Cruises to Cuba Continue Despite U.S. Warnings

The U.S. State Department issued a new safety warning last Friday regarding travel to Cuba.

The U.S. government warned Americans not to travel to Cuba because of recent sonic attacks on U.S. citizens who were working for the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The attacks caused the U.S. employees to experience hearing loss, ear-ringing, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, headaches and cognitive problems, among other symptoms.  

But the Miami-based cruise lines are ignoring the warning.

Carnival Cruise CEO Arnold DonaldCarnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean are continuing their cruises to Cuba. 

Carnival issued a statement that “while members and relatives of the U.S. diplomatic corps have suffered illnesses apparently triggered by occurrences at the diplomatic offices or possibly their homes, none of the more than 475,000 other Americans visiting Cuba this year have reported similar health issues related to their visits. We are, of course, closely monitoring and are in touch with U.S., as well as Cuban authorities, and will act accordingly if anything warrants a change in our plans . . .  Please be advised that your visa for travel to Cuba is valid, and there are no issues with your return to the U.S. The State Department advisory does not prohibit Americans from traveling to Cuba.”

Newsweek and the New York Times report that the U.S. has already expelled two Cuban diplomats over the attacks, and is considering further retaliatory steps. The attacks have reportedly occurred at hotels as well as U.S. citizen's homes.  "Because some of the attacks occurred in hotels where U.S. State Department employees were temporarily staying, officials said they worried that tourists and others U.S. visitors could be affected."

Most recently, the U.S. expelled 15 of Cuba's diplomats today to protest Cuba's attacks on American embassy employees in Havana. Last week, the U.S. announced it was withdrawing 60 percent of the U.S. diplomats from Cuba because they might be harmed if they stay.

The U.S. State Department said: "Because our personnel's safety is at risk and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba."

With most of the eastern Caribbean islands largely destroyed by hurricanes Irma and Maria, the cruise lines in Miami are hesitant to further disrupt their businesses by suspending cruises to Cuba. Carnival CEO Arnold Donald (photo, above right with Fathom president Tara Russell) has always banked on cruising to Cuba. 

Many travel companies suggest that the U.S. warning is overstated. The cruise lines point to the fact that only U.S. diplomats and embassy employees have been victims, so far. 

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Photo credit: CNBC

U.S. State Department Publishes 2017 Bahamas Crime & Safety Report

BahamasThe U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) recently published its 2017 Crime & Safety Report regarding the Bahamas.

The council, which was established under authority of the U.S. Secretary of State, reached the following findings and conclusions:

Findings:

  • The Bahamas is a major Caribbean tourist destination with major cruise ship ports of calls in Nassau and Freeport. 
  • Over six million U.S. citizens visit the Bahamas each year.
  • Approximately 80% of tourists to the Bahamas are U.S. citizens.
  • The Bahamas consists of more than 700 islands and cays.
  • The Bahamas has a population of approximately 370,000.
  • 70% of Bahamians (around 260,000) reside on the island of New Providence, where Nassau is situated.
  • Another 15% (around 60,000) live on Grand Bahama, where Freeport is located.
  • The rest of the population is dispersed over several dozen outer islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”).

Conclusions - Crime Threats:

  • Crime in Nassau is critical.
  • Violent crime reportedly dropped from 2015 to 2016 by double digit percentages in every category, although some observers have questioned the legitimacy of this claim.
  • Murders were down 24% from a record high in 2015 (111 in 2016 vs. 146 in 2015).
  • Despite the publicized numbers, crime continues to represent the primary security threat in the Bahamas.
  • The preponderance of reported violent crimes were perpetrated against local Bahamians and mostly occurred in areas of saturated criminality not typically visited by tourists.
  • However, New Providence has witnessed violent crimes in locations more commonly frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In some instances, these incidents resulted in fatalities.
  • Criminality and violent crime has increased on Grand Bahama island, notably crimes involving the use of machetes.
  • Many criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives, and these weapons are commonly brandished.
  • There were reports of firearms used in the commission of armed robberies, where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim resisted.
  • Many armed robberies involved snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewelry, cell phones, and cash.
  • Armed robberies, property crimes, purse snatchings, theft, fraud, and sexual assaults remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists.
  • In 2016, numerous incidents were reported that either involved tourists or occurred in well-known tourist locations.
  • Crimes occurred near popular tourist areas adjacent to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas as well as the popular downtown area.
  • Several armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas.
  • The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated, and in 2015, there were reported sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet-ski operators.
  • The majority of these sexual assaults were reported to have occurred on relatively “safe” beaches within the confines of Paradise Island, which is heavily frequented by tourists . . .

We recommend to anyone traveling to the Bahamas (particularly Nassau) to also read the news accounts and editorials in the local newspapers in the Bahamas, the Tribune and the Nassau Guardian

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

Photo credit: Bahamas government - Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Executive Concerned About Crime in Nassau

Oasis of the Seas Nassau BahamasThe Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that during a meeting between the CEO of Royal Caribbean International brand, Michael Bayley, and Prime Minister Perry Christie, the cruise executive stated that he is “concerned” about high levels of crime in the Bahamas. 

Mr. Bayley says that he has previously communicated his concerns regarding the issue of crime affecting his Royal Caribbean customers to the Bahamian government through the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).

He claims that his cruise line's ships bring around 1,700,000 guests to the the Bahamas each year. However, if his cruise customers do not feel safe visiting the country, they will no longer vacation in the Bahamas, he says. 

Many cruise passengers to Nassau have told us over the last few years that they do not get off of the cruise ship upon arriving in the Bahamas because of crime ashore. 

Mr. Bayley says that Royal Caribbean is "committed to maintaining a concrete relationship with the country and plans to double visitor numbers over the next 10 years."  If true, this is an ambitious goal given the high crime rate in Nassau and the opening of ports in Cuba to Miami based cruise lines. 

Ironically, the Royal Caribbean CEO was meeting with the Bahamian Prime Minister about the development of the cruise line's private destination in Coco Cay, Bahamas. With the development of a large fixed pier, the priavte cay will be able to receive larger cruise ships including the Oasis-class ships which carry up to 5,400 passengers.

As reflected in the comments to the article, many people feel that numerous  islands in the Bahamas are being developed as private resorts for the cruise lines to escape the problems with crime and trash which detract from Nassau's reputation as a top cruise port. 

In a PR news release, Royal Caribbean promised to increase the number of Bahamians employed by the cruise line in the next five years. This is an issue where the cruise line has failed miserably in the past. Compared to other countries like Jamaica where there are many thousands of cooks, cleaners and cabin attendants working in Royal Caribbean ships, there are relatively few crew members from the Bahamas working for Royal Caribbean.

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March 9, 2017 UpdateGovt Should Be Concerned At Cruise Line’s Worries.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas in Nassau, Bahamas - Baldwin040 - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Another Crime Warning for Travelers to Nassau, Bahamas

Bay Street Nassau Bahamas Crime WarningYesterday, the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) issued a security message for U.S. Citizens traveling to Nassau, Bahamas), titled Staying Safe during Spring Break in the Bahamas.

It starts with: "avoid being alone with strangers, jet ski, taxi, or scooter operators. Be particularly cautious on secluded beaches; criminals target such isolated areas. When traveling, use only clearly marked buses or taxis, as unlicensed taxi drivers have been linked to a variety of violent crimes."

The warning ""strongly" recommends that travelers "avoid patronizing jet ski rental operations" who "continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists."

It warns not to "allow yourself to be driven off alone with a scooter operator. Unlicensed scooter operators and rental services have been linked to assaults, including sexual assaults."

OSAC cautions against excessive drinking ashore - "Visitors found alone or incapacitated have been victims of sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Watch your drink at all times. Intoxicated young women may be targeted for drugging and sexual assault."

OSAC refers to the U.S. State Department's warning that "the criminal threat level for New Providence Island (includes Nassau and Paradise Island) is rated as critical." The critical crime warning reads:

"Armed robbery and sexual assault are major criminal threats facing U.S. citizens in New Providence. The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports indicating tourists have been robbed at gunpoint or Nassau Bahamas Cruise Travel Warningknifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of sexual assaults in tourist areas as well. The Bahamas has one of the highest incidences of sexual assault in the Caribbean . . "

If you are a parent of a teenager or a college student cruising to Nassau this month on Spring Break, I suggest discussing these issues. 

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

March 6, 2107 Update: The U.S Embassy in Nassau issues another crime warning, based on the OSAC report.

Photo credit: Jpatokal at wts wikivoyage - GFDL, commons / wikimedia (top photo of Bay Street in Nassau); TampAGS, for AGS Media - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia (bottom photo of cruise wharf in Nassau).

Deadly Blasts Rock Istanbul; Most Cruise Lines Already Avoiding Turkey

Istanbul TurkeyTwo coordinated bombings in Istanbul, Turkey killed 38 people and wounded 155 others yesterday. News reports report that the bombings were committed by a Turkey-based Kurdish militant group, identified in the New York Times as the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, or TAK. Others said that the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, were behind the bombings. The TAK claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The first explosion was caused by a car bomb, a common terrorist method associated with other bombings in Turkey, near police special forces at the exit of a soccer stadium exit. The car was reportedly loaded with almost nine hundred pounds of explosives. Shortly thereafter, a suicide bomber triggered explosives in a nearby park.

Last week USA TODAY  announced that three Carnival Corporation brands, Cunard, Holland America Line and P&O Cruises canceled all calls to Turkey for the upcoming year (2017).

Earlier this year, ISIS suicide bombers attacked the Ataturk airport in Istanbul with powerful devices that killed over 40 people and injured several hundred others. There have been at least nine serious terror attacks in Turkey dating over a year.

This last July, President Erdogad's declared a state of emergency following a failed military coup. Many people were concerned that tourists would be frightened to travel to Turkey following the harsh steps taken by President Erdogad against dissidents.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises ended a number of stops in Turkey this year, primarily in Kusadasi, following the unrest in Turkey this summer. But a number of smaller lines, like Azamara, Silversea, Star Clippers, Celestyal Cruises and TUI called on some ports in Turkey. 

Many American tourists have shied away from the eastern Mediterranean this year as a cruise destination because of an influx of refugees from Syria and the threat of Islamic terrorists.  

The U.S. State Department previously ordered the departure of family members of employees in the U.S. Istanbul TurkeyConsulate General in Istanbul, Turkey. The State Department warns "U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the country."

The U.K. travel advisory cautions against travel against "to within 10 km of the border with Syria and to the city of Diyarbakir," but states that "it’s generally safe to travel to Turkey, but you should take additional safety precautions." The U.K., whose diplomatic missions in Turkey continue to operate as normal, points out that "British nationals made over 2.4 million visits to Turkey in 2015."

