This week has been a public relations disaster for the cruise lines and the travel industry.

A Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member from the Norwegian Pearl was gunned down in Roatan after he walked off the ship to call his wife and check on his child back in the Philippines (suspect photo below right). A Disney crew member sexually molested a 13 year old girl on the Disney Dream.  A visitor from Canada was murdered and his family terrorized in the Bahamas. A MSC cruise ship, the Magnifica, was raided by the police and labor officials in Brazil for human rights violations. Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ships infected hundreds and hundreds of guests with norovirus aboard the Grandeur of the Seas and the Crown Princess

You can read about the stories here.

A month ago I attended the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM) and listened to NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan Roatan Murder Suspect Cruisesay: "we are ruled by public opinion; unless we can keep our business running right we will always be on defensive." The NCL boss added: "a period of operational excellence and no media incidents are needed."

A month ago I wrote that the continuous stories about mistreatment of crew members, sexual assaults, and children victimization will continue to damage the cruise industry’s image. Its like reputation death by a thousand cuts. I heard no PR plan by the cruise lines at CSM to turn things around.  I said at the time that the cruise lines were just "hanging in the balance hoping for the best."

Well the best didn’t come and cruise executive Sheehan didn’t get his prayer answered for "no media incidents."

This week Sheehan pulled his cruise ships out of Roatan after one of his crew members was murdered last Sunday, but the move is just temporary. His ships will again start calling on Roatan at some point. But the danger is still there. Many cruise passengers, from Carnival and Royal Caribbean, as well as other tourists, have been robbed at gunpoint or machete point in Roatan earlier this year.

Crime in Roatan will not magically stop.  Other cruise tourists will undoubtedly be robbed. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world not to mention dysfunctional police and legal systems. Where do the cruise line go instead? Belize? The Bahamas? Their crime and murder rates are also some of the worst in the world.

Roatan, Belize, and the Bahamas are all beautiful but they are all dangerous places to visit. What families want to save up all year and go on a Caribbean vacation to get away from the stresses of their lives just to end up in some of the most dangerous countries in the world?

A new Harris Poll revealed that the cruise industry’s image is sinking. The poll says that the U.S. public questions the safety and reliability of cruising. The poll cited the numerous norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships as one reason for the lack of confidence in the cruise industry. The poll was taken before the Roatan shooting or the Disney child molestation case this week.

  • Isn’t all this also a slap on IMO and its mountain of safety and training regulations?

  • Peter Kuhlmann

    Non of these cruise ship destinations are as dangerous (statistically) as Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC or New Orleans. Common sense behaviour will deter the majority of problems.

  • All of these countries -especially Honduras and Belize – have a substantially higher crime and murder rate.

    Check out this article last week:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/10/worlds-highest-murder-rates_n_5125188.html

    Jim Walker

  • Jim, when was the last time you visited Roatan? Have you mingled with her people? Have you stepped outside of a ship dock and truly experienced what Roatan has to offer? I’m curious as it seems you speak a lot of negativity about Roatan, and yet this island has much to offer.

    Yes, there was the horrendous act that occurred last Sunday, and the people on this island, and in this country as a whole were devastated. Yes, Honduras has a reputation for violent crime, and if you look closely at the statistics the majority of that crime is related to drugs and drug trafficking on the mainland. That isn’t an excuse, it is a fact.

    Be that as it may, I offer you a week’s stay at Upachaya Eco-Lodge and Wellness Resort to experience all this island has to offer. I’d be happy to be your “Roatan Ambassador” to escort you about the island so you can meet and greet her people, get to know what Roatan is really all about, and open your eyes to all this island and her people have to offer cruise ship patrons, and anyone else coming to enjoy this beautiful oasis.

    Sincerely,
    Barbara Wastart
    http://www.upachaya.com

  • Jim, I have lived on Roatan for over 12 years. I own and operate a small resort in Sandy Bay, I too will offer you a one week stay on Roatan as my guest, just like Barbara Wastart has. Roatan is much much different from the mainland of Honduras. The murder rate on the mainland is largely due to the drug trade and those involved in that trade, getting the drugs to the largest drug consuming nation on the planet, the United States. The United Nations study on crime in Honduras stated that if you are NOT involved in Narco traffic, drug dealing, human trafficking, prostitution, or in an extra marital relationship with a married Honduran woman or man you are more likely to die in a traffic accident in the USA. What happened to Jacob has sickened our entire island, and our island has reached out to the cruise lines but most of all to Jacob’s family. Yes cruise ship passengers just like all tourists should take proper care and know their environment. My nightmare would be to lose my 5 year old in Disney Land, she plays freely on Roatan. Come and take a look, meet our people, look into their eyes, get to know those whom you talk about so freely. We would love to have you, and you would find yourself looking for the next hole in your calendar to come back.

