Mexico Travel Warning

If you are cruising to Mexico, be sure to read the Mexico Travel Warning issued yesterday by the U.S. State Department. 

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain places in Mexico due to threats to safety and security posed by organized criminal groups in the country.

"Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major drugs trafficking routes."

"Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere, and U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, and highway robbery. While many of those killed in organized crime-related violence have themselves been involved in criminal activity, innocent persons have also been killed. The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department Acapulco Mexicoof State as murdered in Mexico was 81 in 2013 and 100 in 2014."

The cruise ports seem largely unaffected by violent crime and there are no specific warnings. However, in Acapulco, the State Department recommends not going to areas further than just "two blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas."

The state of Guerrero (where Acapulco is located) was the "most violent state in Mexico in 2013, with 2,087 homicides and 207 reported cases of kidnapping. Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable."

Last year I recommended avoiding cruising to Acapulco.

Photo Credit: N. Parish Flannery. Instagram: @nathanielparishForbes via Forbes.

Canadian Couple Attacked Sailing to Roatan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does this sound like paradise to you?

 

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

U.S. Issues Another Critical Crime Warning for Honduras, Including Roatan

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe United States Department of State just issued a warning to U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains "critically high."  

The warning is similar to the critical crime warning issued by the U.S. State Department last year

The warning states that ". . . crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and police often lack vehicles or fuel to respond to calls for assistance. The police may take hours to arrive at the scene of a violent crime or may not respond at all. Members of the Honduran National Police have been arrested, tried, and convicted for criminal activities. Many more are under investigation. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

"Honduras has had one of the highest murder rates in the world for the last five years. The U.S. Embassy has recorded more than 100 murders of U.S. citizens since 2002."

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe warning specifically mentions Roatan:

"Roatan and the Bay Islands are geographically separated from Honduras and experience lower crime rates than the Honduras mainland. The national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security. However, as on the mainland, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur, and you should exercise caution, especially at night." 

The warning also includes cruise passengers. The warning says that although the vast majority of cruise line passengers to Roatan experience no problems, there have been reports of cruise passengers who have been victims of armed robbery and carjacking. We wrote about such incidents here and here. The warning fails to mention that a cruise ship employee was gunned down last year in broad daylight near the port, which we wrote about here

The U.S. warning says although crime remains "critically high," violence allegedly has declined in the past two years according to the State Department. Despite such assurances (no statistics provided), children in Honduras fleeing violence and drug gangs and trying to enter the U.S. remain a critical problem for U.S. - Roatan Honduras CruiseHonduran relations. President Juan Hernandez is committed to the militarization of Honduras (with the support of the U.S.) to try and stem the flow of drugs from Colombia to the U.S. But there recently have been armed confrontations between National Police and the Military Police, both of which have been accused of corruption, which many see as a new level of chaos and corruption. 

A problem plaguing both mainland Honduras and Roatan is that the vast majority of murders are carried out with total impunity. This is exactly the case with a number of killings which I wrote about on Roatan last year, like this and this and these killings involving four boys and young men whose bodies were retrieved and placed in a pickup truck while a NCL cruise ship was moored nearby. 

Meanwhile expatriate resort owners, tour operators, land owners and travel writers are assuring tourists and retirees that Roatan remains paradise.

March 3 2015 Update: Honduran Police Clean Up Declared A Failure

 

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Photo Credit: LaPrensa - top; Teledifusora Insular - bottom. 

"Top" Travel Agent has History of Ethical Violations as Lawyer

A travel agent in New Jersey who claims he's a "top seller" for Seabourn Cruise Line and an experienced "maritime lawyer" has been "aiming" for me in his last several blogs. 

Eric Goldring of the Goldring & Goldring law firm and the Goldring travel agency has been obsessed about me lately. He's recently written three articles claiming that I have filed "frivolous" lawsuits against cruise lines (he identifies none) and that I don't tell the public about the cases that I have allegedly "lost in court." (I have responded to these bogus charges here).  At the same time, Goldring writes that he has "such a good reputation with (his) clients and the cruise lines!" He concludes: "I am, to self-promote, a knowledgeable, Eric Goldring Travelhonest and fair travel agent."

Now, I have had a strong suspicion, given Mr. Goldring's bizarre and maniacal stories, that his description about himself is entirely questionable.

One of my colleagues and friends emailed me and said to check on Goldring's background because something was suspicious about this strange travel agent / lawyer.

So I spent a few minutes (literally a few minutes) and checked up on Mr. Goldring.

The first internet search said "this lawyer has been disciplined by a state licensing authority." The website explained that Goldring was actually sanctioned by two states. He was first "reprimanded" by the ethics department of the New Jersey Bar Association and later "admonished" by the ethics department of the Florida Bar.  

The next search result turned up a website called "No Ethics" operated by the Committee to Expose Dishonest and Incompetent Judges, Attorneys and Public Officials. It summarized a disciplinary complaint and order of sanctions against Mr. Goldring by the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics which found him guilty of ethical charges. According to the website, the investigation by the ethics committee concluded that Mr. Goldring: 

  1. Violated (a) court order to discontinue written ex parte communications;
  2. Falsely accused the trial judge of being biased;
  3. Engaged in highly disrespectful conduct toward a trial judge;
  4. Engaged in conduct meant to intimidate a court; and
  5. Engaged in contemptuous conduct toward one or more courts. 

This site states that this was not Mr. Goldring's first ethical violation. It refers to him as a "repeat offender" and states that he reportedly failed to inform a judge that he had been disqualified in a case because of a "serious conflict of interest." He reportedly was found guilty of deceiving the trial judge. The site reports that the New Jersey Supreme Court punished him with a second reprimand.

The third search revealed that the Florida Bar also filed an ethics complaint against Mr. Goldring arising out of his conduct in New Jersey and further found, as an aggravating factor, that he "refused to acknowledge wrongful conduct."  He was admonished and required to pay the administrative costs.

Okay, now I think I get it. My friend was right. This guy appears to be a loser, sanctioned by ethics referees in both Florida and New Jersey. Is there a reason why he seems to spend most of his time hawking cruise tickets than representing clients in court?  

Now I don't think that revealing his disciplinary records is going to slow someone as reckless as Goldring down. The cheerleaders at Travel Weekly must love someone like him promoting the cruise industry even if he spreads a falsehood or two. I'm also sure that he's foolish enough to write another insane article, at least until another state bar association reprimands him again for unethical conduct. Maybe then he can concentrate on being a full time CLIA travel agent.

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Photo Credit: Travel Weekly - Goldring attending Travel Weekly function.

The Cruise Industry's Internet Travel Trolls

Every year or so, a travel agent with a blog will take it upon himself to level personal insults against us in a half-baked effort to defend the cruise industry. 

One year ago, Richard Turen, a CLIA-certified travel agent, criticized me in an ill-conceived article which appeared in Travel Weekly. Mr. Turen's blog, the ironically entitled Travel Truth, is 100% promotional-hype designed just to sell cruises. Mr. Turen is one of several travel writers, drunk on the CLIA Kool-Aid, who will never mention unpleasant issues like crimes on ships against women and children, exploitation of crew members, and fires & other maritime casualties involving the cruise Eric Goldring Goldring Travelindustry. My response to his article, which you can read here, was one of my most popular articles last year.  

Yesterday, another CLIA travel agent and a Travel Weekly Silver Award Winner named Eric Goldring (photo right) of Goldring Travel in New Jersey, took a cheap shot against our firm on his blog Goldring Travel's This is My Yacht - Cruise & Travel. He accused our firm of "Trying to Defend Their Bringing Frivolous Cases Against Cruise Lines." He posted his article on Twitter and Facebook. He states that he's "taking aim" at me. 

Mr. Goldring responded to a recent article where I said that we are going to start mentioning the actual cases we file against cruise lines this year on Cruise Law News rather than just mentioning hot topics affecting the cruise lines in general. The Florida Bar's ethical rules permit lawyers to discuss their cases as long as they don't make statements that are likely to influence the jury to decide the case based on extrajudicial comments. The local federal rules expressly envision attorneys quoting portions of their lawsuits to the public or even attaching their lawsuits to their blogs or websites. 