On Friday, in an article titled Terrorist Suspect Arrested on Cruise Ship, a Cayman Islands newspaper reported that a German-Turkish man who was arrested on a cruise ship Thursday on an Interpol warrant appeared in court facing potential extradition to Turkey for alleged terrorist offenses. The report claimed that the cruise passenger was engaged in terrorist activities relating to the PKK/ACK Kurdish separatist groups over 25 years ago. 

Photo credit: Murad Sezer / Reuters via NBC News (top); BJK Television (bottom).

December 15, 2016 Update: Why you may visit Albania, not Turkey, on some 2017 cruises.

Britannia Travel Advisory for Belgium: Beware of "Extremist Activity"

Bruges Brussels Belgium Today, I received a copy of an advisory which the staff of P&O's Britannia distributed to passengers aboard the cruise ship, prior to disembarking in Bruges, advising them of the existence of a possible threat associated with "extremist activity in Belgium."  

The advisory of today's date, from the master of the cruise ship, says in pertinent part:

"As your safety and security is always of prime concern to us on-board Britannia, I would like to advise you of the existence of a possible threat associated with extremist activity in Belgium.  While it is not our wish to concern you, due to recent events, it would be similarly irresponsible of us not to make you aware of localised security concerns.

We would like to remind you to remain vigilant in all public areas, avoid demonstrations and report anything suspicious to the local authorities.

If you are planning to travel to Brussels independently, we would recommend that you are particularly alert in places where there is a high concentration of people."  

The cruise line advisory mirrors the official U.K. advice for Belgium, which states:

"There is a high threat from terrorism and the Belgians assess this to be a serious and real threat (level 3). Police operations are ongoing and there have been a number of police raids and arrests, including on 17 June 2016, relating to past and potential terrorist attacks.

There have been a number of high profile terrorist attacks across Belgium. On 6 August 2016, 2 police officers were attacked with a machete in the city of Charleroi. On 22 March 2016 co-ordinated terrorist attacks killed 32 and injured hundreds more at Brussels Zavantem airport and on the metro system."  

The UK advisory is similar to the U.S. travel statement which states that another terrorist attack is "probable." 

This Britannia advisory seems like a prudent warning in this day and age.  The Britannia is now sailing back to Southampton after a day in Bruges.

Britannia Travel Warning   

 

U.S. State Department Warns that Crime in Honduras Remains Critically High

The U.S. State Department yesterday updated its travel advisory to Honduras, stating that the level of kidnapping, crime, and violence in Honduras remains "critically high." (this warning supersedes the last warning in October 2015). 

The warning states that "criminal activity is a serious problem throughout the country and the Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly respond to, investigate, and prosecute cases. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world (it's homicide rate was 60 per 100,000 in 2015; in comparison, the U.S. rate is around 4.5 per 100,000). The warning further states that the U.S. Embassy recorded 37 murders of U.S. citizens since 2011, with three recorded since January 2016.

Cruise Roatan

Many tourist-dependent businesses and U.S. and Canadian expatriates on Roatan claim that the island is generally safe. The hotels, resorts, bars and dive-shops advertise Roatan as an idyllic, tropical, get-a-way vacation paradise. The State Department warning acknowledges that the islands are generally safer than the mainland of Honduras, but the crime is still higher than what most U.S. passengers would face at home.  The warning contains specific warning about Roatan:

"Roatan & Bay Islands: Roatan and the Bay Islands experience lower crime rates than the Honduran mainland. While the national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur. You should exercise caution, especially at night. If staying at a hotel resort, book tours and sightseeing through the resort or reputable tour companies. Coxen Hole on the island of Roatan should be avoided after dark.

If you are on a shore excursion from a cruise ship, take care to book only with reputable tour companies during your stopover in Honduras. The port agencies at Mahogany Bay and Towne Center have worked to improve taxi service to and from the ports."

The warning's refers to 2014 because a NCL crew member was shot and killed near the port that year. The Filipino crew member worked on the Norwegian Pearl. Previously in 2014, a number of tourists, including a mother and her two boys from a Royal Caribbean ship, were robbed at gunpoint while taking a private trip to the beach. Earlier in 2014, a family in a rental car with their three children vacationing on a Carnival cruise ship stopping in Roatan were shot at and robbed.  

One of the problems with Honduras is it is a key player in the international drug trade. The warning explains that "transnational criminal organizations conduct narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout the country and use violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out criminal activity."

Roatan has long been considered one of Honduras' "narco-islands."

There have been several instances where crew members from Honduras have been arrested trying to smuggle drugs on cruise ships, like this arrest in Roatan of a NCL crew member from the Norwegian Dream last year. Last year also saw five NCL galley workers from the Norwegian Sun arrested in Tampa when the cruise returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up cocaine. In 2014, police officers in Brazil arrested several Honduran crew members after finding 333 bags of cocaine weighing 100 pounds on the M/S Empress, owned by Royal Caribbean and operated at the time by the Royal Caribbean brand Pullmantur.   

Roatan has been home to a notorious list of major drug intermediaries who launder money by purchasing properties on the island. Members of the “Los Cachiros“ drug trafficking ring were arrested and numerous properties in Roatan were seized several years ago.  In 2014, a drug trafficker with connections to Colombia, Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, alias "El Negro, was arrested and millions of dollars in bank accounts and numerous of his properties in Roatan were seized.   Earlier this year, Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo's' "Honduras henchman" Franco "The Wizard" Daniel Lombardi, the financial operator of the Sinaloa Cartel in Honduras, was arrested and many of his properties in Roatan were seized.

The January 2014 New York Times article Security Concerns on a Honduran Island indicates that the U.S. State Department has warned since at least December 2013 that the “level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high.” 

If you travel or cruise to Roatan, the Times' article suggests visitors:

  • not to walk alone on the stretch of beach between West Bay and West End;
  • avoid unpaved roads to the beach; 
  • avoid Coxen Hole after dark; and
  • stick to the island’s main road unless you're with a group.

Photo credit: Jim Walker

Cruise Business As Usual in Turkey?

Blue MosqueThere are mixed messages about cruising to Turkey, following a spate of terrorist attacks in the last six months and the failed military coup two weeks ago.

A number of cruise lines stopped calling on Turkey following the June 29th ISIS-inspired terrorist attack at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul when three suicide bombers exploded powerful devices that killed over 40 people and injured over 230 others. This latest attack came after at least eight terror attacks in Turkey dating back a year.

On July 15th, a coup led by some military officers failed. President Erdogad responded by engaging in what the New York Times is calling a "widespread purge, jailing and suspending tens of thousands of state employees . . . " The Times further notes that "the military that has long served as a unifying force for the country is deeply divided, diminished and discredited." 

The U.S. State Department "warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey. In light of the July 15 coup attempt and the resulting potential for interruptions to travel and daily life, we suggest U.S. citizens reconsider travel to Turkey at this time."

The Maritime Executive published an article yesterday stating that even before the failed revolt, terrorist attacks had prompted cruise operators to reduce their stops in Turkey. But the July 15th coup attempt caused cruise lines to cut back further on scheduled port calls in Istanbul and other Turkish ports. It quoted a travel agent stating that "I would not feel comfortable sending people on holiday in the next few months. [The coup attempt] is more damaging for tourism than the terror attacks.” 

But other publications are suggesting that the cruise business in Turkey has already bounced back to what it was before the coup attempt. The Turkish Daily Sabah says that a representative of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) reported that the failed coup attempt caused only "slight losses" in Turkey's cruise tourism sector.  According to the Daily Sabah, Cihangir Canıyılmaz, the marketing director of Royal Caribbean in Turkey, said that shortly after the coup attempt, that the cruise line canceled 46 cruise voyages to Kuşadasi and five voyages to Bodrum until the end of year. However, he claims that Royal Caribbean has resumed cruises to Turkey on July 20th, following President Erdogad's declaration of the state of emergency on July 20th, and the number of tourists in the country remains high.

Whether that is true or just wishful thinking by the tourist people in Turkey, it is concerning that the Turkish military, which has been an ally of the U.S. in fighting terrorism and in curtailing the threat of ISIS, is now diminished. The military in Turkey was also vital in "controlling the migrant tide that has overwhelmed Europe," as the Times puts it.

Turkey is a beautiful country with a spectacular history and architecture, filled with warm and friendly people. It is a wonderful place to visit. But with its recent history of ISIS terrorist attacks and migrants at sea and ashore, cruising to Turkey may cause a prudent traveler to pause and reconsider. 

Photo of Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque: By Dersaadet - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.  

Photo of Istanbul credit:  By Ben Morlok - Istanbul panorama, CC BY-SA 2.0.

U.S. Embassy Issues Warning About Crime in Nassau

Today, the United States embassy in Nassau issues a "Personal Security Awareness" security message about the crime problem in Nassau. The message says: 

"This message is to remind U.S. Citizens resident and visiting New Providence Island (Nassau) and Paradise Island to be mindful of their surroundings at all times and employ practical personal security awareness when in public and at home to avoid being a victim of crime.

Over the course of the past six months, the U.S. Embassy has received reports of a significant Nassau Bahamas Crimeincrease in armed robberies throughout New Providence, specifically targeting patrons of ATM machines, parking venues at various retail locations, and armed car-jackings.

For your safety, you should:

• Avoid using ATM machines located in isolated areas and consider using ATM machines located in shopping centers that have security coverage. Use the buddy system when using ATM machines.

• Keep your car doors locked and your windows rolled up as you drive. Keep valuables out of sight in your vehicles when parked (cell phones, laptops, cash, GPS or other valuables).

Armed robberies and violent crimes continue to be the primary criminal threat in The Bahamas – which in many instances have occurred in areas frequented by tourists."

There have been over a dozen crime warnings from the U.S. about Nassau, Bahamas in the last several years, from the U.S. embassy in Nassau and the U.S. State Department. The last warning was released just two months ago - Crime in Bahamas Remains Critical. In January of this year, the U.S. embassy in Nassau reported that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 U.S. tourists in just 18 months.

When I first started this blog in 2009, several of the first articles were about the armed robbery of cruise ship passengers in Nassau. In October 2009, the Tribune newspaper in Nassau reported that two "vicious robbers" held a group of 11 terrified cruise tourists at gunpoint and robbed them of cash and their possessions at the Queen's Staircase on a Sunday afternoon.  A month later, gunmen armed with a shotgun robbed and terrorized 18 Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise passengers on a Segway Tour. 

None of the gunmen were ever arrested. A cruise passengers said that the Bahamian police falsely told her after she was robbed that "this never happens here. Never." It seems that it has been downhill in Nassau ever since. 

Nassau has received, by far, the most critical crime warnings of any port in the Caribbean. Nassau has an ineffective police force and a broken legal system.  It is the one port which I say avoid at all costs.

