Tainted Alcohol & Crime: Mexico Struggles With Image As Cruise Destination

A couple who went on an excursion during a cruise to Cozumel had "no idea how they made it back to their cruise ship cabin" after they "had a few drinks" ashore, according to the Journal Sentinel newspaper.  In an article titled As Dozens More Report Blackouts at Mexico Resorts, Country Says It Will Act on Tainted Alcohol, the Journal Sentinel explained that a couple from North Carolina who cruised to Cozumel went drinking after a snorkeling excursion. "The last thing they remember is vomiting . . . They woke up hours later and felt lucky to be alive. One had a large bruise on her thigh. Both her knees were scraped and bloody."

The story is one of several dozen incidents in Mexico investigated by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that surfaced in the wake of the death of college student Abbey Conner who visited a resort in Playa del Carmen earlier this year. In an article titled A Mexican Vacation, a Mysterious Death, and Now Mexico Travel CruiseEndless Questions for Wisconsin Family, the paper reports that 20 year old Abbey was vacationing with her parents and her 22 year old brother, Austin Conner. Abbey and Austin went to the swim-up bar at the resort where they "toasted the completion of final exams with a couple shots of tequila." 

But a short time later, the hotel staff found them both unconscious, face down in the pool. The parents were later notified that their children were taken to a local hotel; the Mexican doctors diagnosed Austin with a severe concussion with a "golf-ball sized lump on his forehead."

Abbey was reportedly unresponsive and in a coma, on a ventilator, with no reflexes to light, touch or pain. Her collarbone was broken, according to an account in the newspaper. 

Abbey's parents flew her to a hospital in Cancun and then on to a hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, where doctors concluded that she was brain-dead.

Another recent story (video bottom) involved a tourist from Texas who enjoyed a few rum and cokes over the course of several hours at a swim up bar at a Mexican resort, only to be later found floating unconscious in the swimming pool. He incurred $57,000 in medical bills from the local hospital. 

Travel Weekly was just one of many travel journals reporting on what it characterized as "deeply disturbing" incidents in Mexico where "American visitors believe they may have been drugged, incapacitated and possibly abused." Travel Weekly went on to opine on the apparent "indifference to the victim's plight from resort personnel and police, reports of an avaricious medical system eager to exploit foreign patients and the seeming impossibility of justice" which "could have a chilling effect even on repeat visitors who love the country." 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State just issued an updated travel advisory for Mexico, and expanded its warnings about crime and violence in several regions which are home to Mexico's most popular tourist destinations. The U.S. cautioned U.S. citizens that homicide rates are on the rise in areas such as the states of Quintana Roo, which includes Cozumel, and Baja California Sur, which is home to Los Cabos, where Cabo San Lucas is located.

The State Department stated that "resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes." Nonetheless, while most of the homicides are targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shootings, in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed, have occurred.

Many fans of vacationing in Mexico may say that the violence is limited to the drug trade but the Department of State warns that innocent tourists are at risk of becoming victims.

The Travel Weekly article warns that tourism to Mexico is at risk if Mexico does not implement training to resort staff and tourist police, as well as place pressure on local medical facilities to stop exploiting tourists. But it seems highly unlikely that these proposed changes will take place anytime soon. 

Many people contact our office asking whether it's safe to cruise to Mexico. My thought is that 95% of the visitors who get off a cruise there will have an uneventful experience, if not an enjoyable time, assuming travel to Mexico is your thing. (I wouldn't recommend cruising to Acapulco because of the problem with violence there, as I have stated before.)

But between the Department of State warnings and the reports of tainted alcohol deaths coming from Mexico, if I were considering a vacation cruise, I might think that sailing out of Seattle or Vancouver through Canada and Alaska might seem a little more appealing.     

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

Photo credit: Mexico - Miami Seatrade Convention Miami - Jim Walker   

 

Cruise Lines Return to Acapulco Amidst Violence

Acapulco Travel CruiseYesterday, two articles about Acapulco caught my attention due to the widely different headlines and photographs of the former popular tourist destination.

The Los Angeles Times featured a beautiful photo in its article titled International Cruise Lines are Putting Acapulco in Their Itineraries Again. The Times wrote that tourism representatives announced that the number of cruise ship calls to Acapulco increased to 32 this year from 18 in 2016. The visits to Acapulco are from a variety of U.S. and European based cruise lines, including NCL, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Oceania, Crystal, Global, Saga and Hapag Lloyd Cruises. 

