by strangulation. 

Another article entitled "Bartender é Encontrada Morta em Navio" suggests that Ms. Bandeira's body was found by her boyfriend, identified as Polish crew member Souza Bicalho. This article also reports that he claims that she hung herself with a sheet, although the cruise ship officers apparently did not locate a sheet in the cabin.

The incident occurred on Sunday, January 10, 2010 while the cruise ship was in Port of Santos in Brazil. The newspapers also suggest that the couple allegedly had a history of quarrels.

The police in Brazil are investigating the incident.  They are waiting for toxicology tests and a medical examiner's report.   

 

Credits:        Lucas Latreche

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo credits

Santo Thomas de Castilla cemetary    Marycatherine Flickr Photodtream

Santo Thomas de Castilla shore excursion       P & O Cruises