Carnival SensationThe Jamaica Observer reported yesterday that three U.S. citizens did not return to the Carnival Sensation which docked in Ocho Rios, St, Ann on Wednesday. The newspaper identified them as Glen Triston, age 35, Tricia Tahecia Forrester, age 24, both of New York, and Clinton Hill, age 42, of North Carolina.

Reports are that all three passengers disembarked the Carnival cruise ship at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning with baggage which reportedly contained items for family members in Jamaica.

Loop Jamaica reports that the police in Jamaica "launched a massive search" for the three U.S. nationals. Comments to the article speculate that they may have met with foul play after departing the cruise ship, although there is no indication of this in the local newspapers. 

Last month, a state of emergency was declared in St. James Parish, Jamaica due to extensive violence and crime there, with the United States warning U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution while traveling to the popular destination of Montego Bay. St. James Parish covers Montego Bay, which has a cruise port and is a short drive away from the cruise ports in Falmouth and Ocho Rios. 

Over the last six years, there have been eleven cruise ship passengers who have temporarily "gone missing" in Jamaica, including these latest three people this week. The last eight cruise tourists have all later returned to the port where they disembarked or were later found (and, sometimes, arrested) in Jamaica. 

In July 2012, three passengers of one family from the Carnival Freedom went missing for a short while in Jamaica after disembarking the cruise ship in Ocho Rios.

In August 2012, a fifty year old U.S. citizen from the Carnival Freedom disappeared for a period of time after disembarking in Ocho Rios.

In January 2015, two U.S. passenger went missing after leaving the Carnival Victory in Falmouth Jamaica.

In April 2016, two U.S. passengers from Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas were reported missing after the cruise ship docked in Falmouth Jamaica.

All eight of these passengers eventually showed up or were located by the police in Jamaica. They all voluntarily over-stayed their legal status. It is against both Jamaican and U.S. law to fail to return to a cruise ship in the middle of a cruise.

As I mentioned before, Jamaica seems to be a favorite place for cruise passengers to "get lost" and later show up after what appears to be an extended vacation. Let’s hope that is true with these latest passengers.

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March 3, 2018 Update: Contact made with two of the three missing US nationals.

Photo credit: WikiEK at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

In Falmouth, Jamaica, the Port Authority of Jamaica is continuing to pursue dredging projects in order to permit the gigantic "mega liners," including Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class (sometimes called "Genesis-class") cruise ships to squeeze into the port, which was rebuilt in 2011. During the construction of the two new two piers, the port was originally dredged.    

Jamaica has a goal of boosting the numbers of cruise visitors, seemingly irrespective of the damage which dredging will cause to the environment around the port. At the urging of Miami-based cruise lines, the government of Jamaica intends to dredge the southern berth of the port at Falmouth this year. This will cause significant further destruction of the reefs around the port in order to allow two Oasis-class vessels to dock at the same time.

This is part of the plan recently touted by the Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness which Falmouth Jamaica Portfeatures further dredging the port of Falmouth, referred to alternatively in the Jamaican Gleaner as the "jewel of the Caribbean" or "the region’s number one destination" for cruise shipping.

Prime Minister Holness stated to the Jamiacan newspaper that the Falmouth pier ‘"was built in anticipation for not only the growing demands of the cruise industry, but also the fact that cruise ships were "getting bigger by the day." He was quoted as saying "it wasn’t that long ago when we had ships with a carrying capacity of say 2,000 being touted as the largest cruise ships in the world. Since then, we have seen a number of vessels earning that title. We have had Freedom of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and now, we have Harmony of the Seas, with its 2,747 staterooms, and 8,550 guests and staff on 16 decks."

The Prime Minister noted that it was an "excellent idea to have constructed this port. We can now host the mega liners and all the Oasis Class vessels."

Six years ago, in my article titled Royal Caribbean’s New Port in Falmouth, Jamaica – At What Cost to the Environment?, I cited the article of Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? by Michael Behar, who wrote that in Falmouth, Royal Caribbean oversaw the smashing of "a quarter-mile-wide opening in an offshore barrier reef. They dredged coral, both living and dead, as well as the rock substrate, and trucked it inland to a two-square-mile dump site — a clear-cut area on the outskirts of town that was once a thriving red mangrove swamp. Now all that’s left is 35 million cubic feet of pulverized coral and rubble. When I visit the site with Roland Haye, a Jamaican environmental activist, he tells me, ‘As a boy, I used to play Tarzan here and see crocodile. It was a winter home for great heron and swan.’ He points out broken conch shells, dismembered starfish, bits of sea sponge, and severed lobes of brain coral." 

