Yesterday a U.K. newspaper, The Telegraph, published an article "How Safe is the Caribbean?" following the armed robbery of 55 Celebrity Cruises cruise ship passengers from the Eclipse who were on a cruise-sponsored excursion in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.
The robbery was terrifying with Canadian cruisers reporting that they were afraid that they would be murdered by the armed men. A Canadian newspaper reports that the cruise passengers and guides "were systematically searched at gunpoint and robbed of their money, jewelry, cameras and cellphones on Friday. They were then ordered to march forward, during which they feared they would be shot in the back . . . ".
We were one of the first to write about the cruise passenger robbery and we quickly put the incident into perspective pointing out that numerous cruise passengers have been robbed in St, Lucia, including the armed robbery of 14 Norwegian Cruise Line passengers a couple of years ago. We also stated that NCL pulled out of St. Lucia in 2010 because of the risk of violent crimes against cruise passengers.
But that has not stopped the cruise lines and the tourism people for issuing statements down-playing the crime. The Telegraph's article quotes Jean-Marc Flambert, identified by the newspaper as the St Lucia Tourist Board’s head of marketing for the UK and Europe, who says: “An incident of this nature and seriousness has never happened before on the island.” St. Lucia Tourist Board Chairman Mathew Beaubrun stated immediately after the robbery that such incidents were "rare."
But just two months ago, a U.S. retired policeman who had cruised to St. Lucia on the same cruise ship, the Celebrity Eclipse, reported an incident where passengers were accosted on the island by a man with a knife. He mentioned it n the cruise community website Cruise Critic where other cruise fans mentioned crimes issues in St. Lucia.
Cruise Critic reports that 55 cruise passengers and two crew members from the Celebrity Eclipse were robbed at gunpoint by three men on Friday, April 12 2013 while in St. Lucia.
Celebrity Cruises issued a statement indicating that passengers were visiting the Botanical Gardens in Soufriere at the time of the robbery and were on two Celebrity-sponsored shore excursions, "Breathtaking Soufriere and Warm Mineral Baths" and "Land and Sea to the Pitons." Passengers were traveling on the same bus.
Celebrity states that "none of our guests were injured in this unfortunate event," but Cruise Critic states that passengers reported that "one woman fell and broke her leg."
No one is talking about the potential emotional trauma and psychological effects of the armed robbery.
All the cruise passengers aboard the bus had their money and jewelry taken.
April 14 2013 Update: A video from a local news station in St. Lucia is below. You will hear tourism officials stating that they told the cruise passengers that such incidents against tourists are "rare," which is obviously untrue if a major Miami based cruise line like NCL pulled out in 2010.
The U.S. national media has picked up the story with Fox News carrying a AP story which mentions the incident. Not much information except the St. Lucia tourism people already hard at work. The article quotes St. Lucia Tourist Board Chairman Mathew Beaubrun portraying the robbery as a "rare incident." Damage control is underway.
April 15 2013 Update:USA TODAY assists in the PR damage control, repeating the St. Lucia talking point that crime in that country is "rare."
Several newspapers are reporting that the police on St. Lucia have arrested one or more of the men involved in the robbery. Fox News says that the police arrested one of "four masked men armed with homemade shotguns and pistols held up the passengers from Celebrity Cruise." The Times mentions that three men were arrested.
The St. Kitts & Nevis Observer reports today that five men accused of robbing a tour bus full of cruise passengers in November 2010 pleaded guilty to the crime.
Elroy “Stanny” Williams, Junior “Que” Sobratie, and Curtis Long were charged with four counts of robbery, one count of conspiracy and one count of assault with intent to rob, while Delvin Francis and George Welsh were charged as accessories to the crime.
The men were involved in the armed robbery of the 17 cruise passengers who were aboard a tour bus on its way to Brimstone Hill Fortress.
The robbery targeted 17 cruise passengers from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship. They were on a cruise sponsored excursion called the "Caribbean Journey Masters tour bus." While the tour bus was heading towards a historic site, rocks and branches were strewn across the bus' path. The driver exited to investigate, and the robbers threw a rock into the windshield of the bus. Two armed, masked men rushed from the bushes and entered the bus.
A local newspaper reported that seventeen passengers, including an infant, were aboard the bus at the time of the robbery. The cruise passengers were robbed of their money, cell phones, jewelry and other personal items.
The robbery targeted 17 cruise passengers from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship. They were on a cruise sponsored excursion called the "Caribbean Journey Masters tour bus." While the tour bus was heading towards a historic site, rocks and branches were strewn across the bus' path. The driver exited the bus to investigate, and the robbers threw a rock into the windshield of the bus. Two armed, masked men rushed from the bushes and entered the bus.
