Two German passengers from a the AidaPerla were reportedly attacked in a botched robbery in Castries, St Lucia yesterday morning, according to a local newspaper in St Lucia.

The St Lucia Times stated that “two young thugs pounced” on a mother and daughter from the German cruise ship when they exited from a park near the cruise port in Castries around 10:00 a.m. yesterday morning.

Two local, young men attempted to snatch a small bag from one of the cruise tourists. Their screams attracted the attention of other visitors to the park and the two robbers fled empty-handed, leaving the two German women with multiple abrasions due to the attack.

Earlier last week, several people were mugged in the nearby area including a couple who were reportedly robbed at gunpoint in the park (Serenity Park) in question.

In the video below, a news station in St. Lucia reports that armed bandits robbed a couple of their “bags, phones and wallets” a few days ago in the park in question. The security guard interviewed in the video was also reportedly robbed in the park as well.

Serenity Park is listed as one of the “things to do” by tourists, according to the city of Castries.

The violent attempted robbery comes at a time when the international media is focused on the murder of a British citizen, Robert Hathaway, who managed a marina south of the Castries’ cruise port. The Telegraph newspaper recently published an article titled Murder in Paradise: the Dark Side of Life in St Lucia which also focused on the murder of Mr. Hathaway’s friend, Roger Pratt, another U.K. citizen, who was killed by intruders aboard his yacht in St. Lucia several years ago.

Crimes against cruise tourists is nothing new for St. Lucia. In 2013, fifty-five Celebrity Cruises passengers (photo right) and two crew members were robbed at gun point in St. Lucia during a cruise sponsored excursion. Earlier,  fourteen NCL cruise passengers were robbed at a popular tourist attraction Anse-La-Raye Waterfall in St. Lucia.

NCL temporarily dropped St. Lucia as a port in 2010 because of attacks on cruise passengers which occurred on three occasions while the cruise passengers were sight-seeing on the island. In 2015, newspapers in St. Lucia reported that the president of the St. Lucia Vendors association was concerned that crime against passengers was again prompting cruise lines to consider dropping St. Lucia as a port of call.

Following several of the violent crimes against tourists, the St Lucia Tourist Board erroneously claimed that such dangerous incidents had “never happened before on the island,” as we pointed out in “Liar, Liar Pants On Fire? St. Lucia Tourism Board Denies Prior Armed Robbery of Cruise Passengers.”

In 2014, we named St. Lucia to our list (as #10) of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World. You can read reactions to that article by St. Lucians in the comments to the article in a local newspaper in St. Lucia titled “St. Lucia ranked in top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world.”

St. Lucia reports that tourism has nonetheless increased in 2018 with 1.2 millions tourists, including 800,000 cruise passengers, visiting the island last year. Local politicians warn that crimes against tourists will have a chilling effect on tourism.

Many people who are inclined to defend the tourism industry in St. Lucia may say things like “crime happens everywhere” or point to violent U.S. cities like Chicago.  But the fact is that St. Lucia as a country has a per capita murder rate in 2017 of over 33 homicides per 100,000 (up from around 20 per 100,000 in 2012) and around 24 homicides per 100,000 in 2018 whereas an admittedly deadly city like Chicago has a 2017 per capita homicide rate of around 24 per 100,000. The U.S. as a country has a per capita homicide rate of less than 5 per 100,000.

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Image credit: Top – Goggle map; middle – DBS TV St. Lucia via the Times (following bus robbery) via YouTube; bottom – Castries cruise port –  stlucianewsonline; video bottom – MBC PRIME NEWS -St. Lucia 

The News Rep newspaper contained this ominous headline yesterday – ISIS terrorists have just hijacked a cruise ship . . .  

The newspaper, which focuses on security, military and warfare issues, stated “Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists have stormed a cruise ship full of unaware tourists somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. The U.S. Special Operations Command Europe has been alerted and swiftly deploys its SOF (Special Operations Forces) units to Greece. There, the American commandos link up with their Greek counterparts and prepare to storm the vessel . . .”

But the ISIS attack on a cruise ship was just part of a annual drill by U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) which concluded today in Crete. This year’s exercise took place from December 2nd to 7th in the port of Souda, Greece with special forces from the Greek police, military and coast guard.

The U.S. and Greece are conducting joint anti-terrorism drills in Greece in light of terrorism in neighboring Turkey and nearby countries such as Syria and in North Africa like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

New Rep states that U.S. special operations forces include the Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group, Navy SEALs, and Air Force special operations assets, such as the CV-22B Osprey helicopter, from the 352nd Special Operations Wing.

A newspaper in Greece explained  that the task forces explored how to respond to various terror-attack scenarios on “relatively unprotected” or “vulnerable targets” known as “soft targets.”  The National Herald states that the security drill involved an “Islamic State terrorist attack on a large cruise ship” in the Greek port.

