Three cruise visitors to Antigua, two from an unidentified MSC cruise ship and one from the P&O Brittania, were recently attacked and robbed in St. John’s in separate crimes according to the Antigua Observer.

The two crimes were violent.

The local police arrested two men, 20-year-old Joel Richards and 19-year-old Anderson Garcia, who are accused of aggravated robbery on February 1st of French visitors Jacques Colbert and Christiane Marcelle Drouth who were visiting from an unidentified MSC cruise ship.

The newspaper states that around 11 a.m. on February 1st, the couple were sightseeing nearby a tower when they were attacked and robbed by two men.  The attackers reportedly wrestled a handbag from the 62-year-old woman and stabbed her 70-year-old companion in the abdomen, before running off.

The newspaper indicates that the local police responded and, after waiting for an ambulance, they transported the injured man to the hospital, where he was admitted and treated.

A second crime occurred a few days earlier when a U.K. national was beaten and robbed. The victim is Michael Maycock, who arrived on P&O’s cruise ship Brittania on January 28th.

Mr. Maycock was reportedly sightseeing around midday at the St John’s Cathedral in the city when a man attacked him with a piece of wood. The man beat him with the object, pushed him to the ground and took away his wallet which contained US $100 and debit cards.

I named Antigua as the seventh most dangerous cruise destination in the world several years ago after several cruise passengers were robbed and a young woman visiting the island from Star Clippers was murdered. I wrote at the time:

“. . . like other beautiful but impoverished islands in the Caribbean, Antigua seems like paradise but it has seen more than its share of tragedies. The murder of a young woman during a cruise for her sister’s wedding led to the cruise company dropping the island as a port of call, but it quickly returned.”

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Photo credit: Antigua Global Ports Holding Plc.

The Minister of Tourism (MOT) for the Bahamas yesterday denied claims recently made in a travel agent’s YouTube video that Nassau is a dangerous port for cruise passengers, according to a newspaper article in the Bahamas titled MOT refutes claims made in YouTube video about Nassau port.

The YouTube video in question, styled “the 10 most dangerous ports and how cruise lines are solving the problem,” was posted about a week ago on a popular YourTube channel, operated by a Canadian with an interest in cruising, named “Travelling With Bruce.” The YouTube page discusses “cruise ship news and trends” and live streams at 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday.

The video claims that Nassau is the most dangerous destination in the world for cruise ship passengers.

The Bahamian MOT released a statement  that it “maintains an active dialogue with cruise lines as both parties look to navigate a mutually beneficial relationship.” This follows a dispute which arose a month ago when Royal Caribbean was warning passengers on its cruise ships of the high rate of crime in Nassau.  The Crew Center website, in an article titled Royal Caribbean Issues Letter Warning Cruise Passengers of Crime in Nassau, reported that Royal Caribbean passengers on the Allure of the Seas received a letter signed by the vessel’s master, stating in part:

“We feel it is important to make our guests aware that Nassau has been experiencing an increase in crime. Non-violent crimes, such as theft of personal items, are the most common types of crimes being committed. It is important to note that thousands of visitors routinely travel to Nassau without incident. However, visitors to Nassau, like visitors to all major foreign cities in the world today, need to be mindful of their personal safety.”

The popular Cruise Radio blog then covered the issue in Cruise Line Issues Warning About The Bahamas. This article got the attention of the Bahamas Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar who claimed that he was “blindsided” by the Royal Caribbean warning regarding Nassau.

A newspaper in Nassau, the Tribune, then covered the tourism minister’s denials that Nassau has a problem with crime in which he stated: “I don’t know of any major or significant crime happening to a cruise passenger in quite some time. . . I don’t know about petty crime, but in my humble opinion Nassau is as safe as any other city.”

Other newspapers then carried the news that Royal Caribbean had issued a crime warning for Nassau, Bahamas which seemed to motivate the minster to voice his complaints to Royal Caribbean. The cruise line then rescinded its warning about crime in Nassau, even though it was a watered down version of the official U.S. warning issued by the state department, nearly a year earlier, which urged visitors to 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 . . .  Jet-ski operators are known to commit sexual assaults against tourists, including minors. . . ”

Canada also warned tourists to exercise a high degree of caution in Nassau in its own advisory on December 20, 2018. Like the U.S. warning, Canada listed armed robberies, burglaries, purse snatchings, theft, fraud and sexual assaults as the most common crimes against travelers.

