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.

Nassau Newspapers Cover U.S. Crime Report on Bahamas - A Tropical Paradise?

A day after we summarized the U.S. report on the high level of crime which is affecting U.S. tourists and cruise passengers in the Bahamas, the major newspapers in Nassau published articles about the report. 

The Nassau Tribune published U.S. Warns Again Over Crime In The Bahamas. The Tribune also published several other articles about murders which routinely plague the capital of the islands.

The Nassau Guardian published U.S. Embassy See Jump in Assault Reports - State Department Highlights Bahamas' Crime Problem. The article was positioned next to another article about a murder Nassau Tribune with a large photo of a body in a bag being taken away a medical examiner's team.

When we published our article yesterday - 2014 Bahamas Crime Report: Armed Violent Crime Escalates - we received a great deal of hate emails. The criticism fell into general categories. The local Bahamians didn't like a U.S. citizen discussing crime in the Bahamas. Many wanted to discuss crime in the U.S. and talk about mass murders in U.S. schools. And many people in the Bahamas claim that it is perfectly safe in Nassau. 

In response to all of that I say this: of course there are crime problems in the U.S. But there are a few salient point to keep in mind. There are around 304,000,000 (million) people in the U.S. There are a little over 350,000 people in all of the Bahamas with 70% of them living on New Providence island (Nassau).

The Bahamas unemployment rate is staggering. Almost 16% of people in New Providence and almost 20% of people in Grand Bahama have no job. There are too many people with no money and nothing to do.

Not surprisingly, the per capital murder rate in the Bahamas is substantially higher than the U.S rate. The per capita homicide rate in the Bahamas is seven or eight times higher than the U.S. rate. There are around 4.5 murders per 100,000 in the U.S. but between 29 and 35 murders per 100,000 in the Bahamas.

The biggest point to keep in mind is that no one pretends that the USA is a tropical paradise. If you are coming to America, I won't bullshit you. Compared to the UK or the European countries which have few guns and little armed violence, the U.S is the wild west.  But many U.S. tourists who jump on a cruise ship for a vacation to the Caribbean mistakenly believe that the Bahamas is a tranquil, idyllic and peaceful place. It's clearly not. 

Many people who rail against our publication own businesses in Nassau, like bars, restaurants, resorts, excursions companies, jet-ski shops and so forth. They can't afford to lose business. They are characterizing Nassau like a magical safe location.  

But the 2014 crime report bears out what we have been discussing frequently here. That tourists and cruise passengers are being targeted for robbery by criminals armed with guns, knives and machetes. There are too many young men not employed who can make a month's wages with a single grab of a purse or gold chain.

Yes, Nassau has assigned more police officers to the ports and the officers are working longer shifts (which the report acknowledges). But crime in general and crime against cruise passengers has still increased. That speaks poorly for the future of Nassau and its fanciful notion that it is a tropical paradise.

 

Image Credit: Nassau Tribune

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's my list:

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

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

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

Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia.

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

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

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

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

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

Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas.

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

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

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

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

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

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

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

17 Cruise Passengers Robbed in St. Kitts.

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

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

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

Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico.

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

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Gang Rape in Cozumel.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Murdered in Mexico.

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

Mexico Vacation Awareness.

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

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala.

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

Cruise Passenger Murdered in Venezuela's Margarita Island.

Roatan Crime 2. Honduras:

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

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

NCL Crew Member Shot & Killed in Roatan, Honduras.

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers.

U.S. Department of State Critical Crime warning.

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

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

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

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

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

Cruise Passenger Beaten and Raped in Nassau.

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

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

 

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

Dis-Honorable Mentions:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: 

Crime tape - Crime Will Destroy Us! bahamas B2B.

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

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

Nassau armed robbery - Caribbean 360.

Barbados Shooting: Splash News/Alamy.

Roatan: The Irresponsibility of Travel Writers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: Cruise Critic (bottom) 

Arrest Made in Roatan for Robberies of Cruise Passengers & Tourists

A number of people have sent me links to news sources in Roatan indicating that the local police arrested a 20 year old islander, identified as Cory Lee Beckner, as a suspect in the robbery of several cruise passengers and tourists.

Teledifusora Insular indicates that the young man is the son of the owner of Palm Beach in Roatan. He allegedly is the "ringleader of a gang" which preyed on tourists to Roatan.

He reportedly was born in the U.S. although he was raised as an "islander" in Roatan. This comes to the surprise of many who blamed the Hondurans from the mainland for causing all of the trouble on their island.

The Trip Advisor site contains a comment by a cruise passenger (from Royal Caribbean) to Roatan which said this about Palm Cory Lee Beckner Roatan Honduras CrimeBeach after a cruise to Roatan last month:

"We booked an excursion from cruiseexcursions.com to go zip lining in South Side, and Eco-tour there and a beach trip to West Bay Tabyana. The local company who facilitated the tours was Christopher tours. For some non-understandable reason, we were taken instead to Palm Beach. There was only one other family there and we got eated up with sand flea bites within minutes of getting there. On the way out from the beach to the main road, we were shot at by robbers. They shot the tire out on our cab, held a gun to my 15 year old sons head and a knife to my 16 year old sons throat and robbed us of money, cameras, phones, shoes and clothes. Apparently this is common on Roatan."

Was 20 year-old Mr. Beckner really involved in this crime or any of the other crimes alleged by tourists who visited Roatan this year? 