July 13 2016 Update:  Is the Bahamas travel advisory a tit-for-a-tat for prior U.S. travel warnings? Is this U.S. security message retaliation for the travel advisory issued by the Bahamas?  Read:  Bahamas Wrong To Issue Travel Advisory To Black Men and U.S. Hits Back With Security Message To Citizens And Visitors In The Bahamas.

July 14 2016 Update: National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage insists that the U.S. embassy is “wrong” and the assertions made in their latest crime advisory regarding the Bahamas are “not true. Unfortunately, we have seen these type of denials by the authorities in Nassau as long as we have had this blog. Meanwhile, the Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis says Prime Minister Perry Christie and his administration have ignored the reality of crime. Dr Minnis says it is “frightening” for Bahamians to see the government continuously dismiss the crime warnings.

Photo Credit:  242 Breaking News 

Backatcha' - Bahamas Warns Travelers of Police in the U.S.

Shooting of Philando CastileIn what many believe to be a political game of backatcha', the Bahamas on Friday issued a warning to its citizens planning to travel to the United States about the danger of interacting with police officers:

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken a note of the recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by policemen. We wish to advise all Bahamians traveling to the US, but especially to the affected cities, to exercise appropriate caution generally. In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police." You can read the entire advisory here.

The travel warning from the Bahamas comes after a week of protests in the U.S after three white police officers shot two black men in separate incidents a total of 11 times and killed them.

On Tuesday, two policemen shot 37-year-old Alton Sterling (left) six times in a parking lot of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On Wednesday, a policeman fatally shot 32-year-old Philando Castile (right) five times after a traffic stop of a car which he was driving with his girlfriend and her four year old daughter inside. The police did not attempt to administer first aid to either of the dying men. After Mr. Philando Castile Alton SterlingCastile was shot, the police arrested his girlfriend in front of her child who also witnessed the shooting and then was separated from her mother at the police station.

The governor of Minnesota commented that he was "appalled" by the shooting of Mr. Castile and the mistreatment of his girlfriend and said that police wouldn't have shot and killed Philando Castile if he'd been white. 

President Obama put matters into perspective, that blacks are more like to be stopped, searched, arrested and imprisoned than whites. He commented: "black drivers are more likely to be pulled over for traffic stops. After being pulled over, blacks and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites."

Here in the U.S., we have witnessed far too many black men whose lives ended prematurely by overzealous and poorly trained police officers. The images of Eric Gardner, who was choked by an officer and was then tackled by four other policemen, are impossible to watch and then are even more impossible to forget.  Mr. Gardner was restrained face down on the sidewalk gasping "I can't breath" eleven times before he became unconscious and later died. The police officers and later, the EMT's, didn't bother to perform CPR on this dying man either. 

Americans here in the U.S. are familiar with the names Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and Sandra Brown who all died during or after confrontations with the police. Each injustice seems to blend with the next in a seemingly endless video loop that shocks the nation's conscience.    

Yes, these deaths raise disturbing questions about race relations in the U.S. To me, it seems that the vestiges of racism are alive and well in the U.S.  The nation will soon face the specter of probable acquittals if there is a decision to prosecute the three police officers involved in the most recent shootings. U.S. history tells us that often the murderers of blacks will be found innocent of criminal charges. I have written before that "history shows that instances of racial violence are usually followed by injustice in the legal system." Sadly, these tragedies may end with additional violent riots that will inevitably follow if the the officers are acquitted.

Of course, none of this heartbreak and injustice has anything to do with travelers from the Bahamas who live in their own world of crime and violence. As I have mentioned many times, the Bahamas has an extremely high murder rate.  With a total population last year of around 388,000, the country experienced 149 murders which resulted in a per capita murder rate of around 38 per 100,000 residents (compared to the national U.S. per capita murder rate of only 4.5 per 100,000).  This is the murder rate of the country. If what many consider to be generally safe locations like the Family Islands outside of New Providence are excluded, Nassau is as unsafe as the U.S.'s most dangerous cities like St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, and New Orleans.  

The murders in the Bahamas rival the gruesome details of the U.S. shooting I mentioned above. The case of Edgar Dart, a traveler from Britain via Canada, who was bound and killed by three robbers when they broke into his mother's home armed with a gun and a machete, remains unsolved. The family was tied up with duct tape during the raid and Mr. Dart was killed after bleeding to death in front of his son, as well as in front of his brother, sister-in-law, and young nephew. 

Crimes against U.S., Canadian or British citizens in the Bahamas are rarely solved. Within the last two Garu Vanhoeckyears, the murders of American student Mason Hart, British diving instructor Gary Vanhoeck (left), and retired Canadian doctor Geoffrey Harding have not been solved. There are no arrests following assaults, robberies, thefts and muggings of Americans.

The U.S. State Department stated in one of the dozen warnings dating back over the last couple of years: "The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports of tourists robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau, to include the cruise ship docks and the Cable Beach commerce areas; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. Burglaries, larcenies and “snatch-and-grab” crimes happen in Nassau and U.S. citizens have been victims of these crimes. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as in casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships."   

The Bahamas also has an incredibly high per capita rape rate. The Bahamas' rate of rape is 113 out of 100,000. In the USA it is around 28 per 100,000.  

Slate's Mike Pesca was precisely on point when he wrote today in an article The Bahamas Is Warning Its Citizens About the Dangers of the United States - The Truth is Bahamians are Safer Abroad than at Home: "Of course, the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are just the latest horrific incidents in what has become a blight on America. But the Bahamian government’s warning should not be interpreted as another data point in America’s shame so much as a statistical misinterpretation of actual danger. In fact, on average, a Bahamian who leaves his country to travel to the United States would decrease his chances of being murdered."

My thought is that Bahamians should be aware of the history of violence against blacks here in the U.S., to the extent that they are not aware of this reality with the non-stop international coverage provided by cable news.  But this warning seems designed to serve other purposes.  Many Bahamians, particular merchants concerned that repeated U.S. warnings about crime in Nassau is bad for the cruise business in Nassau, dislike the fact that the Bahamas is repeatedly the subject of U.S. State Department's "critical crime" warnings. One Bahamian reader commenting on the Bahamian warning told the Tribune newspaper in Nassau: "No I'm not saying that there's not a real danger for black Bahamians in the US, I'm saying I don't think the primary motivation for this advisory was to protect Bahamians. This was 'stick it to the US' policy."   

Other Bahamians who left comments on the Slate article singled out Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Minister Fred Mitchel, as having "a major chip on his shoulder about race issues and is very anti-USA" and "is hoping by 'sticking it to the man', as it were, he'll take some of the pressure off his government's total failure to address the crime problem."

The purpose of a governmental warning is to educate citizens about matters that they might not know about. I doubt that any Bahamians flying to the U.S. are unaware of the protests filling the cable news broadcasts about the killing of black men (and the murder of five white policemen in Dallas by a black man with a AR-15 which the Bahamian warning does not mention). However, first time cruisers to Nassau, filled with dreams that it is "better in the Bahamas," may think they are taking their family to a safe tropical island. They might not realize that they are traveling to an island where they are eight times more likely to be murdered than in the U.S.   

Update July 11 2016: Opposing Views addresses the issue: Bahamas Travel Advisory Is Just Tit For Tat.

Update July 12 2016 Update: According to the Tribune newspaper, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau released a new travel warning message "urging its citizens and US visitors in Nassau and Paradise Island to exercise heightened personal security awareness, pointing out that armed robberies and violent crime remain primary criminal threats."

More Fall-Out or No Fall-Out, Depending Who You Ask:  Mitchell: No Fallout From The Us Over Ministry's Travel Advisory

Photo Credit:  Shooting of Philando Castile - CNN 

Alton Sterling (left) and Philando Castile (right) - Twitter via Observer.

Gary Vanhoeck - BBC

41 Dead, 239 Injured in Terrorist Attack at Airport in Istanbul

Istanbul TerrorTerrorism hit the Atataturk airport in Istanbul last night as three suicide bombers exploded powerful devices that killed and injured a large number of people. The rising number of victims is currently 42 dead and 239 injured. ISIS is suspected as inspiring or directing the attack. 

Cable news repeatedly showed frightening images of massive explosions in a transit lounge as well as a gunman, running into the airport shooting a AK-47 assault weapon, who then is shot by airport security and drops his weapon only to blow his suicide vest up as he lies on the floor.

This latest attack comes on the heels of previous terrorist attacks in Turkey (including two prior attacks in Istanbul this year, including a car bomb earlier this month and a suicide bomber earlier this year as well as deadly car bombs in Ankara this year) which doubtlessly will have the effect of frightening people from traveling or cruising to Turkey. 

A number of newspapers have recently reported that the two terrorists attacks last year in Tunisia (which killed 17 cruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ships at the Bardo Museum in Tunis and, later, several dozens of British tourists on holiday at beach resorts in Sousse Tunisia) is Istanbul Terrorcausing the country's tourism industry to struggle. Skift reports that Tunisian tourist revenue was down 35 percent last year, at $1.5 billion, and caused the dinar currency to historic lows against the dollar and euro this month. 

This is bad news for the future of tourism in Turkey. There have been at least eight terror attacks in Turkey dating back a year.  USA TODAY today published an article today which notes that "the string of attacks have caused a big drop in tourism, a major source of revenue for Turkey. Many cruise ships that used to make port calls in Istanbul are bypassing the city."

The U.S. State Department "warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey" (i.e., near Syria). The June 27, 2016 warning, issued the day before the attack, said: ""foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations."

The CruiseArabia website says that "just two international cruise ships were in Turkish waters at the time of the attack Tuesday, both Wind Star and Royal Caribbean’s ‘Jewel of the Seas’ have continued with their cruise itineraries as planned.

At the time of writing Jewel of the Seas was in port in Kusudasi while Wind Star was anchored off Bodrum. Both Windstar Cruises and Royal Caribbean have refused to comment on whether any additional security has been put in place for passengers on shore excursions in the wake of the attacks."

Photo credit: Top - Fox News; Bottom AP via IndianExpress

Canada Issues Another Crime Advisory for the Bahamas

Canada has issued another travel advisory, warning that travelers to the Bahamas "should exercise a high degree of caution (due to) high rates of crime, especially in Nassau."

The Canadian government said that "crime occurs mainly in Nassau and Freeport. There has been an increase in armed robberies targeting tourists in Nassau. Incidents take place in populated and isolated areas, and even in daylight hours. Do not carry large sums of cash or wear expensive jewelery. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure Canasa Warning about Crime in the Bahamasat ail times. If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist. Home invasions are also of concern in Nassau."

The government also warned that "sexual assaults are on the rise in Nassau." Canada specifically warned that "there have been reports of jet-ski operators assaulting their clients in New Providence and Paradise Islands".

Two months ago the Nassau Guardian reported that a Bahamian taxi cab driver was arrested on charges that he raped a US woman visiting Nassau. 