According to the Tribune in its article Royal Backdown Over Crime Alert, Royal Caribbean agreed to replace the cruise line warning “effective immediately” with a “generalised warning to Royal Caribbean passengers that does not mention Nassau by name and could be taken as referring to any of its ports of call.”

Fort Lauderdale’s Sun-Sentinel reported that Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Tracy Quan verified that the cruise line agreed to issue only a generic warning about Nassau stating that it is no different than any other city.

But the dispute between the Bahamas and Royal Caribbean last past month escalated to accusations made by the Tribune newspaper in Nassau that it is more dangerous to cruise on ships operated by a Miami-based cruise line than it is to vacation in Nassau.

Last month, the Tribune focused on the statistics regarding crimes on cruise ships which are maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation. In an article titled Sexual Assaults The Most Reported Criminal Activity On Cruise Ships Making Calls To The United States, the Tribune newspaper concluded that “allegation of sexual assault remain the most reported criminal activity on board cruise ships making calls to the United States . . .  For the past three years, alleged incidents of sexual assault represented more than 60 percent of criminal activity reported by vessels under the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA). This trend follows for major cruise lines with routes to The Bahamas, like Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean. In 2017, 76 percent of reported crimes on board Carnival vessels were for sexual assault; as was 68 percent of crime reported on board Royal Caribbean vessels.”

The irony of the latest controversy about the high crime rate in Nassau is that Travelling with Bruce’s 10 most dangerous cruise ports” is exactly the exact same top ten list which I published in 2014Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World. I selected Nassau, Bahamas as the most dangerous cruise destination in the world, followed by Roatan (Honduras), Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, St. Kitts-Nevis, Antiqua, Unites States Virgin Islands, El Salvador and St. Lucia. Travelling with Bruce’s next nine dangerous ports are also identical in order.

Five years ago, the Bahamian press extensively covered Nassau being named as the port dangerous cruise port in the world.

If I were to prepare another top-10-dangerous-cruise-ports list today, I would probably include Jamaica as well.

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Video: Travelling with Bruce

 

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 

Canada recently issued a new crime advisory for the Bahamas, warning its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when traveling there due to high rates of crime, including a reported increase of sexual assaults against tourists.

Canada’s website advisory was updated last week to state that sexual assaults occur regularly, primarily in New Providence (Nassau) and on Grand Bahama (Freeport):

“Crime, including violent crime, occurs mainly on the islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama. There has been an increase in muggings, armed robberies, home invasions and sexual assault targeting tourists in the cities of Nassau and Freeport. Incidents of robbery take place in cruise ship Nassau Bahamas Cruise Terminalterminals and in and around popular resort areas, even in daylight hours. If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist. Avoid non-tourist neighbourhoods in downtown Nassau, especially at night, where the crime accounts for much of Bahamas’ high murder rate.

Sexual assault occurs frequently, particularly near hotels, in hotel rooms, in casinos, on cruise ships and on the beach. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, do not consume any drugs and don’t accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers. Due to incidents of sexual assault, it is recommended to be wary when embarking on jet-ski rides with licensed or unlicensed operators.”

Two weeks ago, we wrote about the U.S. warning to its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution while traveling to the Bahamas.

The Nassau Guardian covered the new advisory for Canadian tourists. The nation’s Tourism Minister downplayed the crime advisory during an interview with the Tribune newspaper, saying that “when I go to London, when I go to Paris, when I go to New York, I probably have just the same likelihood of being a victim of crime.”  As I have said before, this is a common although misleading argument. The per capita murder and rape rates in the Bahamas is substantially higher than the per capita rate in the majority of U.S. and European cities. 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.

Canada has issued critical crime report for the Bahamas several times in the last several years.

We have also written about Canadians residents and citizens becoming victims of horrific violent crimes in the Bahamas. You can read a few of our articles here and here.

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Photo credit: Jerrye and Roy Klotz MD CC 3.0 commons / wikipedia.

Two cruise ship officers are accused of robbing guests who reportedly won over a million dollars from the ship’s casino. The incident reportedly occurred several weeks ago on an unnamed cruise ship while it was docked in Piraeus, Greece.