Anyone with information regarding the suspect or crime in Roatan, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

More Trouble for Cruise Tourism in Roatan

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

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

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

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

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

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

We reported on prior armed robberies in January and March

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

 

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

Bahamas Crime Watch: British Tourist Shot Dead in the Bahamas

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

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

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

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

No arrests have been made.

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

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

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

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

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

Bahamas "One Gunshot Away" From Cruise Line Exit
 

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

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

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

Yesterday the U.S. Embassy in Nassau issued another crime warning, advising U.S. citizens residing in and traveling to the Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on "heightened alert" to avoid being a victim of crime. The warning referred to a number of armed robberies which occured in the last two weeks.

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

The most recent warning states, in part: 

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

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

You can read the warning here

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

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

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

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

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

Roatan Honduras MapIn January we reported on an incident in Roatan where a U.S. family's rental car was shot up while on a beach access road. The family of four (with two children) were robbed at gunpoint and terrorized. The family had arrived in Roatan via a Carnival cruise ship.

This violent crime followed a warning issued in December 2013 by the the U.S. Department of State warning. You can read the warning here. Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. As I mentioned in our prior article, the warning indicates that "the vast majority of serious crimes in Honduras, including those against U.S. citizens, are never solved; of the 50 murders committed against U.S. citizens since 2008, police have only solved two."

This past week we have received complaints from tourists and cruise visitors to Roatan. One woman from the U.S. was attacked after she traveled to Roatan to dive.  Here are her comments:

"I ..i am female..came to roatan to dive and was basically attacked by 3 local men on this island. They assaulted me then robbed me..holding a knife to my neck. I heard them discussing kidnapping me for a ransom..or selling me to a slave market...to be taken out by boat. I got away when another tourist group drove by with several guys in the car. They saved my life. No one should go to this God forsaken island. I have learned a scary and nearly life ending lesson."

Another U.S. woman informed us that she and her two children (boys 15 and 16 years old) were robbed during a private excursion to a beach. They were held at gun point and knifepoint and robbed of all of their valuables. The woman, a single mother, stated that the cruise line, Royal Caribbean, did not warn them that there is a crime problem in Roatan or, in particular, armed robbery at the roads to and from the beaches in Roatan which seems to be a particular problem. The incident occured, according to the woman, at an access road to Palm Beach. 

In addition to these two recent incidents which were reported directly to us by the victims, concerned expatriate U.S. citizens living in Roatan have told us about armed robbery on the island, mainly against people riding in taxi's or driving on beach access roads. We have learned that a taxi with four cruise passengers was recently stopped by two local men at Palm Beach. The men held a knife to a woman's Roatan Honduras Crime - Cruise Passengersthroat and pointed a gun at a man's head. One robber reportedly fired a shot into the taxi. The men stole the cruise tourists' money, cell phones, cameras and other items. 

After our article in January, we received comments from U.S. and Canadians living in Roatan that it was unfair to lump the island of Roatan with the mainland of Honduras as a dangerous place to live or visit. Some property owners who have invested in real estate in Roatan under the hope and belief that they would live in a slice of paradise may be second guessing themselves considering what appears to be increasing violence against people arriving from North America.

Some people don't like us to write articles like this, arguing that "crime occurs everywhere" or just "use common sense." But all of the victims who contacted us were using common sense and doing what people normally do while on a vacation.  The point is that certain types of crime occur more often in certain places than others. The problem is that criminals in these poor countries are targeting U.S. passengers with iPhones, cameras, jewelry and cash. The New York Times recently published an article about crime problems in Roatan: Security Concerns on a Honduran Island.

From our view, there appears to be a rising tide of crime against cruise passengers throughout the Caribbean ports. Honduras and the Bahamas are the only countries we know with port facilities which are the subject of warnings about crime from the U.S. State Department. 

The cruise industry just convened their annual trade show, Cruise Shipping Miami, with much fanfare on Miami Beach. A delegation came from Honduras, promoting Roatan. I wonder what, if any, discussions the delegates from the Caribbean islands had with the cruise lines about keeping cruise passengers safe? 

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

Read our prior article about crime in Roatan.

 

Map & photo credit: Top - Global Healing; Bottom - Jim Walker. 

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

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

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

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

A governmental official told the Tribune:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruise passengers traveling to Nassau should read these articles.

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

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

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

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

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

Here are a few highlights over the last month:

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

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

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

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

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

Are Bahamian officials safe?  In December, the Acting Prime Minister Philip Davis was robbed at gunpoint. A few days ago, a police officer assigned to guard a residence of the Prime Minister Christie was arrested on suspicion of stealing a television at the residence. The latter is a petty crime I know, but you have to shake your head when the bad guys are bold enought to stick up the Acting Prime Minister and the police are stealing from the Prime Minister.

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

 

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

Photo Credit: 

Top: Bahamas B2B

Bottom: Tribune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney Cruise Crime Warning in Nassau

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

A week ago, a popular cruise line blogger wrote a glowing review of the port of Roatan, Honduras as a wonderful place that cruise passengers should consider. But nowhere in the review was there any mention of the high crime rate there. The murder rate in Honduras is the highest of any country that a cruise line could choose.

The blogger posted the review on Twitter. I thought that he was out of his mind.

So I questioned on Twitter why he didn't mention Honduras' high crime and murder rate? I posted the the U.S. Department of State's warning.

Carnival Conquest RoatanToday I read a message which had been posted by a Carnival cruise ship passenger, traveling with his wife and three girls, on a Facebook page of a friend called the "Missing America's Project:"

"ROATAN WARNING! 02 JANUARY 2014. SHOTS FIRED AT MY FAMILY. RENTAL CAR HIT BY BULLET, ROBBED AT GUNPOINT. Please use extreme caution if traveling to Roatan, an island cruise destination off the coast of Honduras."