The reason I decided to do this is that many cruisers, including travelers in the "Cruise Critic" type of community, like to think that lawsuits against cruise lines are filed by "stupid" people who don't accept personal responsibility for their own reckless behavior and the lawsuits are usually frivolous in nature and will end up making cruising more expensive. The cases we handle should dispel that notion. 

Mr. Goldring, however, insists that our firm's cases are "frivolous." He says that we don't disclose claims "which they lost in court (and there are many of those)." 

Now I should mention that travel-agent-Goldring is also an attorney who calls himself a "maritime lawyer." So he is not just a travel agent trying to use legal terms which he doesn't understand. He's a lawyer who should know the meaning of legal terms. Rule 3.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct states that lawyers can’t file a lawsuit “unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous.” Black’s Law Dictionary, in turn, defines “frivolous” as “lacking a legal basis or legal merit; not serious; not reasonably purposeful.” 

Filing a frivolous lawsuit has dire consequences. The federal and state rules include severe disciplinary and monetary sanctions against lawyers who engage in frivolous filings and baseless argument. It is also a violation of the ethical rules in Florida to make false and misleading allegations against another lawyer.

As a lawyer licensed to practice in Florida as well as New Jersey, Mr. Goldring is bound by these ethical rules. With this in mind, I challenge Mr. Goldring to find a single case where a judge, jury, or ethics committee of a bar association has ever found that we filed a frivolous case or made a frivolous argument. He will find none. He will not even find a single maritime case out of the many hundreds upon hundreds that we filed where a cruise line has even claimed that we filed a frivolous case or engaged in frivolous conduct.

I also challenge Mr. Goldring to tell the public about the cases which we allegedly "lost in court." He states that "there are many of those."  He will find none.    

Mr. Goldring fancies himself as a defender of the cruise industry. His website contains diatribes against others who criticize the cruise lines. He attacked the well respected consumer advocate and National Geographic ombudsman Christoper Elliott in an article entitled "Christopher Elliott Engages in Yellow Journalism on MSNBC; A Misleading Attack on the Cruise Industry." 

But his articles reveal him to be a buffoon. Goldring's poorly written article contains many factual inaccuracies, embarrassing legal errors, grammatical mistakes, incomplete sentences, and misspelled words. He evens refers to my partner, Lisa O'Neill, as "McNeil." Let me point out a few other of Goldring's confused rants:  

Goldring claims that our firm "even (has) an app which encourages you to make claims through their firm, regardless of the facts (sic) that you probably will not recover anything. . . " This is patently false. Another law firm, not associated whatsoever with us, created an iPhone and Android app for passengers to take with them on cruises. (I agree that it's tacky, but it's not our idea). 

Goldring says passengers shouldn't consider seeking compensation because "in many instances if you are 50% or more at fault you receive nothing." Goldring is absolutely wrong about this too. New Jersey, where he has his law firm, is one of twenty-two (22) states which follow the archaic "51% Bar Rule," under which an injured party cannot recover if he is 51% (not 50% as Goldring says) or more at fault. But maritime cases are not governed by New Jersey law. The General Maritime Law applies to maritime cases. Maritime law applies the "Pure Comparative Fault Rule" which allows an injured party to recover even if he is 99% at fault (although the recovery is reduced by the party’s degree of fault). A competent lawyer learns this in law school.

Goldring claims that crew members have to prove that the cruise ship caused them to develop cancer before they can make a claim against the cruise line for the disease.  Again, Goldring is wrong. Under the ancient maritime doctrine of "maintenance and cure," adopted into U.S. maritime law in the early nineteenth century and the Jones Act of 1920, crew members are absolutely entitled to receive the payment of living expenses, unearned wages, and medical treatment for all medical illnesses, including cancer, which manifest during their work on the ship. The crew member does not have to even prove that the cruise line is at fault. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that cruise lines often abandon the crew member in a distant country to die in order to avoid paying for the medical care. Punitive damages may also be assessed against recalcitrant cruise lines which callously refuse to provide maintenance and cure to ill crew members, a holding reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc., v. Edgar L. Townsend, 129 S.Ct. 2561 (2009), which is one of the most important maritime cases in 25 years. Any attorney calling himself a "maritime lawyer" should know this. 

Goldring uses legal terms he doesn't understand. He ends his embarrassing article saying "there is a simple concept in the law that applies in a number of negligence cases: Res ipsa loquitor (sic). (The thing speaks for itself)."

Putting aside that he misspelled "res ipsa loquitur," he misused the term to suggest that many passengers engage in such reckless conduct that it is obvious that they are to blame for the accident and their injuries. But the term deals with the presumed negligence of the defendant. In litigation involving the Carnival Triumph "poop cruise," a federal district judge recently applied "res ipsa loquitur" after reviewing the evidence of the cruise ship fire and resulting conditions suffered by the passengers. He concluded that these events ordinarily do not occur in the absence of negligence of the company operating the ship. The passengers were therefore relieved of the burden of proving that the cruise line was negligent. Lesson to be learned by Mr. Goldring, don't use words you can't spell, don't understand and probably can't pronounce. 

At the end of the day, it ultimately does not matter whether Mr. Goldring, or any travel agent or cruise fan, agrees with me. I like a difference of opinion about issues involving the cruise industry. I look for dialogue and discussion. I don't want a cult-of-personality audience. My goal is to raise awareness of issues that affect cruise passengers and crew member safety, security and well-being. Around 150,000 people, including many travel agents, around the world follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Over 1,700,000 people read over 6,100,000 pages of Cruise Law News last year. I encourage readers to leave comments. Well over 50% of the readers and people on Twitter & Facebook disagree with me. I have learned from listening to my readers and my opinions have changed. Debate is important, irrespective of a reader's ultimate conclusion about the issue. Debate expands the circle of knowledge and brings changes which improve the world of cruising. Over the past decade I have seen hundreds of cruise passengers attend and testify at eight Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. where laws have been passed, over the cruise lines' opposition, to make cruising safer.

The cruise lines, many travel agents and publications like Travel Weekly do not like critical information about shipboard crime and vessel safety to be freely exchanged via social media on blogs like ours and others. The cruise industry wants loyal CLIA members who will parrot the industry's message, write about fantasy vacations on the high seas, and make the industry money. It wants critics and free-thinkers to be intimidated. Tactics of people like Mr. Goldring making false and misleading statements to sell cruise tickets in order to line their pockets underscore the industry's dishonesty and greed. 

 

Note: Mr. Goldring writes this about himself on his travel blog:

" . . . I am not only a luxury travel agent, but attorney specializing in yacht and ship law . . . I have litigated maritime cases from Norway to Australia . . .  That is why I have such a good reputation with my clients and the cruise lines! I am, to self-promote, a knowledgeable, honest and fair travel agent."

Comment: Florida ethical rules prohibit a lawyer to state that he "specializes" in ship law unless he is board certified in maritime law by the Florida Bar's board of certification. Mr. Goldring is not board certified. 

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January 27 2015 Update"Top" Travel Agent has History of Ethical Violations as Lawyer.

Photo Credit: Eric Goldring / Goldring Travel Facebook

Another Murder in Roatan . . .

This morning I received a number of emails from residents of Roatan about an extremely violent murder of a local merchant in Roatan (Coxen Hole) near the port. 

Four men attacked and repeatedly beat Mr. Marcelino Vásquez (age 58), the proprietor of a store called "Commercial Vasquez." An article in Teledifusora Insular states that Mr. Vásquez routinely went jogging with his wife at 5:00 o'clock in the morning.  But yesterday at dawn, four men attacked him and threw numerous punches to his head and face. He was taken to the hospital where he died. The beating reportedly took place on the main street of Coxen Hole.

Comments on the Teledifusora Insular site (warning extremely graphic photographs) include these:

  •  . . . our island is in a mess.
  •  . . . necessary to make a cleaning on all these rats which endanger the community of Roatan.
  • This truly is a wake up call to our authority's for us also but mostly for them what's your plans are you all going to sit and watch the island fall into a war zone Mr mayor, Mr deputy, Mr govener get up and do your job.
  • Lamentable la situacion en Roatan

We were the first to report on the murder of a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) employee in Roatan (Coxen Hole) earlier this year, in addition to the armed robberies of cruise visitors and tourists.

Last week, we reported on the murder in Roatan of four boys / young men.  The Teledifusora Insular Facebook page contains a photo of the bodies of the boys being returned to Coxen Hole in a small boat and transported to a pickup truck, as a NCL cruise ship looks on not knowing of the deaths. 

