Newspapers in Nassau continue to cover the bickering over whether Carnival Cruise Line should be warning its passengers about the high rate of crime in the Bahamas.
In an article last week, we pointed out the criticism leveled against Carnival by the Atlantis mega-resort that Carnival's warning letter provided to cruise passengers had the potential to scare them from leaving the cruise ship and coming ashore with their money. Local vendors in Nassau were making the same complaints.
A Senator in the Bahamas, John Bostwick, jumped into the controversy by publicly accusing Carnival of unnecessarily frightening its passengers over crime in Nassau to divert them to the cruise line's new private island, Blackbeard’s Cay.
Shortly after these accusations against Carnival, Senator Bostwick wrote a letter to the Tribune newspaper talking of "regular random robbery of tourists" at gunpoint, including a 74 year-old diplomat robbed in Nassau while walking to church and the armed robbery of tourists outside of Atlantis. He also complained that there was a developing sex industry at the port involving boys.
Mr. Bostwick recommended an urgent saturation of tourist zones with CCTV cameras, increased police funding, and additional police patrols, K-9 units & undercover operations. He also suggested the removal of all "vagrants, negative characters and known criminals" from downtown and efforts to avoid Nassau turning into a place of sex and narco-tourism.
Meanwhile, the latest news is that the Bahamian Tourism Minister, Obie Wilchcombe, has promised to investigate the Senator's accusations against Carnival.
In a showdown between Carnival and the tourism-dependent Bahamas, the cruise line has the upper hand. Carnival can pull out of Nassau in a second and leave the island reeling. Just ask St. Croix, Acapulco and Mazatlan.
Carnival responded to the controversy by pointing out that it sent the Bahamas with a “draft” warning during a May 2013 meeting of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) members. A vice president of Carnival stated “the Bahamian government was made aware in advance that cruise lines were planning to warn their guests.”
The Bahamas Tribune newspaper contains the language of the Carnival letter to its guests:
“The US Embassy in Nassau recently issued a security message advising US citizens traveling to the Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being a victim of crime.
The Bahamian government is taking this situation very seriously and has committed to providing significant additional security personnel and resources, with particular focus on the tourist areas.
We wanted to bring this to your attention as a reminder to enhance your personal security by exercising good judgment and taking certain precautions as you would when visiting any foreign destination.
If you decide to venture into town, we encourage you to stay in the main tourist areas, return to the ship before sunset, and refrain from wearing any jewelry or carrying large sums of cash or other valuables.
Compared to the grim warning of the situation in the Bahamas contained in the U.S. State Department on-line warnings, the Carnival letter is rather innocuous and is really not much of a warning at all. It's incomplete and understates the critical nature of the crime problem in Nassau.
It's often hard for the cruise lines and the local tourism officials in the Caribbean ports of call, which rely on U.S. dollars from cruise passengers, to have a transparent conversation about the risks associated with crime in the ports of call.
Just today, an article was published in a newspaper in Trinidad & Tobago about the harm to the country's tourism industry caused by travel advisories about robbery, kidnapping and sexual assault involving cruise passengers and tourists.
It seems like many tourism officials in countries in the Caribbean view scary travel advisories as the problem rather than crime itself.
Photo Credit: meted.ucar.edu