A local newspaper reported that seventeen passengers, including an infant, were aboard the bus at the time of the robbery. The cruise passengers were robbed of their money, cell phones, jewelry and other personal items.
As is often the case in St, Kitts, the police did not release the name of the cruise line or cruise ship. Local police and tourism bureaus in the Caribbean are very sensitive to bad press and avoid embarrassing the cruise lines on which they rely for the U.S. tourist dollar. Nonetheless, the crime caused cruise lines to temporarily suspend cruises to the island.
St. Kitts has recently been in the "cruise news" lately. Last month, a young woman from Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas alleged that she was raped aboard an excursion sailboat which sailed between St. Kitts and Nevis.
Yesterday I talked about the recent armed robbery of 22 Carnival cruise passengers who were traveling in a bus back to the port in Puerto Vallarta during a Carnival sponsored excursion.
I mentioned that the cruise lines and tourism officials would quickly start a PR campaign to convince the public that robberies of large groups of passengers is rare. But it's not.
There have been at least 100 passengers robbed at gunpoint (or machete) during excursions over the last 3 - 5 years; the majority of them were traveling in large cruise excursion groups.
In 2007, 17 passengers from the Carnival Conquest cruise ship passengers were robbed at gunpoint during a cruise line sponsored excursion after sailing to Montego Bay, Jamaica. The excursion was to the Lethe Estate, an old banana plantation. The Carnival passengers were riding in a trolley when several bandits jumped out of the bush and robbed the 17 cruise tourists. cam. The passengers were terrorized as the gunmen pointed guns at the children on the trolley and took off with the passenger's jewelry, wallets, purses, cameras and money. You can read the account in the USA cruise blog here.
Since I started Cruise Law News two and one-half years ago, I have reported on 4 armed robberies of cruise tourists in groups between 11 and 18 people.
In November 2010, 17 Celebrity cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in a tour bus. While the buds was heading toward a historic site, rocks and branches were strewn across the bus' path. When the bus stopped, armed robbers threw a large rock into the front window and rushed into the bus and robbed the excursion group.
In December 2009, 14 NCL passengers were robbed during a "safari" excursion in Anese-La-Reye by 4 masked men armed with guns and knives. The robbery occurred at beautiful waterfall advertised as a "perfect place to spend several hours in quiet reflection."
In addition to these incidents, there are dozens of other robberies of smaller groups, involving couples and families, which occur while the passengers are ashore.
When cruise experts and the tourism bureaus in Mexico and the Caribbean islands tell you that such crimes are "rare," take the time to educate yourself. Don't trust your family's safety on representations from those who are trying to sell a product. As the saying goes, those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it.
The issue of the safety of cruise passengers in Mexico is again in the news with the armed robbery of twenty-two cruise passengers in Mexico on Thursday.
The passengers had sailed to Mexico on the Carnival Splendor and were on an excursion near Puerto Vallarta which was advertised and sponsored by the cruise line.
A Mexican newspaper reports that masked men robbed the passengers at gunpoint when they were returning to the cruise ship in a bus after touring "El Nogalito," a natural park. The gunmen took off with the passengers billfolds, watches, cameras, cellphones and jewelry. The newspaper reports that the local authorities initially tried to downplay the incident.
The Puerto Vallarta Robbery is Just Latest Crime Targeting Cruise Passengers
Cruise lines and the local tourism boards usually respond to these type of crimes against tourists by claiming that they are rare.
In the video below (KCAL-9 / CBS Los Angeles) you can hear travel expert Peter Greenberg, say (excitedly) that armed robbery of cruise tourists in buses is "highly unusual" and an "aberration," while mentioning that he has plans to vacation in Mexico next week.
But the truth is that crimes like this are not rare at all. U.S. passengers disembarking into Mexico and the Caribbean Islands are increasingly being targeted by criminals in groups. We hear of virtually no crimes against passengers disembarking in Canada, Alaska or European itineraries. But Mexico and the Caribbean ports of call, plagued by poverty and drugs, are a different story. The banditos go after the money and jewelry and cruise tourists have both. Why target a single tourist when you can rob cruise passengers in bulk in buses in remote areas?
Cruisers are sitting ducks. Consider that over 100 cruise passengers have been robbed at gunpoint or murdered just in Mexico or the Caribbean islands in the last couple of years:
Is the cruise industry providing adequate warnings to families of the dangers ashore in the ports chosen by the cruise lines? It seems to me that unsuspecting cruise guests are being disembarked into increasingly dangerous ports of call in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Expect a lively debate where Mexican officials will understate the problem and the cruise industry defenders will chant "crime occurs everywhere." But it's only in Mexico and the Caribbean ports where cruise passengers are robbed at gunpoint, literally by the busload.