Roatan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Violent Protests Disrupt Cruises to Acapulco

The last time that I wrote about Mexico I'm sure that I angered the tourism representatives there: Three Cruise Lines Plan to Return to Mazatlan: Will They Provide Bullet-Proof Jackets to Passengers?   

Taking your family to a place like Mazatlan, Acapulco or most any port in Mexico seems unnecessarily risky to me. Admittedly, the majority of cruise tourists have an enjoyable time in Mexican ports like Cabo or Cozumel. I have received more than my fair share of hate emails after writing articles about my view of Acapulco: Seven Tourists Raped in Acapulco: What is the Cruise Industry's Spin? and Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?  

It never ceases to amaze me that people vacation Acapulco Mexico Protests in destinations where the local tourism officials try to convince you that it's safe when the city is filled with the federal police riding around in armored personnel carriers with machine guns.    

I have been watching CNN lately and reading articles about the abduction and apparent murder of forty-three students in Mexico. The latest news is that the mayor of southern Mexican city of Iguala, José Luis Abarca, was arrested. It seems that Mr. Abarca was angered that the students interrupted an event that his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, was giving in an effort to succeed him as mayor. So the mayor reportedly instructed the local police to apprehend the students. Then the local cops turned the students over to a drug cartel who slaughtered the kids, burned their bodies, and dumped them in a river.

There are violent protests now in Acapulco (and other locations) about the corrupt mayor and police department being in cahoots with a murderous drug gang. I make it a point never to cross a picket line and I certainly won't cross a protest line formed by the parents of abducted children and their supporters. 

The Washington Post discusses this dreadful story in Mexico: Violent Protests Hit Acapulco’s Tourism. The Post says that "three years ago, 180 cruise ships docked in the city. So far in 2014, just five have made port calls . . . "

In my opinion that's five port calls too many. 

Mexico seems like a lawless country where there is considerable collusion between Mexican officials, the local police and organized crime. I don't see the point of risking your family's lives by sailing south of the border.

 

Photograph Credit: Eduardo Verdugo / AP

United States Virgin Islands - One of the Safest or Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World?

US Virgin IslandseTN Global Travel Industry News recently published an article about  tourism issues in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the USVI Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty.

In its original publication, eTN cited several sources of information for the proposition that the USVI has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. The territory has a staggering homicide rate around 35.5 per 100,000 people, whereas the United States as a whole has a rate around 4.7 per 100,000 people. (In 2012, the per capita murder rate in the USVI was even higher, around 56 per 100,000 people). 

We selected the USVI as the eight most dangerous cruise destination in the Caribbean in 2014. Earlier this year, I wrote that there are "way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI is a place for a family to vacation."

The leading maritime case involving a cruise line's duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore involves a young girl murdered while visiting St. Thomas during a cruise ship stop.

eTN concluded that "the discrepancy between the socioeconomic status, ethnicity and colonial history of the local population stands in contrast to that of the tourist, straining the relationship between residents and visitors which is evidenced, in some cases, by poor service and worker hostility. Negative employee behavior combined with infrastructure decline pushes tourism to other destinations and creates a downward spiral for USVI visits." This is an accurate insight in to the crime and tourism problems in my opinion. 

But then eTN received a phone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). CTO claimed that the article "had many errors" and disputed that the USVI is dangerous. CTO failed to provide eTN with any evidence or statistics to indicate that the USVI is safe.

Inexplicably, eTN published a second article in which it wrote "of course it should be acknowledged the US Virgin Islands is one of the safest travel and tourism destinations in the world when it comes to U.S. Virgin Islands Crimecrime."  It cited no evidence to support this conclusion which was 180 degrees opposite of what it concluded in its original article.

Tourism officials in the Caribbean are in the business of selling tropical vacations to their islands. To accomplish this feat in an ever-increasing dangerous environment, tourism bureaus often suppress crime statistics and dispute the statistics when they are released.

There's no dispute that the USVI murder rate has been 8 to 12 times higher than the U.S. rate in the last couple of years. It's dangerous for families cruising to St. Thomas not to understand this.

It's disappointing to see a reputable publication like eTN flip-flop so dramatically after receiving a single telephone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. 

 

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

Photo Credit: Top - Wikipedia / Charlotte Amalie Creative Commons 2.5; bottom - Virgin Islands Daily News

It's Murderous in the Bahamas: Homicides Expected to Exceed 2013 Rate

The headlines in the Nassau, Bahamas newspapers over the last 24 hours are ominous -  Man Shot Dead in Home InvasionShot Dead Defending Parents and Fatal Shooting in Fox Hill

These murders take the number of homicides in the Bahamas to 96 and 97 for the year.  

The Nassau newspapers read like a war correspondent's daily account of mayhem and misery.  In the last week, the Tribune has blasted headlines like Shootings on the IncreaseTwo Murders in Six Hours, and Latest Armed Robberies Bring Month’s Total To 30. The Nassau Guardian's recent Crime Nassau Bahamasgruesome headlines include Two Killed in Weekend Violence and Man Gunned Down Protecting Family

Last year there were 111 murders in the Bahamas in 2013. The country is averaging 10 murders a month in 2014. The 2013 rate will be exceeded sometime in December.

Defenders of the Bahamas point out that the Bahamas consists of some 700 islands. But there's no question that the vast majority of these violent crimes occur in New Providence (Nassau) where the majority of the cruise passengers disembark.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Miami's metro area has a population of around 5.5 million. That's twenty-two times the population of New Providence (250,000). Miami-Dade had 229 murders in 2013. Even though the Miami metro area has 22 times more people, it has only approximately 2 times as many murders. Plus the police force in Nassau is ineffective, the legal system is broken and the tourism officials try to cover the violence up.

Many cruise tourists have an image of Miami as being high in crime, but they don't understand that disembarking in Nassau is far more dangerous.

Both the U.S. and Canada have issued crime warnings for the Bahamas because of the violence.

More and more cruise passengers tell me that they stay on the ship when they reach port in Nassau. They say that they're bored with the straw market and run-down Bay Street. They don't want to risk walking off the ship into a shabby port and becoming a victim of armed robbery by a young man with a gun. 

 

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

Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered and Cruising to the Bahamas? Think Again.

This weekend, the “Bahamas Pride Freedom Weekend” was scheduled to take place at a resort on Grand Bahama.

Beginning last Friday, the four-day festival was intended to celebrate and strengthen support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community in the Bahamas.

According to the Tribune newspaper, the event was organized to "underscore the critical need for outreach and empowerment" within the LGBT community. The event's organizer, Victor Rollins, says that the LGBT community is often "stigmatised, manipulated or exploited."

This weekend was designed to feature a variety of parties and festivities, as well as a memorial to Bahamas LGBT remember LGBT individuals who were victims of hate crimes or HIV. The events were scheduled to take place at the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach Resort.

But the Nassau Guardian reports that the festivities and memorial were canceled "out of fear" of violence from "irate" members of the public. The organizer Mr. Rollins reportedly received death threats. The newspaper also reported that local talk shows included vitriolic comments by those Bahamians who wished the LGBT community harm and suggested that God would condemn the LGBT members. 

A religious leader, Dr Myles Munroe, of the Bahamas Faith Ministries International, added fuel to the anti-LGBT sentiment. He has made numerous public denouncements of homosexuality. After learning of the LGBT events, he issued a press statement that homosexuality dismantles "the very core of the natural existence of humanity.”

According to the Tribune, Dr. Munroe claims that "90 per cent of the Bahamas and Bahamians consider (homosexuality) unacceptable and violates their collective convictions, moral standing and values." He characterized gay and lesbian men and women as "selfish," possessing "unnatural preferences," and engaging in "unnatural human-destroying behaviour."

You can read a letter to the editor of the Tribune entitled the Homosexual And Bisexual Plague to understand this view of the LGBT community in the Bahamas.  Or you can read this Bahamian minister's view on his Facebook page - "the Bahamas has to be careful that we don't inherit a reputation as a 'Gay Destination.'"

Frommer's says that the Bahamas is "increasingly gay-friendly," but "single gays and gay couples should still travel with discretion."

Some say that over 10% of cruisers are affiliated with the LGBT community. But whatever the number may be, why would anyone chose to cruise to such a hateful place?  

