Star Clippers Returns to Antigua Following Murder of Passenger

USA Today reports that Star Clippers is returning to Antigua.  This is less than five months after it dropped Antigua as a port of call following the murder of passenger Nina Elisabeth Nilssen. 

Star Cippers - Crime - Antigua We have written many articles about crime in Antigua and Ms. Nilssen's untimely death. 

The newspaper quotes Star Clippers' president Jack Chatham saying:  

"Star Clippers has been assured by the Antiguan government that they have improved security on the island, particularly in the areas where our guests visit."

hhmmnn . . .  not sure that I would make a decision solely on what a tourist dependent Caribbean official "assured" me.  

There is no mention of exactly what security improvements have in fact taken place to protect tourists.  The Star Clippers Blog contains no mention of this tragic case, nor any warnings of high crime in the Caribbean ports. 

Our article Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News raises the issue of whether cruise lines, travel agents and cruise reporters are doing a disservice to the public by keeping them in the dark regarding crimes in the beautiful Caribbean ports of call.  

 

Credits:

Photograph     USA Today: "Should cruise lines pull out of Antigua in wake of murder?"

Antiguan Police Arrest Suspect in Death of Nina Nillsen

The police in Antigua arrested a suspect for the murder of Nina Nilssen who died January 19, 2010 after taking a tender from the Star Clippers' Royal Clipper cruise ship to Pigeon Point Beach.

According to a newspaper in Dominica, the police arrested a 24 year-old Dominican man, Tishara Daniel.  The Washington Post reports that the suspect was carrying Ms. Nilssen's camera when he was arrested. The newspaper also reports that the police have "what is believed to be the weapon" that killed Ms. Nilssen. 

Fox News reports that Mr. Daniel confessed to the murder.

Last week, Star Clippers announced that it will stop calling at Antigua.  Star Clippers chief executive officer Mikael Krafft announced that it will monitor the security situation in Antigua and evaluate the cruise line's options. 

Last year, Carnival dropped Antigua from its itinerary. We have reported in prior blogs that there has been a number of attacks on tourists in Antigua.

A video of the police's press conference (parts 1 and 2) announcing the arrest is below:

 

 

 

 

 

For information on this tragedy, we have the following articles:

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Update on Death of Nina Nilssen - Royal Clipper Cruise

Controversy Surrounds Star Clippers' Response to Nina Nilssen Tragedy

    

Credit:

Police press conference                    Caribarena YouTube
 

Controversy Surrounds Star Clippers' Response to Nina Nilssen Tragedy

A controversy has emerged whether the officers of Star Clippers' Royal Clipper cruise ship acted appropriately following the death of passenger Nina Nilssen ashore in Antigua.

A travel writer who was sailing aboard the Royal Clipper criticized the handling of the tragedy in her Antigua - Nina Nilssen - Royal Clipper blog entitled:   "We spend tranquil days in Antigua and St. Kitts but these are overshadowed by the murder onshore of one of our passengers."  She felt that the officers were not forthcoming with information and the cruise line had no plans in place to handle the crisis.   

 Another passenger who was sailing on the cruise ship voiced sharp criticism of the Star Clipper organization, including the failure to warn of dangers ashore in Antigua. In the Antigua & Barbados online forum the passenger writes:

I was on board the Royal Clipper, the cruise ship that docked off Pigeon Beach where this passenger was killed. I can assure you that you commenters on this forum have showed more compassion and concern than was shown by the officers of this ship. After a day of rumors, the following announcement was made over the loudspeaker: "Today a family made an unfortunate disembarkation due to a missing family member." End of announcement, end of story. No warning had been given to any passengers that the area might be dangerous. Passengers were encouraged by ship personnel to use a back path between the beach and the marina, which I Antigua - Nina Nillsen - Star Clippersbelieve is where the body was found. I totally blame the Star Clippers Cruise Line for this tragedy. The next day on St. Kitts, the ship once again anchored off an isolated and un protected beach, with nary a word of warning to the passengers . . .