You can read the rest of the message below.

One of the problems is that travel agents and cruise line do not warn cruise passengers of the dangers of crime in the Caribbean ports of call where crime is a real problem.  Some cruise lines provide luke-warm warnings in publications provided to the passengers on the cruise ship, but only after the families have already purchased their tickets and are sailing to the port.

The U.S. Department of State warning is accessible here. It is ominous. Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. In addition, "The vast majority of serious crimes in Honduras, including those against U.S. citizens, are never solved; of the 50 murders committed against U.S. citizens since 2008, police have only solved two."

The family robbed stated that another family sailing with Carnival had a shotgun pointed at them on a van during a sight-seeing excursion.

Here's the message posted on the Facebook Page:

"This past Thursday, during our Carnival Cruise port call, while driving on a beach access road on the northeast side of the island, a masked gunman sprung from the bushes about 30 feet in front of our car. With no warning he aimed and fired his semi-automatic weapon, striking the front hood of our rental vehicle. My wife and our three daughters, ages 8, 14, and 15, were with me. My immediate reaction was to put the car in reverse and try to back down the gravel/dirt access road to distance my family from the gunman. I wrecked the rental after driving approximately 75 yards in high speed reverse. The gunman pursued us on foot with pistol drawn. I got out of the car and when the gunman arrived he proceeded to rob us of cash, iPhones and camera. The encounter lasted approximately three minutes, and for most of that time he had his gun pointed either at me or at my daughters.

The gunman was 20-25 years old (best guess), brown native skin, black hair, about 5'8" tall, and weighed approximately 200 lbs. He spoke almost perfect "Island English".

Carnival has responded by providing comfort to my family, and has handled this incident in a caring and professional manner. The local police are investigating.

Roatan has only one major east/west running paved road. Many of the beaches and tourist destinations are located away from this paved road, and must be accessed by driving on un-paved secondary roads through rural "jungle" areas. Use extreme caution when off the main path, especially when in a highly noticeable rental car.

Also on the same day, another cruise guest had a shotgun pointed at his family while on a sight-seeing guided van tour. They were also on a remote un-paved side road." 

March 20 2014 Update: Travel Crime Warning: Tourists Assaulted, Robbed & Terrorized in Roatan, Honduras.

 

Thinking of visiting Roatan Honduras? Read the Missing Americans Project first.

Photo Credit: Sven Manguard / Wikimedia

Cruising to Nassau? Don't Trust Your Travel Agent, the Cruise Line or Bahamas' Tourism Bureau. Read the Local Newspapers in Nassau Before You Book!

Recently there have been a number of signs that crime in the port of Nassau is out of control.

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau and the U.S. Department of States issued warnings that crime and armed robbery have reached "critical" levels. 

The crime has affected all aspects of life in Nassau. There are armed robberies in the bars, restaurants, nightclubs, streets, beaches, by-the-Atlantis-Resort, on Bay Street, outside of churches, during excursions, in homes, in cars and on routes to and from the cruise ships.

Recently, I learned about crime ranging from the armed robbery in Nassau of a pre-school with 100 children in attendance (two days ago) to the armed robbery of the Acting Prime Minister and his wife in their home (last month). 

Did travel agents inform me of this information? Did the cruise lines disclose this? Did the Bahamian tourism officials state this? 

Of course not.

I learned information of this type from two sources. First, from passengers who call our office and tell us what happens ashore in Nassau. Secondly, by reading the local on-line press in Nassau.

The local major newspapers in Nassau are excellent. The are transparent. And unlike the local police or the businesses which are wholly dependent on money from the cruise ships, they do not act like tourism officials who say "its better in the Bahamas" regardless whether that's true.

Travel agents, by and large, seem more interested in their commissions than telling you the hard facts. They may tell you that "crime occurs everywhere" and ask why pick on Nassau because U.S. cities have more than their fair share of crime. But everyone knows Detroit is a war zone. But few people know that Nassau is too. I doubt that a travel agent, the cruise line or the local tourism people will disclose that the homicide and armed robbery rates in Nassau are some of the highest in the world.

The cruise lines don't want to scare you away as a customer. They may tell you to be careful in Nassau, but only after they have already sold you a cruise to the Bahamas.

Our recommendation? Read the local newspapers in Nassau. Most of the crime reports as well as the positive things about Nassau are covered by the local press. 

Here are the newspapers you need to read if you are thinking of sailing your family to Nassau:

Tribune

Guardian  

After you have read the Nassau newspapers, make an informed decision whether you think its safe for your family to travel there.

January 10 2014 Update: In addition, check out these on line media sources in the Bahamas:

BahamasPress

NassauPunch

Freeport Nassau Guardian

Bahamas Police Department

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / TampAGS, for AGS Media

Armed Robbery of Jewelry Store in Cayman Islands While 5 Cruise Ships Visit

Cayman 27 reports that three armed men robbed a jewelry store in downtown George Town, Cayman Islands this morning. It was initially reported that shots were fired during the robbery although no one was injured. The local newspaper now indicates that the local police deny that shots were fired. 

The armed robbery occurred while five cruise ships, with over 14,000 passengers, were in port. 

The Cayman 27's report indicates that the jewelry heist occurred at Diamonds International, which Diamonds International Cayman Islandsis located across the street from the cruise terminal.

The island's police commissioner reportedly drove his vehicle into the robbers’ getaway car.

