The Minister of Tourism (MOT) for the Bahamas yesterday denied claims recently made in a travel agent’s YouTube video that Nassau is a dangerous port for cruise passengers, according to a newspaper article in the Bahamas titled MOT refutes claims made in YouTube video about Nassau port.

The YouTube video in question, styled “the 10 most dangerous ports and how cruise lines are solving the problem,” was posted about a week ago on a popular YourTube channel, operated by a Canadian with an interest in cruising, named “Travelling With Bruce.” The YouTube page discusses “cruise ship news and trends” and live streams at 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday.

The video claims that Nassau is the most dangerous destination in the world for cruise ship passengers.

The Bahamian MOT released a statement  that it “maintains an active dialogue with cruise lines as both parties look to navigate a mutually beneficial relationship.” This follows a dispute which arose a month ago when Royal Caribbean was warning passengers on its cruise ships of the high rate of crime in Nassau.  The Crew Center website, in an article titled Royal Caribbean Issues Letter Warning Cruise Passengers of Crime in Nassau, reported that Royal Caribbean passengers on the Allure of the Seas received a letter signed by the vessel’s master, stating in part:

“We feel it is important to make our guests aware that Nassau has been experiencing an increase in crime. Non-violent crimes, such as theft of personal items, are the most common types of crimes being committed. It is important to note that thousands of visitors routinely travel to Nassau without incident. However, visitors to Nassau, like visitors to all major foreign cities in the world today, need to be mindful of their personal safety.”

The popular Cruise Radio blog then covered the issue in Cruise Line Issues Warning About The Bahamas. This article got the attention of the Bahamas Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar who claimed that he was “blindsided” by the Royal Caribbean warning regarding Nassau.

A newspaper in Nassau, the Tribune, then covered the tourism minister’s denials that Nassau has a problem with crime in which he stated: “I don’t know of any major or significant crime happening to a cruise passenger in quite some time. . . I don’t know about petty crime, but in my humble opinion Nassau is as safe as any other city.”

Other newspapers then carried the news that Royal Caribbean had issued a crime warning for Nassau, Bahamas which seemed to motivate the minster to voice his complaints to Royal Caribbean. The cruise line then rescinded its warning about crime in Nassau, even though it was a watered down version of the official U.S. warning issued by the state department, nearly a year earlier, which urged visitors to exercise increased caution in the Bahamas due to crime:

“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. . . ”

Canada also warned tourists to exercise a high degree of caution in Nassau in its own advisory on December 20, 2018. Like the U.S. warning, Canada listed armed robberies, burglaries, purse snatchings, theft, fraud and sexual assaults as the most common crimes against travelers.

According to the Tribune in its article Royal Backdown Over Crime Alert, Royal Caribbean agreed to replace the cruise line warning “effective immediately” with a “generalised warning to Royal Caribbean passengers that does not mention Nassau by name and could be taken as referring to any of its ports of call.”

Fort Lauderdale’s Sun-Sentinel reported that Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Tracy Quan verified that the cruise line agreed to issue only a generic warning about Nassau stating that it is no different than any other city.

But the dispute between the Bahamas and Royal Caribbean last past month escalated to accusations made by the Tribune newspaper in Nassau that it is more dangerous to cruise on ships operated by a Miami-based cruise line than it is to vacation in Nassau.

Last month, the Tribune focused on the statistics regarding crimes on cruise ships which are maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation. In an article titled Sexual Assaults The Most Reported Criminal Activity On Cruise Ships Making Calls To The United States, the Tribune newspaper concluded that “allegation of sexual assault remain the most reported criminal activity on board cruise ships making calls to the United States . . .  For the past three years, alleged incidents of sexual assault represented more than 60 percent of criminal activity reported by vessels under the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA). This trend follows for major cruise lines with routes to The Bahamas, like Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean. In 2017, 76 percent of reported crimes on board Carnival vessels were for sexual assault; as was 68 percent of crime reported on board Royal Caribbean vessels.”

The irony of the latest controversy about the high crime rate in Nassau is that Travelling with Bruce’s 10 most dangerous cruise ports” is exactly the exact same top ten list which I published in 2014Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World. I selected Nassau, Bahamas as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world, followed by Roatan (Honduras), Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, St. Kitts-Nevis, Antiqua, Unites States Virgin Islands, El Salvador and St. Lucia. Travelling with Bruce’s next nine dangerous ports are also identical in order.

Five years ago, the Bahamian press extensively covered Nassau being named as the port dangerous cruise port in the world.