But the BBC published an article styled Acapulco: Four Killed in Popular Mexico Resort, with a graphic photo showing a grieving Mexican woman with the caption "More than 400 people were murdered in Acapulco in the first six months of 2017."

But the violence in Mexico is not limited to Acapulco. 

Three days ago, the New York Post published an article titled Drug Cartel Violence Hits Tourist Hotspots Cancun, Los Cabos. The Post vividly pointed to Acapulco as a top spot for out of control crime due to the drug trade: "Drug war violence has already turned one of the country’s preeminent tourist hotspots, Acapulco, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities with dead Acapulco Travel Cruisebodies being hung from bridges, human heads being left in coolers outside city hall and shootouts occurring at posh hotels."

Due to the U.S. demand for heroin fueled by the opioid crisis, Mexican cartels collect between $19 and $29 billion annually according to this newspaper. The extradition of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the U.S. reportedly created a power struggle within the drug cartels which is playing out in Mexico.  

Tourism officials, concerned with the violence affecting travel to Mexico, have worked with the cruise lines to promote cruises to the Mexican ports. They say that the violence is limited to “criminal groups settling scores among themselves” and that Mexican authorities are taking action against the criminals. Also, "the majority of the violence has occurred far from the all-inclusive resorts frequented by tourists."

I've written about cruising to cruising to Acapulco and Mexico before - Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

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

Photo credit: Top - Acapulco - LA Times; bottom Getty Images via BBC.  

Canadian Couple Attacked Sailing to Roatan

A retired couple from Canada, together with a captain, sailing from mainland Honduras to Roatan were reportedly attacked by four men armed with guns and knives who boarded the boat, threatened them with death and stole their money.

The article in CBC News quotes the Canadian woman saying "they actually had me, pulling my hair and a knife on my throat, demanding more money from the captain."

The menacing men then disabled the boat and tore out the engine wiring, and left with gasoline and the Roatan Sailing Attackcouple's radio and drinking water, stranding them in the jungle.

This is not the first time that Canadians sailing in Honduran waters have been attacked. A Canadian woman and her father sailing from the Bay Islands were attacked in their sailboat in 2010. Armed men killed the woman's father (photo below) in front of her before she chased them off with a flare gun. 

The U.S. and Canadian expatriates in Roatan suppress news of these violent incidents out of fear that they will scare off tourists and retirees. Travel writers skip these type of stories and describe Roatan as a "paradise."  These kind of writers and tongue-tied Roatan residents are doing a disservice to people thinking of visiting or retiring in Roatan.  

The news article quotes the Canadian foreign affairs spokesman saying: "Canadians travelling to Honduras should be aware that serious crime — including armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, home invasion and sexual assault — is common, and armed attacks on marine vessels have been reported." 

A Canadian tourist was shot in the head and killed for his iPhone in October 2012. You can watch a video at this link of a travel agent saying that his advice to travelers thinking of going to Honduras: "Don't."

We were the first to report on a NCL crew member also shot in the head and killed for his iPhone one year ago. 

Canada has substantial warnings about crime in Honduras and has specific warnings about Roatan and the Bay Islands:

"Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Honduras, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and the presence of street gangs pose significant security concerns and contribute to the high rate of crime. Apprehension and conviction rates of criminals remain low. A large percentage of the population is armed. Guns and weapons such as machetes and knives are frequently used in robberies. If you are threatened by robbers, do not resist; injuries and deaths have occurred when victims have resisted.

Serious crime—including armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, home invasion and sexual assault—is common, and armed attacks on marine vessels have been reported. Although most criminals do not target tourists, some have been victims of crime in major cities and in areas frequented by tourists, especially at night. Exercise increased vigilance in the departments along the Atlantic coast, along the border with Guatemala and in the eastern departments of Gracias a Dios, Olancho and Colón, and in rural areas north of Nacaome, Valle, and north of Choluteca, Choluteca. Exercise increased caution while in the cities of San Pedro Sula (including in vehicles leaving the airport), the Bay Islands (comprising Roatán, Útila and Guanaja), Trujillo and Tegucigalpa.