Cruise CasinoA newspaper in Greece reports that over the course of two nights, two Bulgarian passengers gambled in the ship’s casino and won over $1,000,000 dollars. After their big night of winning, the guests cashed in their winnings ($1,030,000) and returned to their staterooms. The newspaper explains that an hour later, one of the guests alleges that he was attacked and robbed by two ship officers (reportedly a Canadian and an Israeli officer), who stole $430,000 in cash from the guest’s cabin safe. The guest reported the incident to the ship and the port authority. 

Local police boarded the ship and arrested the two officers who reportedly had $430,000 in cash with them. However, the officers claim that the guests, who were not arrested, were cheating and the officers were simply obtaining the illegal proceeds back from the guests. 

Hat tip to the popular Crew Center for first reporting the bizarre story to the cruise community. 

The newspaper in Greece did not disclose the name of the cruise line or cruise ship where the incident occurred.

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Belize CityOn September 13, 2016, a passenger on the Carnival Magic was robbed at gunpoint at the port of Belize. We received the following information from the passenger:

"We were at the port next to the belize sign taking pictures. A vendor selling wood and jewelry was trying to sell us some of his handmade work when a male on a bicycle threw down his bike and pointed a gun at me. He then put it under his shirt when my friend turned around. My friend thought it was a joke and wasn’t cooperating that’s when the man pulled the gun back out racked it and pointed it at us. He told us to empty our pockets. My friend gave him 15$ all he had left and I gave him 25$ he then saw my phone and told me to give it to him. I delayed giving to him as I was thinking about my options. After a few moments I decided it wasn’t worth it and gave it to him. He then started yelling at my friend to give him his wallet which he did not have. The man then asked where it was my friend replied in my room. Finally the male said don’t make this a big deal and got back on his bike and rolled away. I preceded to run to the first police officer I could find and let them know what happened. The police had several officer driving around in cars and motorcycles trying to find the assailant. They told us it was the 1st time in 2 years this happened in or by the port. They could not locate him and took us to the police station where we gave statements and made reports. 2 hrs later they took us back to the port where we went back on the ship and made report to carnival. They said it never happens. Made report to guest services then wrote statement to security and told me to call corporate office when I get off ship. Called the office they did not seem to care much and I told them why do they go to unsafe ports their reply was this never happens. To future cruisers I would suggest to not get off on this port."

Carnival contacted the passenger after the cruise, stating that it is going to increase awareness with cruise guests and also increase police and security at that port.

Last March, cruise ship passengers were robbed at gunpoint while on an excursion at the Altun Ha Maya ruins site in Belize. Earlier in March, a couple in Belize from a cruise ship reported that they were victims of an attempted armed robbery near the Museum of Belize.

As we mentioned in our last article, the Minister of Tourism of Belize was quoted earlier this year saying that that violent crime has been decreasing in the country. He said that over one million people visited Belize last year and crime against tourists was "rare."

Carnival and other cruise lines which call on this port should issue warnings to their guests that these type of crimes have occurred at port, in Belize City and during excursions from the port.

Source of information: Carlos Martinez

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September 29, 2016 Update: Several people pointed out that the Belize sign near where the robbery took place is outside of the gates to the port. So the robbery did not technically take place "at the port" to the extent that this means "in the port." 

Robbery Belize Cruise Port

Robbery Belize Cruise Port

 

Aqua Amazon ExplosionThe Amazon River cruise ship Aqua Amazon reportedly exploded and partially sank yesterday, according to a press statement released by the founder and CEO. Francesco Galli Zugaro, of Aqua Expeditions.

Mr. Zugaro offered no explanation regarding why the river cruise boat exploded. The press statement says that the incident occurred "during the regular Saturday supplying and turn-around hours for re-stocking of the vessel."

Mr. Zugaro also did not disclose the number of crew members who were were reportedly injured but did state that four crew members are missing. No passengers were on the ship at the time of the explosion.

Daniel Carbajal of the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio took photos of the burned river boat (left and below). He reports that the explosion occurred during a fueling operation due to a "short circuit" leading to two explosions and a fire, resulting in 13 crew members of the ship being injured. The incident occurred "in the port of Enapu, located along the Itaya River, Punchana district in Iquitos (Loreto)." The explosion reportedly blew a hole in the ship and it partially sank on its side.