In that article, I wrote that the removal of the natural reef exposes the shore to pounding of the waves from the adjacent bay.  "When I visited (back in 2012) , I observed that the road . . .  to Falmouth, previously protected from the pounding of the by the reef, was literally covered with water from the encroaching waves. The road was already eroding . . ."

Yesterday, a friend of mine in Montego Bay filmed a short video from his cell phone as he drove into Falmouth. The video shows the bay’s waters from the now destroyed reef system lapping over the deteriorating roadway into the port of Falmouth.   

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Photo credit: Falmouth Port (above) – Jim Walker

https://youtube.com/watch?v=a7gOaj5Sb6E%3Frel%3D0

Jamaica State Of EmergencyThe U.S. State Deparment issued a travel warning effective January 18, 2018 that U.S. citizens use exteme caution in traveling to certain locations in Jamaica, following a State of Emergency for St. James Parish, Jamaica which was declared by the government of Jamaica to counter the out-of-control criminal activity.

St. James Parish covers the popular travel destination of Montego Bay, which has a cruise port and is a short drive away from the cruise ports in Falmouth and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Numerous cruise excursions take cruise passengers to and through Montego Bay and surrounding areas.

The travel warning also applies to Kingston and Spanish Town in Jamaica

The State of Emergency permits Jamaican security forces within the borders of St. James Parish to "arbitrarily detain and deport suspicious persons, enter premises, and seize property without warrant." The U.S. Embassy in Jamaica states that U.S. visitors to Jamaica should "expect to encounter increased police and military presence, checkpoints, and searches of persons and vehicles within the borders of St. James Parish."

According to an article in Newsweek, the U.S. State Department warns that "violent crime, such as home invasions, armed robberies, and homicide, is common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, even at all-inclusive resorts. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents."

The U.K.’s  Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has warned Britons that a “major military operation” is taking place and that they should stay in their hotels. “You should follow local advice, including restrictions in selected areas. You should limit your movements outside of resorts in the area at this time, and exercise particular care if travelling at night. Travel to and from the airport or for excursions should be undertaken with organised tour operators, and transport should be arranged or provided by the resort hotels.”

Canada also warns its citizens that they need to "exercise a high degree of caution in Jamaica due to the high level of violent crime and the state of emergency in St James Parish."

Videos posted in several U.K. newspaper show military troops and extra police officers deployed in the Montego Bay area, engaged in traffic stops. The "major military operation" is underway as British tourists have been told to stay in their resorts due to the escalating crime wave. Warning residents and tourists of the deadly attacks, Prime minister Andrew Holness said "the level of criminal activity is of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety," according to the International Business Times.

Time writes that crimes in St. James Parish has reached a critical point, and crime in general in Jamica is a "persistent problem."

"In 2016, for example, the country of 2.9 million people saw 1,350 murders, 1,216 shootings, 449 aggravated assaults and 480 rapes, according to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The country is also notorious for “entrenched and widespread” corruption." The per capita murder rate in Jamaica is around 50 per 100,000, whereas the per capita rate in the U.S. is only around 4.5 per 100,000. Canada’s per capita murder rate is less than 2 per 100,000. 

In Jamaica’s resorts, beaches mask staggering bloodshed, the Toronto Sun explains that Jamaica has recently seen "unprecedented bloodshed" which has seen tourists murdered.  

Despite the upsurge in violence and the state of emergency, Jamaica’s tourism minister states that it is allegedly still safe to visit the country. Cruise lines are continuing to unload hundred of thousands of cruise passengers a month in the ports in Montego Bay, Falmouth and Ocho Rios, generating tens of millions of dollars a month in excursion fares for the U.S.-based cruise lines, as military vehicles rumble through the streets of Montego Bay (see video below).

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January 23, 2018 Update: Jamaica earns spot on the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World.