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 happened 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 ago, 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 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.
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."
There has been a very public debate about the safety of cruise passengers while in Mexican ports. In June of this year, Princess Cruises pulled out of Puerto Vallarta (and Mazatlan) stating "as the safety and security of our passengers and crew is our highest priority, and based on the continued violence in these areas, we’ve made the decision to cancel our calls to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan.”
Last month Princess announced that it would add these two ports back to its itinerary next year but will monitor the violence in Mexico to determine if it would continue to serve the two ports.
Well now we have another violent crime which struck pretty close to apparently unsuspecting Holland America Line cruise passengers as they visited a shopping square near the cruise terminal. (HAL and Princess are both owned By Carnival).
A Cruise Law News reader brought to my attention that a newspaper in Mexico reports that when a Holland America cruise ship was in port in Puerto Vallarta earlier this month, six armed criminals robbed a jewelry store right across from the ship pier.
The November 1, 2011 article states that six heavily armed men robbed a jewelry store, located at the exclusive Plaza Galleries and got away with millions of dollars of diamonds.
The robbery turned violent as the gunmen repeatedly beat the store manager in the head with a pistol.
The incident occurred around 1:00 in the afternoon while cruise passengers from the HAL cruise ship were in the shopping plaza where the jewelry store is located. The news article reports "several tourists from Holland America cruise ship, docked at the Maritime Terminal, located across the street, were in the square."
There is no indication that any of the HAL cruise passengers were in danger or even knew of the robbery. Nonetheless, it is unsettling that heavily armed banditos can stick up an exclusive jewelry store in a shopping square on a port day across from the terminal and get away scott free.
I wonder if Princess Cruises or HAL even know that the crime occurred?
November 25 2011 Update: "Radio Silence"
"Cruzi" @CruiseCritic had an interesting comment on this story: " . . . these days there is more "stuff" going on of concern to tourists right in the tourist zone in PV than ever happened in Mazatlan in the tourist zone. Difference is almost nothing gets press in English from Puerto Vallarta, and no "incident" chatter on forums permitted. The city relies on tourism nearly 100%. I also wonder if Holland America is even aware of what went on. Probably, because it happened under their noses in a mall frequented heavily by passengers. I just happened across this article searching for something else that just happened there. Was anyone on the HA ship in Puerto Vallarta on November 1st? This group has struck again, more than once, alluding capture, but that's not all that's going on there. Yet, radio silence."
Reuters is reporting that an American tourist died in Naples yesterday, after thieves assaulted him while trying to steal his Rolex watch a week ago.
The article states that Oscar Antonio Mendoza, age 66, and his wife cruised to Naples on May 18th. After he disembarked the unidentified cruise ship to tour the city with his wife, two men approached him on a scooter, grabbed his arm and tried to take his Rolex.
Mendoza struggled with one of the men and was thrown to the ground, hitting his head. He was taken to hospital and operated on. He did not regain consciousness and died nine days later.
Naples is an interesting place to visit, but it has a reputation for pick pockets, purse snatchers, and drive-by-scooter robberies.
May 29, 2011 Update: Cruise Critic reports that the cruise passenger was from the Solstice cruise ship operated by Celebrity Cruises.
Cruise Critic writes "It should be noted that the Italian city is notorious for crime. The Cruise Critic profile on the port warns visitors to be 'careful about crime -- pickpockets, burglaries, etc.' "
This past week, the news has been filled with stories of cruise lines canceling calls to ports around the world because of concerns for their passengers' safety.
Carnival, Disney and Holland America Lines announced that they would no longer sail to Mazatlan because of violence in this Mexican city. Carnival called the decision a "precautionary measure," noting that "there have been no incidents involving cruise passengers."
Royal Caribbean Cruises said that its Rhapsody of the Seas will not call on Port Moresby in Papua, New Guinea because of concerns for the safety of cruise passengers. But according to an interview with a local tour operator in Papua, "no tourist that I heard in my lifetime taking tours around in Port Moresby have been rolled or have been attacked or been murdered." Royal Caribbean says the latest visit was canceled "in an abundance of caution."
"Precautionary measures" and an "abundance of caution?" If these are the governing standards for canceling cruises to violent ports, then what explanation do the cruise lines have for disembarking their passengers in Nassau?