 

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

Photo Credit: The Tribune.

Another Murder in Roatan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. 

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

U.S. State Department: Crime and Violence in Honduras Remain Critically High

The Department of State in the United States issued another warning about the high crime rate in Honduras, saying that "the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high." You can read the June 24 2014 warning here.

The last warning from the U.S. state Department was issued on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013. 

A lot has happened since last December. As far as tourists, cruise passengers and crew members are concerned, there have been several armed robberies and one death. Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) temporarily pulled its cruise ships out of the island port of Roatan after a NCL crew Roatan Honduras Crime Cruisemember was shot and killed near the port in Coxen Hole.

The report states that "crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country, and the Government of Honduras lacks the resources to address these issues." Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. The homicide rate for last year (2013) was 75.6 to 79 per 100,000 people in 2013.  

Crime is also significant in tourist areas. The report states:

"Although Roatan/Bay Islands, Copan Mayan ruins, and other tourist destinations and resorts have a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, thefts, break-ins, assaults, and murders do occur and are still high by international standards."

Crimes against U.S. visitors and residents are rarely solved. As we mentioned before, of the last 50 U.S. citizens killed in Honduras, only 2 cases have been solved.

We have reported on several armed robberies against cruise passengers in Roatan this year like this, and the murder of the NCL crew member last April.

This year, to the howl of protests from expatriate resort owners and tour and dive operators in Roatan, we selected Honduras as the second most dangerous cruise destination in the world

Love Letters from Roatan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Doug in Roatan: 

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

From Michelle in Roatan:

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

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

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) 

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. 

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

The New Wave of Attacks on the Critics of the Cruise Industry

Truth - Melissa PhillippeYesterday Travel Weekly ("travel industry's trusted voice") published an article entitled The New Wave of Attacks on the Cruise Industry

A vacation consultant/travel agent type and contributor to the travel magazine, Richard Turen, identified me and Dr. Ross Klein (a sociologist in Canada who has written and testified before Congress extensively about cruising) as cruise critics engaged in a "new wave" of "attacks" against the cruise lines. Mr. Turen didn't provide any examples, but he voiced his concern about what he characterizes as "unsubstantiated half-truths."

Mr. Turen has a travel site where he endlessly promotes his view of the top ten cruise lines. top 10 tour operators, top 10 secrets to traveling healthy, and so forth. His site is called, ready for this, "Travel Truth."

On Travel Truth, you can read all type of hype designed to sell cruises but not a word about crime against women and children traveling on cruise ships. 

Travel Truth is also a zealous defender of the cruise industry when things go wrong. Mr. Turen defended Carnival following the poorly maintained Triumph poop cruise fiasco, and concluded in a Travel Weekly article that there "simply is no other vacation option that can match the satisfaction level and the pure value of a cruise."  Mr. Turen even defended Costa Captain Schettino who smashed the Concordia into the rocks and killed 32 souls in an article "A SECOND LOOK AT THE CONCORDIA TRAGEDY." He bashes a maritime lawyer who criticized Costa for hiring captains who are risk takers like the disgraced captain. 

Yesterday I promised to publish a reply to Mr. Turen's article which would include some context and perspective to his comments.

Here it is:

First, there is nothing remotely "new" about my views of cruising or about what Mr. Turen characterizes, dramatically, as new "attacks" on the cruise lines. 

I switched from being a cruise ship defense lawyer to becoming an advocate for passengers and crew Cruise Ship Crimesmembers in the mid to late 1990's.  I've spent a lot of time disclosing incidents of crime which the cruise lines try to sweep under the rug.  Dr. Klein started compiling cruise information in the late 1990's dating back to the 1960's. He has been operating his informative web site since as early as January 2002. I started my blog in 2009 with the motto "everything cruise lines don't want you to know."

There are no "new attacks" on the cruise lines at all, as far as I am concerned. It's the same type of observations from Dr. Klein and the same old criticisms from me for the past decade, at least. The only thing relatively new is the proliferation of the methods of delivering information to the public. Twitter (we have over 11,500 followers) and Facebook (we have over 92,000 fans) deliver my opinions far faster and further than ever before.  

So let's turn to Mr. Turen's comments.

Mr. Turen says that I have "appeared on every major news outlet and frequently testifies before Congress." Well, the first part of the sentence is 100% accurate; I have appeared on pretty much every network and cable news outlet possible. Lord knows I have tried.

But the second part of his sentence is 100% wrong. I have never testified before Congress. There have been several Congressional hearings which have featured our clients. Five of our clients, primarily sexual assault victims, have made submissions and testified before both the House and the Senate, but not me.

Now, that's petty criticism on my part, I suppose. But if you are going to criticize someone for "unsubstantiated half-truths," you better do your homework and make certain that your representations are 100% substantiated and truthful. 

Cruise Ship NorovirusMr. Turen raises 5 major issues I have discussed in some of my prior 1,800 articles. I'll briefly address each issue, so you can read the substance of my comments and understand why they may be relevant to your family's decision whether to cruise. 

Cruise ships are "floating vomitoriums."  Norovirus, e-coli and other gastrointestinal outbreaks are regularly covered on this blog. We do not handle noro cases and will not represent passengers sickened with GI illnesses. Why? Because it is darn near impossible to prove where the virus originated. The ships sail in and out of port so quickly and never interrupt their itinerary to permit the CDC to conduct meaningful epidemiology testing. So why do I write about it? I find the issue to represent a microcosm of the larger cruise dynamic. The primary cause of norovirus is contaminated food or water according to the FDA and the CDC, but cruise lines insist that it's the unsanitary passengers who bring the nasty virus aboard and don't wash their hands. Meanwhile the CDC has documented many instances where ill crew members who handle food continue to work in the galley and dining rooms after they are ill because they rely on tips. I also must admit that it's fun to watch the Cruise Critic fans and travel agents turn red in the face trying to convince me that it's just the dirty fingers of the passengers causing all of the fuss. Is a "floating vomitorium" an unsubstantiated half-truth? Just ask the thousands of cruise passengers aboard the Celebrity Mercury who were sickened with norovirus during numerous consecutive sailings over the course of a month. The CDC finally shut the ship down because the cruise line wouldn't stop sailing and infecting a new round of guests. Celebrity later sold the sick, old ship. 

Disney is the world's "worst cruise line." After a 34 year old Disney waiter molested an 11 year old girl while the cruise ship was still in a U.S. port, and was caught red-handed on CCTV, did Disney promptly report the crime to the port police or the sheriff's office or the FBI? No, the Magical Kingdom sailed the ship (together with the crime scene, the assailant crew member and the victim) out Disney Cruise Line Pervertof the jurisdiction to Nassau where the local police could have cared less and Disney knew it. Case closed. Disney then flew the pervert back to India. The "worst cruise line?" You bet. This story was my number 1 most outrageous cruise story of 2013

Did Mr. Turen or Travel Weekly write about this crime and Disney's outrageous conduct? Of course not. The only time Travel Weekly writes about cruise crime is puff pieces like this one, where pro-cruise writers interview only cruise lines and cruise trade organizations and end up with what read likes a cruise line press release saying crime is rare.

Here's what Mr. Turen has to say about Disney: Disney at sea "is just as professional, elegant, and genuinely family friendly as Disney on land. For the majority of guests, as always, Disney will exceed expectations. It clearly exceeded ours."

"Cruise lines are a perfect place to sexually abuse children." This was one of the ten reasons I cited back in 2009 to perhaps consider taking a vacation other than a cruise. Congressional staffers have told me over the last five years that the cruise lines are obsessed with making certain that there is never a law requiring the cruise industry to disclose sexual crimes against children (no names or details of course, simply that the victim was a child). No cruise line has ever disclosed that a single child was molested. The cruise lines know that children have been raped and molested in cabins, hallways, crew quarters and in child care facilities. It's the cruise industry's nastiest secret. The Disney cover-up regarding the 11 year old girl is just one example. Dr. Klein has written and testified about this disturbing subject, but I have never read an article published by Travel Weekly or Mr. Turen which has touched upon crimes against children on cruises. That would be bad for the travel industry, wouldn't it? And it would be hard for a travel publication to sell advertisements for the cruise lines too.    

"Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL are corporate felons." Evidence that a party to litigation has been convicted of or pled guilty to a felony, or a crime involving dishonesty, can be disclosed to a jury who can take that into consideration in determining whether that party has a propensity toward dishonesty. This is one of the few things I remember from law school over three decades ago.  All of the major cruise lines based in Miami, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL, have pled guilty to lying to the U.S. Government, federal prosecutors, the Coast Guard and even the U.S. Attorney General. Think that these cruise lines, who are all corporate felons because of their lying ways, will be transparent to you when your children are molested? Jurors are entitled to be informed about felony convictions of corporations. Shouldn't you be too? 

"If you are retired or a child, the cruise line considers your life worthless." There is an old, archaic law called the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA)(1920) which prohibits the recovery of emotional damages (grief, sadness, bereavement, pain, suffering, mental anguish, etc.) when a loved one dies at sea. All that is potentially recoverable is financial losses (lost wages for example).  But if the cruise line or their doctors kill a child or a retiree, there are no lost wages. What can you recover? Zilch. Cruise lines are motivated by financial consequences. But dead children have no consequences (no wonder Mr. Turen states in his article that a child who drown in a Carnival pool without a lifeguard was of no significance to the cruise line). Legislation has been introduced to amend this unjust law, but the cruise lines have lobbied hard to keep it on the books. The cruise lines love DOHSA, because if you are retired or a child your life is worthless in the eyes of the cruise industry and their insurance companies. The cruise lines have spent millions making certain your family doesn't get a dime in death cases. This was the first issue I ever wrote about on this blog.  

Is this another "unsubstantiated half-truth?" Nope. Just another part of cruising that travel writers like Mr. Turen never write about and travel publications like Travel Weekly never publish. They prefer you not know.

Travel WeeklyA year and one-half ago, Mr. Turen wrote an article for Travel Weekly about crime in ports of call, stating that he would never warn a client if that meant "destroying the dreams of others as they try to complete whatever worldwide destination their bucket list might contain."  

I'm all for bucket lists, but not at the expense of a child killed or molested and the cruise line assisting the pervert escape justice or hiding the truth.  Mr. Turen's fanciful top-10-best-cruise-ships view of cruising, and his success making money selling such illusions, seem to me to be based on keeping the real truth away from the traveling public. 

This myth is perpetuated by pretending to be the only source of "travel truth" and attacking those who offer real-life stories about norovirus, molested children, outlaw cruise ships, and "family" cruise lines that really don't care about your children.   

 

Credits:

The Truth - Melissa Phillippe

Travel Weekly - Travel Weekly

A Cruise Passenger's Perspective: Local Newspapers in Nassau, Bahamas Paint Grim Image of Armed Robberies & Murders

On Friday, I published an article regarding whether travel agents and cruise lines are warning passengers about the high rate of violent crime in Nassau. My article followed an article in the Tribune newspaper in Nassau reporting on the cruise industry's concern with crime against its passengers and crew members, as well as the U.S. State Department warning of the risk to tourists of armed robbery. 

My impression is that whereas Carnival is warning its passengers of high crime ashore in Nassau, the other cruise lines are not. And while some travel agents are transparent with their clients and tell them the sad news about Nassau, many have a cavalier attitude of "crime happens everywhere" or "nothing Nassau Bahamas Crimehas happened to me there" type of approach.

The article - Is Your Travel Agent or Cruise Line Warning You of Crime in the Bahamas? - also hit a nerve with the residents of the Bahamas. In comments to my article, I received two reactions from the Bahamas community. One sentiment was "yes, its dangerous here." The other reaction was a mixture of denial and strange patriotism "no, don't malign my country, Miami is more dangerous."

But the truth is that Nassau is more dangerous than Miami, New York, or Los Angeles, and does not compare well to even Detroit which is the murder capital of the U.S. In terms of armed robberies and murders, a U.S. citizen cannot travel to a more dangerous city in the U.S. compared to Nassau. And unlike these U.S. cities, Nassau is dependent on tourists arriving by cruise ship. The Miami-based cruise lines are finally talking about pulling out of Nassau if such high crime affecting their guests doesn't improve.   

The Bahamas used to advertise that "it's better in the Bahamas." I don't know if it does anymore. A more accurate description would be "it's more dangerous in the Bahamas."

Perhaps some of the remote islands of the Bahamas are safer, but that's not where the cruise lines unload thousands of people a day.

Last month, the Acting Prime Minister of the Bahamas was the victim of armed robbery (see photos on our Facebook page here).  Earlier this year, a 74 year-old female U.S. diplomat was the victim of an armed robbery on a Sunday morning downtown Nassau while walking to church. A few months ago, we wrote about the open letter to the Tribune newspaper about crime penned by Bahamian Senator Bostwick who talked about "regular random robbery of tourists."   

Many in the Bahamas dependent on the U.S. dollars of the cruise passengers say that violence finds only those tourists who "go over the hill" looking for drugs or sex. Similarly, many U.S. travel agents tell their clients that everything will be fine if you stick with the other passengers in the cruise approved excursions ashore.

But I will always think of the Bahamas as the only place where armed robbers have targeted cruise passengers to rob in bulk on multiple occassions. I'm talking about the armed robbery of 11 passengers visiting the Queen's Staircase on a quiet Sunday afternoon and, a month later, the armed robbery and terrorizing of 18 cruise passengers during a cruise excursion to a nature's preserve.

I have been accused of exaggerating things. My response is don't read my blog. Read the local newspapers in Nassau - the Tribune and the Guardian.  They are filled daily with stories of violent crime. I selected ten front page headlines from the Tribune in the last month or so to post on our Facebook page. Here are a few recent headlines:

"Man shot down in street," "7 shot, 1 killed at peace party," Murder count over 2012 total," and "Four dead in 36 hours of violence." The headlines go on and on.

You can see the articles from the Tribune here.

I doubt any cruise lines or travel agents want any of their customers to read these articles when deciding their cruise itinerary.  

Convicted Child Molester Prohibited From Leaving U.S. to Go on Cruise

Roderick Reese - Cruise - Child MolesterThe Macomb Daily reports today on the arrest of a convicted child molester who was stopped at an airport when he attempted to fly to Europe to go on a cruise.

According to the Macomb Daily, Roderick Reese, age 61, of Southfield, Michigan was arrested by Michigan State Police minutes before he and his wife were to board a Delta flight at Detroit Metropolitan Airport headed for Amsterdam. 

He was arrested because he failed to notify authorities that he was on the sex offender registry, according to the newspaper.

The newspaper further states that Reese was a former teacher who was accused of groping fifth-grade girls, age 9 to 11, in 2003 and 2004 when he taught at a local elementary school in Michigan.

He reportedly pleaded no contest in 2005 to one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in a plea agreement with Macomb County prosecutors. He was sentenced to five years probation with the first year in the county jail. Fifteen additional charges of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and another five counts of attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct were dismissed as part of the deal. 

The school system was reportedly sued by 11 girls with the cases resulting in settlements. 

The state trooper who commented on the case stated that Reese “said they were going on a 25th wedding anniversary cruise that he paid $16,000 for. He wasn’t happy. He was in disbelief."

The state trooper added “I don’t think those school children (he was accused of molesting) would’ve been happy” if he was allowed to break the rules and go on the trip.

Our firm is occasionally asked by convicted felons whether they can leave the U.S. to go on cruises, either alone or with their families.

The ability of state and national law enforcement officials to track child molesters and keep them from cruising is sporadic at best.

 

Photo Credit: Busted Offenders

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

Last month we wrote an article about the crime epidemic in Nassau, Bahamas.

A newspaper in the Bahamas published an article "Cruise Ships Warn on Crime," explaining that cruise executives from Miami met with Bahamian officials about the increasing crime levels in Nassau which are no longer safe for passengers. We have written several articles about the crime problem in Nassau, including the rape of young women who go into the bars near the port, petty theft, snatch and grab robberies, and violent crime.

Nassau Bahamas Cruise Ship CrimePassengers are being warned to stay on the cruise ships when the ship calls on Nassau. Crew members have known this for years.

Newspapers today are reporting that a U.S. citizen was shot and killed when he tried to stop the robbery of another U.S. tourist visiting Nassau. The U.K. Daily Mail reports that American Kyle Bruner was murdered in the Bahamas over the weekend while attempting to help a tourist who was being mugged.