Taxi and tour operators were involved in chasing and apprehending the robbers. A tour operator broke his arm during the chase.

The robbery occurred when cruise passengers were in port. The Cayman 27 article has photographs of the robbers, crashed cars and one of the guns involved in the robbery. It also has a photo of tourists with cameras around their necks at the scene.  

Crime in the Caribbean islands is an issue which we discuss regularly on this blog. Crime in ports of call in the Caribbean is increasing, especially in the Bahamas, Honduras and St.Thomas, although the Cayman Islands is generally not considered to be dangerous.

The U.S. Department of State states that: "the crime threat in Cayman Islands is generally considered low, although travelers should always take normal precautions when in unfamiliar surroundings. Petty theft, pick-pocketing and purse snatchings occur. A few cases involving sexual assault have been reported to the Embassy."

We have written about crime against cruise passengers in the Cayman Islands before, including the rape of a teenager from a Carnival cruise ship.

Cruise lines promote the ports of call as tropical paradises. Many passengers are lured into the world of cruise fantasies and lower their guard.

 

Photo Credit: TripAdvisor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: meted.ucar.edu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Mazatlan - AOL / Gadling

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

Celebrity Cruise Passenger Robbed of Rolex Ashore in Naples

A British cruise passenger from the Celebrity Reflection was robbed ashore on July 28th while the ship was docked in Naples

An Italian newspaper Il Mattino reports that the robbery was committed by two brothers who targeted the British cruise ship passenger.  The unidentified passenger was wearing a Rolex watch, worth around 12,000 euros, while she was walking in the center of the city.

The two men, Mirko Candida age 36 and Luciano age 24, were on a motor scooter at the time of the Celebrity Cruises Reflection Cruise Shiorobbery.

The Italian police apprehended the brothers and the watch was returned to the tourist. The woman was injured and received medical treatment when she returned to the cruise ship. 

This is not the first time that a cruise passenger wearing a Rolex while ashore in Naples was targeted to be robbed by thieves on a scooter.

In May of 2011, an American tourist from the Celebrity Solstice died in Naples after thieves assaulted him while trying to steal his Rolex.

Oscar Antonio Mendoza, age 66, and his wife cruised to Naples on the Celebrity Solstice. After they disembarked the cruise ship to tour the city, two men approached them on a scooter, grabbed Mr. Mendoza's arm and tried to take his Rolex.

Mr. Mendoza struggled with the men and was thrown to the ground, hitting his head. He was taken to the hospital where he was operated on; however, he did not regain consciousness and died nine days later.

As we have stated before on this blog, Naples is an interesting place to visit, but it has a reputation for pick pockets, purse snatchers, and drive-by-scooter robberies..  

 

Story Credit: Crew Center

Photo Credit: Celebrity Cruises

It's Not Better in the Bahamas: Crime Up, Cruise Passenger Spending Down

The headline today in the Nassau Guardian newspaper blasted "Elderly Woman Shot at Home" during a robbery.  Another front page story involved an unrelated but even more deadly title "Men Charged with Murder."

These headlines are hardly rare. Two weeks ago, a U.S. crew member was shot dead during a robbery in downtown Nassau.  You can read about that crime and many others against cruise passengers in Nassau here

The U.S. State Department has issued at least three "critical" warnings to travelers of the high homicide rate in the Bahamas, which is many, many times greater than the murder rate in Los Angeles Its Better in the Bahamas - Cruise Crimefor example. 

Cruise lines are complaining to government representatives about cruise passengers being robbed. And there is talk about warning cruise passengers not to leave the cruise ships when they dock in Nassau.

Crimes are hardly limited to Bahamians killing and robbing other Bahamians.

Last week two armed men robbed 20 patron of a downtown bar at gun point of their money and valuables. Most of the people robbed were tourists.

The increasing crime trend is occurring at a time when cruise passengers are spending less money in the Bahamas.  Cruise passengers now spend around $65 a day while ashore down from around $84 a few years ago.  

For country where well over 50% of its Gross National Produce comes from tourists, the Bahamas is facing a tough situation. Cruise passengers are spending less and are more likely to be robbed or shot while on vacation. 

A local newspaper bluntly reports The Government Has Lost the War on Crime.

We have been involved in two cases involving shore excursions where over 30 cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in the Bahamas, as well as young women sexually assaulted in Nassau and on cruise ships in port there.

Disney recently sailed its Disney Dream with a child molester aboard, rather than report the crime timely to U.S. authorities, because it knew that the Bahamas police which can't control crime on their own island would do nothing about a crime on a Bahamian cruise ship.    

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

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 St. Lucia Cruise Robberythe 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 in the cruise community website Cruise Critic where other cruise fans mentioned crimes issues in St. Lucia. 

Did the St. Lucia tourism people forget about the 14 NCL cruise passengers robbed at Anse-La-Raye waterfall in St. Lucia a few years ago and forget NCL's decision to skip the island  as a stop or are they misleading the public to try and attract tourists to St. Lucia?  

Here We Go Again: 55 Celebrity Cruise Passengers & 2 Crew Members Robbed at Gun Point 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 Cruises EclipseCelebrity 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.

Cruise passengers to St. Lucia have been targeted in St. Lucia the past. We have written articles about the crime problem in that island: 14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia.

The problem got so bad that NCL dropped the island for its 2010 to 2012 schedule. Read Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia.