Yesterday, the Tribune, one of the leading newspaper in Nassau, blared the headline "66 Armed Robbery Victims in 2 Months." At the same time, the other major newspaper, the Nassau Guardian headlined "Cruise Sector Not Expecting Decline in Business," reporting that cruise passenger arrivals grew by six per cent in 2010, continuing the rapid growth experienced over the past 40 years, with the numbers climbing from just over one million cruise visits in 1970 to over 20 million last year."
If the cruise lines are acting responsibly in avoiding a port like Mazatlan because of the potential for violence against passengers, then why are cruise lines sailing their ships into a dangerous port in the Bahamas where unsuspecting guests have actually been robbed and raped?
The latest crime against cruise passengers in the Caribbean occurred this week in the lovely island of St. Kitts when a busload of tourists from Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship were jacked up at gun point by masked robbers during an excursion. The passengers on the Celebrity cruise ship had sailed down from Baltimore thinking that they were going to an idyllic island paradise.
In the last year, we have seen cruise passengers robbed or killed in Antigua, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, and St. Thomas. I have written 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.
The events which follow crimes like this unfold like clockwork. The local tourism board proclaims that the crime is isolated. The cruise lines pull out of the Caribbean port, at least temporarily, and divert their ships to other Caribbean ports which inevitably have experienced similar crimes against U.S. passengers. The local police quickly make an arrest, even thought they probably wouldn't arrest anyone if the victim was a local resident as opposed to an American tourist. And then the cruise lines return and off-load another 500,000 passengers a year with the hopeful don't-worry-be-happy assurances from the local Caribbean government officials and tourism members that everyone will be safe.
This script has been followed in this case, with Carnival and its subsidiary, Princess Cruises, temporarily pulling out of St. Kitts. Princess is now calling on Antigua which has an even higher crime rate which includes a young American woman who was murdered ashore during a cruise on Star Clippers in January. This is not lost on the tourism board of Antigua, as reflected in this article in a newspaper in Antigua - "Antigua to Benefit From Crime In St Kitts."
"The Cruise Industry will be sending in two security consultants to do their own verification of what we have been telling them and to do their own assessments of certain areas. They will be hosted by the Security Forces and will meet with the relevant people to find out for themselves what the situation on the ground is and whether or not their guests are likely to be under attack constantly.”
So who are these mysterious cruise industry "security consultants?" Unfortunately, the governments and local press in the Caribbean bend over backwards not to identify the specific cruise lines when passengers are victims of crimes. We know that Carnival and Princess have pulled out, for a while, from St. Kitts. Are these "security consultants" retained by Carnival? The passengers who were robbed came from a Celebrity Cruises' ship. Did Royal Caribbean, the parent company for Celebrity (which is still calling in St. Kitts), hire the consultants? And exactly what are these security experts going to do?
One of the obligations cruise lines have toward passengers is to investigate the excursions and make certain that there are policies and procedures in place to protect the passengers. Most of the time, the cruise lines do not vet the excursions or they conduct only a cursory investigation at best. If the cruise industry is going to investigate St. Kitts, how about the Bahamas, Jamaica or Antigua which have a much higher crime rate and pose a greater danger to cruise passengers?
Is this really a legitimate security investigation by the "cruise industry?" Or is this just a PR ploy designed to assuage the cruise passenger's fears about crime on this this impoverished Caribbean island and to keep U.S. dollars flowing to the billion dollar foreign flagged cruise industry?
The Observer in St. Kitts-Nevis is reporting that cruise passengers on a tour bus were robbed this morning, apparently during an excursion from a cruise ship - "Busload of Tourists Robbed at Gunpoint."
The robbery reportedly occurred in the Sandy Point area on the island. A "local tour bus of cruise passengers had been robbed at gunpoint along the island’s main road as the bus made its way to Brimestone Hill."
The tour bus is identified as the "Caribbean Journey Masters tour bus," which was being driven by owner Urban Herbert at the time of the incident. While the tour bus was heading towards a historic site, rocks and branches were strewn across the bus' path. Mr. Herbert exited the bus to investigate, and the robbers threw a rock into the windshield of the bus. Two armed, masked men rushed from the bushes and entered the bus.
The newspaper reported that seventeen (17) passengers including an infant were aboard the bus at the time of the robbery. The cruise passengers were robbed of their money, cell phones, jewelry and other personal items. The police released a statement that no one was physically injured.
As is often the case, the police did not release the name of the cruise line or cruise ship. Local police and tourism bureaus in the Caribbean are very sensitive to bad press and avoid embarrassing the cruise lines on which they rely for the U.S. tourist dollar.