Nassau's Tribune newspaper published an article in September 2014 about the last Canadian crime warning for the Bahamas. The US government, through the State Department and the US Embassy, has issued numerous warnings about crime in Nassau affecting cruise passengers and tourists.

We have written frequently about the high incidents of murder and armed robbery in Nassau (New Providence). Last year, the country experienced a record number of murders. The murder rate in the Bahamas is far more than 30 per 100,00, compared to the U,S, per capita rate or around 4.5 per 100,000.

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas. You can read a few of our articles here and here.

Many cruise passengers chose to decide to stay on their cruise ships while in the port of Nassau.

June 9, 2016 Update:  The Nassau Tribune covered the Canadian travel advisory.  The Bahama Journal quoted the leader of the opposition party, Dr. Hubert Minnis, saying:

"“Record high murder rates, and countless stories of the latest violent crime dominating the front page of our papers have had a chilling effect on the entire country and it continues to bleed out beyond our islands. As horrific as the crime rate has become, what’s more astounding is the lack of action from the Government.” 

Photo credit: Tribune newspaper

Is There a Cruise Anywhere That Travel Writers Think is Dangerous?

I could not help noticing that USA travel writer Gene Sloan's article today entitled Afraid to cruise in Europe? Nuts! Now's a great time to go seems to be sponsored by Viking River Cruises.  The don't-worry-be-happy article starts after a 65 photo portfolio as part of an introductory summary of "Cruise ship tours: Viking River Cruises' Viking Skirnir" and then is followed by another 99 photos which were part of another article promoting Viking - "First look: Inside Viking Cruises' new Viking Sea." Just two days ago, Gene was hawking Viking cruises in another article - New Viking line plans epic, 141-day world cruise.

There's no question that cruising to Europe seems to be lagging behind cruises to other locations viking Cruiseswhich are perceived to be safer, like the Caribbean. We all know from comments by the cruise executives at Royal Caribbean following its last quarter that Americans Are Cruising Closer to U.S. Waters, due to the terrorist activities in Paris and Brussels.   

The number one location that we are asked about is Turkey.  To respond to such inquiries, we mention prior terrorist attacks there and the issue of immigrants from Syria and other countries, but the reader has to make up their own mind whether it is reasonably safe based on their own risk assessment.

But it's naive to think that cruising to the Caribbean is safer than cruising to Europe. I can readily say that cruising to the Caribbean will take you to some of the most dangerous ports of call in the world, not from terrorists mind you, but from common criminals. Some of the Caribbean ports have a lot of crime and high murder rates which make cruising to Nassau, St. Thomas and Roatan like cruising to East St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit except most U.S. citizens don't know any better.  Europe is far safer than the Caribbean in terms of rape, murder, harassment and theft. 

Regarding the threat of terrorism, we have written many articles pointing out what the true experts are saying, like U.S. and British naval commanders who are reporting about the threats of ISIS to Europe from North Africa. Take a moment and read the recent article by Captain Robert N. Hein, a career Surface Warfare Officer - Terrorists on the Ocean: Sea Monsters in the 21st Century via the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC). Captain Hein previously commanded the USS Gettysburg (a guided-missile cruiser) and the USS Nitze (a destroyer).  I also suggest that travelers consider the warning of retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis or the warning from the U.K. naval commander for NATO that ISIS presents a threat to shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Most experts seems to say it's just a matter of when and where, not if, ISIS will attack. The highly respected gCaptain reported yesterday that Captain William Nault, Chief of Staff with the multi-national Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), told Reuters that Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch remains a powerful force and poses a growing risk to ships.  

We have seen other don't-worry-about-a-thing articles from travel writers before, like the article in the Telegraph in February - Are Cruise Holidays Safe from Terrorism? written by U.K. cruise travel specialist Jane Archer, who appeared to us to ignore history and down-play the threat of terror.

Chances are remote, of course, that you will be attacked by terrorists when you cruise in or around Europe. The chances of being a victim of crime in the Caribbean are greater. But as far as cruises in either part of the world, you certainly aren't nuts if you decide to vacation somewhere else this summer. 

Photo credit:  By Viking Cruises - Viking Cruises, CC0, commons / wikimedia.org

Crime in Bahamas Remains Critical

Crime in the Bahamas remains critical, according to an annual report published by the U.S. Department of State.  

The U.S. report comes at a time when the Bahamas continues with a high murder rate.  The report says that "2015 was the most deadly year in Bahamian history."  Today the Nassau Guardian reports in an article titled "Two Die in Shootings" that two Bahamians were shot and killed in New Providence.

According to the U.S. report, the Bahamas has not released public comprehensive updated national crime statistics since July 2013. However, the murder rate in the Bahamas increased by 22 percent in Nassau Bahamas 2015. Police recorded 149 murders in 2015, up from 122 in 2014. (The Nassau Guardian reports there was a fewer number, 146, murders last year). 

With a population of a little over 400,000, the Bahamas has an extraordinary high murder rate of around 37 per 100,000. Considering that most of the murders are in Nassau (New Providence) the murder rate is even higher if the family islands are excluded. The murder rate in the U.S. is only around 4.5 per 100,000.    

The report concludes that "the preponderance of violent crimes reported were perpetrated against local Bahamians, and these occurred in areas of saturated criminality and not typically frequented by tourists." However, the report quickly adds that "despite strenuous anti-crime incentives sanctioned by the government of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas during the past year, New Providence witnessed a substantial increase of violent armed crimes in locations that are also heavily frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In many instances, these incidents resulted in fatalities. Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings, general theft of personal property, and sexual assaults remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists."

The report continues: "In 2015, several incidents were reported that either involved tourists or occurred in well-known tourist locations. Specifically, crimes were reported near popular tourist areas close to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas. While there is no indication that U.S. citizens have been targeted directly, criminals have become more brazen and creative in their methods. For example, several armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas. Armed assailants have placed random items in the street as impromptu roadblocks so unassuming drivers would stop and could be robbed. In separate instances, four Embassy employees were victims of a robbery."    

"The U.S. Embassy has received an increase of reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, at residences, hotel rooms, casinos, outside hotels, and on cruise ships. In some sexual assault incidents, the victim had reportedly been drugged. The Embassy issued five separate Security Messages for U.S. Citizens in 2015 (Spike in Crime, Recent Armed Robberies, Credit Card/ATM Fraud, Jet ski Sexual Assaults, and Crime during the Holiday Season). Police recently warned women to be extra vigilant after a recent spike in the number of reported sexual assaults in Nassau. The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated; and in 2015, there were reported sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet-ski operators. The majority of these sexual assaults were reported to have occurred on relatively “safe” beaches within the confines of Paradise Island and heavily frequented by tourists and Embassy personnel. As a result of this trend, on January 6, 2016, Embassy Nassau put the use of jet-skis operated by local nationals in New Providence off-limits to all Chief of Mission personnel/agencies domiciled in The Bahamas."

The U.S. State Department report touches upon the fact that there have been sexual assaults on American tourists by jet ski operators in Nassau. The U.S. Embassy in Nassau reported that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 U.S. tourists in just 18 months.

Last month we pointed out that in 2005, according to the National Task Force for Gender Based Violence, Bahamas had the worst record for rapes in the Caribbean. The report stated that "while the worldwide average for rape is 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)." The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita.

We previously named Nassau as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world in 2004. As the report indicates, things have gotten worse in Nassau since then. Most of the cruise line do not warn passengers before they buy a cruise which includes Nassau, but they warn the passengers with shipboard publications before reaching Nassau. Many frequent cruisers decide to stay on the cruise ship.

Photo Credit: By TampAGS, for AGS Media - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia 

Bahamas Has Worst Record for Rapes in Caribbean

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that the Bahamas leads the Caribbean in the number of recorded rapes, according to a report by the National Task Force for Gender Based Violence.

The Tribune says that "over a 10-year period, from 2003 to 2013, there were 1,109 reported rapes, according to police statistics. In addition, from 2008 to 2012, annual police reports documented 9,045 incidents where females were the victims of assault in the country. These reports also alluded to there being numerous cases of domestic violence of a non-sexual nature."

Rapes in the Bahamas increased in 2015 when compared to 2014.

The report stated that “the Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape per capita in the Caribbean. The UN Woman narrative on gender-based violence in the Caribbean cites ‘while the worldwide average for rape was 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)."

The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita. 

The Bahamas also had a record number of murders last year, which were primarily in Nassau (New Providence). The murder rate in the Bahamas is far more than 30 per 100,00, compared to the U,S, per capita rate or around 4.5 per 100,000

These statistics are something to keep in mind during your next cruise to Nassau. 

CDC Expands Zika Travel Warning

Zika VirusThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added eight (8) more destinations to its recent Zika virus travel alert yesterday.

In addition to the 14 countries already on the CDC list (Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti , Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela), the CDC added these 8 more countries:

Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde, and Samoa.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) states that the move to add countries where a traveler could be injected "follows the CDC's initial Jan 15 travel advisory recommending that pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant consider postponing travel to countries where Zika virus is circulating, and if they must travel to the destinations they should follow strict steps to avoid mosquito bites."

As we explained in our first article, there is a risk of to pregnant women of having a baby with a small, underdeveloped heads (microcephaly).

This latest development comes at a time when "three travellers who returned to the UK from South and Central America have been diagnosed with the Zika virus."

So far, we have heard of some cruise lines which are cruising to one of the countries subject to the CDC warning are refusing pregnant women to cancel their cruises.  We do not know whether those travel insurance companies are providing coverage when a pregnant cruiser cancels and submits a claim.

The CDC's Recommendations for Pregnant Women Considering Travel to an Area of Zika Virus Transmission

Because there is neither a vaccine nor prophylactic medications available to prevent Zika virus infection, CDC recommends that all pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If a pregnant woman travels to an area with Zika virus transmission, she should be advised to strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite both indoors and outdoors, mostly during the daytime; therefore, it is important to ensure protection from mosquitoes throughout the entire day. Mosquito prevention strategies include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA - registered insect repellents, using permethrin-treated clothing and gear, and staying and sleeping in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms. When used as directed on the product label, insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 are safe for pregnant women. Further guidelines for using insect repellents are available online (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites).

January 26, 2016 Update: The CDC added  the United States Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic to the list of destinations with Zika virus disease outbreaks.

Photo Credit: "Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany" by James Gathany - PHIL, CDC. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons Wikipedia

U.S. State Department Warnings: Mexico & El Salvador

Yesterday the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning for Mexico. The warning applies to only certain locations in Mexico and warns U.S. citizens of traveling to certain places in Mexico due to threats to safety and security. According to the U.S. State Department, U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery by organized criminal groups in various Mexican states.

You can read the warning here.

We have heard from cruise passengers of sporadic problems in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. The majority of ports in Mexico (with the exception of Acapulco which we recommend against visiting) are not subject the U.S. warning.  We covered the last crime warning from Mexico earlier this year. Our evaluation has not Mexico Crime Warningchanged.

