Belize CityOn September 13, 2016, a passenger on the Carnival Magic was robbed at gunpoint at the port of Belize. We received the following information from the passenger:

"We were at the port next to the belize sign taking pictures. A vendor selling wood and jewelry was trying to sell us some of his handmade work when a male on a bicycle threw down his bike and pointed a gun at me. He then put it under his shirt when my friend turned around. My friend thought it was a joke and wasn’t cooperating that’s when the man pulled the gun back out racked it and pointed it at us. He told us to empty our pockets. My friend gave him 15$ all he had left and I gave him 25$ he then saw my phone and told me to give it to him. I delayed giving to him as I was thinking about my options. After a few moments I decided it wasn’t worth it and gave it to him. He then started yelling at my friend to give him his wallet which he did not have. The man then asked where it was my friend replied in my room. Finally the male said don’t make this a big deal and got back on his bike and rolled away. I preceded to run to the first police officer I could find and let them know what happened. The police had several officer driving around in cars and motorcycles trying to find the assailant. They told us it was the 1st time in 2 years this happened in or by the port. They could not locate him and took us to the police station where we gave statements and made reports. 2 hrs later they took us back to the port where we went back on the ship and made report to carnival. They said it never happens. Made report to guest services then wrote statement to security and told me to call corporate office when I get off ship. Called the office they did not seem to care much and I told them why do they go to unsafe ports their reply was this never happens. To future cruisers I would suggest to not get off on this port."

Carnival contacted the passenger after the cruise, stating that it is going to increase awareness with cruise guests and also increase police and security at that port.

Last March, cruise ship passengers were robbed at gunpoint while on an excursion at the Altun Ha Maya ruins site in Belize. Earlier in March, a couple in Belize from a cruise ship reported that they were victims of an attempted armed robbery near the Museum of Belize.

As we mentioned in our last article, the Minister of Tourism of Belize was quoted earlier this year saying that that violent crime has been decreasing in the country. He said that over one million people visited Belize last year and crime against tourists was "rare."

Carnival and other cruise lines which call on this port should issue warnings to their guests that these type of crimes have occurred at port, in Belize City and during excursions from the port.

Source of information: Carlos Martinez

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September 29, 2016 Update: Several people pointed out that the Belize sign near where the robbery took place is outside of the gates to the port. So the robbery did not technically take place "at the port" to the extent that this means "in the port." 

Robbery Belize Cruise Port

Robbery Belize Cruise Port

 

The Bahamas just reached 128 murders for the year, a new record for the country. By way of comparison, in 2014, there were 328 murders in New York City with a population of 8,500,000 or roughly 3.85 per 100,000 population. The Bahamas is on the way to 150 murders in 2015, which with a population of 360,000 population, is about 42 per 100,000. Most of these crime occur in Nassau (New Providence).

But you would never know it listening to the Bahamian tourism officials.

The Bahamas Weekly has an interesting article today titled "Downtown Nassau Safe For Tourists, Nassau Bahamassays Top Cop." It quotes Chief Superintendent of the Tourism Policing Unit Leamond Deleveaux saying: “The downtown area is a very safe place. You can’t get it any safer.” Mr. Deleveaux also says: 

"We don’t have any reports about crimes against tourists."

“I know of no major incidents reported to the police. I am amazed that people say there are crimes against tourists in New Providence. This is myth and not factual.”

In truth, there have been many many assaults, robberies, thefts and muggings of U.S. tourists and residents written about by the newspapers in Nassau. 

The U.S. State Department has currently placed the Bahamas under a critical crime warning and cites armed robbery as a major criminal threat facing U.S. citizens in The Bahamas. "The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports of tourists robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau, to include the cruise ship docks and the Cable Beach commerce areas; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. Burglaries, larcenies and “snatch-and-grab” crimes happen in Nassau and U.S. citizens have been victims of these crimes. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as in casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships." 

Earlier this year, we pointed out that Nassau has been the focus of 7 crime warnings by the U.S. and Canada dating back to January 2014 with several sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, reportedly committed by jet ski operators on Paradise Island.

Mr. Deleveaux needs to be reminded of the murder of American sailor Kyle Bruner in Nassau. His murderers, who shot him just feet away from the Paradise Island Bridge in Nassau, were convicted last week.   

I last wrote about chief superintendent Deleveaux last December in my article Bloody Nassau about a particularly dangerous weekend when seven Bahamians were shot and three were killed. He claimed that tourists in Nassau are virtually immune from crime. He told the Guardian newspaper in Nassau "to be honest with you, crime against tourists are almost non-existent despite what you hear or is printed in the media."