It turns out that the passengers were from the Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship.
The St. Kitts police / tourism people claim that crime like this is unheard of; however, another local newspaper SKNVibes reports in an article - "Tourists Robbed at Gunpoint Near Brimstone Hill" - that local taxi drivers state that this is nothing new and security needs to be improved, particularly when cruise ships arrive.
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.
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?
The Palm Beach Post reports today that the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office arrested a Royal Caribbean "vacation planer" who broke into cruise passenger's homes with her husband while the families were away on Royal Caribbean cruise vacations.
Bethsaida Sandoval, described by the newspaper as a 38-year-old vacation planner for Royal Caribbean cruise lines, used her work database to find her victims' addresses.
Police arrested Sandoval and her husband, John Lopez, on charges of armed burglary and burglary after the police determined that they were involved in breaking into 24 houses throughout South Florida.
The Palm Beach Post reports that Sandoval "gathered her victims' addresses from other vacation planner's files. She looked in the Royal Caribbean computer system for potential victims by entering the ship's departure date, city name and phone number. She took that information and shared it with her husband and accomplices."
According to CBS 4's article "Cruise Worker Sent Crooks to Cruiser's Homes," an arrest affidavit filed by investigators said Sandoval was seen on surveillance entering Royal Caribbean offices at about 1 a.m. several times in the past month, using her employee ID to get access to a computer where she would log in.
Royal Caribbean has won our "Worst Cruise Line In The World" award several times. This one takes the cake.
Royal Caribbean PR department is trying to distance itself from this embarrassment by stating that the cruise line fired Sandoval. USA Today published the cruise line's PR statement, claiming that Ms. Sandoval was a "former employee." Some news stations like WSVN TV-7 are already referring to her as an "ex-employee" who committed the burglaries, which is not true.
If Sandoval was an "ex-employee" this makes the situation worse. She had unfettered access to the complete passenger manifest at the cruise line's headquarters late at night. She would have used her vendor badge to enter the parking lot and the cruise line's offices! This situation demonstrates a very lax security situation at this cruise line.
As usual, Royal Caribbean did not respond to a request for a comment from Cruise Law News (CLN). This is one of the most evasive cruise lines in the world.
Congratulations to fine work by the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office.
TIME comments that "none of the passengers were injured, and all were compensated by the cruise lines." Unfortunately, this is not true. Several of the passengers were physically injured, being hit and kicked, and one of the robbers discharged his shotgun hear the head of a woman lying in the ground. Many on the tour were emotionally traumatized. No Royal Caribbean passengers were compensated for their injuries.
Aside from this inaccuracy, the article correctly concludes that crime is on the rise in the Bahamas and explains that tourists are now being targeted.
The Bahamian government sent TIME statistics detailing crime against tourists in 2009, showing only one murder and 19 cases of armed robbery — 18 of which came in the single November Segway excursion robbery. This statistics are incomplete.
The Bahamas did not tell TIME about another crime spree we wrote about - Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau. We have also represented women raped in Nassau and are aware of other tourists robbed in Nassau.
Crime during cruises is an issue which neither the cruise lines nor the tourist dependent Caribbean islands like to discuss. It's disappointing see the Bahamas tourism officials covering up the facts like this.
The Tourism Minister in the Bahamas recently took cruise line officials on a tour of the country to show that there are increased police patrols and closed circuit television cameras have been installed in areas of downtown Nassau. The Nassau Guardian explains that tourism officials are trying to reassure the cruise line that it's sate to bring their guests to Nassau.
TIME also mentions to "steer clear of Jamaica. Experts agree that it's currently the most dangerous country in the Caribbean."
For other stories about crime in the Caribbean, read:
Leagle just published a decision from New Jersey which illustrates what can happen when a cruise passenger does not read the fine print in the ticket issued by the cruise line.
Costa cruise passenger Audrey Winograd sailed on the Costa Magica from Florida to the Dominican Republic. While ashore in the shopping district of La Romana, several men with knives stole her passport, drivers license, credit cards, and other personal effects.
Nearly two years after the robbery, Ms. Winograd filed suit in New Jersey seeking damages for physical and emotional injuries.
The trial court dismissed the case because there is a one year limitations period in the cruise ticket issued by Costa.
On appeal, the appellate court affirmed and held that even if the case was not subject to the one-year limitations, the passenger would still be required under to bring her claim in Broward County, Florida. "Such a forum selection clause in a cruise ticket contract is clearly valid. Carnival CruiseLines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585, 593-96, 111 S. Ct. 1522, l527-28, 113 L. Ed. 2d 622, 631-33 (1991)."