The State Department also issued a crime warning for El Salvador last week. Violence in this country is out of control. The current murder rate in El Salvador is among the highest in the world, an annual rate of 103.1 murders per 100,000 citizens for 2015. In comparison, the U.S. rate is 4.5 per 100,000. 

It has become a more dangerous country for tourists even since my article last summer.

It's so dangerous that the Peace Corps just announced that it was leaving the country.  

Mexico and El Salvador attended the Miami Cruise Shipping (photo above) to promote destinations there for cruise passengers.  

With crime warnings in these countries as well as in the Bahamas and other countries in the Caribbean, families from the U.S. seem  to have fewer and fewer cruise destinations not on the U.S. State Department's list of countries suffering from high crime rates.

Photo credit:  Jim Walker

Are Cruise Lines Warning Pregnant Passengers of the Zika Virus?

ZIKA VirusThe New York Times published an article yesterday that should alarm women who are pregnant and thinking about taking a cruise calling on ports in the Caribbean or South America or Central America. CDC May Warn Pregnant Women Against Travel to Countries With Zika Virus written by science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr., says that test results from the CDC seems to establish a link between the mosquito-borne virus and Brazil’s rise in babies born with abnormally underdeveloped heads (microcephaly).

According to Helen Bramswell, an infectious diseases and public health reporter from STAT News, there have been  "at least 3,530 cases of microcephaly and 46 deaths in Brazil since the increasing number of cases was recognized last October. The country saw fewer than 200 cases of microcephaly annually over the previous five years." 

The CDC is thinking about issuing a warning for pregnant travelers against travel to Brazil, as well as other Latin American and Caribbean countries where the virus has spread.  According to the Times, the virus has been located in 14 countries in the Western Hemisphere: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti , Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela.   

The Times spoke to corporate communications representatives of Carnival. Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines who reportedly denied knowing anything about the Zika virus and directed inquiries to their trade association, the Cruise Line International Association.  CLIA suggestions include the same general things suggested to prevent the infection with the chikungunya virus - using mosquito repellents and wearing protective clothes.

According to Caribbean 360, the Zika virus was first detected in humans about 40 years ago in Uganda. It is spread by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito as dengue and chikunguya. The disease was first identified in the South Americas less than two years ago and has spread rapidly across South and Central America.

January 15 2016 Update: It's Official. U.S. issues travel alert over Zika virus in Latin America, Caribbean.

January 16 2016 Update: CDC alert for Zika virus may curb Caribbean 'babymoon' vacations. "The CDC had been urging all travelers visiting areas of Latin America and the Caribbean to take extra precautions against mosquito bites to avoid contracting the virus. But officials upgraded the warning late Friday to a Level 2 travel notice and are now advising pregnant w.men and women trying to become pregnant to consider avoiding travel to the affected areas out of concern that Zika may cause a catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly.

"We likely will see a significant decline in trips by women who are pregnant or trying to conceive to these regions in light of the apparent link between the virus and birth defects,"

CBS Pregnant women warned about Zika virus

Photo Credit: "Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany" by James Gathany, CDC, licensed under Public Domain via Commons / Wikipedia.

U.S. Embassy in Nassau: Jet Ski Operators Sexually Assaulted 5 Tourists in 18 Months

The AP reports that the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas yesterday has singled out operators of jet skis following the latest sexual assault of a U.S. citizen by a man on a jet ski on Cabbage Beach. We reported that the police in Nassau arrested a Bahamian on January 2nd following the rape.

According to the AP account, the embassy reported there had been five sexual assaults of U.S. citizens by jet-ski operators in Nassau since July. The actual warning refers to July of 2014.  In addition, the embassy "banned its staff from using jet-ski rental companies because of insufficient regulation. It recommended U.S. citizens not use them either."  The recommended ban applies to Cabbage Beach and Miami Cruise Ship Crime - NassauCable Beach.

You can read the warning from the embassy here.

In 2014, the New York Times published an article about the high crime rate in Nassau, in general, and watercraft operators there in particular after the embassy issued a similar crime warning last year. The Times interviewed me in the article, after jet ski operators sexually assaulted at least three American tourists. The embassy warned of "increasingly brazen" crimes sweeping the Bahamas. 

The article said that the prime minister convened a special national security meeting last year after allegedly devising "several crime-fighting strategies." The Bahamas never disclosed these so-called new strategies to the public. The long-standing problem with rogues associated with jet ski operators assaulting tourists seems to have continued until today. Many in the Bahamas are critical of Prime Minister Cristie who has repeatedly told the press throughout the year that his government would roll out new policies to counteract the rise in crime but such plans never materialized. 

The Tribune news paper in Nassau said yesterday that the Bahamian arrested for the alleged rape was was not a water sports operator but “just a man with a Jet Ski and a boat hanging on the beach."

The newspaper also said that Bahamian officials are discussing using police and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers to assist her ministry in patrolling the beaches to address the problem. 

One person commenting on the article said: "This is just what our tourists come here to see, machine gun toting cops and marines on the beach fraternizing with the jet-ski operators. What a scene of tropical paradise."

The recent warning from the U.S. Embassy is one of over ten crime warnings from various government agencies about Nassau in a little over two years.

Many cruise ship passengers still don't know that when they get on a ship here in Miami heading for the Bahamas, they are heading to a country with a national crime rate many times higher than the U.S. rate. The cruise lines don't issue warnings before selling cruises to Nassau but typically warm their guests of the high crime rate there during the cruise.

Jet Ski Operator Sexually Assaults Tourist in Nassau, Bahamas

A Bahamian newspaper reports that the police department in Nassau, Bahamas arrested a jet ski operator this past weekend after he allegedly sexually assaulted a female visitor.

The Tribune newspaper says that the alleged sexual assault happened on Friday off Cabbage Beach near Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas.

The woman reported topolice officers that around 3 P.M. she was Nassau Bahamassexually assaulted by a man on a jet ski.

Last week, we reported on the 10th crime warning issued for Nassau by the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. State Department in less than 2 years. There is simply no more dangerous place to go on a cruise vacation than Nassau. 

We have discussed the danger of sexual assault and Bahamian jet ski operators before, as the warnings specifically mentioned the prior sexual assaults of girls on the beach by the popular Atlantis resort.

A year ago, the Tribune published an article about a U.S. tourist who said that she was sexually assaulted by jet ski operators on the beach by the Atlantis resort.

Coincidentally, the Director General of Tourism, Joy Jibrilu, recently spoke about tourism in the Bahamas. She was quoted today commenting about how to remain "on the cutting edge of the ever competitive tourism industry." She said "the Bahamas is seen as a high-end or expensive destination and stressed that customers must be given value for money."  There is nothing remotely "cutting edge" about tourism in Nassau. In truth, the cruise visitors I talk to view Nassau as a crime ridden port where they stay on the cruise ships for safety reasons.

Many Bahamian tourism and police officials are downplaying if not covering up the crime problem against tourists.

Nassau is suffering through a new record of murders this year. The crime rate in the Bahamas is well over 30 per 100,000 with the majority of the shooting deaths occurring in Nassau. The U.S., by comparison, has a murder rate of less than 5 per 100,000.

How long will Miami-based cruise ships continue to sail into this crime filled trap?

December 12 2015 Update:  This article seems to have hit a nerve in Nassau.

Photo Credit: "Prince George Wharf in Nassau Harbor" by TampAGS, for AGS Media - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Wikipedia

Latest Crime Warning For Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau Bahamas crime This weekend, I received a telephone call that a 19 year old U.S. woman was robbed and assaulted in downtown Nassau on Saturday after arriving in a cruise ship and then taking a taxi from the port. She had just left a Disney cruise ship at the port in Nassau. The victim had her purse, wallet, and cell phone taken from her in the armed robbery. She reported the crime to the police in the Bahamas. The crime has not been disclosed by the Bahamian police so far

Yesterday. the U.S. Embassy in Nassau has issued a warning called a "Security Message: Holiday Season Security Awareness."

Dated December 1, 2015, the warning didn't mention the November 29th incident called into our office, but stated: "The U.S. Embassy in Nassau strongly advises U.S. citizens in The Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being a victim of crime. The holiday season is upon us and along with the many celebrations, there is often, unfortunately, an increase in criminal activity. During each year’s holiday season, the Embassy receives increased reports of crime, particularly  armed robberies and burglaries, such as the carjacking of U.S. citizens at Jaws Beach in western New Providence on Thursday, November 26."

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau covers the crime warning.  There have been an unprecedented ten (10) warnings of crime in by the U.S. State Department and/.or U.S. Embassy in Nassau within the last 20 months or so. You can read some of our articles here and here

We picked Nassau last year to be the most dangerous cruise destination in the world.  This year, there is a record high number of murders in Nassau.

Crime tape - Crime Will Destroy Us! bahamas B2B

December 3, 2015 Update:  A number of readers ask me why do the cruise line still sail to Nassau when it is so dangerous?  My response is cruise lines are still sailing to Nassau because of these interwoven issues; (1) it is a highly profitable port for the cruise lines to include in its itinerary (2) it is an inexpensive port for the cruise industry to travel to and is convenient to cruise ships leaving Southern Florida (3) it has a deep port and is accessible to the cruise industry's monster ships like the Oasis and Allure; (4) cruise lines have limited liability (only liability for failure to warn) when cruise passengers are victimized during excursions in dangerous ports; and (5) cruise lines are primarily motivated by financial profit and will market the cruise as calling on an "exotic" destination and in the process will down-play the dangers of armed robbery and assault.

Bahamas Reaches Record Murder Rate, as Chief of Tourism Police Says "Downtown Nassau Safe For Tourists"

The Bahamas just reached 128 murders for the year, a new record for the country. By way of comparison, in 2014, there were 328 murders in New York City with a population of 8,500,000 or roughly 3.85 per 100,000 population. The Bahamas is on the way to 150 murders in 2015, which with a population of 360,000 population, is about 42 per 100,000. Most of these crime occur in Nassau (New Providence).

But you would never know it listening to the Bahamian tourism officials.

The Bahamas Weekly has an interesting article today titled "Downtown Nassau Safe For Tourists, Nassau Bahamassays Top Cop." It quotes Chief Superintendent of the Tourism Policing Unit Leamond Deleveaux saying: “The downtown area is a very safe place. You can’t get it any safer.” Mr. Deleveaux also says: 

"We don’t have any reports about crimes against tourists."

“I know of no major incidents reported to the police. I am amazed that people say there are crimes against tourists in New Providence. This is myth and not factual.”

In truth, there have been many many assaults, robberies, thefts and muggings of U.S. tourists and residents written about by the newspapers in Nassau. 

