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

WPTV – 5 in West Palm Beach has an interesting article and video this morning about a U.S. soldier who was denied boarding on a cruise ship to the Bahamas by Celebration cruise line because he had only military I.D. with him.

The story involves Jupiter Florida mom Melissa Fontane who booked the cruise in celebration of her son, who serves with the 101st Airborne Division, returning to the U.S. on leave from service in Afghanistan.  Before she purchased the cruise, she knew that her son did not have a passport nor did he have possession of his birth certificate.  She asked if it was okay for him to use his military I.D. 

"No problem!" the cruise line agent said.

What Ms. Fontane did not know, nor did the cruise line reveal, was that the Department of Homeland Security changed its policies and no longer permitted military I.D. to board a cruise ship.

As WPTV – 5 explains, not only did Celebration block soldier Fontane from boarding, but the cruise line refused to honor "Celebration’s protection plan" which Ms. Fontane paid extra for just in case she had to cancel for any reason.  Celebration referred to the "fine print" drafted by their lawyers in the cruise ticket stating: ‘no refunds or changes are allowed if you’re denied boarding due to failure to provide proper documents.’ 

When Ms. Fontane tried to dispute the charges with her credit card company, Celebration blocked that move too, arguing that:  ‘the guests were denied boarding due to failure to provide proper immigration documents. The booking, was cancelled, and charged the full penalty.’

Ms. Fontane tried to contact the Celebration executives but was given only the email of a low level customer care representative who completely ignored her. 

Justifiably frustrated, she asked: "he can serve in Afghanistan, fly through different countries with his military I.D., but to go to the Bahamas on a cruise line is not acceptable?"

So what did Ms. Fontane do at this point?  Did she hire a lawyer to fight the dastardly cruise line?  No, that would not have make much of a difference in a case like this.  Cruise lines like this are equally skilled at ignoring lawyers too.

She did something much smarter – she contacted the media. 

When a local television station called Celebration and said it was airing an investigation, the cruise line suddenly changed its tune.  Its all a big mistake the cruise line explained.  Ms. Fontane received a full refund plus free cruises to be used when her son returns from overseas.  The foreign incorporated and foreign flagged cruise line was suddenly full of American pride and patriotism, announcing: 

"The President of Celebration spent 26 years in the military. We appreciate everything the brave men and women of the military do for our country . . . "

Ah, a happy ending to the story!  Now if we can only get Celebration to begin paying U.S. taxes . . .

 

 

Video credit:  WPTV Channel 5 West Palm Beach  (Shannon Cake reporting)