The U.S. Department of State characterizes the crime level on New Providence Island, where Nassau is located, as "critical." Snatch-and-grab’ crimes are common occurrences in Nassau. The U.S. State Department says it has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in casinos, outside hotels, and on cruise ships.

I have represented many women sexually assaulted in Nassau and on cruise ships in that port and many passengers robbed at gunpoint.  

In addition to our clients, we have learned of a wide variety of crimes against cruise passengers, including rapes against young women ashore, theft, and violent robberies. We have written several articles about the crime problem in Nassau, including sexual attacks against young women who go into the bars near the port: 

U.S. State Department: Crime In Nassau, Bahamas Is Critical

Cruise Passenger Beaten and Raped in Nassau - Are Royal Caribbean and Senor Frog's to Blame?

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 

I have never written an article telling cruise passengers to avoid a port of call. I usually report on what I know and then leave it up to the passengers to decide what to so. But Nassau is flat out dangerous.  In my opinion, if you knew what the cruise lines know, you'd be crazy to take your family there. 

June 20 2013 Update:  Crime in Nassau continues. Here are recent articles:

74 year-old female U.S. diplomat assaulted and robbed Sunday morning in Nassau while walking to church.

2 tourists robbed outside Atlantis.

Tourists Robbed At Downtown Night Spot

2 tourists robbed.

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

Officials address cruises lines' crime concerns.

Bahamian Ministry of Tourism, police and cruise lines work on "white paper" to address crime in Nassau.  
 

Photo Credit:  Caribbean 360 

 

 

New York Times Takes a Look at Cruise Ship "Mishaps"

The New York Times Travel Section published an article today about the topic of cruise ship "mishaps" such as collisions, fires, evacuations, groundings, and sinkings.

The problem is that there is no centralized agency collecting data about such incidents. Plus the cruise line industry is notoriously secretive about events that are inconsistent with the notion that cruising is a safe and enjoyable vacation. 

This means that web sites like this and the site Cruise Junkie operated by Professor Ross Klein have to fill the gap.

You can read the article here: How Normal Are Cruise Mishaps?

The New York Times interviewed me and cruise expert Professor Ross Klein.

The Carnival PR person said the usual propaganda, saying that cruise mishaps "are quite rare” and "Carnival's ships are extremely safe."  Lots of self-serving opinions and adjectives but the usual lack of statistics.

Carnival Cruise Ship Accidents

Here's the first comment to the article:

"Ah, for the days of deck chairs, hot bouillon, salt air, gentle strolls around the deck, dressing for dinner, a chance encounter with Dali walking a pair of Ocelots. Now it's down to the sea in floating Malls afloat in sewage. Captain, I think we're sailing backward."

Seven Tourists Raped in Acapulco: What is the Cruise Industry's Spin?

The news reports out of Mexico are shocking.

Six women from Spain vacationing in Acapulco were bound and raped by a gang of five men who burst into their holiday rental. Their male friends were gagged and bound by telephone cords and robbed.  

One news source said the mayor of Acapulco did not help matters with a statement saying no big deal: “It is unfortunate, but it happens anywhere.” 

Mexico - Cruise Ship ViolenceThis is the last thing Mexico's tourism industry needs.  

Although none of the tourists arrived by cruise ship, the issue remains whether traditional cruise ports in Mexico are safe for travel. 

Last year I wrote an article Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?  I chronicled the violence, murders, robberies and assorted mayhem in the Mexican ports of call.

The Mexican tourism industry, the cruise lines which sail to Mexico, and the expatriated Americans living south of the border will say that such incidents are rare, but read my article and judge yourself before you drink their Kool-Aid.  

I'd be tempted to sail in Europe or to Alaska, but I wouldn't be caught dead sailing to Acapulco.   

Join the discussion of the issue on our Facebook page

 

Photo Credit:

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images via Wall Street Journal's Mexico Tourism Feels Chill of Ongoing Drug Violence

Cruise Industry "Safety Tool Kit" Lacks An Important Tool - Honesty

Yesterday I read a press release by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) touting a "Cruise Industry Safety Tool Kit."

The kit is designed by CLIA to "educate and reassure" prospective cruise clients about safety at sea.

The materials contain brochures which can be customized with the travel agency's name on the front and includes questions and proposed answers to provide to customers who may be skittish about cruising following the Costa Concordia disaster and highly publicized cruise ship fires on the Royal CLIA Safety Tool Kit - Cruise Ship DangersCaribbean / Azamara Quest and the Costa Allegra.

Unfortunately the CLIA materials are incomplete and misleading. Consider this proposed question and answer:

Q: Is cruising safe?

A: Absolutely. Cruising is extremely safe, and incidents are rare . . .

If you are a travel agent and tell your clients that cruising is "absolutely safe" in order to make a sale, and one of their kids is victimized by a crewmember, you can be sued for fraud.  

CLIA also suggests that travel agents tell prospective cruisers that "as ships have grown larger, cruises have become safer than at any time in history." Considering the 32 deaths in the Costa Concordia just a few months ago (which CLIA is careful to omit), this may be another whopper that you may want to skip too. To make matters worse, CLIA's casualty statistics end as of 2011 and do not include the Concordia victims. 

The greatest omission from CLIA's safety kit is there is absolutely no mention of crime.  The greatest risk to a passenger is not the cruise ship catching on fire or sinking, it's sexual assault - like a cruise employee molesting your child or your teenage daughters being sexually assaulted by a crewmember or older passengers.  

Earlier this year we reported on a child supervisor who worked for many years on Cunard cruise ships who admitted to abusing at least 13 boys in and around the cruise ships' play zones.  We suspect that there are more victims than this.  

There has been a vigorous debate in our U.S. Congress for the past six years about the frequency of crime on cruise ships. One cruise expert who testified several times before Congress stated that the chance of being a victim of rape on a cruise ship is twice that of being sexually assaulted in your home town.  

Azamara Quest Cruise Ship FireThe safety kit also has a section where CLIA recommends certain messages for travel agents to post on Facebook and "tweets" to post on Twitter under #cruisesafety.  So far I have not seen any travel agents posting the CLIA info under this hashtag.

When interacting with your clients, the smartest thing a travel agent or cruise specialist can do is to disregard the CLIA propaganda. Here's my safety tip to travel agents:

Be honest with your clients.  

Anyone can Google "cruise ship crime" or "cruise ship fire" and read many hundreds of articles and see all types of disturbing images about all types of crimes and mishaps on cruise ships. Why tell a lie and lose your credibility, when your customers can find the truth about the dangers of cruising by a simple Google search?

 

"Cruise Safety Kit Logo" - Cruise Line International Association

Photo of Injured crewmember following Azamara Quest fire - IBN Live 

Cruise Insurance Scam: Travel Guard Denies Claim of U.S. Soldier in Afghanistan for Missed Cruise

Last year I published a couple of articles entitled And the Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has an Image Problem.  One of the stories we covered involved a NCL passenger who had to cancel his cruise because his brother died and was being buried on the day of the cruise.  NCL refused to permit him to cancel without paying the entire fare.  He then suggested that he be permitted to donate the cruise to a child with cancer.  NCL said no, and then sold the cabin to other passengers.  That's right, the cruise line made a double profit off of the death of a customer's brother.  Really sick.

But after I published the article, a number of readers emailed me and said that the passenger should have protected himself by buying travel insurance.  Although they seemed to be rather heartless about the matter, the readers were probably right.  Cruise lines have carefully drafted their passenger tickets over the years to protect themselves against claims arising out of all last minute cancellations, so its prudent to always buy insurance for your cruise.

But what happens when the insurance companies try to weasel out from paying a claim for a missed cruise?

You can hire a lawyer, but insurance companies aren't scared of lawyers.  Insurance companies have lots and lots of lawyers who sole purpose is to screw the policyholders out of their claims.

Travel Insurance Scam - Cruise Insurance The best bet is to contact your Congressman or Congresswoman and go to the press.  Insurance companies hate bad press and government scrutiny, which brings us to this story.

A soldier in war zone Afghanistan, Jeremy Radtke, and his wife Jamie purchased a cruise with Princess Cruises.  Jamie's mom is a travel agent who convinced them to buy insurance, which was a smart move because a rocket attack caused soldier Radtke's flight home to be canceled.