The U.S. State Department has currently placed the Bahamas under a critical crime warning and cites armed robbery as a major criminal threat facing U.S. citizens in The Bahamas. "The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports of tourists robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau, to include the cruise ship docks and the Cable Beach commerce areas; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. Burglaries, larcenies and “snatch-and-grab” crimes happen in Nassau and U.S. citizens have been victims of these crimes. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as in casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships." 

Earlier this year, we pointed out that Nassau has been the focus of 7 crime warnings by the U.S. and Canada dating back to January 2014 with several sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, reportedly committed by jet ski operators on Paradise Island.

Mr. Deleveaux needs to be reminded of the murder of American sailor Kyle Bruner in Nassau. His murderers, who shot him just feet away from the Paradise Island Bridge in Nassau, were convicted last week.   

I last wrote about chief superintendent Deleveaux last December in my article Bloody Nassau about a particularly dangerous weekend when seven Bahamians were shot and three were killed. He claimed that tourists in Nassau are virtually immune from crime. He told the Guardian newspaper in Nassau "to be honest with you, crime against tourists are almost non-existent despite what you hear or is printed in the media."

Photo Credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media Creative Commons Wikipedia

Crime in St. Lucia Worries Cruise Merchants

St. Lucia The St. Lucia Times reports today that, according to the the Saint Lucia Vendors Association, crime is escalating to the point that cruise lines may consider dropping Saint Lucia from their itinerary. Five years ago, Norwegian Cruise Lines, (NCL) dropped St. Lucia because of attacks on cruise passengers (see below).

The president of the vendors association described several incidents of what he said are "daily muggings of both visitors and locals in the Saint Lucia capital."

Last year I named St. Lucia as the tenth most dangerous port in the world.  I cited:

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.

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Photo Credit: Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saint_lucia_mountain_resort.JPG#/media/File:Saint_lucia_mountain_resort.JPG

Like a Broken Record, U.S. Warns of Crime in Nassau

As reported in the Nassau Guardian yesterday, the United States Department of State again warned U.S. citizens about traveling to the Bahamas because of high crime.

A recent travel advisory posted on the Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) website warns visitors of an increase in armed robberies in tourist areas in New Providence (Nassau).

The reports says that “an apparent two-year rise in armed robberies in The Bahamas has spurred Cruise Law Jim Walker Nassaunumerous warnings by foreign governments to their citizens visiting the country. Given the large volume of US tourists that visit The Bahamas and recent criminal incidents in popular tourist destinations, American visitors to tourism hubs in Nassau should be cognizant of heightened criminal risks.”

I have lost track of exactly the number of warnings issued by the Unites States, whether it be from the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. 

I have also conveyed numerous warnings from the U.K. and Canada official governmental sites.

I have been warning cruise passengers of the dangers in Nassau since I started this blog in 2009. 

There is a major problem in Nassau with armed robbery, murder and rape.

There have been around a dozen warnings from these three countries in the last couple of years, more for any other tourist destination.  

There have been 111 murders in 2015 in the Bahamas, primarily in Nassau. The country will establish a record number of murders this year. The murders include citizens of the U.S., U.K. and Canada. 

Nassau was recently embroiled in a controversy when two Disney cruises crew members were terminated from their jobs after making a satire video of the capital city, portraying it as a dirty, smelly crime-filled port.

Nassau is one port which I recommend avoiding. Many passengers stay on the cruise ship when it gets to port out of safety concerns. 

New Crime Warnings for the Bahamas

"New Crime Warnings - Brits, Canadians Put Citizens on Alert" read the headlines of the Nassau Guardian yesterday. 

The newspaper reports that the governments of Britain and Canada issued advisories to their citizens about the rising armed crimes in New Providence and Grand Bahama. 

Britain updated its travel advisory to state that: "There have been incidents of violent crime including robbery, which is often armed and sometimes fatal, in residential and tourist areas of New Providence, Nassau Port bahamasGrand Bahama and Freeport. The number of break-ins and robbery incidents reported to the British High Commission has increased."

Canada's warnings state that Canadians "should exercise a high degree of caution.  Crime occurs mainly in Nassau and Freeport. There has been an increase in armed robberies targeting tourists in Nassau. Incidents take place in populated and isolated areas, and even in daylight hours high rates of crime, especially in Nassau."

Canada warns travelers to stay alert to your surroundings at all times, even in areas normally considered safe. Avoid deserted beaches and do not walk alone, particularly after dark. Sexual assaults are on the rise in Nassau . . . Foreigners have reportedly been sexually assaulted by water sports rental operators." 

Canada issued a warning about the Bahamas after a young tourist was repeatedly stabbed during a robbery.

The newspaper also reports that the United States Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) on Thursday tweeted, “When a jet skier starts shooting at the beach, do you reconsider The Bahamas?”

Most tourists from Britain, Canada and the U.S. arriving in Nassau via cruise ship do not realize that the port is much more dangerous than their home countries.

Last year we named the Bahamas as the number 1 most dangerous cruise destination in the world. Nassau's tourism business is in a precarious position with murders and crime increasing dramatically and Cuba about to open to U.S. tourists.

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Photo Credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Creative Commons / Wikipedia

Terror in Tunis: Did the Cruise Lines Get the Memo?

MSC and Costa sailed their guests into danger in March when terrorists slaughtered cruise tourists as they exited into the Tunis museum excursion site from cruise buses transporting them from the port. The cruise lines neither provided nor arranged security for their customers or, for that matter, announced even a single warning of the risks of danger. 

Terrorists have attacked tourist spots in Tunisia before and would so again. 

The cruise lines ignored the considerable risks posed by the ISIS and Al Queda terrorists growing in La Goulette Cruise Terminalneighboring Libya and already festering in Tunisia. After the bloodshed, the cruise industry quickly launched a PR campaign stating that cruising to Tunis was safe

Soon, MSC and Costa began rescheduling calls to Tunis, notwithstanding the loss of life.

Princess, Croisieres De France (CDF), Holland America Line, Viking Ocean Cruises and Star Clippers also scheduled cruise ship to head to Tunis, as reported by the Cruise Arabia website

But then terrorists targeted a resort in Tunisia frequented by tourists.  On June 26th, 38 tourists were killed. Terrible, gruesome deaths. These were not cruise vacationers, but mostly British and European families on holiday, so the story was not portrayed as an attack on the cruise industry.  

Today, the prime minister of Tunisia says that additional plots, aimed at "massive deaths," are in the works. He earlier declared a state of emergency.

60 tourists to Tunisia were killed in the two deadly attack in Tunisia in the past three months. I suppose it doesn't really matter what the PR departments of the cruise lines say anymore. Their lack of credibility has been established. I believe Minister Habib Essid when he says that the terrorists are plotting the deaths of tourists, whether they arrive by cruise ship, airplane or bus. 

I reached out today on Twitter and Facebook to determine which cruise lines canceled their stops in Tunis. A couple of passengers tell me that Costa, which canceled cruise after the March attacks but scheduled stops in August, just canceled some of their calls later this summer.  But no word from any travel agents, or cruise lines for that matter, whether they are still selling cruises to North Africa. 

July 9 2015 Update:  MSC announced today that the "MSC Preziosa no longer will visit La Goulette, Tunisia between November 15, 2015 and April 23, 2016 as scheduled. The ship instead will stop in Valletta, Malta. Also affected are single sailings of the MSC Magnifica and MSC Poesia in November and December, respectively. Both of the ships instead will stop in Alicante, Spain."

July 10 2015 Update: According to Time magazine, the terrorist trained with extremists in Libya at the same time as the two gunmen who killed the 22 cruise passengers in the March attack during the Bardo museum excursion for Costa and MSC in Tunis.

"Thirty of the 38 people killed in Sousse were British tourists. Britain’s Foreign Office warned tourists Thursday to leave Tunisia as soon as possible, saying a further terrorist attack was 'highly likely.'”

 

Photo Credit: La Goulette Village Harbor

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.

Another Critical Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas

The U.S. State Department has issued a critical crime warning for Nassau, Bahamas today. The warning is titled Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Nassau (Bahamas), Nassau Violent Crime.

The warning states that 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 states that armed robbery remains a major criminal threat facing U.S. citizens with the crime threat on New Providence listed as “critical.”

The last warning from the State Department or the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas was just last month when the State Department issued the 2015 Bahamas Crime Report which revealed that armed robbery and sexual assaults were increasing. 

The most recent warning focused on violent incidents on March 22nd and 23rd which occurred in areas heavily frequented by U.S. citizen visitors and residents. One victim was was stabbed and killed and the other man was critically wounded and robbed. 

We picked Nassau as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world last year.

In 2014, Bahamas was the subject of four critical crime warnings to U.S. citizens (one from the U.S. State Department and three from the U.S. Embassy) and one warning from Canada. With the 2 warnings this year, that's a total of 7 warnings. I have never heard any country being the recipient of seven crime warnings in just 15 months. The last U.S. warning in 2014 mentioned that U.S. tourists have been raped and robbed at gunpoint, and there have been three reported sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet ski operators on Paradise Island.

The Nassau Guardian reports that there are 34 murders so far this year, up 35% from this time last year which was a particularly deadly period of time in the Bahamas. There were 23 murders this time last year.

The homicide rate for the Bahamas is over 30 per 100,000. In the U.S. the homicide rate is only 4.5 per 100,000. Most tourists and cruise passengers to Nassau don't understand this.

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Photo Credit: Tribune 

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. 

U.S. Issues Another Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas: Fourth Advisory this Year

Yesterday, the U.S. took the unprecedented step of issuing a fourth crime warning for the Bahamas in 2014. The latest advisory was issued by the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. No other cruise destination in the world is the subject of such repeated and graphic crime warnings. 

The advisory says warns against armed robberies, kidnapping and rape of U.S. citizens, including the sexual assault of girls from the U.S. by jet ski operators on Paradise Island: 

Security Message: Recent Criminal Activity in Popular Areas of Nassau & Crime Warning Nassau Bahamas Holiday Season Security Awareness - November 3, 2014

"The U.S. Embassy in Nassau advises U.S. citizens residing in and traveling to The Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being victims of crime.

While U.S. citizens have not been targeted directly, over the past several weeks there has been an increase in the level of crime in areas where U.S. citizens live and frequent. We also have noticed criminals increasingly becoming more brazen and creative in their methods. For example, three armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas, including an armed assailant assaulting and robbing a woman walking near Ardastra Gardens. In mid-October during daylight hours in a heavily populated area, two men armed with handguns robbed customers waiting in the drive-thru line at a local restaurant. Armed assailants have placed random items in the street as impromptu roadblocks so unassuming drivers would stop and could be robbed. A man was shot at Potter’s Cay, near the base of the Paradise Island bridge, at a time when tourists would still be frequenting the area.

Police recently warned women to be extra vigilant after a recent spike in the number of reported sexual assaults in Nassau. In October, a U.S. citizen who resides in The Bahamas was kidnapped and violently raped while walking home. The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated; since July, there have been three reported sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet ski operators on Paradise Island.

