The United Stated State Department issued a new crime warning for the Bahamas. You can read the new warning issued on January 10, 2018 here.

The crime warning 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 Nassau Port Cruiseagainst 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 warning refers to the U.S. State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) whose 2017 Report for the Bahamas characterizes crime in that country as "critical.

The OSAC report states that the majority of reported violent crimes were against local Bahamians and mostly occurred in areas of saturated criminality not typically visited by tourists; however, New Providence (Nassau), where around 250,000 Bahamians live, has witnessed "violent crimes in locations more commonly frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In some instances, these incidents resulted in fatalities. Criminality and violent crime has increased on Grand Bahama island, notably crimes involving the use of machetes."

"Many criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives, and these weapons are commonly brandished . . . there were reports of firearms used in the commission of armed robberies, where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim resisted. Many of these armed robberies were snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewelry, cell phones, and cash. Should you be confronted by someone demanding money/valuables, you should comply with their demands and make the encounter as brief as possible. If confronted, try to remain calm, clearly display your hands and do not make any sudden moves that could be interpreted as resistance.

Armed robberies, property crimes, purse snatchings, theft, fraud, and sexual assaults remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists."

The OSAC report further documents that "in 2016, numerous incidents were reported that either involved tourists or occurred in well-known tourist locations. Crimes occurred near popular tourist areas adjacent to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas as well as the popular downtown area. Several armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas."

We have reported on over a dozen U.S. warnings about the high level of crime in the Bahamas, primarily in the capital city of Nassau. 

In 2014, we selected Nassau as the most dangerous port of call in our list of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World, and later stated that Nassau was "one gunshot away" from the cruise lines exiting that port. 

As we wrote then, we have been warning about crime in Nassau ever since we started this blog in September 2009. In October 2009, two "vicious robbers" robbed a group of 11 terrified cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean ship by gunpoint in Nassau. In November 2009, 18 cruise passengers were robbed during excursions from Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships. 

The Nassau Guardian published an article about the new crime warning. 

In response to the warning which mentions the fish fry businesses at Arawak Cay in Nassau, Bahamian Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar criticized the crime advisory to the Tribune newspaper in Nassau, suggesting that Nassau was safe compared to major American cities like "Chicago or New York.”

This is a common although misleading argument.  The per capita murder rate in the country of the Bahamas is 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

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Photo credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Disney Dream Strike Dock in NassauAccording to reports on social media, the Disney Dream violently struck the dock in Nassau, Bahamas while trying to enter a berth on Saturday, September 30th. Photographs posted on line show damage to the cruise ship’ stern above the waterline.

The PortNassauWebcam operated by the popular @PTZtv captured images of the damage to the Disney cruise ship.

The Disney Blog seems to be one of the first sites to report on the incident. Scott Sanders’ Disney Cruise Line Blog also contain a number of photographs of the damage as well as repairs to the vessel’s hull.

A video of the accident was posted on Scott Lewitt’s YouTube page

Photo credit: @PTZtv

 

A man from Tennessee was "stunned" when a company calling itself "Royal Seas Cruises" initially refused to refund his cruise to the Bahamas after his wife unexpectedly died. 

A news station in Knoxville reports that Bob Mackay and his wife Bonnie had paid for a cruise but his wife died shortly before they could go on the trip. 

As WATE explains, Bob was devasted when Bonnie died on June 26th. He called Royal Seas a few days after the funeral, asking for a refund of their cruise.  

“They told me that they would not cancel it. That I could sell it. Or if I found another girlfriend, I could use it and take her,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. I really don’t want to go on a cruise without my wife . . . ”

Bob requested to speak to the service representative’s supervisor who reportedly "had no interest in giving me a refund whatsoever,” notwithstanding Royal Seas’ claim that its "customer service is second to none."

But after an "on your side" reporter contacted Royal Seas, the cruise line quickly agreed to issue a full refund.

Free Cruise Scam?

Royal Sea Cruises is actually not a cruise line but a vacation marketing company which sells cruises on the Grand Celebration which many passengers have complained is part of a "free cruise" scam.

The Better Business Bureau rates Royal Seas Cruise a "D-." It writes that its files contain "a pattern of complaints from consumers that allege they were contacted by Royal Seas Cruises informing them they won a ‘free’ cruise; however when they tried to redeem the free cruise they were informed of undisclosed fees and the requirement of attending a time share presentation. Consumers informed BBB they cancelled the cruise and requested a refund but they did not receive a refund from Royal Seas Cruises. Some consumers allege receiving unwanted phone calls from Royal Seas Cruises and requested to be removed from the company’s call list but they still continue to receive calls." 

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http://up.anv.bz/latest/anvload.html?key=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

 

 A jet ski operator in Nassau, Bahamas sexually assaulted a Canadian woman near Paradise Island yesterday afternoon, according to the Nassau Tribune.

