The U.S. and Canada both started issuing travel warnings for cruise vacationers. The U.S. started issuing travel warning at the end of December 2018 and Canada began issuing travel advisories two weeks ago.

The U.S. State Department also recently began posting warnings on Twitter regarding certain dangers about cruise ships and ports of call. Its Travel – State Dept‏  page links to an internet travel page addressing certain security issues on cruise ships and in port of call.

The page is titled Cruise Ship Passengers and lists certain steps which the State Department recommends taking “before the cruise” (research the destination, take your passport, obtain the necessary visas and obtain medical, emergency evacuation, and other insurance to cover unexpected travel expenses, etc.) as well as “during the cruise” (remain vigilant, limit your alcohol intake, ensure cabin safety and make sure the door and balcony are properly locked at all times, and store travel documents and valuables in a secure location, etc.).

Canada also just started posting similar travel warnings on its official travel page. The Canadian travel advisories includes many of same “common sense” issues about obtaining insurance mentioned by the U.S.  But like the U.S. site, Canada also warns it citizens to:

  • Avoid becoming the target of an assault or robbery by . . . staying in public areas when interacting with other passengers and ship staff;
  • Never leave your food or drinks unattended; and
  • Ensure cabin safety by keeping the door and balcony properly locked at all times.

I was particularly surprised to see the posting on Twitter this week from the U.S. State Department’s Twitter page ():

Researching the safety records of local tour operators may sound like a good idea, but the fact of the matter is that cruise lines don’t disclose the name or contact information of the local companies which operate the excursions. So it is impossible for cruise travelers to research the safety record of a local company, in the Caribbean for example, even if they wanted to. Yes, such local companies often use improper equipment (open air buses, no seatbelts, etc.) with unqualified employees (particularly bus drivers who drive recklessly), which can lead to accidents, injuries and even deaths, but there is zero chance of a cruise passengers ever learning this information despite trying to research the excursion beforehand.

Cruise lines also usually promote their cruise excursions as the “best,” using the “best” tour operators and the “best” equipment without clearly explaining that they cannot really vouch for the operators who will actually be taking families on the excursions.  After a passenger is killed or seriously in a cruise sponsored cruise excursion, like this case or this one, the cruise lines will always deny liability for the accident and claim that the local tour operator is an independent contractor for whom the cruise line has no control, despite their advertisements to the contrary.

The State Department also warns cruise tourists to be aware of crime in certain port of call (these type of warning are not new).  It provides links to safety and security issues in many port countries.  We recommend that families, who decide to cruise, review the State Department crime warnings carefully. Reading the local newspapers in port cities is also a good idea.  Many cruise lines routinely take their passengers into dangerous ports without warning, particularly in port in the Caribbean like Nassau.

For example, the State Department has repeatedly warned travelers to Nassau, Bahamas to avoid jet ski operators who have sexually assaulted several young women at the beaches in that destination. The State Department’s link below on Twitter is rather nebulous but the crime situation in Nassau (“exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime” – CLICK MORE – “Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault is common, even during daylight hours and in tourist areas . . .   Jet-ski operators are known to commit sexual assaults against tourists, including minors”) can be easily accessed at the State Department’s website.

The new governmental warnings by the U.S. and Canada reflects the reality of ongoing dangers on cruise ships and in ports of call. These sites are worth reviewing and researching before a family thinks that they are embarking on a carefree cruise to an idyllic island in the Caribbean.

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  • Dave B

    Thanks Jim! Yes, it’s always advised to prepare properly for any trip. It’s comforting to know that that cruise lines and state department act as a valuable resource assisting in that preparation!

  • Laura Lee Guimond-Shears

    Good Information indeed! Also trip advisor sometimes has ratings and info on some 9f these excursions, do your due diligence people. It’s for your own safety