Robbing passengers on cruise-sponsored bus excursions is hardly rare. In 2010, 17 Celebrity cruise passengers were robbed in a bus by gunmen in St. Kitts.  "Robbing cruise passengers in bulk" in the Caribbean islands and Mexico is not uncommon and I have written about it: Robbing Cruise Passengers in Bulk - Yes, It Happens!   

I wonder whether Celebrity provided any warning to its guests about the problem with cruise passengers being targeted for armed robbery in St. Lucia and other Caribbean islands? 

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

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," St. Lucia Celebrity Cruise Crime Victimswhich 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.

April 20 2013 Update: I stumbled across a discussion on the Cruise Critic site where just 2 months ago passengers from the Celebrity Eclipse were accousted by a man ashore with a knife which sparked a discussion about crime in St, Lucia.  Meanwhile the cruise line and the PR people on the island are saying that such crime is rare. Read our article Liar, Liar Pants On Fire? St. Lucia Tourism Denies Prior Armed Robbery of Cruise Passengers.

Photo Credit: DBS TV St. Lucia via the Times
 

 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia /  Jonathan Schilling

Is Your Cruise Line or Travel Agent Warning You of Crime in the Bahamas?

On New Year's eve, a major newspaper in the Bahamas published an article about crime affecting cruise ship passengers and crew.

The Tribune said that on December 13th, the United States Embassy in Nassau warned of increased violent, criminal activity in the Bahamas.  The embassy warned that armed robbery remains a “major threat” facing U.S. visitors to the Bahamas. A few days later, the Nassau Guardian discussed the warnings by the U.S. State Department and Carnival cruise line to cruise passengers and also mentioned that Acting Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis was robbed by three men in his own home at gun point.

A representative of Carnival was quoted telling governmental officials in Nassau that the cruise lines remain concerned Nassau Bahamas Cruise Ship Crimeabout incidents of crime in The Bahamas, including Nassau.

In 2013, we wrote a dozen articles about widespread violence in Nassau targeting tourists in the Bahamas arriving by cruise ships and vessels. The cases involve armed robbery, rape and murder. The incidents are happening near the port and just outside of the Atlantis resort. You can read one article here. The local newspapers are filled with stories and images of crime against tourists and local citizens alike.  

Recently, cruise passengers aboard the Celebrity Constellation were stuck in Key West for an extra day when the cruise line replaced an engine. When they finally set sail, the cruise line took them over to the nearby Bahamas rather than down to Cozumel. Many passengers expressed their concern that Celebrity sailed them to crime-ridden Nassau.

I wonder just how many travelers understand the danger of sailing into Nassau?   

Which cruise lines are passing warnings on to their passengers?

The homicide and violent crimes rates in Nassau are higher than any U.S. city. 

Are there any travels agents warning their clients to stay away from Nassau because of crime?    

 

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

Photo Credit: Tribune newspaper

Note: I erroneously published this article under the date January 3, 2013. The correct date should be January 3, 2014.

Update: Its seems that many in the Bahamas are mad that the U.S. Embassy has issued the warning. Others suggest that the crime statistics in the Bahamas are understated in order to protect the island's reputation. Read: US Embassy's Duty Is To Their Citizens, Not The Bahamas.

Crime in the Bahamas has been a problem for a long time: When we started this blog in 2009, some of our first articles involved the Bahamas where robbers stole from large groups of cruise passengers at gunpoint, such as this case where armed men targeted 11 passengers visiting the Queen's Staircase and robbed them on a Sunday afternoon. A month later armed robbers struck again when 18 cruise passengers from Disney and Royal Caribbean were robbed during a cruise excursion.  

We also suggest readingToo little, too late? A cruise passenger robbed in Nassau speaks out. “We were repeatedly assured by police that ‘this never happens,’ and yet, 21 people were victims of aggravated theft in one day, each in busy tourist areas that are supposedly safe. I was horrified when I started doing the research online and saw just how much armed robbery, theft and violence is happening in Nassau these days.”

Read our last article about crime in Nassau - see what the local press is saying

See images of the violence from the local press in Nassau.

Gunmen Rob Jewelry Store While Costa Pacifica In Port In Greece

Cruise Port of Katakolon - Robbery The popular crew member website, Crew Center, posted an interesting article today entitled "Masked Gunmen with AK47 Robed Jewelry Store while Costa Pacifica was in the Port."

The article explains that an armed robbery of a jewelry store occurred in the port city of Katakolon, Greece while the Costa Pacifica was docked in port.

At the time of the robbery, there were hundreds of cruise tourists who had come to shopping area from the Costa Pacifica.

Crew Center explains that shortly after 2:00 PM a silver Ford Galaxy appeared and four masked men with Kalashnikovs entered the jewelry store with automatic weapons.

After the armed men robed the store of all the jewelry, they smashed the shop and shot at in the air causing panic among the locals and tourists.

Police officials say that they found the car abandoned and completely destroyed. Witnesses say that perpetrators were Greeks and spoke fluent Greek.

There are no reports that anyone was physically injured. 

Crew Center also posted a video of the incident. 

 

 

Photo and video:  Crew Center

Guilty Pleas in Celebrity Cruises Excursion Bus Robbery in St. Kitts

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.

St. Kitts Cruise Ship RobberyThe 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.

We wrote a number of articles about the crime:

More Cruise Tourists Robbed, This Time In St. Kitts

Celebrity Cruise Passenger Robbers Face Trial in St. Kitts

Celebrity Cruise Passenger Robbers Face Trial in St. Kitts

The alleged robbers of a bus load of Celebrity cruise passengers in St. Kitts are facing trial for a crime committed during an excursion in St. Kitts in November 2010.