  • Jeff Burgess

    Barbara, as a business owner and resident of Honduras, I could not have said it better. Crime is everywhere but lets hope people will look at the beauty of this island and her people. I am proud to call Roatan my home. Jim, please take Barbara up on her offer and I think you will see all the positive things about Roatan. Who knows, you may come down, fall in love with the island and move down. I did and never thought I would do something like that at 48

  • Raymond

    My family and I have been visiting Roatan annually since 2006, with never a problem. When you stay on the right path, rarely do bad things happen. But, on occasion when a criminal is set on commiting a crime, then they will do so.

    Roatan Honduras continues to be a hidden GEM.

  • ken

    There’s danger outside everyone’s front door. Like people have said, when travelling, you must be diligent, prudent, and cautious. Do research on the location first. Find out if there any problems, for example if there are specific areas you should stay away from, best times to be out and about, and if street crime exists, and if so, at what level? Street crime could be low level pick-pocketing and purse snatching, and can level up to muggings, armed robberies, and sexual assault.

    Low level crime like pick pockets and purse snatchers, you can protect yourself from those crimes easily. Muggings, robberies, and sexual assault – well it’s always best to travel in a group, and stay in, and on, main areas of town and major roads. Don’t go off the beaten path, don’t go exploring back allies on your own, and definitively don’t take the road less trave!led in an area you don’t know. Think of it this way – there must be a reason local people don’t use that particular road, so why should you?

    Having seen crime occurred around me during my adult life, I know that if I follow certain precautions I will stay relatively safe. But knowing its around me will not keep me sequestered in my home. I love to travel, I love to visit new places, see the beautiful places on our planet, taste new food, and of course meet local people.

    Roatan has been on my so called bucket list for years now. The Caribbean area has always been a place of beauty, its azure waters, its islands, its food, and its people seem to live in more harmony with nature then we do.And now with these recent reports of crime, I am sure the local authorities will be forced to crackdown on any, or all, criminal elements in the area. This island depends too much on tourism to survive. The merchants know this, and their citizens know this, and most of all, the government officials know this – together they will root out crime from Roatan and make it again safer for all visitors.

  • Simon Howell

    Firstly what has happened to the crew member is horrendous and my condolences go to the family. BUT for heaven sake when oh when are the Americans going to learn that everywhere is dangerous! Why are you all so paranoid? If a bomb goes off in Lebanon that kills the Mediterranean cruise industry for at least three years, if someone is killed in Roatan let’s not go there. People are being killed everyday in cities in the States, maybe the best thing would be for all Americans to not go anywhere and stay in bed for the rest of their lives. Come on America get a grip!!

  • kitty

    I’ve just returned from a cruise and we visited Roatan and it was beautiful. I don’t work for a cruise industry, I live in a SmallTown USA, I am just someone who likes the Caribbean. It’s sad what happened to this family, but have you checked how many millions of people visit Roatan every year? Honduras crime rate may be much higher than the US, but how about you compare Roatan to say Miami? How much of this crime rate is against cruise passengers who generally only go to a few popular places, usually with a tour? How about instead of writing about individual cases (recent shooting in California, anybody?) you calculate the statistics of bad things happening on cruises in general vs number of people and then compare it with bad things happening at home?

    I’ve traveled extensively in Europe and the Caribbean. I’ve been warned about this or that thing happening everywhere. There is crime, there is terrorism, the world is not safe. I used to feel safe in my small town, but I don’t anymore. Name a single place in the world which is totally safe from crime or terrorism? The only one I can think of is Antarctica, but it has a lot of dangers of its own.

    You just need to exercise common sense like watching your handbag everywhere (a friend had her handbag with passport, money, tickets stolen at Dusseldorf airport), not carrying valuables with you without reason, be careful, and hope for the best.