Photo Credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media Creative Commons Wikipedia

Crime BahamasThe Bahamian newspapers report today on a dispute which has arisen between the government of the Bahamas and the competing party, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), over Carnival Cruise Line’s apparent intention to issue crime warnings to its passengers.

A DNA official produced copies of e-mails which seem to reveal that Tourism Director Obie Wilchcombe failed to respond to repeated concerns from Carnival about the crime problem in Nassau. Mr. Wilchcombe denied receiving the emails.

The DNA official contended that Carnival was going to issue Nassau "crime warnings" this week. The Tribune newspaper says that that Mr Wilchcombe "angrily refuted Mr McCartney’s allegations" and claims that "Carnival had yesterday confirmed to him it was not intending to issue such Nassau ‘advisories.’"

Both parties, to me, seem out of touch with reality. There is no question that crime in the Bahamas, including the rape and armed robbery of tourists, is a major problem for the country. Carnival’s decision to warn its customers of the danger in the port is not dependent on whether the tourism officials respond to Carnivals’ inquiries. I thought that this cruise line was already warning its passengers about the high crime rate in  Nassau. 

For those cruise passengers and travel agents in the know, it is common knowledge that there is an epidemic of crime in Nassau as the country heads to a record high number of murders. Many cruise passengers know that it is prudent to stay on the cruise ships when they arrive in Nassau. 

The problem remains for those tourists who are swayed by the marketing images of Carnival and the Bahamas and who cruise their families into the Nassau-war-zone with no knowledge of the considerable danger there.

Carnival owes its customers honesty. The cruise line should disclose to their guests the dangers in Nassau. The local politicians are just a sideshow. Carnival owes its passengers the same warnings that the U.S. and the U.K. and the Canadian governments have provided to their citizens.  Neither the PLP nor the DNA want to truth to be known – that Nassau represents an unreasonable danger to tourists.

Photo Credit: Caribbean 360

A retired couple from Canada, together with a captain, sailing from mainland Honduras to Roatan were reportedly attacked by four men armed with guns and knives who boarded the boat, threatened them with death and stole their money.

The article in CBC News quotes the Canadian woman saying "they actually had me, pulling my hair and a knife on my throat, demanding more money from the captain."

The menacing men then disabled the boat and tore out the engine wiring, and left with gasoline and the Roatan Sailing Attackcouple’s radio and drinking water, stranding them in the jungle.

This is not the first time that Canadians sailing in Honduran waters have been attacked. A Canadian woman and her father sailing from the Bay Islands were attacked in their sailboat in 2010. Armed men killed the woman’s father (photo below) in front of her before she chased them off with a flare gun. 

The U.S. and Canadian expatriates in Roatan suppress news of these violent incidents out of fear that they will scare off tourists and retirees. Travel writers skip these type of stories and describe Roatan as a "paradise."  These kind of writers and tongue-tied Roatan residents are doing a disservice to people thinking of visiting or retiring in Roatan.  

The news article quotes the Canadian foreign affairs spokesman saying: "Canadians travelling to Honduras should be aware that serious crime — including armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, home invasion and sexual assault — is common, and armed attacks on marine vessels have been reported." 

A Canadian tourist was shot in the head and killed for his iPhone in October 2012. You can watch a video at this link of a travel agent saying that his advice to travelers thinking of going to Honduras: "Don’t."

We were the first to report on a NCL crew member also shot in the head and killed for his iPhone one year ago. 

Canada has substantial warnings about crime in Honduras and has specific warnings about Roatan and the Bay Islands:

"Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Honduras, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and the presence of street gangs pose significant security concerns and contribute to the high rate of crime. Apprehension and conviction rates of criminals remain low. A large percentage of the population is armed. Guns and weapons such as machetes and knives are frequently used in robberies. If you are threatened by robbers, do not resist; injuries and deaths have occurred when victims have resisted.

Serious crime—including armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, home invasion and sexual assault—is common, and armed attacks on marine vessels have been reported. Although most criminals do not target tourists, some have been victims of crime in major cities and in areas frequented by tourists, especially at night. Exercise increased vigilance in the departments along the Atlantic coast, along the border with Guatemala and in the eastern departments of Gracias a Dios, Olancho and Colón, and in rural areas north of Nacaome, Valle, and north of Choluteca, Choluteca. Exercise increased caution while in the cities of San Pedro Sula (including in vehicles leaving the airport), the Bay Islands (comprising Roatán, Útila and Guanaja), Trujillo and Tegucigalpa.