The Peruvian newspaper also states that "the first police investigations reveal that aquatic ship arrived Aqua Amazon Explosionto the port to fill the gas tank without any security measures. The incident caused burns to 8 people, who had to jump into the flowing and being rescued by residents and staff Enapu who was nearby . . . It is presumed that some people were trapped inside the ship."

The news report further states that ‘the search was called off at nightfall due to lack of equipment necessary for the work."

River cruises on the Amazon have been in the news lately. Armed bandits robbed passengers aboard the Amazon Discovery last week. In April, a deadly fire aboard the La Estrella Amazonica resulted in the death of two American passengers. The media downplayed this latest robbery on the Peruvian Amazon which comes after a number of recent incidents as well as similar robberies dating back of the course of many years. It was widely reported that the 8 armed bandits robbed the passengers of a total $20,000.  We have been contacted by a number of passengers one of who states that some of the passengers were physically assaulted. One passenger left a comment indicating that the "the truth is each of the 30 passengers lost about $20,000." We are told that the Amazon Discovery had no security personnel aboard the river cruise boat at the time of the attack. 

Photo Credit: Daniel Carbajal of El Comercio

Update: ENCA reports that "one cruise-ship employee reported that the explosion may have been sparked by crews doing welding work."

July 19 2016 Update:  Jill Hammer Malott, one of the daughters of Drs. Larry and Christy Hammer, writes about the troubling trend on the Peruvian Amazon River. Her comments follow the Aqua Amazon’s sinking on Saturday and the robbery aboard the Amazon Discovery one day earlier. These two incidents come on the heels of the tragedy aboard International Expeditions’ La Estrella Amazonica in early April, when her parents – Drs. Larry and Christy Hammer – died in a cabin fire (see comments in article) that started through no fault of their own.

“Between robberies and deadly fires, a string of recent tragedies on the Peruvian Amazon is a sad reminder that many cruise companies—including those based in the United States—cut corners on basic safety and security measures, routinely risking the lives of passengers and crew alike. My parents died aboard La Estrella Amazonica in April, after a fire erupted in their cabin through no fault of their own. My family has seen first-hand how the absence of things like in-room fire alarms, flammability-rated power strips, and a well-trained crew can have fatal consequences. We’ve also experienced how hard cruise companies—in our case, International Expeditions, an eco-tourism company based in Alabama—work to brush these incidents under the rug in an effort to mitigate public relations damage. It is our fervent hope that more accountability is demanded of the cruise industry operating in the Amazon in the wake of these tragedies.”

July 18 2016 Update:  

Peru This Week reports that the crew casualties are up to 7 dead and 13 seriously burned.  The article says that "although the causes of the accident are still being investigated, police officials have indications that a short circuit may have caused the explosion . . .

While the company Aqua Expeditions recognizes that the accident happened during the refueling of the ship, they’ve said that it was done properly, following all the safety guidelines.

However, police sources indicate that the vessel did not comply with all the safety measure required during fueling. The harbormaster would not comment until the completed their investigation."

International Business Times (IBT) posted a video of the aftermath of the explosion and fire (below): 

Amazon RiverTwo articles published yesterday bring attention to the dangers of cruising in Peru.    

Bandits Attack Amazon Tourist Boat of Foreigners in Peru, published by The Hour, contains a report by the Associated Press stating that "… bandits have attacked an Amazon tourist boat and robbed more than two dozen tourists from the U.S., Australia and New Zealand . . . the attackers used a small craft to reach the Amazon Discovery tour cruise, boarded it and then robbed passengers and crew of goods worth about $20,000 early Thursday. The tourists included 21 Americans, six Australians and two from New Zealand. There were also 25 Peruvians working aboard."

The Amazon Discovery is a new luxury vessel, built in 2015, with a length of 169 feet and a capacity of 44 guests (22 suites) and 29 crew members. The river cruise ship is advertised on a number of travel websites and by marketing companies promoting Amazon River cruises from Iquitos, Peru. 

According to a Travel Weekly article last April, Peruvian company Delfin Amazon Cruises has owned and operated the vessel since it launched in October 2015, although river cruise operator Haimark Travel had previously been handling all marketing and sales efforts.

