The Tribune newspaper in Nassau, a newspaper anyone thinking of cruising into the Bahamas with your family should read, blasts the following headline today: Four In Hospital After New Year Shootings.
The Bahamas reached a record murder rate in 2015 of 148 homicides, reported by the Tribune. Putting this murder rate into perspective, the U.S. murder rate is around 4.5 per 100,000 people. The Bahamas, with around 330,000 people, has a per capita murder rate of approximately 44.4 per 100,000, That’s right, the Bahamas has a per capita rate of approximately 10 times that of the U.S. The Bahamian country’s per capita murder rate places it among the most violent and dangerous cities in the U.S., a little higher than Detroit (43.5 per 100,000) and New Orleans (39.6 per 100,000).
Now, defenders of the Bahamas will argue that the Bahamas consists of almost 700 islands; most of them have not experienced a single murder in a long time. They are right, most of the murders have been in New Providence (Nassau). But this actually makes the per capita murder rate significantly higher in Nassau, where the majority of cruise ship passenger are unloaded, when you calculate the Nassau per capita murder rate based on its population of around 250,000.
When I started this blog in 2009, there were two incidents in Nassau (which you can read about here and here) where two groups of cruise passengers from Disney and Royal Caribbean ships were robbed at gunpoint. The first group were visiting a popular tourist spot on a Sunday (Queen’s Stairway in downtown Nassau) and the other group were on an official cruise line "Segway excursion." I mention these facts now because many people in Nassau will try to convince you that only drunk cruise passengers "looking for trouble" (i.e., looking for drugs or prostitutes or those who wander "over the hill") are at risk for being a victims of crime. Given the lackadaisical response by the Bahamas police to these violent crimes and the fact that cruise ships were not even warning of the crime problem back then, I have written about this issue repeatedly.
Enough passengers have been robbed or raped in Nassau for the U.S Embassy, the U.S. State Department, the U.K. and Canadian Foreign Affairs Offices to issue 10 crime warnings in less than 2 years.
Travel Weekly just featured an interview with Joy Jibrilu, Director General, Ministry of Tourism, of the Bahamas. I was stuck with just how out of touch she sounds with the reality of the crime around her that threatens to scare knowledgeable vacationers away from considering Nassau as a vacation place. Compare her interview with the frank talk of Adrian Gibson who wrote an opinion piece for the Tribune a couple days ago titled A Young Man’s View: The Matters That Must Be Resolved In 2016. Among other issues, he points out that arrivals by cruise ship are falling and and "crime is out of control."
Cuba will soon provide a much safer and many say a far more interesting port than downtown Nassau. However, in the cruelest of ironies, Ms Jebrilu mentions that many "Americans and Europeans will be thinking about where they’re going to take their vacations." She adds that "where they may have gone to North Africa, even to places in Europe or Turkey, I think they’re going to think twice and wonder if they should stay closer to home (because of international terrorism) . . . we have proven to be a very safe destination."
I suggest that Ms. Jibrilu walk over to the Prince George Wharf when all of the cruise ships from Miami and Fort Lauderdale are crowded into port and interview the tourists who decide to stay on the ships rather than tour Nassau. I think she will quickly find out that whereas ISIS may be the last thing on their minds, many U.S. passengers will tell her that they are keeping their families on the ships because of fear that they will have a gun pointed in their faces if they walk down the gangway.
Photo Credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Creative Commons / Wikipedia