In Roatán, robbers have targeted homes and long-term leased residences. Since 2009, three Canadian citizens have been murdered in the Bay Islands. Travellers visiting the Bay Islands should exercise Canadian Killed in Honduras Watersparticular caution around uninhabited coastal areas and avoid walking on isolated beaches, especially at night. Foreigners have been assaulted on beaches in the Bay Islands and along the Atlantic Coast.

Travellers have been followed and assaulted. Use discretion when discussing your travel plans in public. Be cautious when dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances and be extremely careful when accepting rides or invitations. Remain aware of your surroundings at all times, especially after dark and when travelling alone.

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

In resort areas, stay on supervised beaches and do not walk in isolated or unpopulated areas. Hitchhiking is strongly discouraged everywhere in the country. Campers should always stay in well-lit campgrounds that have security patrols. Whenever possible, walk in a group, as there have been reports of attacks on tourists walking alone."

Does this sound like paradise to you?

 

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Photo Credit: Loretta Reinholdt and Andy Wasinger via Calgary Herald; Ambergris Caye 

The U.S. State Department has issued a critical crime warning for Nassau, Bahamas today. The warning is titled Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Nassau (Bahamas), Nassau Violent Crime.

The warning states that U.S. citizens residing in and traveling to the Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being a victim of crime. The warning states that armed robbery remains a major criminal threat facing U.S. citizens with the crime threat on New Providence listed as “critical.”

The last warning from the State Department or the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas was just last month when the State Department issued the 2015 Bahamas Crime Report which revealed that armed robbery and sexual assaults were increasing. 

The most recent warning focused on violent incidents on March 22nd and 23rd which occurred in areas heavily frequented by U.S. citizen visitors and residents. One victim was was stabbed and killed and the other man was critically wounded and robbed. 

We picked Nassau as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world last year.

In 2014, Bahamas was the subject of four critical crime warnings to U.S. citizens (one from the U.S. State Department and three from the U.S. Embassy) and one warning from Canada. With the 2 warnings this year, that’s a total of 7 warnings. I have never heard any country being the recipient of seven crime warnings in just 15 months. The last U.S. warning in 2014 mentioned that U.S. tourists have been raped and robbed at gunpoint, and there have been three reported sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet ski operators on Paradise Island.

The Nassau Guardian reports that there are 34 murders so far this year, up 35% from this time last year which was a particularly deadly period of time in the Bahamas. There were 23 murders this time last year.

The homicide rate for the Bahamas is over 30 per 100,000. In the U.S. the homicide rate is only 4.5 per 100,000. Most tourists and cruise passengers to Nassau don’t understand this.

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Photo Credit: Tribune 

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe United States Department of State just issued a warning to U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains "critically high."  

The warning is similar to the critical crime warning issued by the U.S. State Department last year

The warning states that ". . . crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and police often lack vehicles or fuel to respond to calls for assistance. The police may take hours to arrive at the scene of a violent crime or may not respond at all. Members of the Honduran National Police have been arrested, tried, and convicted for criminal activities. Many more are under investigation. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

"Honduras has had one of the highest murder rates in the world for the last five years. The U.S. Embassy has recorded more than 100 murders of U.S. citizens since 2002."

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe warning specifically mentions Roatan:

"Roatan and the Bay Islands are geographically separated from Honduras and experience lower crime rates than the Honduras mainland. The national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security. However, as on the mainland, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur, and you should exercise caution, especially at night." 

The warning also includes cruise passengers. The warning says that although the vast majority of cruise line passengers to Roatan experience no problems, there have been reports of cruise passengers who have been victims of armed robbery and carjacking. We wrote about such incidents here and here. The warning fails to mention that a cruise ship employee was gunned down last year in broad daylight near the port, which we wrote about here

The U.S. warning says although crime remains "critically high," violence allegedly has declined in the past two years according to the State Department. Despite such assurances (no statistics provided), children in Honduras fleeing violence and drug gangs and trying to enter the U.S. remain a critical problem for U.S. – Roatan Honduras CruiseHonduran relations. President Juan Hernandez is committed to the militarization of Honduras (with the support of the U.S.) to try and stem the flow of drugs from Colombia to the U.S. But there recently have been armed confrontations between National Police and the Military Police, both of which have been accused of corruption, which many see as a new level of chaos and corruption. 

A problem plaguing both mainland Honduras and Roatan is that the vast majority of murders are carried out with total impunity. This is exactly the case with a number of killings which I wrote about on Roatan last year, like this and this and these killings involving four boys and young men whose bodies were retrieved and placed in a pickup truck while a NCL cruise ship was moored nearby. 

