Two cruise passengers were involved in a zip lining accident during a stop in Roatan, Honduras on July 5, 2018.

La Prensa newspaper in Honduras reports that a couple who arrived in Roatan on a cruise ship last Thursday collided with one another while on a zip line.

The newspaper in Honduras identified the passengers as Egael Fishman and Shif Fanken, reportedly both citizens of Israel. Mr. Fishman was killed and Ms. Fanken was seriously injured during the accident.

Radio America Honduras first tweeted about the accident on July 5, 2018 and published photographs Zip Line Accident Rotan(right) of Mr. Fishman and Ms. Fanken being taken from the scene of the accident. Ms Fanken was reportedly taken to the Wood Medical Center in Coxen Hole, and was subsequently flown via air ambulance back to the U.S.  A newspaper in Israel states that Mr. Fishman died from his injuries.

The cruise ships in Roatan on July 5, 2018 included Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and Carnival’s Carnival Miracle and Carnival Dream. There may have been other cruise ships there.

10 years ago, a 44 year-old woman from NCL’s Norwegian Spirit died when a faulty cable snapped while she was zip-lining in Roatan, causing her to fall 65 feet.

Nearly three years ago, a woman from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship visiting Roatan was seriously injured during a zip line excursion which was advertised and marketed by the cruise line on its website.

BTNews states that the couple was recently married and took a cruise for their honeymoon.

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July 8, 2018 Update:  We have learned that the guests were from Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. The zip lining excursion was sold by the cruise line as the “Extreme Caribe Zip Line Tour” (RCCL code RT86). Royal Caribbean represents in its shore excursion guide that “we have carefully selected the finest excursion at each port” to deliver the “highest-quality, handpicked tours” with the “top tour operators.”

At the time of the accident, it reportedly was raining very hard and the excursion employees were not equipped with walkie-talkies in order to communicate.

July 9, 2018 Update: Blame the victims? According to the Washington Post, the tourism people in Honduras take a shot a the honeymoon couple: “the Honduran Institute of Tourism told Radio America it regretted the accident, saying it was due to ‘poor operation’ on behalf of the couple. The institute’s director, Emilio Silvestri, told Radio America that the company in charge of the zip line took all appropriate security measures.”

Photograph credit: La Prensa via Radio America Honduras

Norwegian Escape7 News Belize reports that three NCL crew members were arrested in Belize for possession of two kilos of cocaine which was picked up in Roatan and taken on an unidentified NCL cruise ship to the private destination of Harvest Caye, apparently with the intention of being smuggled into the U.S.  The news stations says that:

The police have not released any official information, but 7News has learned that 3 employees of Norwegian Cruise Lines were charged with drug trafficking for allegedly being in possession of two kilos of cocaine on a cruise ship. Our information is that the 3 men are now arrested and charged, and they are at the Belize Central Prison.

Reports are that the men, 2 nationals of St. Lucia and 1 from St. Vincent, arrived on last Tuesday, on an NCL ship which made a port of call at the Harvest Caye Island getaway. The men worked on the Ship. Reports say that the two kilos may have been picked up in Roatan.

The men were arrested, and charged, and they were arraigned in Magistrate’s Court. They are now at the Belize Central Prison.

Smuggling cocaine is big business on the high seas. Two years ago, five NCL crew members on the Norwegian Sun were arrested in Tampa when the cruise ship returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up the drugs. The Tampa Bay Times reported that they worked for NCL as utility workers in the Norwegian Sun’s galley.

A few months later, a NCL crew member employed aboard the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship was arrested when he attempted to smuggle cocaine aboard the ship when it was docked in Roatan.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has busted a cocaine smuggling operation where NCL crew members smuggled cocaine from Honduras to New Orleans aboard NCL’s Norwegian Dawn cruise ship.

The article did not identify the NCL cruise ship involved in this latest smuggling caper, although it is believed to be the Norwegian Escape.

Costa and Princess crew members were recently arrested in cocaine smuggling schemes using cruise ships.

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June 21, 2017 Update: The newspaper in Belize identified the NCL crew members: Derson Frank, from St. Vincent; Renaldo Roberts, also from St. Vincent; and Jamal Celise of St. Lucia.

Photo credit: Arno Redenius – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

Osland Princess Crew MembersCanadian news stations have identified the three crew members from the Island Princess who were arrested last week for smuggling drugs into Vancouver, as we mentioned in a prior article

CTV News Vancouver identified three Nicaraguan crew members, Willard Murray Brooks (age 28), Emil Hebbert Garth (age 26) and Jason West Carter, (age 32) who were recruited by a Colombian drug cartel to smuggle 10 kilograms of cocaine onto the Island Princess when it docked in Cartagena. The Princess cruise ship later called on Vancouver on May 11th after sailing to Panama and, later, to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Once the  ship docked in Vancouver, CTV reports that the three crew members smuggled five kilograms of cocaine to a shore-side food court where an unidentified man met them and later paid US$30,000 for the drugs. The men reportedly tucked the cash into their underwear before heading back to the cruise ship. Canadian Border Services found the undeclared cash when the drug mules went through screening. A Vancouver police canine unit and the Canadian Border Services then searched the men’s cabins where they reportedly located an additional amount of cocaine.