Each year there is a different location for Jackal Stone exercises which have in the past included the boarding of commercial vessels in European ports via rigid inflatable boats and repelling SOF’s from helicopters.

This recent joint security exercise is a reminder of the vulnerability of cruise ships which are considered to be “soft targets” to terrorism. We suggest reading the best selling book by former Director of Security at Princess Cruises, Commander Mark Gaouette, Cruising for Trouble: Cruise Ships as Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists and Common Criminals.

The foreseeability of a terrorist attack is well known and highly documented, as the Rand organization noted long ago.

The cruise industry encountered a deadly terrorist attack in Tunis several years ago when terrorists killed cruise passengers from the Costa Fascinosa and MSC Splendida after they were bused without security or any warnings to a museum. We also know that al Qaeda planned to seize cruise ships and execute passengers in the past.

Read: How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen.

I previously received an interesting comment from a reader who said that cruise ships should use muster drills to educate passengers what do to if there is a terrorist attack during a cruise. What is the protocol for a passenger if terrorists enter the ship?  Go to your cabins, hunker down and hope for the best? Try and overwhelm the attackers? Try and escape via lifeboats? Who knows?

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Photo Credit: Top – YouTube/DFMagazine via the Mirror (Armed troops land on cross-Channel ferry as part of terror security drill amid fears of ISIS ship attack); bottom – Mark Gaouette via Amazon.

Pirates - Cruise ShipRecently, there have been a number of articles published about preparing cruise ships for attacks by pirates as the ships pass through the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb into and out of the Gulf of Aden.

Cruise blogger Danielle Fear published, via Cruise Critic, an article yesterday titled Blackout on Black Watch: Pirates, Razor Wire and Water Cannons on a Fred. Olsen Cruise. Ms. Fear is currently sailing on the 108-night “Wonders of the World” cruise onboard Fred. Olsen’s Black Watch around the “horn of Africa through the Red Sea to the Suez Canal, where piracy is still rampant and razor wire is added to the handrails ….” It is interesting to read her first hand account of security teams boarding the ship to prepare the passengers for pirates attacks as the ships begins to pass Somalia and Yemen. Although she states that “it is rare for them to approach cruise ships,” Mr. Fear included a photo of razor wire on the rails along the entire length of the Promenade Deck installed to act as a deterrent to pirates boarding the ship.

The passengers reportedly are required to attend mandatory “safe haven” drills to learn “where to go and what to do” in the event of a pirate attack.

A tabloid newspaper published an article earlier in the week describing how “a “crack team” boarded the Queen Mary 2 as it sailed through the “treacherous” Gulf of Aden. It appears that the Queen Mary 2 wasn’t lined with barb wire, like the Black Watch, but the article mentioned that it was equipped with water cannons and sonic devices to keep the pirates at bay.

These articles remind me of a photograph in an article in the Telegraph eight years ago about the Discovery cruise ship, operated by Discover the World cruise line, which reportedly confronted a Cruise Ship - Pirate - Terrorism Somali speedboat as the ship sailed from Mombasa towards the Seychelles Islands. The ship was equipped with “rolls of razor wire all over the stern rail (and) bundles of logs to be released to fall on any craft attaching itself to our hull.”

Look at the photo closely and you will notice barb wire and logs tied below the rails as well as a bundle of logs hoisted near the starboard/stern, positioned to be dropped on any skiffs which approach the cruise ship.

You can see “vessel hardening tactics” by a security firm here.

Barb wire, water cannons and sonic devices may work against pirates, but I would be more concerned with Houthi rebel missiles while attempting to pass Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb . . .

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Photo credits: Pirates Attacking the Seabourn Spirit off the coast of Somalia – AP via Telegraph; Discovery cruise ship -Richard Snailham via Telegraph

The United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security issued another warning to U.S. tourists about the danger of sexual assault in Nassau , Bahamas yesterday.  The warning states:

Avoid Jet ski operators: Jet ski operators continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists. U.S. Embassy personnel are instructed not to use jet ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands, including Cabbage Beach and Cable Beach. We strongly recommend you also avoid patronizing jet ski rental operations.

The warning also advises tourists to drink responsibly due to the foreseeable risk of being drugged and Nassau Bahamas Crimethen sexually assaulted:

Stay in a group of friends who have your safety in mind when in clubs, bars, out walking in dimly-lit areas, or in a taxi at night. Visitors found alone or incapacitated have been victims of sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Watch your drink at all times. Intoxicated individuals may be targeted for drugging and sexual assault.

The warning is targeted to students traveling via cruise ship or air to the Bahamas for spring break to be on the alert for these dangers. 

We have reported many times on jet ski operators in the unregulated jet ski business in the Bahamas, who have raped tourists near Cable Beach or Paradise Island. Two years ago, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau states that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 tourists over the course of in 18 months.