But the travel agent who booked the cruise for the Nilssen family had high praise for the cruise ship's officer in her comments to one of our articles:

Star Clippers have been on top of this from day one. They kept the members of the party that remained on the ship updated and treated them with kindness. The family that stayed at Antigua was treated with respect and understanding. Star Clippers assisted the family and has returned the fares of those remaining in Antigua . . .

 

We have written other articles on this tragedy:

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Update on Death of Nina Nilssen - Royal Clipper Cruise

Anyone with information about this crime should contact the police in Antigua: The Criminal Investigations Department at 462-3913 or 462-3914, Dockyard Police Station at 460-1002.  (Area code 268)

Credits

Photograph 1  San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate online)

Photograph 2  Todd Trumbull / The Chronicle (via San Francisco Chronicle) 

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Cruise Law News was the first in the U.S. to report on the death of  Nina Elizabeth Nilssen in Antigua on January 19, 2010.  The story was then quickly picked up by our followers on Twitter, such as CruiseCritic and CruiseLog.

Stories about crimes against tourists in Caribbean ports, as sad as they may be, serve an important purpose.  Many people have a false sense of security when they go on a cruise for a vacation get-away or a romantic honeymoon.  But the fact of the matter is that unlike sailing to Alaska, there is an increasing amount of violent crime in the Caribbean ports of call.  We have written about this problem, and the cruise industry's tendency not to warn passengers, in a prior article: "Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers."

Royal Clipper - Star Clippers - Passenger Death - AntiguaIn researching Ms. Nilssen's death, I ran across an interesting blog written by Cynthia Boal Janssens who is one the bloggers on the cruise website All Things Cruise.  Ms. Janssens is described as a "veteran cruise writer who is also a former president of the Society of American Travel Writers."   

Ms. Janssens was one of the passengers traveling on the ill fated Royal Clipper cruise in the Caribbean.  She wrote an article which mentioned  the wonderful wedding of  Ms. Nilssen's sister after the Royal Clipper sailed from Barbados. She described later taking a tender to the marina in Falmouth Harbour in Antigua.  She walked with her husband to the Pigeon Point beach where Star Clippers held a barbecue for lunch, followed by swimming and snorkeling from the beach. In her article "We Spend Tranquil Days in Antigua and St Kitts But Tragedy Upset Everyone," she commented:

Unfortunately, we learned this morning that a tragedy occurred late yesterday on Antigua and although I really don’t want to write about it, I feel I must. A passenger from our ship was found killed on the beach late in the day (not the part of beach that our group was on). The young woman had last been seen at 3:30 p.m. after being part of a snorkeling group. Of course, we do not know who perpetrated the crime and the ship was in no way connected to this reprehensible act.

Her family disembarked the ship that night and sailing was delayed by several hours. Word spread quickly through the ship yesterday morning about the crime although few specific details were known until later in the day. Just before dinner an announcement was made that a family had disembarked because one of their party was missing and asked that any passengers with information should report it to the police. Then we were asked for a moment of silence. All in our group felt that the ship’s officials should have been more forthcoming.

Nina Elizabeth Nilssen - Murder - AntiguaI think that this incident reinforces a fact of travel that we should never forget. That crime exists everywhere . . .

I was surprised  to read this because most travel writers tend to shy away from cruise horror stories.  Travel writers seem to double as travel agents or they don't want to offend the cruise lines which give them free cruises.  I thought to myself that All Things Cruise had done its readers a real service.

The article touched upon a real human tragedy in a sensitive and respectful manner while adding a warning, which perhaps the cruise line failed to provide to Ms. Nilssen in the first place.

I downloaded her article and tacked it on the bulletin board in my home office. 

So when I clicked back on the All Things Cruise website this morning, I was disappointed to see that the article had been re-written.  And the title had been changed to "We Spend Tranquil Days in Antigua and St. Kitts."  There was no mention of Ms. Nilssen's murder or any criticism of the ship's officers. The "tragedy" disappeared.  It is as if the murder didn't happen. 

A "tranquil" day in Antigua? 