The men did not dispute the charges. CTV reports the dcrew members "also said they did not fear a return to their home country of Nicaragua, where they are expected to be flown within seven days. CBSA will hold Princess Cruise Lines responsible for the travel costs."

No explanation was provided by CTV why the drug smugglers did not face jail time in Canada. It is doubtful that the three crew members will face any charges once they have been returned home.  

A one-way ticket home to Nicargua for the crew members to be paid by Princess Cruises is hardly a deterrent to international drug smuggling.

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Video and photo credit: CTV Canada Vancouver

 

Roatan Honduras Carnival CruiseI received the following four messages from passengers on the Carnival Magic who all reported that several people apparently did not return to the Carnival ship in Roatan at the end of last week. The Magic reportedly used its spot lights to shine into the beach and surrounding areas for the passengers who went ashore.     

  • "Were just back from Carnival Magic. Our ship was docked in front of Carnival Breeze. In Roatan we (both ships) didn’t leave port until 10:00 p.m. We were supposed to leave at 6:00 p.m. Our ship had their ships spot light in Mahogany Bay waters looking for someone or something. Flash lights all over the beach area and island area in the port by people looking for something or someone. We asked several security people and crew on board afterwards, and no one would tell us what happened and said they either didn’t know or can’t talk about it. That night the Captain indicated they were waiting for clearance from the Honduran officials. We’ve never had to wait for clearance on the 7 other times we’ve been there, especially too because they own the port area."
  • "Hello. I recently returned from a cruise on Carnival Magic. On the 8th we were delayed nearly six hours in Roatan. None of the employees would tell us why. Also we were blocking the Carnival Breeze so they too were delayed. Around the time we were suppose to debark they announced the names of four people who had yet to board. Everyone on both cruises are dying to know what the cause of this massive delay was." 
  • "Aboard Carnival Magic, and four passengers did not return to ship last night in Roatan. We watched searchers combing through the port area, boats with spotlights, and the ship using the big searchlight. Magic and Breeze were delayed by about five hours in their departures. Never saw anyone brought back aboard. Everyone was very tight lipped. Breeze was berthed behind us so they could not leave till we did. They called the names repeatedly onboard, and we watched them methodically searching the whole port area and surrounding waters. I hope they were just laid up drunk somewhere, but someone suggested that maybe it was an intentional disappearance." 
  • I would like to know where I can find out what really happened in Honduras March 8th when the Carnival Magic was at port until 10:30 p.m. looking for 4 missing passengers.

There is no indication that the passengers met with foul play of any kind, although it appears unusual for this to occur.

In the past several years, there have been several reports of passengers "disappearing" in cruise ports from time to time, primarily in Jamaica, although these instances have been intentional in nature.  The passengers inevitably were "found" and had apparently taken an extended vacation.  

Does anyone have reliable information regarding what, if anything, happened in Roatan last week? 

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Photo credit: Roatan booth at Seatrade Miami 2014 – Jim Walker 

The U.S. State Department yesterday updated its travel advisory to Honduras, stating that the level of kidnapping, crime, and violence in Honduras remains “critically high.” (this warning supersedes the last warning in October 2015).

The warning states that “criminal activity is a serious problem throughout the country and the Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly respond to, investigate, and prosecute cases. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras.”

Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world (it’s homicide rate was 60 per 100,000 in 2015; in comparison, the U.S. rate is around 4.5 per 100,000). The warning further states that the U.S. Embassy recorded 37 murders of U.S. citizens since 2011, with three recorded since January 2016.

Cruise Roatan

Many tourist-dependent businesses and U.S. and Canadian expatriates on Roatan claim that the island is generally safe. The hotels, resorts, bars and dive-shops advertise Roatan as an idyllic, tropical, get-a-way vacation paradise. The State Department warning acknowledges that the islands are generally safer than the mainland of Honduras, but the crime is still higher than what most U.S. passengers would face at home.  The warning contains specific warning about Roatan:

“Roatan & Bay Islands: Roatan and the Bay Islands experience lower crime rates than the Honduran mainland. While the national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur. You should exercise caution, especially at night. If staying at a hotel resort, book tours and sightseeing through the resort or reputable tour companies. Coxen Hole on the island of Roatan should be avoided after dark.

If you are on a shore excursion from a cruise ship, take care to book only with reputable tour companies during your stopover in Honduras. The port agencies at Mahogany Bay and Towne Center have worked to improve taxi service to and from the ports.”

The warning’s refers to 2014 because a NCL crew member was shot and killed near the port that year. The Filipino crew member worked on the Norwegian Pearl. Previously in 2014, a number of tourists, including a mother and her two boys from a Royal Caribbean ship, were robbed at gunpoint while taking a private trip to the beach. Earlier in 2014, a family in a rental car with their three children vacationing on a Carnival cruise ship stopping in Roatan were shot at and robbed.