Armed bandits boarding Amazon cruises are not unheard of.  According to a 2014 New York Times article, "In 2009, the luxury Aqua Expeditions cruise ship had been boarded by armed pirates, who robbed the passengers of cameras, cash and jewelry. Ever since then, the Aqua and its sister ship, the Aria, have been accompanied by three armed guards, part of a Peruvian river protection strategy that includes a green speedboat marked Policia de Tourismo that follows the ship. So far, there have been no other incidents."

A British newspaper reported shortly after the 2009 attacks that "two police were stationed on the ship after the first raid but they were overpowered during the second attack by nine armed bandits. The raiders then reportedly bound the hands and feet of 20 tourists . . . before fleeing amid a shoot-out with police reinforcements." 

Travel Weekly reported on these two attacks – Peru Steps Up Security After Two Amazon River Ship Attacks.

Judge Thomas Dickerson mentions these dangerous incidents on the Peruvian Amazon River in his treatise Travel Law: Avoid Dangerous Vacations 2014.

Marketers of Amazon River cruises seemed to downplay the crimes at the time.  The Travel Weekly article quotes Maggie Smith, the president of International Expeditions at the time, saying "in over 30 years of operating in the Peruvian Amazon, taking about 30,000 guests there, we have never had such an incident."

One site reporting on the recent armed robbery said that "8 assailants were armed with large-caliber Amazon River Peruweapons took control of the ship, which belongs to Delfin Amazon Cruises, for about 30 minutes and took personal possessions and money worth around 20,000 U.S. dollar." The site reports that the captain of the ship suffered a head injury by being pistol-whipped. The report continued: "the Peruvian Amazon has seen such assaults periodically as pirates profit from the distance from population centers to attack cruise ships on the Amazon’s riverways."

Another site, Peru This Week, says that the attack occurred at 3 a.m. near the Huaysi village (about an hour from the village of Tamshiyacu, in the Fernando Lores District of the Maynas province). According to the head of the Iquitos Port Authority, commander Oscar Garrido Lecca, river assaults are supposedly "rare;" he states that "they haven’t experienced one in four to five months." (this hardly hardly seems rare).  The site says that the "last cruise ship assault was reported back in May of 2014," but the article provides no details.

One of the travel sites, Rainforest Cruises, which markets the Amazon Discovery and other river cruises ships (there’s no indication that this site sold any cruises to the victimized passengers in question) contains an  Amazon Cruise Safety Guide which states in part:

"You may also notice on your cruise through the Amazon River that some boats are occupied by armed guards. Some of these vessels may also have guards dressed in civilian clothes, such as the Aqua, Aria and Delfins and you may see  others with police protection on board, the Aqua and Aria. This is in reaction to two incidents that took place on Aqua Expeditions ships, when armed bandits stormed the ship and robbed passengers on board. As a result Aqua and many other cruise companies on the Amazon River have increased their security measures to prevent such attacks."

None of the articles which I read about the armed attack mention whether the ship had guards at the time of the attack.  It will be interesting to find out whether the operator was trying to save money by cruising without security.

A second article published today involves a different type of danger which passengers might face while cruising on the Amazon River in Peru. A Personal Warning To American Travelers, published by the Daily Caller, was written by Jill Hammer Malott and Kelly Hammer Lankford, the daughters of  Larry and Christy Hammer who died in a fire during an Amazon River cruise aboard La Estrella Amazonica, marketed and reportedly “design[ed] and “buil[t]” by the U.S.-based International Expeditions (IE).

The daughters write that in April, their parents went on "a week-long Amazon River cruise aboard International Expeditions (IE) boat, La Estrella Amazonica." Their parents chose this voyage because, as the daughters say, IE boasted that "with International Expeditions at the helm, you’ll adventure in safety and comfort aboard La Estrella Amazonica."

But "around 2 am on the first night of the cruise, they found themselves trapped inside their burning cabin Mammer Familywhile their lungs filled with poisonous smoke. Our father died before the crew even tried to get him out. Our mother held onto a heartbeat when the crew finally pulled her from the cabin, but died sometime later — we still cannot get information on when or where she passed away."

The Hammer sisters indicate that a "power strip supplied by the boat caught fire. Analysis of the same model power strip revealed that it lacks surge protection and safety ratings. The mattress and bedding provided abundant fuel for the fire. No alarm sounded in the cabin because the smoke detectors lack in-cabin alarms which could have alerted our parents before the smoke overwhelmed them."