Meanwhile expatriate resort owners, tour operators, land owners and travel writers are assuring tourists and retirees that Roatan remains paradise.

March 3 2015 Update: Honduran Police Clean Up Declared A Failure

 

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Photo Credit: LaPrensa – top; Teledifusora Insular – bottom. 

One of the focuses of Cruise Law News is not only crime on cruise ships, but crimes in ports of calls. 

Cruise lines have a legal obliCrime in the Caribbeangation to warn passengers of crimes which occur in the ports of call where they take their passengers. Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have agents in the ports and have first hand knowledge regarding which ports are dangerous. 

Cruising is not considered by the courts to be just "point to point" transportation, as in the case of the airline industry which has no duty to warn of crime in a destination the passenger picks to vacation. The ports of call are considered to be an integral part of the cruise experience. Cruise lines must tell their passengers if its safe to proceed down the gangway with their children. Unfortunately, cruise passengers have been mugged, raped and shot and killed. The problem is that many cruise lines don’t bother to tell their guests what their crew members already know. Some crew employees don’t get off the cruise ship in certain ports because of the fear of being a victim of armed robbery, but the cruise lines refuse to pass this information on to the passengers. 

Next week, I’ll publish the "Most Dangerous Cruise Destination of 2015." You can read my last list here. I’d like to hear from our readers which ports they have found to be dangerous, what experiences about crime ashore they wish to share, which itineraries they totally avoid, and what ports they chose to stay on the ship.

The cruise industry is too busy promoting the image of idyllic ports of paradise and selling excursions to tropical wonderlands to be honest with you. Next week we’ll give you our predictions regarding which ports you’re most likely to be at the wrong end of a gun during your cruise vacation.

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WPRO radio interviewed me this morning on its news talk radio show with Gene Valicenti about the New York Times article focusing on crime in Nassau, Bahamas. 

WPRO has a large readership in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

We talked about U.S. citizens who were victims of armed robberies. We talked about tourists, including minor children, sexually assaulted by jet-ski operators on Paradise Island in Nassau.  

You can listen to the interview here (after the Jimmy Buffett into).    

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Photo Credit: Atlantis Paradise Island – Wikipedia / D Ramey Logan Creative Commons 3.0 / WPPilot Atlantis Paradise Island

US Virgin IslandseTN Global Travel Industry News recently published an article about  tourism issues in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the USVI Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty.

In its original publication, eTN cited several sources of information for the proposition that the USVI has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. The territory has a staggering homicide rate around 35.5 per 100,000 people, whereas the United States as a whole has a rate around 4.7 per 100,000 people. (In 2012, the per capita murder rate in the USVI was even higher, around 56 per 100,000 people). 

We selected the USVI as the eight most dangerous cruise destination in the Caribbean in 2014. Earlier this year, I wrote that there are "way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI is a place for a family to vacation."

The leading maritime case involving a cruise line’s duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore involves a young girl murdered while visiting St. Thomas during a cruise ship stop.

eTN concluded that "the discrepancy between the socioeconomic status, ethnicity and colonial history of the local population stands in contrast to that of the tourist, straining the relationship between residents and visitors which is evidenced, in some cases, by poor service and worker hostility. Negative employee behavior combined with infrastructure decline pushes tourism to other destinations and creates a downward spiral for USVI visits." This is an accurate insight in to the crime and tourism problems in my opinion. 

But then eTN received a phone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). CTO claimed that the article "had many errors" and disputed that the USVI is dangerous. CTO failed to provide eTN with any evidence or statistics to indicate that the USVI is safe.

Inexplicably, eTN published a second article in which it wrote "of course it should be acknowledged the US Virgin Islands is one of the safest travel and tourism destinations in the world when it comes to U.S. Virgin Islands Crimecrime."  It cited no evidence to support this conclusion which was 180 degrees opposite of what it concluded in its original article.

Tourism officials in the Caribbean are in the business of selling tropical vacations to their islands. To accomplish this feat in an ever-increasing dangerous environment, tourism bureaus often suppress crime statistics and dispute the statistics when they are released.

There’s no dispute that the USVI murder rate has been 8 to 12 times higher than the U.S. rate in the last couple of years. It’s dangerous for families cruising to St. Thomas not to understand this.

It’s disappointing to see a reputable publication like eTN flip-flop so dramatically after receiving a single telephone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. 