We wrote about this incident in our article More Cruise Tourists Robbed, This Time In St. Kitts.

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 St. Kitts Robbery - Excursion - Celebrity Cruise Shipthe 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.

The St. Kitts & Nevis Observer reports that five men are accused of being involved in the robbery.

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.  

 

Photo credit:  St. Kitts & Nevis Observer

Robbing Cruise Passengers in Bulk - Yes, It Happens!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico

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

Puerto Vallarta - Cruise Ship  - Crime MexicoCruise 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:

Eleven Royal Caribbean Cruise Passengers Robbed In Nassau

Eighteen Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Passengers Robbed at Gunpoint in Nassau

Fourteen Passengers Robbed at Gunpoint at Anse-La-Reye Waterfall in St. Lucia

Seventeen Celebrity Cruise Tourists In Bus Robbed in St. Kitts

Royal Caribbean Crewmember Murdered in Mexico 

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues 

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

Violence Strikes Puerto Vallarta Jewelry Store While HAL Cruise Ship in Port  

More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Cruise Passenger Killed in St. Thomas  

NCL Cruise Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

Passenger From Star Clipper Murdered in Antigua

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

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Cruise Ships From L.A. Due to Crime in Mexico

Does the Cruise Industry Monitor Crime in Ports of Call? 

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trouble as the Cruise Ship Sails to Kusadasi

A Frantic Call Back to Connecticut

Media Frenzy Follows Case of "Missing Honeymooner" 

Dr. Henry Lee Boards the Brilliance of the Seas 

Royal Caribbean Blocks Dr. Henry Lee's Dummy Experiment 

The International Cruise Victims Organization Is Born! 

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

Larry King Live & the "Missing Groom Mystery"

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

  

 

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

Violence Strikes Puerto Vallarta Jewelry Store While HAL Cruise Ship In Port

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.”

Puerto Vallarta was not pleased and responded with an accusation that the crime rate was actually higher on Princess' cruise ships  than in this Mexican port. 

Last month Princess announced that it would add these two ports back to its itinerary next year but Puerto Vallarta Mexico Crimewill 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."  

Photo credit:  informador.com.mx

U.S. Cruise Passenger Dies in Naples After Assault, Attempted Robbery

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.

Naples Cruise Passenger Assaulted  

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.' "

Cruise Lines Skip Papua and Mazatlan, But Sail Passengers to Nassau - the Cruise Crime Capital of the World

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 Nassau Bhamas Crime - Cruise Ships - Robbery - Rapeinterview 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." 

The Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape in the Caribbean according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime and violence.  But this is not an academic statistic.  It's real.  Earlier this week, we reported on a young cruise passenger who was beaten and raped in downtown Nassau near the cruise wharf. 

The last year and one-half has seen an epidemic of crime against cruise tourists.  We were the first publication in the U.S. to report on Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau and 18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas.  We have also written about Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues and Nassau Welcomes Oasis of the Seas as Bahamas' Murder Count Reaches Record-Breaking Level.

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?

 

Photo credit:  BahamasPress.com

Does the Cruise Industry Monitor Crime in the Caribbean Ports of Call?

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 St. Kitts - Crime in the Caribbeanof 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."   

But is anyone actually investigating the crime rates in these ports, rather than just flip-flopping from one dangerous port to another?  An interesting article from St. Kitts caught my eye early this morning - "Cruise Industry Security Consultants for St. Kitts to Check Safety of Passengers."  The article contains a quote from St. Kitts' Minister of Tourism:

"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? 

More Cruise Tourists Robbed, This Time In St. Kitts

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."

St. Kitts - Cruise Tour Bus RobberyThe 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. 

I have written many articles about the high crime rates in many of the Caribbean islands frequented by cruise lines - Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers.  Consider the following articles in the last year alone: 

Antigua - Cruise Passengers Attacked & Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet and Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Bahamas 18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the BahamasEleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau, and Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe?

Guatemala - Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala  

Mexico -  Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Ships From L.A. Due To Crime In Mexico

St. Lucia - Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia and 14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia

St. Thomas - More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

 

Additional information: Tourism and Crime in the Caribbean  

December 3, 2010 Update:

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

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

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

Unfortunately, most cruise lines did not warn their passengers of the substantial dangers which exist on this island upon disembarking from the cruise ship.   

Here is our blog on this terrible situation:

More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Have you been on a cruise and been a victim of a crime ashore in St. Thomas?

Are you a tourist robbed or attacked while visiting St. Thomas?

Do you know someone who was the victim of a violent crime in St. Thomas?

Please contact me - 305 995-5300 or send me an email - jwalker@cruiselaw.com

We need your help . . .  thanks!  Jim Walker 

Crimes in the Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call

I have written many articles about the high crime rates in many of the Caribbean islands frequented by cruise lines - Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers.  Consider the following articles in the last year alone: 

Antigua - Cruise Passengers Attacked & Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet and Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Bahamas 18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the BahamasEleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau, and Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe?

Guatemala - Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala  

Mexico -  Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Ships From L.A. Due To Crime In Mexico

St. Lucia - Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia and 14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia

St. Thomas - More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

 

Cruise lines have port agents in all of these destinations and are familiar with the crime which exists in these beautiful, tropical locations.  Do you think that cruise lines should warn passengers of the substantial dangers which exist in the ports they select to disembark their passengers?

Royal Caribbean Vacation Planner and Husband Arrested For Burglarizing 24 Homes While Residents Were On Cruises

Bethsaida Sandoval - Royal Caribbean Cruise Robbery 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.