Jamie them made a claim for the missed cruise with the insurance company, which advertises specifically to active duty military.  In response, she received a voice mail message for her husband (then back in the war zone) stating:

"Hi this message is for Jeremy. Jeremy, this is Shane and I'm calling in regards to travel insurance claim that was filed and we were finally able to do a review of that claim. Unfortunately we were not able to extend benefits on the claim." 

Understandably upset, Jamie had the foresight to complain to her Senator in Florida, Mike Fasano, who wrote a letter to the insurance company, stating in part:

"It is important for you to know that Mr. Radtke is active-duty military and is stationed in Afghanistan. This soldier, whose life is on the line each and every day to protect the freedoms that you and I enjoy, planned the cruise during a scheduled two week leave period. This leave is the only time he was able to come home and spend time with his wife.

I find it unconscionable that your company would deny a claim by anyone with a legitimate claim, especially active duty service members who frequently have to deal with changes in leave time . . ." 

Jamie also took her story to Channel 10 Investigators in Tampa who contacted Travel Guard.  The insurance company claimed that it never denied the claim and was allegedly just waiting on some paperwork.  It offered no explanation for the voice message.  Once confronted by the Senator and the TV crew, Travel Guard said that it would go ahead and cover the claim.  Jamie then received a check for $3,600.

If a travel insurance company will play games with a member of the U.S. military who puts his life on the line fighting the Taliban, do you think that it will treat your family any better?

If you have been taken advantage by a cruise line or cruise insurance company, don't get mad.  Get even. Lawyers can't always help.  Call your elected officials.  Call a team of action investigators at a local television station. Tell the company that's trying to steal your money to explain themselves to a TV camera.      

      

 

Video and photo credit:  News 10 Tampa Bay / WTSP

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

"10 Murdered in Mexican Pacific Resort City" reads the headline in Acapulco today, with a photo below of a bloody body lying in from of a scenic beach resort.  After such a horrific headline and photo, no one needs to read the actual article about the mutilated, dismembered and often decapitated bodies dumped in public areas of the Mexican city.

Two weeks ago, some 50 or so headless bodies were dumped on a highway near Monterrey, Mexico. The corpses had been mutilated with the dead's heads, hands and feet all cut off.

The official word from the Mexican authorities is always the same statement, carefully tailored not to scare the tourists and their U.S. dollars away - its just drug violence; don't worry the Zetas drug gang Violence Acapulco Mexico - Cruise Vacationdon't target cruise passengers; violence like this doesn't happen in cruise ports.

Perhaps it's true that there is more violence in a northern land-locked city like Monterrey, but how about a resort and cruise port like Acapulco?

A year and a half ago, USA Today asked the question in an article "Will Cruise Ships Bypass Acapulco Because Of Drug Violence?"  

Which cruise lines today are still sailing to Acapulco or, for that matter, Puerto Vallarta?  

I've written a number of articles about the dangers presented by violence in Mexico:

Two month ago, armed banditos robbed 22 Carnival cruise passengers who were traveling in a bus back to the port in Puerto Vallarta during a Carnival sponsored excursion.

Last November, armed robbers stuck up a Puerto Vallarta jewelry store while a Holland American Line cruise ship was in port.  The U.S. press didn't mention the story.

In October of last year, I posted this article: "Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas: Is it Safe to Cruise to Mexico?" after an unbelievable gun fight in broad daylight. 

Two years ago, I wrote: "Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines Pull Ships From L.A. Due To Crime In Mexico."

After I wrote my article about the crazy shoot-out in Cabo last year, I received hate e-mails for a couple of weeks. Not from Mexicans, but mostly from U.S. citizens who moved south and are selling real estate or involved in small businesses in places like Cabo or Puerto Vallarta.

There is no question that drug-related violence is out of control in Mexico.  But do U.S. passengers who have never traveled to Mexico really take the time to distinguish Monterrey from Mazatlan when there are reports of a dozen violent murders in a single day?     

An AP article last year said that although port officials and cruise industry representatives have tried to emphasize that most violence in Mexico takes place away from cruise destinations, the message has a hard time "competing with images of beheaded bodies on the news."

Working for the Mexican tourism board or as a travel agent in LA selling cruises to Mexico seems like impossible jobs in the face of such violence.  

My view?  There are a lot of safe cruise itineraries leaving out of Seattle to Alaska I would consider taking long before sailing my family south of the border.  

 

For additional information, consider:

Photo Blog - Drug Related Killings on the Rise in Acapulco

Five People Killed at the Port of Acapulco (March 2012)

How safe is Mexico for Tourists?

In Acapulco, It's Mayhem by the Beach

 

Photo credit: Latin America Herald Tribune / Reuters (photo taken August 2011)

"Rouges & Vagabonds:" Gay Cruise Couple Fined, Insulted & Deported From Dominica

Dominica Senior Magistrate BaptisteIn a weird ending to a weird cruise story, two California men who were arrested on the Celebrity Summit cruise ship while it was docked in Dominica pleaded guilty to indecent exposure at a hearing yesterday and were then ridiculed by a local magistrate.

Yesterday we mentioned the bizarre circumstances surround the Atlantis Events cruise: Busted for Buggery: Controversy Surrounds Another Atlantis Gay Cruise.  

A newspaper in Dominica "DaVibes" described the incident as follows:

"Local taxi operators expressed outrage as they reportedly witnessed the defendants engaged in sexual activity on the balcony of the ship."  When the local police boarded the Celebrity cruise ship, one of the passengers responded “we were naked on our balcony but were not having sex.”

Today another newspaper in Dominica reports that the two men's lawyer in Dominica told the local magistrate at a 30 minute hearing yesterday that her clients were "remorseful" and  overcome by the beauty of the island:

"They were struck by the beautiful mountains, clear fresh air and had a few cocktails and having a few cocktails they found themselves in this indiscretion. They threw caution to the wind, they came here to have a good time and they did not mean to offend anyone” she told the court.

According to the newspaper, Chief Magistrate Baptiste (photo above left) denounced the men's  actions Dominica -Cruise Ship Passengers Arrestedas “an outrage” that was “morally wrong” in any country.  She described the men as “rogues and vagabonds.”  She fined them around $900. 

After the hearing, the local police drove the two men (photo right) to the airport to be flown out of the country.

Many Caribbean islands like Dominica, Jamaica and Barbados are openly hostile to gay travelers. Nonetheless, sex on a balcony at port seems like a good way to be arrested.  

However, the two men, Dennis Mayer and John Hart who have been partners for 17 years, deny that they were engaged in sex on the balcony.

They state that they were arrested by military police and placed in a small cell for 19 hours. They told the LA Times that "we were taunted all night long. They paraded us around like we were some oddity." They were led to a ATM at a bank to withdraw money for their fine as a crowd of residents watched. "I've never seen something like this," Mayer said. "I've never seen people chanting and protesting in the street. It was amazing."  

An AP article quotes Dominica Tourism Minister Ian Douglas as saying that tourists should abide by local laws regardless of their religious or sexual orientation, and that cruise ship officials should make passengers aware of these laws.

 

Photo credits:  

Magistrate Baptiste - Dominica News Online 

Cruise passenger - Carlisle Jno-Baptiste / AP 

Top 12 Blogs & Websites for Cruise News in 2012

Today is January 1st.  The first day of 2012!  This year over 14,000,000 people will sail on cruise ships.  Cruising continues to be one of the fasting growing travel industries, with a wide variety of cruise ships and destinations.  It is not a perfect industry and I consider myself one of its harshest critics.  But If you are considering taking a cruise this year, be safe and have a good time.  There are lots of good sources of information online.  I picked my favorite 12 blogs for 2012, from number 12 to number 1 (twitter name follows website/blog):   

12.  Mikey's Cruise Blog  by @mikeycruiseblog. This is a blog which I started following this Mikey's Cruise Blogyear.  The founder is Mikey Faust who, although just 15 years old, is the head blogger of this increasingly popular blog.  Mikey's Cruise Blog contains interesting articles written by Mikey and two other bloggers.  He just awarded the 2011 "Cruisey Awards" for best cruise line, best cruise director, best new ship, and so forth.  Somehow I won best cruise blog.  That automatically makes his cruise blog a top dozen blog in my book.  Keep an eye on Mikey's Cruise Blog this year.      