Photo credit: loopjamaica

https://youtube.com/watch?v=nB3Wf_TosWU%3Frel%3D0

Nowegian EsccapeYesterday, the Jamaican police reportedly seized a pound of cocaine and arrested a man at the cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica, according to the Jamaican Observer newspaper

The Observer reported that around 4:30 on Monday, January 15, 2018, "security checks were being conducted on passengers and crew returning to a cruise ship that was docked at the pier when the man was searched and illicit drugs allegedly found in his possession." The newspaper did not mention the man’s name nor specify whether he is a cruise passenger or a crew member. It identified him only as a a "St Lucian."

Falmouth is one of the ports in the Caribbean where several passengers and crew members have been caught trying to smuggle cocaine into Florida on cruise ships which called on Falmouth and oth ports Jamaica. In the last several years, drugs busts occurred involving crew members on the Allure of the Seas and passengers from the Freedom of the Seas.  In several incidents the newspaper in Jamaica did not identify the cruise ship or disclose whether the person arrested for smuggling was a cruise passenger or crew member. 

The Observer also did not identify the name of the cruise line or cruise ship. According to several sources, the only cruise ship in port in Falmouth on Monday was NCL’s Norwegian Escape. Last summer, three NCL crew members on the Escape were arrested in Belize for smuggling cocaine.

A number of NCL crew members have been arrested for smuggling cocaine on cruise ships which have returned to ports in Florida from the Caribbean.  In just the last three years, over twenty NCL crew members have been arrested on charges of drug smuggling, including NCL crew members involved in a Roatan, Honduras to Florida cocaine smuggling ring.   

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

Royal Caribbean and sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises are pulling some of their cruise ships from the port of Falmouth, Jamaica, according to the Jamaican Gleaner.

Yesterday, the Gleaner published an article titled Major Cruiselines Pull Out Of Falmouth Port, Financial Fallout Expected. The article is admittedly confusing. It quotes Falmouth’s mayor, Colin Gager, referring to three ships, the "Allure of the Seas," and two unnamed ships from Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. It seems that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises changed the itineraries of three cruise ships from Falmouth at sometime in the future. 

It does Falmouth Jamaica Royal Caribbeannot appear that these cruise lines are pulling all of their ships from this port. The Royal Caribbean website still lists the Independence, Liberty, Oasis, Allure, and Harmony of the Seas sailing to Falmouth in 2017 and 2018 and the Adventure of the Seas calling on Falmouth in late 2018 and 2019. 

The article cites three reason expressed by the Falmouth mayor for the disruption of arrivals at the port: (1) "visitor harassment," (2) the "conduct of tour bus operators," and (3) "craft vendors leaving much to be desired."

Many cruise passengers have complained about being harassed in Falmouth, as well as other ports in Jamaica such as Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, by vendors and hair-braiders over the years. There have been many discussions between Royal Caribbean and Jamaican tourism officials about the cruise visitors’ complaints of harassment. 

Local tour bus operators have been a problem with safely taking cruise passengers from the port to excursions. Last year over a dozen passengers were injured in a crash of a tour bus where the driver was reportedly driving erratically. The accident killed one Royal Caribbean passenger who was aboard the tour bus.

Royal Caribbean invested heavily in developing the historic port, which we have reported on several times. Local newspapers are reporting on promises by Royal Caribbean and the local port authority to complete a large market with over 200 stalls, a transportation center in the middle of town, and an artisan village.

Royal Caribbean and the Port Authority of Jamaica are planning to further dredge the port to make room to permit Falmouth to permit two cruise ships which are the size of the Allure of the Seas (or the Oasis or the Harmony) to be in port at the same time. There have been reports in the local press that there is opposition to the dredging by local citizens of Jamaica. Last month, the Gleaner reported on calls for the local citizens to resist the dredging. It mentioned that a pastor in Trelawny, the Reverend Devere Nugent of the William Knibb Baptist Church, was "calling on the people and churches in the parish to resist the plan to do further dredging of the sea, which is a proposal to bring more cruise ships to the resort town."

Falmouth JamaicaReverend Nugent said "I am calling on the churches and people to establish baskets of resistance. We must resist the further dredging of the sea. Let us no longer sit back and be exploited.The people who are planning to do further dredging are doing so for their own profit, none of which stays in Falmouth. They don’t live here, they don’t shop here, and they don’t join any church or civic organization here. It is broad-based exploitation."

We have reported on Royal Caribbean exploitation of Falmouth and the destruction of the local habitat there before. 

The question arises whether Royal Caribbean is pulling some of its ships from Falmouth to make a point with those resisting the cruise line’s plans for the port.