The crime reportedly occurred after 1.30 P.M. on a cay near Cabbage Beach. The newspaper indicates that a jet ski operator took the young woman (in her twenties) on a ride from Cabbage Beach to a cay off Paradise Island where he sexually assaulted her.

An employee of the Atlantis resort told the newspaper that he observed the woman, shortly after the incident, crying and shaking on the beach. She indicated that the jet ski operator took her to a nearby cay Cruise Port Nassau Bahamaswhere he raped her. The news account says that the other jet ski operators"… don’t like him because he has a bad reputation. He has been accused before of groping a woman on the beach."

Over a half-dozen women have reported being assaulted by jet ski operators on Cabbage Beach in Nassau, Bahamas. The U.S. Embassy has warned of this specific danger several times. A year ago we wrote that, according to the U.S. Embassy, jet ski operators sexually assaulted five tourists in just 18 months

Bahamian officials previously discussed using police and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers to patrol the beaches on Paradise Island to address the crime problem, but such plans never materialized.

Many passengers cruise to Nassau under the illusion that it is a tropical paradise. But the truth is that Nassau has been the subject of more critical crime warning that any other cruise destination in the world. The Bahamas has a far higher rate of rape and murder than any U.S. port where passengers embarked for a cruise. The cruise lines don’t issue warnings before selling cruises to Nassau but typically warn their guests of the high crime rate there only during the cruise.

The Nassau Tribune has written about the rape of tourists by jet ski operators before.

The National Task Force for Gender Based Violence, Bahamas had the worst record for rapes in the Caribbean. The report stated that "while the worldwide average for rape is 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas has an average of 133 (per 100,000)." The rate in the U.S. Is somewhere around 28.6 per 100,000. There are almost 5 times as many rapes in the Bahamas as in the U.S. per capita rate.

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June 15, 2017 Update: It seems that history is repeating itself

Photo credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Nassau Bahamas Shooting DeathThis morning, a driver of a minibus, reportedly operated by Stuart Cove Dive shop, was shot and killed in downtown Nassau, Bahamas. The Facebook page of Nassau resident Tellis Virgil‎’s Speak Up Bahamas discussed the incident and includes a photograph of the crime scene. 

Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas is described as "Nassau’s leading full service dive resort."

Five cruise ships are in the port of Nassau today: Carnival Pride, Carnival Elation, Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas, Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Breakaway. 

The Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that police "were called to the scene of the shooting at East Street North, near Prince George Wharf around 7am where they discovered the body of an adult male by a Stuart Cove’s minibus parked near The Crew Pub and entrance to the cruise port." 

It is currently unknown exactly when the five cruise ships arrived at the port and disembarked passengers ashore. Several of the ships disembarked their passengers after 7:00 a.m., if this is in fact when the shooting occurred. But many people commented that tourists were waiting to board the minibus when the shooting took place.

One of the comments to the Tribune article expressed concern that the "man was murdered on the doorstep of our cruise ship industry in broad daylight." Other people voiced their concerns on the Speak Up Bahamas Facebook page of the impact of this crime on Nassau. Several people commented that there are already two police officers from the Royal Bahamian Police Force on virtually every street corner in downtown Nassau to try and deter crimes which may affect tourists.  

Cruise Law News has repeatedly reported on the high crime rate in this port city.  The murder rate in Nassau is around 8 to 10 times higher than the U.S. murder rate per 100,000. The murder rate in the U.S. is around 4.5 per 100,000; the murder rate of the Bahamas is over 30 per 100,000.  Considering that the vast majority of murders in the Bahamas occur in New Providence where Nassau is located, the murder rate is probably over 40 per 100,000 for Nassau.     

I have been quoted as saying that Nassau is one gunshot away from cruise lines pulling out of Nassau. Nassau is viewed by the Miami-based cruise lines as a convenient deep water port with cheap dockage fares and low passenger head-taxes. But Nassau has been the subject of at least a dozen critical crime warnings by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. embassy in Nassau over the last several years. Cruise lines will probably still continue to call on Nassau because it is a close, money-making port (although it will lose cruise tourists to Cuba over the years to come). But things will drastically change should a cruise passenger become a murder victim in Nassau. 

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Photo credit: Tellis Virgil‎’s Speak Up Bahamas

Bomb Scare Caribbean PrincessThis morning, a person aboard the Caribbean Princess notified me that there is a bomb scare aboard the cruise ship, which is at the Grand Bahama shipyard. The worker stated:

“I am currently on board the Caribbean Princess in the Grand Bahama Shipyard where today a bomb threat was called in to the shipyard. The ship performed a complete check and at 10 am the captain gave the abandon ship order. The ship has been evacuated and all contractors and crew were mustered outside the shipyard. We are awaiting further instructions.