In Roatán, robbers have targeted homes and long-term leased residences. Since 2009, three Canadian citizens have been murdered in the Bay Islands. Travellers visiting the Bay Islands should exercise Canadian Killed in Honduras Watersparticular caution around uninhabited coastal areas and avoid walking on isolated beaches, especially at night. Foreigners have been assaulted on beaches in the Bay Islands and along the Atlantic Coast.

Travellers have been followed and assaulted. Use discretion when discussing your travel plans in public. Be cautious when dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances and be extremely careful when accepting rides or invitations. Remain aware of your surroundings at all times, especially after dark and when travelling alone.

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

In resort areas, stay on supervised beaches and do not walk in isolated or unpopulated areas. Hitchhiking is strongly discouraged everywhere in the country. Campers should always stay in well-lit campgrounds that have security patrols. Whenever possible, walk in a group, as there have been reports of attacks on tourists walking alone."

Does this sound like paradise to you?

 

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Photo Credit: Loretta Reinholdt and Andy Wasinger via Calgary Herald; Ambergris Caye 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honduras is one of the few cruise destinations subject to a critical crime warning from the U.S. State Department ("Although Roatan / Bay Islands . . . have a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, thefts, break-ins, assaults, and murders do occur and are still high by international standards"). I named it the second most dangerous cruise destination in the world earlier this year. 

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

 

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

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

Another Murder in Roatan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. 

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

Roatan: Gun Free Zone?

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

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

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

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

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

Seems like it a desperate policy to me.

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

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

 

Photo Credit:  La Prensa

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

Love Letters from Roatan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Doug in Roatan: 

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

From Michelle in Roatan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Official: Security foils robbery at Bahamas resort

Tourists robbed outside Atlantis

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / WPPilot

 

Honduras Works with Florida Caribbean Cruise Association to Promote Cruise Tourism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Photo Credit: La Prensa

Roatan, Honduras - Update on Crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roatan: 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) 

Atlantis Discourages Carnival from Warning Cruise Passengers of Crime in Nassau

A dispute has erupted in Nassau whether cruise passengers who disembark in the Bahamas should be warned of the risk of violent and often deadly crime. 

In response to the widespread violent crimes and high homicide rate in the Bahamas, Carnival Cruise Line finally began warning its passengers of the crime problems ashore before the passengers disembark. The warning comes in the form of a letter which Carnival provides to its passengers before they arrive at port in Nassau.

Carnival's warning includes telling the thousands of passengers Atlantis Nassau Bahamas - Carnival Cruise - Crimeon each ship not to carry large sums of cash when disembarking in Nassau.

Tribune 242 reports that the Atlantis Resort in Nassau (which can accommodate some 4,000 cruise passengers a day) is “very concerned” about the crime warning sent by Carnival. Simply put, it seems like Atlantis is afraid that the cruise line will scare off the resort's potential customers.

The newspaper reports that local merchants in port including those along Bay Street, in addition to the Atlantis mega-resort on Paradise Island, have expressed concerns over the effect of Carnival's warning on their business.  

David Johnson, the Ministry of Tourism’s director-general, told the newspaper that the Bahamas was trying to respond to the anger expressed by Bahamian merchants over the impact on their businesses by Carnival's warning letter. Mr. Johnson said that the letter was being left by Carnival employees in cruise passenger cabins. Johnson was quoted saying:

“Every passenger receiving a note like that, even before they arrive at the destination, that’s not what we would wish to see. We want to optimize the tourism dollars businesses are getting, so we’re very concerned about that." 

Johnson also said that it sent a "negative message about Nassau to potential visitors before they even set foot in the city." 

“We’re disappointed that the cruise lines may be discouraging passengers from venturing off the ship,” the Atlantis executive George Markantonis told the newspaper. 

My take? How irresponsible on Atlantis' behalf.

Atlantis has experienced significant problems with tourists robbed at gunpoint or its own employees attempting robbery, as you can see here and here.

Cruise lines like Carnival have a legal responsibility to warn cruise passengers of the risk of crime which it knows or should know about ashore in its ports of call. Crime in Nassau is well known to the cruise lines but not generally known by passengers.  Read our recent articles here and here. Crime in Nassau has been a major problem ever since I started this blog: Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

Carnival is finally doing the right thing by warning its passengers of the crime in Nassau. Atlantis, on the other hand, seems driven only by the Almighty Dollar.  

September 10 2013 Update:  Read the U.S. State Department's warning about Bahamas. 

 

Photo Credit: Atlantis - Carnival Cruise Line