Dear God. A young woman had just been murdered and her family devastated. "A tranquil day?"

I do not know Ms. Janssens.  She undoubtedly is a nice and caring person.  But why did her story change?  Did the cruise line ask her to change it?  Why did she decide that the story that she felt compelled to write and her warning to cruisers were no longer needed?  

The cruise industry's reputation has taken a beating over the years. Cruise lines create the fantasy of care-free vacations and romantic honeymoons in order to sell tickets. But they lack transparency and candor when things go terribly wrong. Travel writers who ignore the murders, rapes, and violence in the Caribbean ports are not doing the cruise industry a favor.

And they are providing a grave disservice to the next unsuspecting family who decides to buy a cruise to the Caribbean. 

UPDATE (January 25, 2010 afternoon):

Ms. Janssens' article has reappeared and is now entitled:  "We spend tranquil days in Antigua and St. Kitts but these are overshadowed by the murder onshore of one of our passengers." 

 

Credits:

Royal Clipper                 All Things Cruise

Police in Antigua          Antigua Sun  "Police Hunt for Killer"

Passenger From Star Clippers Murdered in Antigua

The newspapers in the Caribbean are reporting that a U.S. citizen from what is described as a "wedding yacht" was murdered in Antigua.

Nina Elizabeth Nilssen - Antigua - Falmouth - Murder - Star ClippersThe Antigua Observer reports that U.S. citizen Nina Elizabeth Nilssen, age 30, had been found in a desolate area of "Pigeon Point Beach" near the English Harbour / Falmouth area on Tuesday, January 19, 2010. 

Another newspaper, Caribarena - Antigua & Barbuda in an article entitled "Murder Update - another Tourist Murder," reports that "the woman was traveling aboard a yacht due to sail to neighboring St Kitts soon."  A comment to the article states that "there's now a sailing ship full of mourners instead of wedding guests . . .."  

In researching the commercial yachts and cruise ships sailing into Falmouth on January 19th and with a scheduled port the following day in St. Kitts on January 20th - factoring in what appears to be a wedding theme to the cruise - brings us to the Star Clippers company based here in Miami. Star Clippers operate three large master sailing yachts called the Royal Clipper and the sister yachts Star Clipper and Star Flyer.

The fact that none of the numerous newspapers initially reporting the crime identified the cruise line is not unusual.  Often the local newspapers do not wish to upset the cruise line companies calling on the local ports.  

This morning, a newspaper finally identified that Ms. Nilssen was a passenger aboard the Royal Clipper, which in fact is operated by Miami based Star Clippers.  The Antigua Observer reports that Ms. Nilssen had been sailing with her parents, an uncle and aunt, sister and brother-in-law.  The articles suggests that she walked on a nature trail while her family remained on the beach. Her body was discovered, the newspaper reports, "as the cruise boat was preparing to leave Falmouth Harbour. The vessel was forced to leave the family behind to continue its cruise to St Kitts." 

It is less than clear why the pleasure yacht was "forced" to do anything.  Leaving a family in a foreign port under these circumstances appears rather strange.

Star Clippers - Nina Elizabeth Nilssen - Murder - AntiguaWe last reported on the island of Antigua in an article entitled  "Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato"  Carnival cruise line suddenly pulled its cruise ships from the island.  There was talk that Carnival abandoned Antigua due to its high crime rates. 

Antigua has had more than its share of murders of tourists visiting the island. 

Australian yacht captain Andrew Gollan was shot and killed in Antigua a year ago near this area. U.K. citizens Catherine and Ben Mullany were murdered in July 2008 during their honeymoon. There have been reports of other crimes, including murder and rapes. Trip Advisor reports on the incident with an article entitled "Another Tourist Murdered in Antigua."

Cruise ships face legal liability for not warning passengers of the danger of crimes in the ports of call which they select. 

Condolences to the family and friends of Ms. Nilssen.

We have reported on numerous crimes in the Caribbean ports of call:

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:

Ambulance Windward Bay      Caribarena Antigua & Barbuda

Sailing yacht    MSNBC and Star Clippers