Home invasions in Nassau have become more numerous and violent. A home invasion on October 28 resulted in the murder of the homeowner. In August, a U.S. citizen was the victim of a home invasion and attempted sexual assault in the Cable Beach area.

As the holiday season nears with its many celebrations there is often, unfortunately, an increase in criminal activity. During each year’s holiday season, the Embassy receives increased reports of crime, particularly armed robberies and burglaries."

You can read about the first warning (U.S. Embassy - January 2014), second warning (U.S. Embassy - March 2014) and third warning (U.S. State Department - May 2014) here, here and here.

Canada issued a crime warning in September this year.

The Latin America Monitor issued a crime warning which rocked Nassau in June this year.

The cruise lines finally began warning their passengers about crime in Nassau last year. 

You can read our most recent articles about the crime problem in Nassau:

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

99 Murdered in the Bahamas (So Far in 2014) - How Many Times Will My Family Be Assaulted?

Update: The Tribune reported this afternoon U.S. Citizens Warned Over Nassau Crime (read comments to article). The Nassau Guardian reported U.S. Embassy Warns on Sexual Assaults. The Tribune also published Insight: Stopping The Bloodshed

November 5 2014 Update: Are the Police in Nassau, Bahamas Covering Up Crimes Against U.S. Citizens?

 

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Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune

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. 

 

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Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune

Canada Issues Crime Warning for Nassau, Bahamas

On Wednesday, Canada began advising its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution, especially in Nassau, due to high rates of crime.”

On its government website Canada urged Canadian travelers to be vigilant and raised the alert status from normal. The warning effective September 17 2014 states:

"There is no nationwide advisory in effect for the Bahamas. However, you should exercise a Canada Crime Warning Nassau Bahamashigh degree of caution, especially in Nassau, due to high rates of crime." 

The headline of the Tribune newspaper in Nassau is Crime alert for Nassau Tourists - Canada Urges Visitors to be Vigilant.

We have written frequently about the high incidents of murder and armed robbery in Nassau (New Providence). About half of the Bahamians who read our articles acknowledge the issue of crime and are frustrated that the government can't do more to address the problem of armed robberies and murder. The other half of our readers are in denial and have a false sense of patriotism. This leads to to threats and accusations that crime is higher in the U.S. with references to the high crime rate in Detroit, for example.

My response is to simply state that everyone knows that its dangerous in Detroit. But most visitors to Nassau naively think that Nassau is some type of idyllic paradise. They need to be warned.

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas.  You can read a few of our articles here and here.

According to the Tribune, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said he was worried about the effect of the warning on tourism because there are lots of tourists from Canada who visit the Bahamian islands.

 

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Nassau, Bahamas Crime Watch: Time For Another State Department Warning?

Latore Mackey, the press secretary to the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, was shot in the neck and killed early Monday morning.

Mr. Mackey's death was the fifth in less than 36 hours according to the Tribune newspaper in Nassau. 

Violent crime in out of control in Nassau. 

Young gun-totting men are on the rampage. The Tribune reports that four men, 18, 20, 22 and 24 Nassau Bahamas Crimeyears old, were arrested for the murder. 

In March, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau last issued a 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 occurred in the last two weeks.

That was the third critical crime warning for the Bahamas since December 2013.

The most recent warning stated, in part:

"Armed robbery and violent crime remain major threats facing both U.S. citizens and residents of the Bahamas, 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 vast majority of the armed crimes are by local citizens against local citizens in the Bahamas. But these crimes are rarely solved and that's especially true when the victims are tourists.

I remain of the opinion that the tourism dependent islands are "one gunshot away" from the cruise lines concluding that it too dangerous to unload boatloads of cruise passengers in Nassau. Many cruise passenger tell me that they stay on the ship when the cruise calls on Nassau.

I don't blame them. 

When government employees are gunned down while driving on Market Street, it's time for the U.S. State Department to issue another warning to tourists traveling to Nassau.  

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

 

Image Credit: The Tribune

Are Cruise Ships Vectoring Chikungunya Virus to Florida?

Today I received a comment from a Royal Caribbean passenger who said that he was infected with the dreaded chikungunya virus when he sailed to St. Martin last year on the Oasis of the Seas:

You might need a new cruise category "Disease" as the cruise industry has become a vector for spreading the Caribbean epidemic of Chikungunya Fever virus to Florida . . . I got infected during my Oasis trip to St Martin last Dec - this thing is horrible and can be catastrophic for older passengers - one major "coincidental" cause of increased death among these folks isn't the virus ... it is suicide. 

He also referred me to an article on a local CBS station "Fourth Case Of Mosquito Borne Chikungunya Chikungunya Cruise ShipFever Confirmed In Florida."

The disease is transmitted through infected mosquitos.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says:

"The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean. Chikungunya virus is not currently found in the United States (no longer true). There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers (now true). There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. When traveling to countries with chikungunya virus, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens."

We have been contacted in the last 6 months by many cruisers concerned about being infected. But this is the first time that someone has contacted us after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

There has been a good amount of chatter on the cruise fan pages about the virus and fears of contracting it while cruising to the Caribbean. 

Some but not all cruise lines warn about the disease.

Do you know someone who has been infected during a cruise to the Caribbean? Does anyone know effective medical treatment to combat the symptoms?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Honduran Police Arrest Bay Islands Resident in Murder of NCL Crew Member

A number of news sources are reporting that the national police and special forces in Honduras arrested a suspect last night for the murder of the Norwegian Cruise Line crew member in Roatan.

The Honduran newspaper Tiempo reports that an arrest of Guzman Ramirez has been made in the murder of NCL assistant cook "Jacob."

The suspect was hidden in the home of relatives, located in Coxen Hole, just 400 meters from the murder scene.

Guzman Ramirez Roatan MurderWhile capturing the suspect, the police seized a .38 caliber revolver, allegedly involved in the murder. (The newspaper states that the crew member had two gunshot wounds, one in the left arm and another in the chest).

The newspaper states that the suspect was detained for drug possession in January but was quickly released by the police. 

The Honduran police originally arrested two other suspects but released them.

The newspaper also states that the suspect is originally from the Bay Islands and is not from the mainland of Honduras as many people thought. Many people in Roatan have informed us that the Bay Islands are peaceful and their crime problems mostly stem from the mainland.  

You can see other photographs of the suspect and the arrest here - CAPTURADO HOMICIDA DE FILIPINO.

We were the first in the U.S. to report on this terrible crime. You can read the initial accounts here.

NCL quickly announced that it is pulling its cruise ships from Coxen Hole for at least a week. 

Royal Caribbean is continuing to sail to Roatan although passengers from that cruise line have been robbed at gunpoint.  

Carnival is still sailing to its facility at Mahogany Bay in Roatan despite cruise passengers been robbed at gunpoint

Honduras is one of only two countries (the Bahamas is the other) subject to a critical crime warning from the U.S. state department.  You can read the warning here. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world and has had such a record since 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read our prior article about crime in Roatan.

 

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

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

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

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

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

Here are a few highlights over the last month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: 

Top: Bahamas B2B

Bottom: Tribune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: meted.ucar.edu

Atlantis Discourages Carnival from Warning Cruise Passengers of Crime in Nassau

A dispute has erupted in Nassau whether cruise passengers who disembark in the Bahamas should be warned of the risk of violent and often deadly crime. 

In response to the widespread violent crimes and high homicide rate in the Bahamas, Carnival Cruise Line finally began warning its passengers of the crime problems ashore before the passengers disembark. The warning comes in the form of a letter which Carnival provides to its passengers before they arrive at port in Nassau.

Carnival's warning includes telling the thousands of passengers Atlantis Nassau Bahamas - Carnival Cruise - Crimeon each ship not to carry large sums of cash when disembarking in Nassau.

Tribune 242 reports that the Atlantis Resort in Nassau (which can accommodate some 4,000 cruise passengers a day) is “very concerned” about the crime warning sent by Carnival. Simply put, it seems like Atlantis is afraid that the cruise line will scare off the resort's potential customers.

The newspaper reports that local merchants in port including those along Bay Street, in addition to the Atlantis mega-resort on Paradise Island, have expressed concerns over the effect of Carnival's warning on their business.  

David Johnson, the Ministry of Tourism’s director-general, told the newspaper that the Bahamas was trying to respond to the anger expressed by Bahamian merchants over the impact on their businesses by Carnival's warning letter. Mr. Johnson said that the letter was being left by Carnival employees in cruise passenger cabins. Johnson was quoted saying:

“Every passenger receiving a note like that, even before they arrive at the destination, that’s not what we would wish to see. We want to optimize the tourism dollars businesses are getting, so we’re very concerned about that." 

Johnson also said that it sent a "negative message about Nassau to potential visitors before they even set foot in the city." 

“We’re disappointed that the cruise lines may be discouraging passengers from venturing off the ship,” the Atlantis executive George Markantonis told the newspaper. 

My take? How irresponsible on Atlantis' behalf.

Atlantis has experienced significant problems with tourists robbed at gunpoint or its own employees attempting robbery, as you can see here and here.

Cruise lines like Carnival have a legal responsibility to warn cruise passengers of the risk of crime which it knows or should know about ashore in its ports of call. Crime in Nassau is well known to the cruise lines but not generally known by passengers.  Read our recent articles here and here. Crime in Nassau has been a major problem ever since I started this blog: Bahamas Cruise Crime Nightmare Continues

Carnival is finally doing the right thing by warning its passengers of the crime in Nassau. Atlantis, on the other hand, seems driven only by the Almighty Dollar.  

September 10 2013 Update:  Read the U.S. State Department's warning about Bahamas. 

 

Photo Credit: Atlantis - Carnival Cruise Line

Does Carnival Warn Passengers of the Danger of Sexual Assault in the Cayman Islands?

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog about the police in the Cayman Islands making an arrest of a local man who allegedly sexually assaulted a cruise passenger who was visiting the island.

The newspaper article that my blog was based on was very vague and mentioned only that the alleged rape occurred on July 27th and the arrest occurred some three weeks later.  It took almost a month later after the arrest before the newspapers in the Caymans covered the story.  There still is no mention of where the incident occurred other than "in the George Town area."  

A reader of my blog alerted me that an article from another media source in the Cayman Carnival Elation Cruise Ship - Cayman Islands - Sexual Assault Islands, Cayman News Service, contained a bit more information. The article "Visitor Sexually Assaulted" states that the only cruise ship in the Cayman Islands was the Carnival Elation and the cruise passenger was a "teenage visitor (who) was assaulted during an onshore tour."

There are some interesting comments to the article written, presumably, by people in the Cayman Islands.  The first two comments are "Been here 30 years. Not new" and "Alot of rapes happen here and not reported or covered up."  