So it turns out that cruise passenger Ms. Winograd lost twice - first by being robbed in a Caribbean port and, secondly, by filing suit a year late and in the wrong courthouse.
We have written about these issues in prior blogs:
The Antigua Sun reports that two cruise passengers were attacked and robbed while ashore in Antigua yesterday after getting off a cruise ship.
The 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 reports 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:
The newspaper reports that the arrival of Royal Caribbean's new mega-ship Oasis of the Seas brought out the Government of the Bahamas in great display. 200 government officials were in attendance as the Oasis arrived in Nassau Harbour.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham presided over a "Plaques and Keys" ceremony welcoming the cruise ship to the country. The Prime Minister boarded the ship along with hundreds of government officials to meet and greet Royal Caribbean International President Adam Goldstein and the Master of the vessel, William Wright.
The newspaper also reports that the Bahamas Defense Force Band played with great fanfare, as it welcomed the 4,000 Royal Caribbean passengers into the country.
Perhaps it was only fitting that the Bahamas had a military band in attendance given the recent high profile robberies of cruise passengers. 29 passengers were robbed at gunpoint in Nassau in the last two months, including Royal Caribbean passengers who paid for cruise sponsored excursions.
The newspaper quotes the new Commissioner of Police, Ellison Greenslade, that crime in the Bahamas is at a significant and unacceptable level:
"This year our country has experienced one of the highest murder rates in its entire history. Individuals are now concerned because crime has crept into our number one industry [and] the lifeblood of our economy, tourism. The Royal Bahamas Police Force is mandated to act and act we must."
The Bahamas has invested heavily into its relationship with Royal Caribbean. It just spent over $40 million dollars to dredge the port to accommodate the cruise line's new mega-ship.
There are around 2 million cruise passengers a year who venture into Nassau, each spending at least $100 in addition to the head taxes.
An article in the Bahamas Tribune entitled "Welcome Oasis" suggests that the number may be as high as 2.8 million cruise passengers who enter the Bahamas. Each cruise line collect tens of millions of dollars selling excursions into the Bahamas.
Cruise tourism in Nassau is big business. Hundreds of millions dollars exchange hands between the U.S. passengers, the Miami based cruise lines, the Bahamian government, and the local vendors in Nassau.
But If substantial monies are not wisely invested into additional and better trained police officers to protect the cruise tourists (not to mention the citizens of the Bahamas), the headlines of the Nassau Guardian may be:
"Crime Increases" and "Oasis Makes Grand Departure."
Nassau Guardian Nassau Guardian
Bahamas Government Officials BIS photo/Derek Smith via The Bahamas Weekly
Bahamas Defense Force Band Robin Whachell via the Bahamas Weekly
Oasis of the Seas BIS photo/Derek Smith via The Bahamas Weekly
The article is by a Disney cruise passenger, Carney Milne, who took the now infamous Segway tour into the 160 acre nature preserve called "Earth Village" last month.
Ms. Milne toured the preserve with eight other passengers from Disney's cruise ship, the Wonder. Two hooded and armed gunmen forced her and the other passengers to the ground. She vividly describes that she was "paralyzed by fear" as one gunman pumped his shotgun and later fired a warning shot as he robbed the passengers of their valuables.
The robbers then turned their guns on nine cruise ship passengers, from Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, after they arrived on the scene riding their Segways.
After the robbery, the Bahamian police repeatedly told her that “this never happens in the Bahamas. Never.” But after returning to the U.S., she learned that’s not true. She reports that "an almost identical mass armed robbery took place a month earlier at Queen’s Staircase, another popular tourist destination. Eleven cruise passengers were held at gunpoint and robbed of their cash, jewelry and other belongings."
We discussed the "Queen's Staircase" armed robberies in October - Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau. No one else in the U.S. covered this brazen armed robbery of cruise tourists in downtown Nassau on a beautiful Sunday morning.
The New York Times recently ran an story called "When Crime Comes to Paradise." Written by Michelle Higgins in the Times' "Practical Traveler" section, the article suggests that crime is rising in Belize, Dominican Republic, Trinidad & Tobago, and St. Lucia.
Again, no newspaper in the U.S. covered this story of cruise passengers being robbed while on a cruise sponsored excursion.
I was quoted today in the Chicago Sun Times article saying: "This isn’t random — these cruise tours are being targeted . . . you’re not going to be targeted for armed robbery as a cruise tourist on a ship from Seattle to Alaska. It’s more of a reflection of what’s happening in the Caribbean and the poverty that exists outside of the city limits, and people who are desperate for money.”