One of the problems with Honduras is it is a key player in the international drug trade. The warning explains that “transnational criminal organizations conduct narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout the country and use violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out criminal activity.”

Roatan has long been considered one of Honduras’ “narco-islands.”

There have been several instances where crew members from Honduras have been arrested trying to smuggle drugs on cruise ships, like this arrest in Roatan of a NCL crew member from the Norwegian Dream last year. Last year also saw five NCL galley workers from the Norwegian Sun arrested in Tampa when the cruise returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up cocaine. In 2014, police officers in Brazil arrested several Honduran crew members after finding 333 bags of cocaine weighing 100 pounds on the M/S Empress, owned by Royal Caribbean and operated at the time by the Royal Caribbean brand Pullmantur.

Roatan has been home to a notorious list of major drug intermediaries who launder money by purchasing properties on the island. Members of the “Los Cachiros“ drug trafficking ring were arrested and numerous properties in Roatan were seized several years ago.  In 2014, a drug trafficker with connections to Colombia, Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, alias “El Negro, was arrested and millions of dollars in bank accounts and numerous of his properties in Roatan were seized.   Earlier this year, Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo’s’ “Honduras henchman” Franco “The Wizard” Daniel Lombardi, the financial operator of the Sinaloa Cartel in Honduras, was arrested and many of his properties in Roatan were seized.

The January 2014 New York Times article Security Concerns on a Honduran Island indicates that the U.S. State Department has warned since at least December 2013 that the “level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high.”

If you travel or cruise to Roatan, the Times’ article suggests visitors:

  • not to walk alone on the stretch of beach between West Bay and West End;
  • avoid unpaved roads to the beach;
  • avoid Coxen Hole after dark; and
  • stick to the island’s main road unless you’re with a group.

Photo credit: Jim Walker

Roatan HondurasAlthough crime in the country of Honduras has declined in the past two years, the U.S. Department of State continues to warn that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains "critically high,"

The State Department website warns that:

"Crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly respond to, investigate, and prosecute cases. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

The State Department says that the country’s murder rate has decreased to 66 per 100,000 in 2014, down from its peak of 86.5 per 100,000 in 2011.  The murder rate so far this year is less than last year, although it is far more than the murder rate in the U.S. which is around 4.5 per 100,000. 

The warning for Roatan says that crime there and in the Bay Islands is lower than the Honduras mainland. There were efforts last year to improve tourism security.  However, "as on the mainland, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur, and rates are still high by international standards."  

"If you are traveling on a cruise ship, you should take safety precautions, avoid unfamiliar areas, and take care to book only with reputable tour companies during your stopover in Honduras."

The State Department indicates that "the vast majority of cruise line passengers in Honduras experience no problems, but incidents of armed robbery and carjacking have been reported.

We have written many article about crime in Roatan after the murder of a NCL crew member in 2014 as well as the robbery of cruise passengers and murder of local citizens.

The last critical crime warning for Honduras was issued in May 2015.

Photo Credit: Westbrowncanada Creative 3.0 Wikipedia

Norwegian DawnA NCL crew member employed aboard the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship was arrested yesterday when he attempted to smuggle cocaine aboard the ship when it was docked in Roatan, according to the Teledifusora Insular television station.

The television stations reports that the NCL ship employee, identified as Keneth Antonio Salas Taylor (age 35), a Nicaraguan galley worker, tired to board the Dawn with a package of cocaine hidden under his clothes.  The ship’s security discovered the drugs and reported the incident to the national police, who arrested the crew member. 

Last month, five NCL crew members on the Norwegian Sun were arrested in Tampa when the cruise ship returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up the cocaine (seven kilos). Like the instant crew member arrested, these men were galley workers.  

You can read about that drug bust here.

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Photo Credit: Top Fletcher6 via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0; Bottom Teledifusora Insular.

 Drug Bust Roatan Honduras

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 

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. 

On December 3, 2014, two teenagers and two young men reportedly went hunting iguanas in the Bay Islands (Roatan) and never returned home.   

A local television station in Roatan identified them as Cristian Leiva (age 15), Yeison Mejía (age 17), Marlon Reynaldo Lazar Melendez (age 24) and Luis Alberto Perez Chirinos (age 27). The names in the newspaper below are apparently incorrect.

Local police, friends and families of the missing together with local citizens and expatriate residents initiated searches over the course of the last week. A cell phone without a memory card and a shirt of one of the boys were reportedly initially found.

Yesterday the bodies of the boys and young men were found, apparently murdered. Some people say the bodies were located in Mangrove Bight (Flowers Bay) in Roatan. You can read accounts here.

Teleprensa Noticiero reports that two suspects were arrested. 

2014 has been a violent and tragic year in Roatan. 

Roatan Honduras

Photo Credit: Teledifusora Insular Facebook Page

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