If I were to prepare another top-10-dangerous-cruise-ports list today, I would probably include Jamaica as well.

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Video: Travelling with Bruce

 

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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Cruise passengers are reportedly fearful of the current conditions of Nassau’s famed Straw Market, according to local vendors in the Bahamas and a popular U.S. cruise publication.

One of the vendors told the Tribune newspaper “. . . many of the tourists refused to come off the ship because they were told the market is too dark they are going to be robbed, raped and all these sorts of different things . . .”

The popular cruise blog Cruise Radio reported yesterday that the comment was made during a dispute between the Bahamian government and the local citizens who work in the market. The government-operated Straw Market Authority apparently threw away goods from the stalls of market vendors who were delinquent in paying the modest rent for their stalls. Cruise Radio commented that “but those selling their wares at the straw market have been unhappy with the state of affairs for some time, claiming that parts of the space have been without lights for months.” One vendor responded to the perceived mistreatment, complaining that the market is an embarrassing place to bring tourists and noting it was “‘filthy’ and needed to be painted and cleaned.”

The Bahamas has struggled with cruise tourism in the last many years, as many cruise passengers refuse to step off the cruise ships when they arrive in Nassau or Freeport. Many cruise guests cite crime, dirty conditions, aggressive merchants and an absence of things to do compared with other ports as reasons why they stay on the ships when they reach the Bahamas.

As Cruise Radio has observed in a prior article: “The fact that many passengers now opt to stay on board the ships which brought them isn’t news to anyone who has spent time on message boards. There, people often complain about everything from the lack of interesting things to do in Nassau to the virtual army of cab drivers and vendors one must fight past in order to get anywhere.”

But Bahamian tourism official have publicly stated that they needed to be “more aggressive” in looking to find ways to extract money from cruisers. Yet, the Bahamas is planning to end the millions of dollars annually spent on incentives paid to the “very, very profitable” cruise lines so that they would bring passengers to the Bahamas.

We have written many articles about the high rate of crime, including sexual assault, in Nassau. We named Nassau as the most dangerous cruise port in the world in 2014.

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Photo credit: Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board

 

A passenger reportedly died following a fall aboard the Grand Classica cruise ship operated by the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line according to several sources.

WPTV in West Palm Beach reports that the Grand Classica contacted the U.S. Coast Guard on Friday evening when an unidentified passenger fell and was injured on the cruise ship after it left the Port of Palm Beach heading toward Freeport.

The Coast Guard medevaced the passenger from the cruise ship to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where hospital staff pronounced him dead.

The news stations report that another passenger on the ship stated that the the man fell to his death, but the cruise line has not confirmed that account.

A passenger on the cruise commented on Facebook, “I heard code blue I ran to the staircase where everyone was huddled … I saw a pool
of blood … they were wiping the blood like nothing.”

After the medevac, the cruise ship then resumed sailing to Grand Bahama Island.

U.S. News & World Report reports that a Coast Guard spokesman, John Lally, stated that the passenger fell while on the Grand Classica.

Spokesman Lally stated that a Coast Guard crew met met the ship about 13 miles east of the Port of Palm Beach and brought the man back to shore.

October 13, 2018 Update: The Palm Beach Post and People Magazine identified the man as Christopher McGrory, age 29, who was celebrating his bachelor party with friends on the cruise ship at the time of the incident.

Screen Grab: WPTV

A dispute is brewing in the Bahamas over a tug boat fee that the government plans to charge cruise ships and other commercial vessels using the harbor of Nassau.

Earlier this week, the Bahamas Tribune reported that the Miami-based cruise industry believes that it does not need tug service in the port of Nassau.

The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s (FCCA), through its president Michele Paige, told the Tribune newspaper that the cruise industry was “fundamentally opposed” to paying for the tug service in Nassau harbor. FCCA is claiming that the new fee will result in additional unwarranted costs, which will make the Bahamas cruise experience “more expensive.”

The two new tug boats, named Tug Samson and Tug Rose, will be operated by a 100% Bahamian-owned and operated company, called Tug Services Ltd, according to the Tribune. The Bahamas has come to the conclusion that the new tugs are necessary to maintain adequate services for the Port of Nassau commercial vessels calling at its port. Bahamian officials cite the need for reliable service during poor weather and in emergencies, in addition to regular tug services needed for firefighting, oil spill recovery, salvage capabilities and the safe movement of cruise and cargo ships in and out of the harbor.

The Bahamas is attempting to upgrade Nassau’s cruise port, at Prince George Wharf, to reverse declining revenues from passenger spending at the port.