Bethsaida Sandoval - John Lopez - Royal Caribbean Robbery 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. 

Watch the video below:

 

 

For additional information, consider reading: CNN's "Woman Accused Of Using Cruise Line Job For Burglaries."

Do you have information about this crime?  Leave a comment below.

June 25, 2010 Update:

Royal Caribbean denies liability. Read:  Cruise Crooks Update: Royal Caribbean Drops the Ball with the Diaz and Lopez Families

 

Credits:

Photographs    Palm Beach Post News

Video             WPTV Channel 5

Cruise Ships and Crime in the Bahamas

TIME Magazine just published an article entitled Cruise Ship Port Call: Gauging Crime on the Bahamas. 

Time addresses the November 2009 armed robbery of cruise ship passengers during Segway shore excursions in Nassau, Bahamas.  Cruise Law News was the first one in the U.S. to report on the robbery in our article - 18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas.

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."

Bahamas Crime - Cruise Passengers 

For other stories about crime in the Caribbean, read:

Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe?

Nassau Welcomes Oasis of the Seas as Bahamas' Murder Count Reaches Record-Breaking Level

Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

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

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

 

Credits:

Newspaper article    bahamasuncensored.com

Passenger Files Lawsuit Against Costa Cruise Line A Year Late And In Wrong Courthouse

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. 

Robbery - Cruise Passenger - Costa MagicaNearly 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 Cruise Lines, 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:

Limitations Period:  Cruise Ship Statute of Limitations? - One Year for Adults! Three Years for Minors.

Forum Clause:  Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses

Crime in the Caribbean:  Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers

 

Don't forget to subscribe to our blog by typing your email address in the box at the left, or sign up for our RSS feed.

 

Credits:

Costa Magica    commons.wikimedia.org (Daniel78)

Norwegian Cruise Line Drops St. Lucia

St. Lucia News On Line reports that Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) dropped St. Lucia from its 2010-2012 schedule.

The article states that NCL abandoned St. Lucia because of attacks on cruise passengers which occurred on three occasions while the cruise passengers were sight-seeing on the island.

St. Lucia - Crime - Cruise ShipsIt's about time.

Last December, we reported on out-of-control crime in St. Lucia, and the cruise line's failure to warn passengers:

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

Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers

Most U.S. passengers do not understand the high rate of crimes against Americans in Caribbean countries like St. Lucia, Jamaica, Antigua and the Bahamas. 

Cruise lines face legal liability when they take passengers into dangerous locations and fail to warn them of crime, particularly during cruise sponsored excursions. 

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

The Antigua Sun reports that two cruise passengers were attacked and robbed while ashore in Antigua yesterday after getting off a cruise ship. 

St. Johns Antigua - Crime - CruiseThe passengers were not identified but were described as a "British couple" who arrived in St. Johns yesterday.  They are sailing aboard the Fred Olsen cruise ship, Boudicca

The newspaper reports that the "daring daylight incident" occurred around 10:45 a.m. while the tourists were walking along Bay Street in the "Villa area" which is to the north of the St. Johns Harbour where the passengers disembarked. Three young men attacked the couple with "a piece of stick" and robbed them of a digital camera before fleeing. The couple was treated at the Mount St. John Medical Centre and then returned to the Boudicca.

Antigua's tourism officials already have their hands full following the highly publicized murder of Nina Elizabeth Nilssen who was killed in Antigua after disembarking from Star Clippers' Royal Clipper cruise ship.  This latest crime against a cruise tourist occurred while the executive members of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) were meeting with the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda and the local Cruise Tourism Association regarding cruise ships porting in Antigua.  In an article entitled "FCCA Team Gives Advise to Tourism Stakeholders," the Antigua Sun Florida Caribbean Cruise Association - FCCA - Antigua - Crimereports that the tourism and cruise people were discussing, among other issues, a "Crime Stoppers" forum when the robbery took place.

Although the media was invited to the meeting, no one would comment on the crime against the cruise passengers. 

Antigua has received a lot of unfavorable press over the last year following high profile murders of tourists.  One year ago, an article entitled "Tourist Murders, Robberies Threaten Antigua's Struggling Tourism Industry" labeled Antigua as "death island."  The article quotes the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association Nathan Dundas as stating ". . .  we have been asking for more security but all of our pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears."

Star Clippers recently announced that it would no longer stop in Antigua, due to concerns with crime.  Carnival stopped scratched Antigua off its itinerary last year, although it did not explain why.  Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises continue to make calls in Antigua.  

The cruise industry is big business in Antigua and Barbuda.  The Anitgua Observer newspaper reported earlier this month that cruise passengers spent around $48 million from November 2008 to April 2009, according to the FCCA.   

We have addressed the issue of crime against cruise passengers in the Caribbean ports of call in many recent articles:

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau

18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

Nassau Welcomes Oasis of the Seas as Bahamas' Murder Count Reaches Record-Breaking Level

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

Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

 

Credits:    

Photograph of St. Johns Antigua            Squidoo

Antigua tourism - FCCA meeting           ab.gov.ag (via eTurbo News - "Florida Caribbean Cruise Association meets with Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association"

Nassau Welcomes Oasis of the Seas as Bahamas' Murder Count Reaches Record-Breaking Level

Nassau's venerable newspaper, the Nassau Guardian, published two interesting headlines in its weekend edition.

Nassau Guardian

The first headline was "Oasis Makes Grand Arrival."

The second? "Record-Breaking Murder Count."

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. 