We reported on four prior warnings about crime this year alone for Nassau, Bahamas by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau as well as by Canada.

In the past decade, there have been more crime warnings for Nassau, Bahamas than for all of the other Caribbean cruise ports combined. Nassau earned the title of the most dangerous cruise port in the world in 2014.

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

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.

Carnival Fantasy Loose RailingA follower of my blog sent me a video of a loose deck railing taken by a passenger yesterday on the Carnival Fantasy which is currently sailing from Mobile, Alabama to Cozumel, Mexico.

The video (bottom) was posted to Facebook and shows the passenger pointng out a railing with heavily rusted brackets (video image left). The video has a caption saying:

Carnival Cruise broken rail! Beware and look before you lean!!!! 12/17/17

Please share so people will look!

The narration includes the following:

So we are on a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean. . . I lean on the rail  . . . just came out of the food court . . . lean on the rail and find out that the rail was broken  . . it moved about this far (pointing) when I lean on it . . . scared me, I thought I was going overboard but thank God . . . this side  is still holding, this side is broke off  . . . you guys be wary with your kids . . . when you are on Carnival Cruise Lines, or any cruise line really, just check the rails . . . that could have been serious . . . wooh!  

I have not been on this cruise ship, but I believe that the passenger is referring to deck 8 (Atlantic Deck).

We recently posted an article about a spy camera & transmitter installed in a passenger cabin on this ship. So, the point is that you can’t take anything for granted when you cruise, including even whether the rails are maintained in good shape or they are so rusted to the point of being dangerous.

The passenger is a retired Air Force sergeant who lives in Alabama.  So, thank you for your service, and thank you for pointing out this hazard!

The Good Samaritan passenger indicated on his Facebook page that he was going to alert the crew of the dangerous condition of the railing and would provide an update . . . .

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Video credit: Facebook

 

Bloomberg published an article today titled Why the Cruise Industry Is Booming in the Middle East.

The lighthearted article casually mentions that passengers on the "fancy, all-inclusive Seabourn Encore were enjoying martinis and opera around the pool" off the coast of Somalia "where pirates occasionally hijack cargo ships" when an alarm sounded indicating that a small motorboat approached their cruise ship. "Onto the cruise ship climbed several burly security guards with cases of ‘conventional weapons,’ which would provide, as the captain explained, an added layer of protection for a potentially tricky passage."

The article states  that a week later, near Abu Dhabi, another alarm sounded, signaling the arrival ofMiddle East Cruise another boat. The small boat was stocked with tins of caviar and champagne for the cruise ship guests to enjoy "in the warm surf of a private beach."

The rest of the article didn’t mention the risk of encountering pirates, and there was no mention of the danger of terrorism. Instead, the article was filled with stories of wonderful exotic getaways into Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Muscat where, the articles says, luxury travelers from an Azamara cruise ship on an excursion ashore spent "a night in Louis Vuitton tents set up in a Bedouin community in the desert."  The publication also talks about visiting "opulent mosques and labyrinthine souks" and enjoying camel rides in the desert as part of the cultural immersion and authentic experiences of the Middle East.   

The article characterized the Middle East as a "goldmine" in the eyes of the cruise lines, given the lucrative excursions and the cruise lines’ ability to move their European fleets to the Middle East in winter.  

But the article misses the mark by ignoring the risk of cruise ship passengers being victims of terrorism.   

Several dozens of cruise passengers from cruise ships operated by MSC and Costa were slaughtered by terrorists visiting a museum in Tunis two years ago.   

In the last year, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen rebels attacked a naval ship from the United Arab Emirates and a frigate from U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia off the western coast of Yemen. Videos of the attacks show large explosions which were believed to be the result of a missile strike Cruise Red Sea Missle Attack Houhti Yemenand/or a suicide mission by another vessel.

The attacks occurred in the southern part of the Red Sea, north of the Bah Al-Mandab straits which is a pinch-point between the Red Sea, flanked by Saudi Arabia on the east and Egypt to the west, and the Gulf of Aden to the south. Cruise ships sailing to and from the Mediterranean and to or from the Indian Sea pass through these straits.

In the last few days, Shia rebels in Yemen have launched long range missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, illustrating the continuing dangers in that area of the world.  

Security guards with a few conventional weapons may be able to fend off pirates attempting to board a cruise ship trying to run the Bah Al-Mandab straits, but they will be useless if the Houthi rebels intentionally target a cruise ship sailing in the Red Sea, or mistakenly believe that a cruise ship is a U.S.-backed Saudi or UAE naval ship.

Considering the dangers, the intrigue of visiting the Middle East does not seem to be worth the risk.  

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Photo credits: Top – Bloomberg via Seaborn; bottom – Yemen’s pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station shows launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia’s King Khaled Airport. – Houthi Military Media Unit via Reuters and CBC.

 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. 

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).