The FCCA always disputes any cost increases which are levied against the cruise lines. The FCCA even fought against the reasonable attempts to increase the pilotage fees sought by the Biscayne Bay Pilots here in Miami.

As I have said before many times, the only cost increases permitted by the cruise lines are those levied against their guests for things like mandatory tips and gratuities, drink increases or room service charges. The cruise industry likes to demand control everything it touches, whether it is the taxes imposed by the state of Alaska for environmental protection and infrastructure, or the minimal head taxes of the poor Caribbean ports. It steals the tips intended from its powerless foreign crew members and nickels and dimes all of its passengers to collect every penny it can.

But paying for the costs of two new tugs in one of its most popular cruise ports?  $700 for a tug into port in Nassau? No way says the FCCA, even though the cruise industry collects tens of millions of dollars with increased gratuities and on on-board charges.

A Bahamian cabinet minister is defending the mandatory tug boat fee for Nassau harbor, telling the Bahamian newspaper that “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Nassau reportedly may be an easy port for cruise ships to dock in but it has not stopped Florida-based cruise lines from occasionally smashing into its docks, as a Disney cruise ship proved last year (video below). Perhaps a couple of well maintained tugs would help. The cruise industry seems to smash into piers in numerous cruise ports from time to time, like in Roatan, Ketchikan, Buenos Aires, Baltimore, Nice, Messina, PireausMarseille, and New York to name a few. But the majority of these incidents are not friendly little fender-benders like the Disney cruise ship mishap in Nassau.

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Photo credit: Port of Nassau – View of Prince George Wharf – TampAGS wikipedia – creative commons 3.0

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Ilekd7_Kodw%3Frel%3D0

 

In a media blitz, Royal Caribbean recently announced that it plans a massive overhaul of its "private island," CocoCay, in the Bahamas.

USA Today reported that Royal Caribbean’s will spend $200,000,000 for what is described as a "massive makeover" of its private destination in the Bahamas that will include the addition of one of the largest water parks in the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean is one of the many Miami based cruise lines which entered into a long term lease with the Bahamas of one its native islands.

The island is in the Berry Islands in the Bahamas and was previously known as Little Stirrup Cay. Royal CaribbeanCoco Cay Bahamas assumed the lease of the island upon acquisition of Admiral Cruises and renamed the island CocoCay. Royal Caribbean is one of the first cruise lines to lease islands in the Bahamas for their exclusive use.

The newspaper reports that the overhaul of the 125-acre island, to be renamed "Perfect Day at CocoCay" will include a 1,600 foot-long zip-line, the largest freshwater pool in the region, a helium balloon ride that takes cruise passengers 450 feet into the air and several other "over-the-top" features.

The project will also include dredging of the coral basin around the island and the installation of a pier in order to accommodate Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships which each carry over 6,000 passengers.

The water park will have a “South Beach” area where the cruise passengers can, for an extra fee, rent  jet skis or cabanas or pay for boat excursions or parasails trips.

Royal Caribbean will receive 100% of the profits from the revenues generated by the zip lines, helium balloon rides and other activities operated by the cruise line in the renovated private island. 

In my view, the project seems to be a vote of no confidence in the existing ports in the Bahamas, Nassau and Freeport.  

According to the Tribune newspaper in Nassau, an activist in the Bahamas, Heather Carey, denounced the project in a Facebook post yesterday. 

Ms. Carey said in her post on Facebook: “Just another example of how the cruise ship industry does little to benefit us locally, and instead continues to make the visitor experience more insular to the cruise ship islands, taking away any motivation to explore places like Nassau or to enjoy the excursions we offer. . . . We cannot give away any more of our beautiful Bahamas to these bottomless pits."

Ms. Carey is absolutely correct is her assessment of the Royal Caribbean’s plans. I should also add that the high crime rate in Nassau probably factored into the cruise line’s decision to invest heavily into the cruise line’s private destination.

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Photo credit: Royal Caribbean via USA Today. 

NassauThe United States Department of State has again listed the crime threat in the Bahamas as "critical" and warned U.S. tourists to take safety measures while visiting the country.

The warning was issued by the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) which just published the the Bahamas 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Like other U.S. warnings about the Bahamas, this latest warning primarily involves Nassau (New Providence), not the "outer islands" not frequented by cruise ships. The OSAC estimates that there are approximately 370,000 people living in the Bahamas, with around 70% (around 250,000-260,000) of the population residing in crime-filled New Providence. Another another 15% (55,000) live on Grand Bahama. The rest of the population is dispersed over numerous islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”), where crime is substantially less than in Nassau.