Now, the tourism boards in St. Lucia and the Bahamas are not going to be happy with stories like these. But the fact of the matter is that 43 cruise passengers have been robbed at gunpoint in thelast two months.
The Bahamas still sell t-shirts claiming that its "Better in the Bahamas." And the cruise lines keep these crimes secret as they make hundreds of millions of dollars selling excursions to unsuspecting guests who are offloaded into increasingly dangerous ports of call.
The St. Lucia Star newspaper reports that on December 9, 2009, 14 "cruise ship visitors" and tour guides were robbed at gunpoint at a popular tourist attraction in St. Lucia. I learned of the incident on Professor Ross Klein's website "Cruise Junkie."
The incident occurred at the River Rock Waterfall in Anse-La-Raye.
The newspaper reports that 14 tourists had traveled in a tour to the waterfall. They were in the process of boarding a "safari jeep," in preparation to return to the cruise ship. Four masked men armed with firearms and knives approached the cruise passengers and robbed them of their jewelry and cash. One of the tour guides was physically injured.
Anse-La-Raye is a beach village where fishing boats are pulled up on the beach by the main street next to rum shops and small restaurants. The community is known for its outdoor "Friday fish fry" and Piton beer. The Anse-La-Raye website describes the waterfall as the "perfect place to spend several hours in quiet reflection. There is often a local musician strumming his guitar and singing soulful reggae numbers in a quiet salute to Bob Marley."
However, there are multiple accounts of violence in Anse-La-Raye as well as near the port. A couple of years ago, Canada's "Next Top Model" and her traveling companion were robbed in Castries, St. Lucia after walking a short distance from the cruise ship - "Model's Paradise Turns into Nightmare." After reporting the robbery, the Canadian passenger complained that "both the local police and the cruise line offered little assistance or sympathy."
"I don't want this to happen to anyone else . . . I think the cruise ship should have warned us."
This sparked a heated discussion on the popular CruiseCritic site about crime in St. Lucia and whether the crimes were being covered up.
Earlier this year, four crew members from a private yacht Diamond Girl were robbed at gunpoint while hiking near Anse-La-Raye.
In an article entitled "Caribbean Crime," Dockwatch (described as "the essential site for captains and crew") reports that crime on St. Lucia has sparked particular concern in the Caribbean. “The St Lucia government has ordered the police to take back the streets following the murder of six persons and an open threat from criminals to assassinate law enforcement officials,” said Edwin W. Carrington, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in his opening remarks at the Conference on Youth, Crime and Violence in St. Kitts and Nevis last June.
Violence in Anse-La-Raye is also described in this YouTube video entitled "Talking crime in Anse-La-Raye:"
We have discussed the legal liability of cruise lines when cruise passengers are robbed or murdered during excursions into ports of call in the Caribbean.
The fall-out from last Saturday's robbery of 18 Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise passengers on the Segway Tour at "Earth Village" continues. The Tribune, Bahama Journal, and Nassau Guardian newspapers have reported daily on the crime spree in the Bahamas and the inability of the government to do anything about it.
The cruise lines' PR departments initially released statements claiming that no one was injured.
Yet, recent interviews of cruise passengers reveal that some of the passengers were kicked, pushed, hit, and terrorized.
A Royal Caribbean passenger reported being kicked by one of the robbers who discharged his shotgun as she laid on the ground. The passenger was terrified that she would be murdered. In an article in the Nassau Guardian entitled "Visitor from Ireland Tells of Ordeal with Gunman," she described one of the robbers instructing her:
"Get your head down bitch' and he fired off a shot, which was just beside me. It hit the ground just beside me."
Another passenger from a cruise ship provides a graphic first hand account of the robbery in an article on AOL Travel entitled: " Danger In Paradise: I was Robbed at Gunpoint in the Bahamas." She indicates that the Bahamian police falsely told her after she was robbed that " this never happens here. Never."
Connection to Last Month's Crime?
The Bahama Journal's article "Tourist Robberies May Be Linked," suggests that there may be a connection between this crime and the robbery of 11 cruise passengers at the "Queen's Staircase" in downtown Nassau. If you have not heard of this prior crime, its because no one in the U.S. reported on it and the cruise lines kept it a secret from their own guests.
We reported about this robbery last month and commented that most cruise lines are aware of crime problems in the ports which they choose to disembark their passengers, but they don't warn passengers in order to maximize excursion sales.