Oasis of the Seas - Nassau - BahamsPrime 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 Oasis of the Seas - Bahamas Defense Force Bandexcursions. 

We have reported on this before in Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues.  

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."   

Oasis of the Seas - Nassau Bahamas

 

 

Credits:

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

 

Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers

The Chicago Sun Times has an article today regarding the impact of crime against cruise passengers in the Bahamas.  The article is entitled "Sometimes, it's not better in the Bahamas - Armed robberies in Nassau have tourists, cruise lines on the defensive."

Better in the Bahamas?  Crime against Cruise Passengers 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 Caribbean crimes against cruise passengers in ports of callMichelle Higgins in the Times' "Practical Traveler" section, the article suggests that crime is rising in Belize, Dominican Republic, Trinidad & Tobago, and St. Lucia. 

Just yesterday we reported on 14 Cruise Passengers Robbed at Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in 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 the last 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. 

 

Credits

"Caribbean Crime and Violence"    Douglas A. Lawson

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

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 Anse-La-Rayeon 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 Anse-La-Raye fish frycouple 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.  

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau

18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

St. Lucia is one of the regular ports of call for Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships (shown below):

St. Lucia - Royal Caribbean cruise ship

 

Credits:

Anse-La-Raye & St. Lucia port (Castries) Julie Leigh of Oxfordshire LEA

Anse-La-Raye fish fry            canadianworldtraveller.com

YouTube video Anse-La-Raye crime    Salaison

 

Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

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 Bahamas Triibune Newspaper - Cruise Crime on the crime spree in the Bahamas and the inability of the government to do anything about it.

Fort Lauderdale's Sun Sentinel newspapers also recently reported on the cruise crime in an article entitled "Bahamas Security to be Beefed Up After U.S. Cruise Ship Passengers Robbed."

A Terrifying Near Death Experience

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.

Inside Job?

The Tribune indicates that a representative of Bahamas Association for Social Health (BASH), Mr. Bishop Hall - Bahamas - Crime and ChaosTerry 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 Terry Miller - Earth Village - Bahamas - Crimeoffer 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? 

  

Credits:

Newspaper    The Tribune, Nassau

Bishop Hall photograph    New Covenant Baptist Church

Terry Miller photograph   The Tribune, Nassau

 

18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas

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 Segway Excursion - Earth Village - Bahamas - Royal Caribbean - Disney Cruise  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.

We have reported on other crimes in the Bahamas in a prior blog entitled: "Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau." 

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.  

We also recently blogged about a Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala during a private tour.

Below is an interview of the one of the cruise passengers robbed during the "Segway Tour," by Bob Arno who was on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship: 

 

 

Credits:

Segway Tours - Bahamas

Video - Thiefhunters in Paradise (Bob Arno interview)

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

A 73-year-old cruise line tourist died after being shot by robbers in Santo Thomas de Castilla.  The Latin American Herald Tribune identified the victim as Paul Wolfgang Ritter.  There has been some confusion regarding his nationality, as different newspapers identified him as either a Dutch or German tourist.

Mr. Ritter was a passenger aboard a NCL cruise ship.  Although the name of the ship was not mentioned, NCL has two cruise ships the Norwegian Spirit and the Norwegian Sun which call on Guatemala.

Mr. Ritter was on a paid tour of Santo Thomas de Castilla and was visiting its histoNCL Cruise passenger shot in Santo Thomas de Castillo cemetaryric cemetary when two men tired to rob him of his camera and then shot him.  The newspaper reported the capture of "two youth gang members" suspected in the murder. The banditos were identifed as gang members because of the tatoos on their faces.

Several newspapers, including CBS News, covering the story also commented on Guatemala's crime wave that has driven the murder rate up to around 17 a day - a statistic not known by most cruise passengers.

The Latin American Herald Tribune reports that "the more than 5,400 homicides reported last year in Guatemala – a nation of approximately 13 million – was nearly equal to the number of murders in neighboring Mexico, which has more than 100 million inhabitants and is the scene of open warfare among rival drug cartels."

A number of cruise lines other than NCL call on Santo Thomas de Castilla as a regular port, including Holland America Line and P & O Cruises.  P & O 's website has a section called "About Santo Thomas de Castilla" which promotes a visit to the cemetary as part of its "featured shore excurions:"

Santo Thomas de Castilla lies on Amatique Bay, off the Gulf of Honduras in northeast Guatemala. Belgians settled here in the 19th century and today you can see the cemetery where the pioneers are buried.

Cruise Port - Santo Thomas de CastillaCrimes committed against cruise passengers while ashore in ports of call are a concern throughout the Caribbean and Central America.  Three weeks ago, Cruise Law News was the first in the U.S. to report that eleven cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint at a major tourist attraction in downtown Nassau on a Sunday morning - "Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau."  

These types of stories do not find themselves being reported in U.S. newspapers.  The cruise community ignores them.   

Cruise lines are legally obligated to warn passengers of crime dangers in the ports of call they select and advertise for passengers. But don't expect the cruise line to provide a warning to your family, although some travel agents tell their clients to be careful.   

 

Photo credits

Santo Thomas de Castilla cemetary    Marycatherine Flickr Photodtream

Santo Thomas de Castilla shore excursion       P & O Cruises

 

Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau

The Tribune newspaper in the Bahamas reports that 2 "vicious robbers" held a group of 11 terrified tourists at gunpoint and robbed them of cash and their possessions.

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.     

 

Photo credits:

Newspaper photo   The Tribune Newspaper, Nassau Bahamas

Queen's Staircase  Ask.com