The latest crime against cruise passengers in the Caribbean occurred this week in the lovely island of St. Kitts when a busload of tourists from Celebrity Cruises’ Mercury cruise ship were jacked up at gun point by masked robbers during an excursion. The passengers on the Celebrity cruise ship had sailed down from Baltimore thinking that they were going to an idyllic island paradise.
In the last year, we have seen cruise passengers robbed or killed in Antigua, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, and St. Thomas. I have written articles about the high crime rates in many of the Caribbean islands frequented by cruise lines – Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers.
The events which follow crimes like this unfold like clockwork. The local tourism board proclaims that the crime is isolated. The cruise lines pull out of the Caribbean port, at least temporarily, and divert their ships to other Caribbean ports which inevitably have experienced similar crimes against U.S. passengers. The local police quickly make an arrest, even thought they probably wouldn’t arrest anyone if the victim was a local resident as opposed to an American tourist. And then the cruise lines return and off-load another 500,000 passengers a year with the hopeful don’t-worry-be-happy assurances from the local Caribbean government officials and tourism members that everyone will be safe.
This script has been followed in this case, with Carnival and its subsidiary, Princess Cruises, temporarily pulling out of St. Kitts. Princess is now calling on Antigua which has an even higher crime rate which includes a young American woman who was murdered ashore during a cruise on Star Clippers in January. This is not lost on the tourism board of Antigua, as reflected in this article in a newspaper in Antigua – "Antigua to Benefit From Crime In St Kitts."
But is anyone actually investigating the crime rates in these ports, rather than just flip-flopping from one dangerous port to another? An interesting article from St. Kitts caught my eye early this morning – "Cruise Industry Security Consultants for St. Kitts to Check Safety of Passengers." The article contains a quote from St. Kitts’ Minister of Tourism:
"The Cruise Industry will be sending in two security consultants to do their own verification of what we have been telling them and to do their own assessments of certain areas. They will be hosted by the Security Forces and will meet with the relevant people to find out for themselves what the situation on the ground is and whether or not their guests are likely to be under attack constantly.”
So who are these mysterious cruise industry "security consultants?" Unfortunately, the governments and local press in the Caribbean bend over backwards not to identify the specific cruise lines when passengers are victims of crimes. We know that Carnival and Princess have pulled out, for a while, from St. Kitts. Are these "security consultants" retained by Carnival? The passengers who were robbed came from a Celebrity Cruises’ ship. Did Royal Caribbean, the parent company for Celebrity (which is still calling in St. Kitts), hire the consultants? And exactly what are these security experts going to do?
One of the obligations cruise lines have toward passengers is to investigate the excursions and make certain that there are policies and procedures in place to protect the passengers. Most of the time, the cruise lines do not vet the excursions or they conduct only a cursory investigation at best. If the cruise industry is going to investigate St. Kitts, how about the Bahamas, Jamaica or Antigua which have a much higher crime rate and pose a greater danger to cruise passengers?
Is this really a legitimate security investigation by the "cruise industry?" Or is this just a PR ploy designed to assuage the cruise passenger’s fears about crime on this this impoverished Caribbean island and to keep U.S. dollars flowing to the billion dollar foreign flagged cruise industry?