Lizmarie Perez ChaparroA 14 year Carnival cruise passenger was shot and killed today after arriving in St. Thomas aboard the Carnival Victory cruise ship.  Lizmarie Perez Chaparro was riding in a "safari bus" with her family when she was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout.

According to the AP, the young girl and her family had sailed from San Juan on Sunday. Another cruise ship passenger sustained a minor injury during the shootout. Another person, not from the cruise ship, 18-year-old Shahid Joseph, was also shot and killed. Mr. Joseph was attending a funeral for another young man murdered last month. 

Governor de Jongh issued a statement indicating that the deaths were caused by gangs waging "street justice" to settle their differences.

The tourist bus was hit by gunfire on its way to Coki Point Beach. Although this is a destination advertised by the cruise lines for snorkeling and scuba, Carnival denies that this was a Carnival excursion.

Carnival Victory - St. Thomas - Murder - Lizmarie Perez Chapparro

St. Thomas has been a hot spot for crime, including violent crimes against tourists for many years. Cruise lines face liability for subjecting their guests to harm and not warning them of the risk of such violence. 

There is a local blog by the Big Kahuna discussing the tragedy and the problem with crime on the island. The blog mentions that the astronomical murder rate is 42 this year in a population of only 100,000.  One of the readers left this comment:  "This morning I sat on the balcony and watched the Carnival Victory sail into port this morning. Unknowingly,that ship was bringing a little innocent girl here to be murdered. That’s difficult to grasp, it’s haunting . . ."

Carnival PR person Jennifer De La Cruz said Carnival suspended all excursions to the beach. The Carnival PR people crafted a statement that the incident was "unfathomable" and the Captain of the cruise ship used the word "shocked."  These are code words for "not foreseeable," meaning the cruise line is denying that it is responsible for sailing its guests into a port with high crime and street violence.   

A wanted poster of the suspect is in the St. Thomas Source.  This newspaper also has an excellent article about crime in the Caribbean: "Drugs, Gangs and Guns Fueling Caribbean-Wide Crime Surge."

A letter to the passengers signed by Captain Salvatore Messina is below.


Lizmarie Perez Chapparro - Carnival Cruise - St. Thomas Passenger Death - Crime


June 13, 2010 Update:  The El Nuevo Dia newspaper in Puerto Rico is reporting that Ms. Chaparro’s family was cruising to celebrate her upcoming quinceanera and her parents’ wedding anniversary.  The cruise line PR people and the tourism officials are in overdrive, announcing that the murder is "isolated" and the islands remain a "safe destination for tourists."

June 15, 2010 Update: The popular USA TODAY Cruise Log has a blog: "Shooting death of cruiser in Virgin Islands comes as killings there soar." 

June 16, 2010 Update:  Virgin Islands Daily News has an article "Cruise lines warn passengers about Coki Point shooting," discussing how many cruise lines are warning p[assengers about crime in St. Thomas and suspending excursions to the Coki beach area.  Cruise Critic has an interesting article "Who’s Responsible for Warning Cruise Travelers About Dangers in Port?"

June 18, 2010 Update:  "Heartache wrenches those who knew slain girl."

Were you on the cruise?  What are your thoughts about crime in St. Thomas and in other  Caribbean ports of call? Please leave a comment below . . .

We have written a number of articles about the high crime rate in the Caribbean ports of call in prior articles:   

Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers  

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

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

Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Murdered in Guatemala

Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News



Photo    Lizmarie Perez Chaparro     Javier Rivera / END via El Nuevo Dia

Photo Carnival Victory cruise ship

Photo Carnival letter   alexbrown96’s tweetphoto   via  St. Thomas Blog by the Big Kahuna

  • How terribly terribly sad for the family of this girl – my thoughts are with them.

    Something needs to be done quickly. How can you have so much crime and so many murders with such a small population?? Places like St Thomas rely on tourism for their economy and to lose these high numbers of visitors would have drastic consequences on the Caribbean Island. Jamaica has suffered similar bad press recently and a number of cruise lines have now dropped their calls into Jamaican ports.

    If things don’t change for St Thomas, they will suffer the same fate

  • dcta

    Well, here are some questions – is the cruise line more responsible if the young lady had been on a cruiseline shoe excursion? Is the cruise line really responsible for this at all? Do we warn people not to travel to Detroit because of the high crime rate? Is Delta responsible for flying people in there? What about San Francisco or New York? And the comparison is valid as St. Thomas is the United States…. This is a horrible, tragic event … but I’m not certain one can blame the cruise line. They absolutely have responsibility for security on their ships but in the destinations? I’m not certain. Does a passenger bear any responsibility for knowing something about the destinations on a cruise? Should s/he be looking at the State Department website for travel warnings? In this case I think it would not have mattered as the State Department probably doesn’t issue warnings or alerts for the United States.

  • Jim Walker

    Some good questions.

    Courts view travel on an airplane as “point-to-point” travel. Airlines are not responsible for anything the moment you step off the aircraft at your destination.