We reported on three prior warnings in the last thirty days by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau as well as by Canada.   

The per capita murder and rape rates for the Bahamas as a whole are drastically higher than any port city in the United States. 

The Nassau Guardian covered the latest U.S. warning. 

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Photo credit: NASA – Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas issued a new crime warning for the city following the assault of a U.S. citizen during the early evening hours of February 6, 2018, while jogging on West Bay Street just west of Goodman’s Bay Park.

This is an area around two miles west of the cruise port and downtown and east of the popular Cable Beach.

The Embassy urged that caution should be used in all areas of New Providence while traveling by foot Nassau Bahamas Crime Warningafter dark.

The Bahamas Tribune covered the new crime warning today.

The United States State Department issued its last crime warning for the Bahamas on January 10, 2018, which states, in part:

“Exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime.

Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault is common, even during daylight hours and in tourist areas. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to visit the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime. Jet-ski operators are known to commit sexual assaults against tourists, including minors. As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.”

The U.S. government has issued more crime warnings for the Bahamas than for all locations in the Caribbean.

The common response from the Bahamian tourism officials to these warning is to suggest that Nassau is safe compared to major American cities like Chicago or New York.

But the per capita murder rate in the country of the Bahamas is much higher than the per capita rate in Chicago and many, many times higher than the per capita rate in New York City. In the U.S., the per capita murder rate is a little over 4 per 100,000; in the Bahamas, the rate is around 40 per 100,000.

Most cruise tourists don’t understand that the murder, rape and crime rates per capita are much higher in the Bahamas, particularly in Nassau, than anywhere the tourists are from.

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Canada recently issued a new crime advisory for the Bahamas, warning its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when traveling there due to high rates of crime, including a reported increase of sexual assaults against tourists.

Canada’s website advisory was updated last week to state that sexual assaults occur regularly, primarily in New Providence (Nassau) and on Grand Bahama (Freeport):

“Crime, including violent crime, occurs mainly on the islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama. There has been an increase in muggings, armed robberies, home invasions and sexual assault targeting tourists in the cities of Nassau and Freeport. Incidents of robbery take place in cruise ship Nassau Bahamas Cruise Terminalterminals and in and around popular resort areas, even in daylight hours. If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist. Avoid non-tourist neighbourhoods in downtown Nassau, especially at night, where the crime accounts for much of Bahamas’ high murder rate.

Sexual assault occurs frequently, particularly near hotels, in hotel rooms, in casinos, on cruise ships and on the beach. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, do not consume any drugs and don’t accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers. Due to incidents of sexual assault, it is recommended to be wary when embarking on jet-ski rides with licensed or unlicensed operators.”

Two weeks ago, we wrote about the U.S. warning to its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution while traveling to the Bahamas.

The Nassau Guardian covered the new advisory for Canadian tourists. The nation’s Tourism Minister downplayed the crime advisory during an interview with the Tribune newspaper, saying that “when I go to London, when I go to Paris, when I go to New York, I probably have just the same likelihood of being a victim of crime.”  As I have said before, this is a common although misleading argument. The per capita murder and rape rates in the Bahamas is substantially higher than the per capita rate in the majority of U.S. and European cities. In the U.S., the per capita murder rate is a little over 4 per 100,000; in the Bahamas, the rate is around 40 per 100,000.

Canada has issued critical crime report for the Bahamas several times in the last several years.

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas. You can read a few of our articles here and here.

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Photo credit: Jerrye and Roy Klotz MD CC 3.0 commons / wikipedia.

Carnival Elation DeathEarlier this afternoon, a guest traveling aboard a Carnival ship died after falling from the balcony of her cabin, according to a passenger aboard the cruise ship.

The woman reportedly died after she fell from her balcony on the 14th deck down to the 11th deck on the Carnival Elation cruise ship.

The death was confirmed by Carnival who said that "a guest fell from her balcony to several decks below," according to New4Jax.

The Carnival Elation departed yesterday from Jacksonville on a four-day cruise to the Bahamas.

A passenger sent me photographs which he took on the cruise ship, including of an area on deck 11 which had been roped off. The passenger commented that the woman was apparently celebrating her birthday. Another passenger reportedly was seen handcuffed after the incident. Police from Freeport, Bahamas reportedly boarded the ship after the fatality. 

You can see additional photos from the cruise ship here.

In October of last year, a 8 year-old girl died after falling from a deck in an interior atrium to a lower deck on the Carnival Glory.

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January 22, 2018 Update: The Daily Mail referenced this article.