Have a good day because my day and thousands others are having a bad day.

We were mustered away from the shipyard and were told no pictures.”

The Caribbean Princess is in dry dock for general maintenance. Many thousands of contractors and crew members are now re-locating to Port Lucaya.

The worker also stated:

“Of course the Bahamian taxis are making a fortune off off this event. It’s funny to see crew members in uniform strolling around . . .

I can report that very few police were present and one ambulance. No bomb squad or dogs were visible.

A lot of work has now been delayed due to this and a lot of frustration is in the air . . . ”

The Carnival Pride and Carnival Ecstasy are in port in Freeport today, as well as the Anna Maersk which is at the container port across from the shipyard.  There is no indication whether these ships were the subject of this bomb threat.

The question which immediately comes to my mind is whether the Bahamian police are competent to handle the response to a major security threat like this?

There have been bomb threats against cruise ships in the past, and they are usually determined to be pranks. A drunken Carnival passenger who made a bomb threat on the Carnival Sensation was arrested several years ago after a cruise to the Bahamas which was later determined to be a hoax. The Discovery cruise ship received a bogus bomb threat as the ship was en route to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale after sailing to the Bahamas. A bomb was reportedly planted on the Liberty of the Seas several years ago as well, although nothing was found by law enforcement officers. A bomb scare forced the evacuation of the cruise terminal at the port of Miami.  Passengers and crew members had to flee a ferry in Marseilles, France last year after a bomb scare.

April 1, 2017 Update: The popular Crew-Center website has additional information and photographs and video of crew members and contrators leaving the ship, congregating at the shipyard and leaving the shipyard.

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Image credit: Marine Traffic

The Anthem of the Seas is experiencing propulsion problems, necessitating a slight alteration in its current itinerary according to the popular RCL Blog. The ship will remain in Nassau, for two days, where repairs will be attempted to correct the problem.  

The propulsion problem issue is reportedly due to an electrical issue in one of the pod systems.  The Anthem has been cruising at reduced speed on this voyage. AIS systems show it sailing between 15 and 17 knots. 

Last February, the Anthem of the Seas encountered a large storm after leaving Bayonne, New Jersey. The Coast Guard announced that one of the vessel’s two azipods malfunctioned during the storm and that the Anthem returned to port in New Jersey with only one propulsion unit operating. The Coast Anthem of the Seas Guard stated that "during the storm the port azipod, which is one component of the vessel’s propulsion system, burned out all four clutches." Royal Caribbean, which initially denied any damage or injury to the ship or the passengers and then claimed that the only damage to the ship was cosmetic, was forced to try and quickly replace the clutches on the storm damaged azipod before the ship’s next cruise. The cruise line also decided the starboard azipod ‘s clutch also needed to be replaced "as a precaution," raising the possibility that it also sustained damage during the storm.

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Photo credit: El Coleccionista de Instantes Fotografía & Video – El Crucero Anthem of The Seas en el muelle de Santa Catalina de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria., CC BY-SA 2.0, commons / wikimedia. 

BahamasThe U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) recently published its 2017 Crime & Safety Report regarding the Bahamas.

The council, which was established under authority of the U.S. Secretary of State, reached the following findings and conclusions:

Findings:

  • The Bahamas is a major Caribbean tourist destination with major cruise ship ports of calls in Nassau and Freeport. 
  • Over six million U.S. citizens visit the Bahamas each year.
  • Approximately 80% of tourists to the Bahamas are U.S. citizens.
  • The Bahamas consists of more than 700 islands and cays.
  • The Bahamas has a population of approximately 370,000.
  • 70% of Bahamians (around 260,000) reside on the island of New Providence, where Nassau is situated.
  • Another 15% (around 60,000) live on Grand Bahama, where Freeport is located.
  • The rest of the population is dispersed over several dozen outer islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”).

Conclusions – Crime Threats:

  • Crime in Nassau is critical.
  • Violent crime reportedly dropped from 2015 to 2016 by double digit percentages in every category, although some observers have questioned the legitimacy of this claim.
  • Murders were down 24% from a record high in 2015 (111 in 2016 vs. 146 in 2015).
  • Despite the publicized numbers, crime continues to represent the primary security threat in the Bahamas.
  • The preponderance of reported violent crimes were perpetrated against local Bahamians and mostly occurred in areas of saturated criminality not typically visited by tourists.
  • However, New Providence has witnessed violent crimes in locations more commonly frequented by U.S. citizen tourists. In some instances, these incidents resulted in fatalities.
  • Criminality and violent crime has increased on Grand Bahama island, notably crimes involving the use of machetes.
  • Many criminals carry firearms, machetes, or knives, and these weapons are commonly brandished.
  • There were reports of firearms used in the commission of armed robberies, where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim resisted.
  • Many armed robberies involved snatch-and-grabs involving purses, jewelry, cell phones, and cash.
  • Armed robberies, property crimes, purse snatchings, theft, fraud, and sexual assaults remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists.
  • In 2016, numerous incidents were reported that either involved tourists or occurred in well-known tourist locations.
  • Crimes occurred near popular tourist areas adjacent to the cruise ship port (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach resort areas as well as the popular downtown area.
  • Several armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas.
  • The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated, and in 2015, there were reported sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet-ski operators.
  • The majority of these sexual assaults were reported to have occurred on relatively “safe” beaches within the confines of Paradise Island, which is heavily frequented by tourists . . .