Ironically, the Jamaican minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, boasted a couple of months ago in the Jamaican Observer that Falmouth was hosting many of the largest cruise ships in the world and would soon be the region’s "number one cruise destination."

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Photo credit: Jim Walker

The Jamaica Gleaner reports that Royal Caribbean and it’s subsidiary, Falmouth Jamaica Land Company, are required to disclose their contractual arrangements with the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) to build Falmouth Port because they were a day late in filing a notice of appeal.

An environmental watchdog group, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), had previously requested copies of the contracts and other documents between Royal Caribbean / Falmouth Jamaica Land Company and the PAJ which had formed a joint venture to develop the Port of Falmouth in Trelawny. The controversial project was spearheaded by Royal Caribbean and involved the dredging and filling of the old port of Falmouth. It turned out, as many environmentalists feared, to be a disaster to the local environment of Falmouth.  Millions of cubic feet of living coral reefs were pulverized and then dumped on dozens of acres of native mangrove fields to build a port capable of accommodating the largest cruise ships in the world, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas.  

The finished port left many local residents disappointed due to the fact that most passengers either did not leave the walled port facility and invest much in the local economy or were whisked away Falmouth Jamaica Royal Caribbeanfrom Falmouth in buses to shore excursion destinations sold by the cruise line.      

Jamaica spent a small fortune for the port, well over $150,000,000. Royal Caribbean promised that it would pursue plans of developing 125,000 sq. ft. of leasable building space, including ground floor retail, restaurant space, a boutique hotel, residential units, and a shopping center for the local community, all linked to the original town by tram-cars, to be built by the cruise line in collaboration with the Port Authority of Jamaica.  

According to the Jamaica Gleaner, Royal Caribbean reportedly guaranteed $8 million in annual fees to the PAJ, based on a formula of bringing a minimum of 667,000 passengers annually or paying the shortfall, for a ten year period. The cruise line also reportedly promised the PAJ, which owns the land on which the pier is built, an annual ground rent of approximately $3 million. There was also talk about hundreds of new jobs created in the port project, including "construction workers, drivers, shop workers, sales clerks, cooks, bartenders and wait staff, security guards, maintenance staff, information and walking tour guides, entertainers, artisans and taxi drivers."

The disclosure of the contracts and other documents between Royal Caribbean and the PAJ should shed light on the true nature and details of the arrangements between the Miami-based cruise line and the Jamaican port authority. However, the port authority refused to reveal the documents to the environmental trust. The environment trust appealed to an Access to Information Appeal Tribunal, which ruled in its favor. 

Royal Caribbean sought permission to appeal the ruling of the Access to Information Appeal Tribunal, which was granted on July 7, 2015 by the Supreme Court. Royal Caribbean then filed its appeal notice, with an Appeal Tribunal, on July 22, fifteen days later.

But the Appeal Tribunal questioned whether Royal Caribbean had filed its appeal outside of the court’s 14 day filing requirement and sought an order striking Royal Caribbean’s appeal. Royal Caribbean argued that the date the order was granted should not be counted in the 14-day period, but this argument was rejected. 

The ruling striking Royal Caribbean’s appeal was upheld by the Appellate Court which concluded that the cruise line’s appellate forms were filed one day late using a 14 day period beginning on the date of the order requiring the documents to be disclosed.

Royal Caribbean can apply to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal to the Privy Council, Jamaica’s final court of appeal.

As maters now stand, the Jamaica Environment Trust expects to finally obtain a copy of the lease agreement and the pier usage agreement from the Port Authority.

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

Falmouth Jamica Cruise PortThe Jamaican Observer reports that police arrested a man from Ocho Rios at the cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica last Tuesday (June 28th) when he attempted to board an unidentified cruise ship. 

The newspaper says that the man was arrested with two packages, containing five pounds of cocaine, found in a false compartment of his laptop bag.

Police say the street value of the substance is estimated to be J$7.5 million or around US$60,0000.

The newspaper identifies the man as Dwayne Shirley of Great Pond, Ocho Rios, St Ann.

There is no indication whether the man was a cruise passenger or a crew member. 

Last week we reported that four U.S. cruise passengers were arrested in Port Canaveral after smuggling cocaine from Jamaica during a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas through this port. 

Two Royal Caribbean crew members were also arrested in April for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral. 