 

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Photo Credit: Top – Wikipedia / Charlotte Amalie Creative Commons 2.5; bottom – Virgin Islands Daily News

I had not previously heard of the specific incidents of crimes against U.S. citizens listed in yesterday’s advisory from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau. The embassy said that "over the past several weeks there has been an increase in the level of crime in areas where U.S. citizens live and frequent." The embassy listed seven recent violent crimes against U.S. citizens:

  • "three armed robberies of U.S. citizens . . . in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas;" 
  • "a U.S. citizen who resides in The Bahamas was kidnapped and violently raped while walking home;" and
  • "three reported sexual assaults on U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet ski operators on Paradise Island."

I read the Nassau Tribune, Nassau Guardian, Bahamas Journal, Bahamas Weekly and Bahamas Press on a daily basis. There is no mention of any of these crimes in the newspapers in Nassau. I find the press in the Bahamas to be transparent. There are a lot of newspapers in New Providence. With a Cruise Port Nassau Bahamaspotential readership of only 250,000, the newspapers compete against one another for the top story. There is no doubt that the press in Nassau would report the crimes against Americans if the Royal Bahamian Police Department (RBPD) released the information to them.

The Nassau Guardian even seemed surprised by the embassy advisory, saying that "there were no reports to the media" that Americans were recent crime victims.

I also read the crime reports in the RBPD web page on a daily basis. There is no mention of these recent crimes in the official on-line crime data-base, even though the criminal offenses are extremely violent (kidnapping, rape, armed robbery and sexual assault of children). 

Is the Bahamian police department in cahoots with tourism and governmental officials to suppress information regarding crimes against tourists?

Certainly, there’s no doubt that admitting that U.S. girls are being sexually assaulted by jet ski operators on Paradise Island is bad for tourism. It’s not the image tourism officials wish to portray. What family would ever travel to Nassau if they knew that perverts were targeting their children and sexually assaulting them on the beach or in the water?

Unfortunately, the police department in Nassau appears to be receiving cues from the tourism officials on what not to disclose to the public. Rather than announcing the crimes committed against tourists and bringing attention to them in order to locate witnesses and demand accountability, the police seem motivated to keep the embarrassing information secret. 

The police in Nassau have been accused of covering up crimes mentioned in previous warnings this year from the U.S. Embassy.  Listen to how one cruise tourist robbed in Nassau several years ago characterized the Bahamian police.

Bahamian Police Superintendent Paul Rolle is sensitive to issues of tourism. He understands the negative effects of crime on tourism. When a U.S. crew member was shot and killed in Nassau last year, Rolle defended his office’s failure to solve the crime saying "We aren’t no play-play cartoon police force." He told the Nassau Guardian that "tourism is our life blood.”

Just last week gunmen pretending to be policemen murdered 44 year-old Andre Cartwright as he tried to defend his elderly parents after the gunmen kicked their front door in. Superintendent Rolle refused to reveal the name of the hotel where the police found one of the gunmen hiding.  He mentioned only Central Police Station Nassau Bahamasthat the suspect was apprehended "in a hotel room over the bridge” and was hiding in a "Paradise Island hotel."  Is it really too potentially distressing to tourists to hear that the murderer might be holed up in a room next to them in a tourist attraction, like Atlantis for example?

The only time a U.S. citizen is mentioned by the police seems to be when they arrest a cruise passenger at the cruise wharf for possession of a small amount of pot. But when a U.S. tourist is jacked up at gunpoint or violently assaulted, no official information is available to the press or the public.

Certainly U.S. tourists are not the only visitors who are being victimized; however, the Bahamian police data-base is completely lacking any crime data when the victims are tourists from Canada, the U.K., Europe, China or South America.  

The Bahamas is in the business of selling an illusion of a tropical paradise to tourists. Unfortunately, the police department appears to be more interested in being a part of the country’s tourism team rather than preventing or solving violent crimes against the country’s guests.   

November 7 2014 Update:  

The New York Times covered the story and quotes Cruise Law News: U.S. Embassy Warns of Crime in Bahamas.

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau picked up this story as well: Blogger: ‘Is There Cover-Up Of Crimes Against Tourists?’ 

Meanwhile the police in Nassau defend themselves. But DNA Leader Branville McCartney said:

“The crime issue is out of hand. You’ve got all sorts of things happening in this country that we don’t even hear about. I don’t want to hear no foolishness from this government or from the police department talking about ‘crime down.’ I’m scared in my own country. The fear of crime is not down. Don’t talk fool around my head about the crime is down, when it isn’t. This crime is out of control and I ask the government to deal with it."

Crime in Nassau Bahamas 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / TampAGS, for AGS Media Creative Commons 3.0; Wikipedia / Ritchie Sieradzki Creative Commons 2.0.