Other comments raise the issue why this crime was not reported earlier and why the police is not disclosing exactly where it occurred. I find it fascinating that the police did not disclose the name of the cruise ship, and it was only by deduction that the Cayman News Service figured out that the victim was from a Carnival cruise ship.

Last week I wrote an article about a case we are handling where a federal appellate court re-instated a lawsuit against Carnival arising out of its failure to warn a family of dangers ashore in St. Thomas leading to the shooting death of their 14 year old daughter.  The 11th Circuit Court of Appeal held that cruise lines like Carnival owe a duty to warn passengers of crime in ports of call that they are aware of or should be aware of. 

Crime in the Caribbean islands is a problem. Cruise lines promote the ports of call as tropical paradises. Passengers who are lured into the world of cruise fantasies often lower their guard. Cruise lines and the tourism bureaus in the islands are notorious for covering up crimes so as not to hurt their business. 

Did the alleged rape in the Cayman Islands occur during an excursion advertised and sold by Carnival? Has the cruise line warned other families of the crime over the course of the last two months?  Are other cruise lines which unload passengers in the Caymans warning their guests?

 

Photo credit: Jim Walker

Royal Caribbean Passenger Alleges Gang Rape in Cozumel

Cozumel - Cruise Ship CrimeCrimes against women in ports of call is a topic which I write about on a regular basis on Cruise Law News. Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn about the danger of crimes in the ports of call that they sail to on a regular basis.  Cruise lines sell an idyllic image of a care-free tropical vacation, but in reality they know or should know that there are dangers ashore waiting for their passengers.

One country I write about all too often is Mexico.  Drug related crime is increasingly creeping into the port cities. Gang violence will increasingly pose a threat to cruise passengers traveling to Mexico unless things turn around quickly in the future.

But a real threat to female passengers sailing to Mexican ports is violence, including sexual assault, against teenagers and young women.

A case pending in our court system should serve as a wake up call to cruise lines sailing to Mexican ports.  After Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas sailed into Cozumel, a young woman went ashore into the port to shop.  The lawsuit alleges that the cruise line provided her with a map of the shopping locations recommended by Royal Caribbean.  A gang of men brutally raped the young woman while she visited one of the recommended stores.  The lawsuit further alleges that it is believed that the men who raped the cruise passenger worked in the subject shopping area.

Like most crimes against cruise passengers in ports of call, there have been no arrests.  Ostensibly the alleged rapists may still be working in and / or around the shopping area in question.

Does Royal Caribbean warn cruise passengers of this danger?  No.  Cozumel is one of the few ports capable of accommodating the Genesis class cruise ships like the Allure and the Oasis.  No way will Royal Caribbean risk scaring its customers away from Cozumel when it has to sell 11,000 tickets for these two monster ships.

In fact, the cruise line touts Cozumel as one of the safer ports in the world.

Five months after the gang rape of the Royal Caribbean cruise passenger from the Oasis, a Royal Cozumel - Cruise Chip CrimeCaribbean crewmember from the Allure of the Seas was found murdered and floating in the water off of Cozumel.  The cruise line did not alert her or any other crewmembers or passengers of the earlier crime.  Indeed, after the murder Royal Caribbean issued a press release characterizing the crime as "isolated and uncharacteristic for Cozumel."   

It seems that Royal Caribbean forgot about the gang rape a few months earlier? 

The murder, like the rape, remains unsolved.

I have never heard of anyone in Mexico being tried or convicted of a crime against a tourist or a ship employee going ashore. There are several web sites discussing the reluctance of Mexican police to get involved in investigations in cases like this, such as Mexican Vacation Awareness which chronicles crimes and violence against tourists in Mexico.  Some of the local police in Mexico have even been accused of participating in crimes against tourists.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean conceal these dangers from their cruise guests.  It appears that even the stores on the cruise line's recommended shopping list may not be safe to visit.

 

Photo credit: AP Photo/Angel Castellanos

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

A horrific crime occurred in Nassau involving a twenty-four year old Canadian woman cruising to the Bahamas. 

"Jane Doe" (whose name is being withheld to protect her confidentiality) cruised aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas from Miami, leaving February 21st.   Jane Doe sailed with her father and friends.  The cruise ship docked in Nassau on February 23rd. 

While ashore the group ended up at Senor Frog's, a popular local bar, early in the evening.  Senor Frogs is located at the end of a promenade called the "Woods Rogers Walk," near the Straw Market, close to the wharf where the cruise ships dock. 

Senor Frog's - Sexual Assault - Nassau Bahamas After leaving the bar to head back to the cruise ship, the young woman was viciously attacked and sustained physical injuries.  Looking for help, Jane Doe was then sexually assaulted by a second man (pretending to be a good samaritan) who raped her.  She treated in a local hospital in Nassau and then eventually flew home to Canada to recover.

The high crime rate in Nassau is an issue which I have written about frequently on this blog.  We have represented and written about many cruise passengers raped or robbed at gun point in Nassau.  The Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape in the Caribbean according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime and violence.  

Cruise lines are legally obligated to warn passengers of crimes in the ports of call where the cruise ships sail.  Unfortunately, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean do not warn of violence against passengers before disembarking them in Nassau, although the U.S. State Department does.  A year ago,  I was interviewed by Time Magazine in the article "Cruise-Ship Port Call: Gauging Crime in the Bahamas."  I also  wrote an article warning about violence against women in bars ashore in Nassau.  The article is entitled Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe? 

In response to the article, we received a letter from Senor Frog's requesting the: 

".  .  .  immediate removal of our front entrance picture and name from your website. We feel that your website has a negative impact togards (sic) our facility and our pictures and name has been used causing damage to our name and reputation, regardless of the crime in the bahamas.  Senor Frogs Restaurant is a serious stablishment (sic) pro-security we have daily security staff plus the fact that our location is just 1 minute walking distance to a police station our staff always ensure that customers are safe and having a good time we have zero tolerance to crime or disrespectful manners."   

Needless to say, we did not retract the reference to Senor Frog's or omit the photo. 

We requested a comment from Senor Frog's about this latest incident, and a copy of its response is referenced below. 

We also contacted Royal Caribbean for a statement but have received no response. 

Below is our article dated March 14, 2010, "Cruising To The Bahamas - Is It Safe?"

The U.S. Department of State has issued a warning of dangers while traveling to the Bahamas, including sexual assaults on cruise ships in the port in Nassau:

Nassau Bahamas - Crime - Cruise Passengers"CRIME: The Bahamas has a high crime rate .  .  .  the U.S. Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as in casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships. In several incidents the victim had reportedly been drugged."  

This type of warning, although certainly warranted, is not what the Bahamas wants to hear.  Nassau is a preferred port of call for many cruise ships, which line up like cars in a crowded parking lot.  

Today's the headline in the Washington Post's travel section is also not what the Bahamas or the cruise lines which sail there wanted to hear: "Violent Crime Is Up In The Bahamas"  Here is a portion of the article:

"Bahamas-bound travelers, beware.

Crime in the popular tourist destination is on the upswing, especially on New Providence Island, where the capital city, Nassau, is located. And we're not talking just petty thefts or purse-snatching, but far more serious violent crime.

This island nation finished 2009 with a record 87 murders -- a statistic tourism officials probably won't be trumpeting in their next "It's Better in the Bahamas" ad  .  .  .

The criminal activity has prompted the operators of the world's largest cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, to warn its passengers to "be mindful of their personal safety," the Nassau Guardian newspaper reported  .   .   .

Some Bahamians attribute the crime wave to high unemployment (hovering around 15 percent on Senor Frog's - Nassau Bahamas - Alcohol - Rape New Providence Island, according to the Guardian) and the nation's status as a gathering spot for drug traffickers."

We have warned passengers cruising to Nassau about crime for the past 6 months:

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

The problem with crime in Nassau is real.  Many passengers let their guard down and think Nassau is safe for no reason other than the cruise line is sailing there.  But we have represented passengers raped in Nassau, passengers raped on cruise ships in the port in Nassau, and multiple passengers robbed in Nassau.   

A major problem is when young women go into Nassau and drink at the popular bars near where the cruise ships dock.  Many women have been sexually assaulted after leaving the bar even though it is a short distance from the cruise ships.  The cruise lines do not provide security at the port nor do they warn about the dangers of date rape drugs and sexual assaults while in Nassau.

The U.S. Department of State warns about young women being sexually assaulted after leaving the cruise ships in Nassau:  

"Visitors should exercise caution and good judgment at all times.  Engaging in high-risk behavior such as excessive consumption of alcohol can ultimately be dangerous as it greatly increases the vulnerability of an individual to accidents or opportunistic crime.  Visitors should not accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers."   

March 9, 2011 Update:  Senor Frog's in Nassau sent us a statement today  - please read: Senor Frog's Comments on Crime Against Cruise Passenger in Nassau.

August 15, 2012 Update: Royal Caribbean Passenger Reports Rape at Senor Frog's in Cozumel.

September 8, 2012 Update:  Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call - a federal appellate court re-instates a lawsuit against a cruise line for not warning its passengers of danger in St. Thomas. The case involved a 15 year old girl who was celebrating her quinceanera with her parents and brother on a Carnival cruise. A gang-related shoot out ended up with the girl being killed.     

 

Credits:

Top photo - interior of Senor Frog's looking at cruise ships    

Middle photo - Oasis of the Seas - Nassau Bahamas Press

Bottom photo - Senor Frogs Casch52 Flickr photostream

Eleven Cruise Passengers Robbed in Nassau

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

The victims are reported to be U. S. citizens from from a cruise ship which docked at at Prince Charles Wharf.

The cruise passengers took taxis for a tour of what is called the "old Bahamas" sites of Fort Charlotte, Fort Fincastle, the "water tower" and the Queen's Staircase. The robbery occurred at the Queen's Staircase, a popular tourist attraction consisting of 66 steps.  The two robbers wore hoods.

The crime occured on Sunday, October 11, 2009.

The newspaper quotes the taxi drivers and police voicing their concern that the crime would hurt Nassau's tourist trade.  A policeman is quoted as acknowledging a concern of crime against tourists from cruise ships.  A taxi driver suggested that the tourists were robbed because there was no police presence at the tourist attraction on the morning of the crime.

Crimes against U.S. passengers from cruise ships are one of the risks inherent in cruising.  Most passengers are not aware of the dangers, and most cruise lines do not warn passengers.  

Our firm represents a college student who was raped in Nassau after disembarking a cruise ship earlier this year.  She was raped by three Bahamian men. She was on a Spring Break cruise with her friends. 

We also represent a family who was terrorized and robbed at gunpoint during a Carnival cruise excursion into Jamaica.   

Passengers should not assume that the cruise lines will inform the passengers of dangers of this type, even thought the cruise lines are aware of crime problems in the ports which they choose to disembark their passengers.     

 

Photo credits:

Newspaper photo   The Tribune Newspaper, Nassau Bahamas

Queen's Staircase  Ask.com