    But the courts view cruising differently. Cruise lines are selling a cruise experience, with all of the ports of calls as integral parts of the cruise experience. The liability of a cruise line does not end when you step off the gangway, even if that’s what the cruise lines want you to believe. Cruise lines have legal obligations to passengers throughout the cruise up to the point of disembarking at the original point of embarkation.

    Included in these legal obligations is the duty to warn passengers of dangers in the ports of call that they are aware of or should be aware of. This includes crime. The rationale is that the cruise lines have port agents and are familiar with the ports, and the attendant risks, because they call on the port every week. Many passengers on the other hand are not aware of the dangers, and are fooled by the advertisements and promotional videos.

    Many travel agents warn their clients of the dangers that the cruise lines will never admit. Others don’t.

    No warnings are needed about traveling to Detroit. Have you ever been there? It look like a war zone. But St. Thomas is beautiful and lush with georgous beaches. The cruise lines that go there every week are in the position to warn passengers that behind the tropical beauty is one of the highest murder rates in the world.

    PR statements after-the-fact that the cruise line is “shocked” are disengenious.

  • New Yorker

    I was on the Carnival Victory less than two weeks ago. When we arrived in St. Thomas, we took an open air taxi to Coki Beach, just as this poor girl’s family did. Along the drive, I felt very safe. We stayed at the beach for a few hours and spoke to some of the locals that worked there. Everyone was very nice. One even offered us a ride to another popular tourist beach Magen’s Bay. Although I hesitated, my husband and I took the ride (I KNOW THAT WAS NOT A BRIGHT IDEA) and were amazed at how kind the man was. He was like a personal tour guide showing us around.

    Although I am reading a lot now about safety on these islands, unfortunately, I think this could have happened anywhere. I do not think the cruise line is at fault. This is a horrible tragedy and I am not trying to downplay that. However, I think this was a case of wrong place/time.

    My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

  • Anonymous

    As a resident of St. Thomas, I can assure you that all Carnival had nothing to with that excursion. The common practice, when passengers disembark the cruise ships on St. Thomas, they are surrounded by independent cab drivers and tour guides who offer to take passengers around the island for a fee. Coki Point is a popular spot. It is extremely sad and rather unfortunate that this young lady lost her precious life, prematurely. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and got caught in the middle of one of the biggest problems that have been inherent in St. Thomas for some time now–gun violence. May She Rest in Peace.

  • Anonymous

    @ Jim, the Cruise line would have been responsible if they knew or had a reason to know there would be any dangers associated with the island. In this case, no one had any reason to know that htis was going to happen. We are not talking about a civil war here. We are talking about something that could have technically happend ANYWHERE! There is no liablity here, and to say Carnival was disingenous about saying they are shocked is very much unfair. Even the people of the Virgin Islands are shocked. This is something that had not happend before, so to anyone who is familiar with St. Thomas, it IS shocking. Shootings are not known to take place at the beach. I have never felt unsafe living in St. Thomas, despite spats of gun violence. Like New Yorker said, this really and truly oculd have happened anywhere.

  • London UK

    I have family living on STT and visit regularly. Including Coki Beach. Although I have always been told by my aunts and uncles to be careful where I go when I visit (as i tell them when they visit London) I have never witnessed any of the violence I’ve heard about. In London, there have been 50 killings within a 5 mile radius of my home in the past 3 years however I have never witnessed any of the violence there either, just the aftermath. They say a bullet has no name on it, and vigilence is advised, but unless you know when and where these lowlife scum are going to start shooting, how can you be vigilant? 11.50am on a Monday during a funeral i’d have guessed would’ve been high up there on a list of times and places safe from being shot!

    You can’t tarnish the entire island or VI, and you can’t blame the cruise company. Its everywhere.

    My condolences goes out to the families of BOTH Teenagers shot. It is terrible how the STT family are being left out here, they lost a child too!

  • Antonio

    Who believe this is the last murder of cruise vacation ?
    Read entire CLN about crew and cruisers and the
    conclusion is:
    Cruise line just care about business …This is
    the country of “WHY NOT” who cares about people
    and the US law is to far from the ocean …

  • Joe

    I would hold the Cruise line partially responsible, since they will not allow concealed carry by their ‘guests’/passengers, nor can they bring any protection with them what so ever, thereby putting them at the mercy of criminals AND denying them their Constitutional Rights!

  • Crime is not just happen in caribbean but all over the world.

  • Adam

    I was on the NCL Epic, which arrived in port the day after this tragic event. The day that it happened there was a letter in our room saying that they would refund any excersion that we had paid for if we didnt feel safe. However, we went on an open air type taxi with about 30 other people and it was a lot of fun. Although we were a lot more cautious when we got off the bus.

  • Helen

    We have gone on many cruises and 2 of our favourite places to visit are St. Thomas and St. Martin.
    We walk all over town and have met many lovely people on both islands. There is much crime and violence in ALL countries and we have just to be aware of our surroundings and not stray from where the cruise lines advise us about. It was very sad indeed for this family and my heart and prayers go out to them. I feel that the Cruise line should not be held responsible for what takes place while ashore if we listen to what they tell us.