We recommend to anyone traveling to the Bahamas (particularly Nassau) to also read the news accounts and editorials in the local newspapers in the Bahamas, the Tribune and the Nassau Guardian

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Photo credit: Bahamas government – Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

Oasis of the Seas Nassau BahamasThe Tribune newspaper in Nassau reports that during a meeting between the CEO of Royal Caribbean International brand, Michael Bayley, and Prime Minister Perry Christie, the cruise executive stated that he is “concerned” about high levels of crime in the Bahamas. 

Mr. Bayley says that he has previously communicated his concerns regarding the issue of crime affecting his Royal Caribbean customers to the Bahamian government through the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).

He claims that his cruise line’s ships bring around 1,700,000 guests to the the Bahamas each year. However, if his cruise customers do not feel safe visiting the country, they will no longer vacation in the Bahamas, he says. 

Many cruise passengers to Nassau have told us over the last few years that they do not get off of the cruise ship upon arriving in the Bahamas because of crime ashore. 

Mr. Bayley says that Royal Caribbean is "committed to maintaining a concrete relationship with the country and plans to double visitor numbers over the next 10 years."  If true, this is an ambitious goal given the high crime rate in Nassau and the opening of ports in Cuba to Miami based cruise lines. 

Ironically, the Royal Caribbean CEO was meeting with the Bahamian Prime Minister about the development of the cruise line’s private destination in Coco Cay, Bahamas. With the development of a large fixed pier, the priavte cay will be able to receive larger cruise ships including the Oasis-class ships which carry up to 5,400 passengers.

As reflected in the comments to the article, many people feel that numerous  islands in the Bahamas are being developed as private resorts for the cruise lines to escape the problems with crime and trash which detract from Nassau’s reputation as a top cruise port. 

In a PR news release, Royal Caribbean promised to increase the number of Bahamians employed by the cruise line in the next five years. This is an issue where the cruise line has failed miserably in the past. Compared to other countries like Jamaica where there are many thousands of cooks, cleaners and cabin attendants working in Royal Caribbean ships, there are relatively few crew members from the Bahamas working for Royal Caribbean.

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March 9, 2017 UpdateGovt Should Be Concerned At Cruise Line’s Worries.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas in Nassau, Bahamas – Baldwin040 – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Bay Street Nassau Bahamas Crime WarningYesterday, the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) issued a security message for U.S. Citizens traveling to Nassau, Bahamas), titled Staying Safe during Spring Break in the Bahamas.

It starts with: "avoid being alone with strangers, jet ski, taxi, or scooter operators. Be particularly cautious on secluded beaches; criminals target such isolated areas. When traveling, use only clearly marked buses or taxis, as unlicensed taxi drivers have been linked to a variety of violent crimes."

The warning ""strongly" recommends that travelers "avoid patronizing jet ski rental operations" who "continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists."

It warns not to "allow yourself to be driven off alone with a scooter operator. Unlicensed scooter operators and rental services have been linked to assaults, including sexual assaults."

OSAC cautions against excessive drinking ashore – "Visitors found alone or incapacitated have been victims of sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Watch your drink at all times. Intoxicated young women may be targeted for drugging and sexual assault."

OSAC refers to the U.S. State Department’s warning that "the criminal threat level for New Providence Island (includes Nassau and Paradise Island) is rated as critical." The critical crime warning reads:

"Armed robbery and sexual assault are major criminal threats facing U.S. citizens in New Providence. The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports indicating tourists have been robbed at gunpoint or Nassau Bahamas Cruise Travel Warningknifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of sexual assaults in tourist areas as well. The Bahamas has one of the highest incidences of sexual assault in the Caribbean . . "

If you are a parent of a teenager or a college student cruising to Nassau this month on Spring Break, I suggest discussing these issues. 

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March 6, 2107 Update: The U.S Embassy in Nassau issues another crime warning, based on the OSAC report.

Photo credit: Jpatokal at wts wikivoyage – GFDL, commons / wikimedia (top photo of Bay Street in Nassau); TampAGS, for AGS Media – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia (bottom photo of cruise wharf in Nassau).