Photo Credit: Falmouth, merchants near entrance to cruise terminal – Jim Walker

WFTV-9 (ABC) reports that four women were arrested on charges of smuggling cocaine weighing a little over 6.5 kilograms at Port Canaveral last month after taking a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas.  

The local ABC news station identified Lakisha Abney, Shawnta Aiken, Ciera Bryant and Shenique Milbourne as cruise passengers who departed on a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise last month. When the Royal Caribbean cruise ship arrived back at Port Canaveral on May 15, U.S. Customs officials reportedly Falmouth Jamaica Freedom of the Seasdiscovered five vacuum sealed packages of cocaine in Ms. Bryant’ bra and girdle. 

The Customs officials searched Ms. Bryant after noticing that her voice and hands were shaking and she was not making eye contact. The officials then searched Ms. Abney, Ms. Aiken and Ms. Milbourne who Ms. Bryant identified as her traveling companions. The officials reportedly found several vacuum-sealed packages containing cocaine in each of the women’s bras and girdles.

The four women from the Washington D.C. and Maryland area are seen on Facebook posing for what appears to be a fun cruise.

The cruise in question called on Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica, George Town Grand Cayman and Cozumel Mexico. WPTV said that "while in Jamaica, the women met a man who gave them the cocaine and the bras and girdle to hide the drugs in." 

In April, WFTV reported that two Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral.

October 20, 2016 Update: One of the four women who pleaded guilty was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Photo credit: Shawnta Aiken Facebook page.

Story and video credit: WFTV-8 (ABC) 

December 15, 2016 Update: A fifth woman has been implicated in the drug smuggling.

The Jamaica Observer reported today that the police in Jamaica are seeking the public’s assistance in locating two cruise ship passengers who went missing yesterday.

The newspaper identified U.S. citizens, 33-year-old Hayden Gerson and 32-year-old Alisha Frank. These two Americans were passengers on a unidentified cruise ship which docked in Falmouth Jamaica. (Readers have quickly told me that only the Oasis of the Seas was in port that day).

The Observer says that the passengers left the cruise ship around 9:30 in the morning and apparently intended to "make a trip to Montego Bay, St James; they have not been seen or heard from since." 

Cruise Missing in JamaicaOver the last four years, there have been many cruise ship passengers who have gone missing, and later appeared unharmed, in Jamaica.  

In July 2012, three passengers of one family from the Carnival Freedom went missing for a short while in Jamaica after disembarking the cruise ship in Ocho Rios.

In August 2012, a fifty year old U.S. citizen disappeared for a period of time after disembarking from the Carnival Freedom in Ocho Rios. 

In January 2015, two U.S. passenger went missing after leaving the Carnival Victory in Falmouth Jamaica.

All six of the passengers eventually showed up or were located in Jamaica. They all voluntarily over-stayed their legal status. It is against both Jamaican and U.S. law to fail to return to a cruise ship in the middle of a cruise.

As I mentioned in the last article, Jamaica seems to be a favorite place for cruise passengers to "get lost" and later show up after what appears to be an extended vacation. Let’s hope that is true with the latest passengers.

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Photo credit: Carnival scans via Jamaica Observer

April 28 2016 Update: The New York Daily News, Inquisitr and the U.K.’s Daily Mail cover the story with a more ominous tone.

NBC 7 San Diego: the "missing" cruise couple in Jamaica has checked in and is fine says mother. 

May 4 2016:  The "other side of the story" from one of the "missing passengers" – Cruise Out Of Control: Part I and Cruise Out Of Control: Part II.

The Jamaica Observer reports that yesterday the police in Ocho Rios arrested three crew members aboard an unidentified cruise ship docked at the Ocho Rios Pier with a large quantity of cocaine hidden under their clothes. 

The three men were reportedly from St. Vincent. The newspaper identified the men, Lloyd Thomas (40 years old), Dasrick Moore (age 24) and Kishorn Simon (age 25). 

The newspaper says that the police stopped the three crew members when they were in the process of boarding the cruise ship. All three men reportedly had cocaine hidden in their underwear.

The combined weight of the cocaine reportedly is approximately five pounds. 

Ten days ago, a NCL crew member from St. Vincent, who worked aboard the Norwegian Sun, was sentenced to ten years in prison after he was caught smuggling cocaine from Roatan to Tampa along with five other crew members. 

We have not yet determined which cruise ships the three crew members were working on.