  • I was there

    Carnival did have excursions to the same beach.
    Does it really matter if the excursion was booked through carnival? This was not a random shooting. There was a funeral going on for a gang member that was killed a week before. We should have been warned of all the activity that was going that day and I could have made the decision to stay on the ship instead of having my family go through horrible experience of facing these murders in broad daylight. Carnival should share any information they have with all cruise members and let cruise members decide if they want to put there lives in danger. A young girl lost her life and this tragedy could have been prevented. Many others were affected. Carnival should take full responsibility.

  • Mayor Gonzo Mays

    I lived on the island of St. THomas in the early ’80’s and back then violent crime against cruise ship passengers was a way of life. I began noticing a pattern among the islanders that whenever a cruise ship was headed into port the islanders would leave the shopping district of Charlotte Amalie and head over to the port to locate a weak target and would follow that target throughout the island waiting for the opportunity to strike the unknowing tourist. Cruise Ships have known for years of these tactics and still they carry the young and defenseless elderly on vacation to dangerous ports of call. I love to travel and I love to cruise but for the last year and a half I have had myself and family on a self-imposed United States lockdown because these alluring Caribbean Islands are in turmoil. Please Google “Caribbean Crime” before booking a Caribbean Island vacation.

  • joinel cherival

    I grew up in St.thomas and lived there my whole life. that 18 year old was an old friend of mine. I told each and every one of my friends,that if they dont change the way they do things they are going to die young.But i change things for me by moving to the states, good luck with St.thomas people it is just not safe. may God bless that 14 year old who was so innocent!

  • Island Expatriot

    Here’s a mind-bender. With the crime rate so bad in the USVI, why does the government spend so much energy persecuting an ATF Agent who shot someone in self-defense while allowing the territory to slip deeper into chaos? Why would you run-off the premier agency that combats violent crime?

  • mo

    RESPONSE TO dcta- Juy 13 2010

    I feel that you have somewhat of a valid point, however I do believe, that on the whole, most people that fly to those major cities are very aware of the crime. I agree that people do not necessarily take the proper precautions on how to keep themselves safe and they live in the world of “it won’t happen to me”. Since the travelers have an idea of the crime in these cities, it would no longer be necessary for the airlines to alert the passengers and, in conjunction to that, people are not traveling to U.S. cities to unwind and let go as they expect to like when they enter a tropical paradise. When you go to a tropical island you expect to be able to “check out” of reality and stay in a euphoric bubble of sun and mixed drinks. I am not trying to excuse the lack of common sense some people who travel to the islands seem to have (in terms of thinking crime doesn’t exist at all in paradise). Overall, I don’t think it is the legal responsibility for the cruise liners to inform people, but they should about basic respect of human life. I believe, in this situation, capitalism can be somewhat to blame because if you bring light to this situation then that may lead to less business, but I doubt it would be remotely close to numbers that would affect the bottom line. One particular instance of making the customer aware of danger is the warning of gambling in Las Vegas. They have literature on the extreme affects and addictions of gambling and how to get help, yet addiction lives on, but at least they put information out there. Is booking another room on a cruise ship worth a human life? In that case, there will never be repeated business by that customer.

  • Stasia

    I was on this cruise (July 11-18, 2010). Although perhaps I should have done some research before hand, I had no idea St. Thomas was this violent. So I take responsibility for not doing the research but I also think Carnival should warn passengers of the dangers a particular area has. Also, St. Thomas official knew this shooting may happen this very day in retaliation for a shooting the week prior. The funeral was taking place as 2,800 passengers were disembarking and flocking to nearby areas. All Carnival Victory passengers were put in danger in St. Thomas on this cruise. We were all shocked and saddened when we received the news while embarking from our excursion in Dominica. All the passengers were talking about it. The mood at dinner was a bit somber as we were trying to take in this sad news.

  • blogger1234

    The newspapers down played this by a ton. I was on a safari bus feet away from the one that was shot up. I saw men get shot and killed. I saw a man who’s “minor” injury was a gaping wound in his shoulder. Only one cruise member was killed many others died and were wounded. I had a bullet miss me by an inch from my head. I saw people die thats the fact and people say that the cruise line isnt responsible for even giving a warning about the gang murder funeral that had police stationed at it due to the frequent violence rate at the funerals. If you ask me I would of liked a warning to duck my head before I saw my friend and co passenger get scimmed by a bullet while I prayed to God at the bottom of a tour bus.

  • Mary Elizabeth

    I just got home from visiting St Thomas on September 15th 2011. Is the crime much higher even now in 2011?
    The Islands are beautiful, but this makes me feel very unsafe about all this crime I’m now hearing about St Thomas. I stayed at Bolongo Bay and the people were so friendly and everything was great. Should I be afraid of returning for a vacation next year? Is it the whole Island of St Thomas that is dangerous or just certain places you should not go? I am very dissapointed to hear this because I loved the resort I stayed at.

  • I was on the cruise that year; my very first cruise and it was pretty sad. We met so many people on the cruise and the thought that you can meet someone on your trip for enjoyment, only for that person to die senselessly is hard to comprehend…