11.  CruiseMates - the "Complete Online Guide Cruise Guide and Community."  An online cruise community and message board somewhat like Cruise Critic (see below) but on a smaller scale.  I have bumped heads over the years with its chief author, Paul Motter, regarding the issue of cruise ship crimes and unexplained disappearances of cruise passengers.  But CruiseMates nonetheless contains tons of information and has knowledgeable and pleasant bloggers.  If you want cruise friendly editorials, this is the one channel for you.  It needs to become active on Twitter to become a top 10 player in the cruise world of social media. 

10.  The Ocean Escape, by @CruiseMan3000 This high energy cruise blog is authored by Shon The Ocean Escape "Cruise Man 3000" Ford, who is an unabashed cruise fan and NCL fan in particular.  His blog contains a "cruisetacular" (trademark pending) collection of Shon's personal cruising experiences, cruise ship reviews, and cruise line ratings.  Feeling blue?  Read Shon's exuberant & joyful articles.  If his blog were a church, I would join just for the fellowship.

9.  (Tie) Cruise Line Fans by @CruiseLineFans, a friendly cruise community with cruise reviews and a cruise forum / message board, and Cruise-Addicts by @CruiseAddicts, another popular cruise community.  Its website has a good cruise news section, a forum, cruise tracking application and gallery.  I don't know the principals behind either site but enjoy the interesting articles.   

8.  Cruise Maven by @CruiseMaven.  This is another cruise blog that I just started reading this year.  Authored by Sherry Laskin, a  freelance travel writer, blogger and photographer, Cruise Cruise MavenMaven's blog is bright and airy and contains well written articles and sharp photos.  She occasionally blogs on her first hand observations about potentially embarrassments to the cruise lines, such as when a cruise ship recently flunked a CDC inspection.  A real pro, Sherry's articles have appeared in many travel industry publications such as Travel Trade, Travel Weekly, Travel and Leisure News, and Senior Scene Magazine, as well as online media such as Travel Market Report, and CruiseReviews.com.   

7.  Chris Cruises by @OrlandoChris.  Chris Owen is the editor of his blog which has a reputation Chris Cruises - Chris Owenfor straight forward and insightful information about cruising.  I like Chris' blog because it strikes the right balance between cheerleading for the cruise industry and frank discussions about parts of the cruise industry which need improving.  For example, he has written articles about the need for parents to supervise kids on cruises which are right on the mark.  Chris is from Orlando and writes for Examiner and Gadling in addition to his website, LifeIsCruising.   

6.  Cruise Critic by @CruiseCritic This cruise community is a real juggernaut.  It has by far the most members and the most hard core cruise fans.  Its members will often report on an outbreak of a virus or an overboard passenger - often before the cruise ends and before the mainstream media publishes anything.  On the down-side, its community seems like the least diversified place on the planet.  Its message boards often turn vicious with flame wars, and a dissenting opinion is often ridiculed.  Threads critical of the cruise lines are sometimes pulled.  The usual comment from a CruiseCritic fan left on my blog is something like "feed the lawyers to the sharks!" or something equally enlightened.  Cruise Critic has not overcome the stigma of  being exposed for being a paid cruise line cheerleader and shilling for Royal Caribbean on its reviews and message boards.  Whenever the cruise industry needs some good Captain GreyBread - John Honeywellnews, Cruise Critic will interview a couple of PR people at CLIA and deliver a puff piece for their cruise line friends.

5.  Captain Greybeard by @CaptGreyBeard.  Perhaps its the British accent or the fact that my parents lived in London, but John Honeywell is one of my favorite cruise bloggers.  He writes for the U.K.'s Mirror about cruises.  Insightful.  Witty.  Good stuff.  He is also the only person I know who can type while holding a martini.   

4.  Cruise Radio by @CruiseRadio.  Doug Parker and his sidekick Matt Baisford are the geniuses Cruise Radio - Doug Parker behind this ridiculously popular blog and radio show which contains a continuous stream of interviews with travel agents, cruise executives, crew employees and tourism representatives.  Doug is the founder and friendly face of Cruise Radio.  He exploded onto the scene in 2009 and has risen to the top of the world of cruise social media.  He seems to be the one person in the world of cruising who is perpetually on a cruise ship having a good time.  Why do I think he has a beer koozie in one hand and a microphone in the other when he conducts his witty interviews?  A great, fun show with some good info to boot.   

3.  Cruise Junkie by Professor Ross Klein (no twitter).  While the U.S. media refused to take a Ross Klein Cruise Junkiecritical look at the shortcomings of the North American cruise lines over the past five years, Canadian sociology professor Ross Klein has been a diligent watchdog of the cruise industry.  He has testified before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about the problem of crime and sexual assaults on cruise ships.  In an industry known for secrecy where what happens at a sea stays at sea, Professor Klein is the only credible independent source accurately tracking issues such as cruise overboards and noro-virus outbreaks.      

2.  Expert Cruiser by @ExpertCruiser.  Anita Dunham-Potter is a rare find - a travel enthusiast who Anita Dunham-Potteris as principled as she is intelligent.  She is experienced about the cruise industry and her articles reflect that.  She recently  joined the USA Today cruise team along with Gene Sloan.  It really not fair to the other cruise bloggers.  Its like teaming up Dwayne Wade and LeBron James.   

1.  CruiseLog by CruiseLog.  Gene Sloan is the perfect host for the perfect blog about cruising.  The blog is light on editorial opinion and encourages discussion and debate on all sides of the issue.  The marketing people at USA Today were ahead of the curve when they launched their "capture the national conversation" mission many years ago, and it worked particularly well with its travel section around cruises with Gene Sloan as Gene Sloan - USA Today CruiseBlog the host.  You can read about the success of the CruiseLog community in the best selling book  "The Hyper-Social Organization."  Gene will pen a short article about some newsworthy cruise topic.  He has nothing to sell and no ax to grind.  The USA Today readers will leave their comments pro and con, including some really thoughtful ideas.  A lively debate mostly by intelligent travelers.  A far cry from the lynch mob mentality at Cruise Critic.   

OK.  That's the top 12 (actually 13) to watch for 2012.  I feel guilty leaving out @Cruise Buzz, @Cruise Guy and @StarshineCruise so be sure to click on these friends and follow them on twitter.

Did I leave your favorite out?  Leave a comment below . . .

Big Cruise Ships, Rich Cruise Executives & Pandering Cruise Writers

I am fascinated regarding what travel writers and cruise experts write about these days.

Gene Sloan's blog on USA Today called CruiseLog features a debate on which Royal Caribbean cruise ship is bigger, the new Allure of the Seas or the Oasis of the Seas.  I suppose comparing the gargantuan Excess of the Seas with the monstrous Indulgence of the Seas (with over 12,000 passengers and around 500,000 tons between the two of them) is a fair enough topic.  It is perfectly emblematic of the cruise industry's grotesque view of environmental consciousness and sustainability.   

And a cruise blog in a U.K. newspaper, Captain Greybeard, by John Honeywell, focuses admiringly on the CEO of Royal Caribbean, Richard Fain, pocketing $6,000,000 after selling a small portion of his large Travel Writer - Cruise Writercruise stock portfolio. 

Neither of these popular travel blogs contain any insight into these stories.  For example, CEO Fain profited millions of dollars by slashing employees from the company's payroll and terminating medical benefits for hundreds of injured and ill crew members.

Unfortunately, pandering to the cruise lines is a full time job for some travel writers and cruise bloggers. They do not want to offend their friends at the cruise lines who invite them on cruises for free.  Well, it is not really free, if you consider the is a quid pro quo - free cruises for free publicity.  

This is a subject I have touched upon before: 

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Cruise Crime and the Indifference of Travel Writers

There are plenty of interesting issues affecting cruise passengers that these type of writers avoid at all costs.  For example, on Monday I wrote about a British passenger who became stuck in a Mexican hospital with a $125,000 bill after suffering a heart attack during a cruise on a Princess cruise ship.  Cruise lines like Princess have contractual arrangements with the local port agents and hospitals to take care of their crew members when they are ill.  If one of the Princess crew members had a heart attack, the cruise line would pay only a fraction of what the British passenger is facing.  Cruise lines and port hospitals look at sick passengers as profit centers. 

You will not see cruise writers cover a story like this or anything controversial.  They will write happy stories about big cruise ships and millionaire cruise executives.  But they will look the other way when a sick cruise passenger is saddled in debt and stuck in a Mexican hospital.