The Tribune indicates that a representative of Bahamas Association for Social Health (BASH), Mr. Terry Miller (below, left) , suggests that the latest robbery may have been an "inside job," although he declined to elaborate. It is obviously suspicious that these two robbers would know exactly where and when to go in a 160 acre preserve to rob two groups of cruise passengers.
"Chaotic Crime Nightmare"
A popular Baptist preacher in the Bahamas, Bishop Simeon Hall (right), was interviewed about the crime problem and the recent attack on the cruise tourists. He is quoted in the Tribune newspaper as referring to the "current crime nightmare" in the Bahamas as well as the "anarchy and chaos" of the Bahamian society.
He criticizes the inability of the government to focus on issues of protecting the local citizens and tourists against crime. Bishop Hall proposes a crime coalition to address the problem.
Serious Crime Up & The Police Release A Suspect
Today's Nassau Guardian reports that robberies in the Bahamas have increased 25% since last year. The Bahamian police are quoted as stating that there has been an increase in violent crimes like armed robbery and murder since July 1st of this year. Meanwhile, the newspaper indicates that the police released a suspect arrested in the "Segway" cruise excursion because of "insufficient evidence." Police are not questioning any other suspects, the newspaper reports.
A 50% Cruise Discount & A Complimentary Excursion Tour?
The Tribune quotes Bahamas government official Mr. Miller as saying that "he would be willing to offer a complementary tour of the site to the victims." And the popular cruise community Cruise Critic indicates that Royal Caribbean thinks its reasonable to "compensate" the victimized passengers with just a 50% off-your-next-cruise-with-us coupon.
The trend of violent cruise crimes continue. Yet, the cruise lines remain clueless.
Who on earth would want to pay even 50% of the cruise fare to return to Nassau and visit the tour where you were robbed by shotgun?
The Tribune newspaper in the Bahamas reports that two men wielding shotguns robbed 18 cruise passengers who were on cruise sponsored eco-tours on Saturday.
The passengers were from cruise ships operated by Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise lines. They were part of two groups touring the "Earth Village," which is a preserve.
The Nassau Guardian also reported on the brazen robbery and other robberies this past weekend in Nassau in an article "Multiple Tourist Robberies."
This was not a random excursion but was advertised and sold by the cruise lines and was in association with a governmental organization called the Bahamas Association for Social Health's (BASH).
The excursion was a "Segway excursion" where passengers would use the two wheel "Segways" into the 162 acre natural preserve. One of the robbers fired his weapon during the robbery and passengers were physically battered.
Cruise lines have a legal duty to use reasonable care toward their cruise passengers and to warn them of dangers in the ports of call where they frequent, particularly when they promote and sell the excursions.
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 historic 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.
Crimes 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.
Santo Thomas de Castilla cemetary Marycatherine Flickr Photodtream
Santo Thomas de Castilla shore excursion P & O Cruises
The victims are reported to be U. S. citizens from from a cruise ship which docked at at Prince Charles Wharf.
The cruise passengers took taxis for a tour of what is called the "old Bahamas" sites of Fort Charlotte, Fort Fincastle, the "water tower" and the Queen's Staircase. The robbery occurred at the Queen's Staircase, a popular tourist attraction consisting of 66 steps. The two robbers wore hoods.
The crime occured on Sunday, October 11, 2009.
The newspaper quotes the taxi drivers and police voicing their concern that the crime would hurt Nassau's tourist trade. A policeman is quoted as acknowledging a concern of crime against tourists from cruise ships. A taxi driver suggested that the tourists were robbed because there was no police presence at the tourist attraction on the morning of the crime.
Crimes against U.S. passengers from cruise ships are one of the risks inherent in cruising. Most passengers are not aware of the dangers, and most cruise lines do not warn passengers.
Our firm represents a college student who was raped in Nassau after disembarking a cruise ship earlier this year. She was raped by three Bahamian men. She was on a Spring Break cruise with her friends.
We also represent a family who was terrorized and robbed at gunpoint during a Carnival cruise excursion into Jamaica.
Passengers should not assume that the cruise lines will inform the passengers of dangers of this type, even thought the cruise lines are aware of crime problems in the ports which they choose to disembark their passengers.
Newspaper photo The Tribune Newspaper, Nassau Bahamas
Maritime & admiralty lawyer & attorney James M. Walker of Walker & O'Neill Law Firm, offering services related to injuries, sexual assaults, fires, negligence, rapes & disappearances on cruise ships, pirate & terrorist attacks, missing passengers, shore excursions, wrongful death and the Jones Act, serving cruise passengers, crew members, cabin attendants, utility workers, waiters, bar tenders, ship doctors and cleaners on cruise ships worldwide.
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