The sisters are critical of the crew’s apparent lack of training and preparedness, indicating that "the crew wasted more than 20 precious minutes between the time when smoke seeped into the hallway to when they finally extracted our parents."

The ship was flagged in Peru, which may explain why it was sailing without functioning fire alarms, or an operable fire suppression system. 

The daughters feel that IE’s president, Van Perry, stonewalled the family and reportedly refused to provide them with information. According to a travel publication, Mr. Perry quickly announced that local fire authorities and tourism authorities in Peru "cleared the vessel safe to carry guests."  Within three days of the Hammers’ death, and without even determining the official cause of the deadly fire, La Estrella Amazonica continued on its cruise.  

Photo Credits:  Hammer family (bottom): Jill Hammer via Opinion; Map of Peru – BBC (middle); Amazon River near Iquitos, Peru – By M M from Switzerland – Amazonas, Iquitos – Leticia, Kolumbien, CC BY-SA 2.0

Update: According to Travel Pulse, Delfin Amazon Cruises denied knowledge of previous robberies of river ships on the Amazon in Peru in its official statement about this incident.

“The safety of guests aboard the ship is of utmost importance to Delfin Amazon Cruises, which owns and operates Amazon Discovery. This isolated incident — the first in the company’s ten years of cruising the Amazon — is not reflective of the Amazon region today, which continues to be an increasingly desirable destination for visitors.

Staff onboard the Amazon Discovery and at its Lima headquarters have further advanced measures to ensure the safety of its current and future passengers. The company is implementing a Peruvian river cruising protection strategy that includes the presence of permanent surveillance staff onboard. The vessel will also be accompanied by further security in a green speedboat marked Policia de Turismo.”

Of course, Delfin Amazon Cruises was aware of the prior attacks in 2009. Travel Weekly says in the 2009 article Peru Steps Up Security After Two Amazon River Ship Attacks: "And Delfin Amazon Cruises operates two luxury ships, the 12-passenger Delfin I and the 28-passenger Delfin II. These operators, too, are keeping a close watch on the security situation in the region."  

UpdatePeru Reports published an interesting article this evening referring to 4 prior attacks in the last year alone on river cruise ships in the Amazon in Peru, and stating in part:

"This high-profile attack has raised questions about crime and passenger security on the rivers of the Amazon jungle. Oscar Garrido, captain of the Iquitos port police, told El Comercio that he had recently Defin Amazon Discovery Pirate Attackmet with representatives from the tourist agencies which offer cruises of the Amazon, Ucayali and Marañon rivers.

“We asked them to hire armed security guards and that they activate their GPS systems,” Garrido said. “We cannot accompany all [passenger boats] along the route because we have more than 6,000 miles of jungle to take care of.”

Garrido added that the Iquitos coast guard has 27 boats to patrol more than 6,000 miles of rivers, where more than 9,000 boats circulate in the jungles of Loreto. He said that all boats should be equipped with cameras and satellite phones for the vast areas which receive no regular phone signal. The Amazon Discovery was equipped with cameras, and the video of Thursday’s assault is being analyzed by police.

Thursday’s riverboat assault is at least the fourth incident in the last year.

An armed gang dressed in military uniform and ski masks assaulted a tourist boat near the Pacaya Samiria reserve in December, stealing over $6,000 in merchandise. In October, an armed holdup of a tourist boat on the Ucayali River left four crew members injured with gunshot wounds. In April 2015, five armed men robbed 15 foreign tourists on the Nanay River."

Photo Credit:  Peru 21

Update: The Chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association, Ken Carver, comments on the deadly La Estrella Amazonica debacle.

UpDate: Crime Insight published an article – Peru River Pirates Raid Tourist Cruise on the Amazon – "highlights the potential dangers associated with adventure tours in insecure countries."

"The last major assault of this kind occurred in October 2014 on the boat Golfinoh as it traveled the same route to Iquitos. A police officer who happened to be on the boat tried to ward off the attack. The officer and one assailant were killed and seven passengers were wounded, La Prensa.Pe reported. Only minor assaults had been reported since then.

Nevertheless, incidents involving river pirates have been reported in other parts of South America. In May 2016, a ferry traveling on the Solimoes River in the State of Amazonas, Brazil, was attacked by three armed men. The assailants used a speed boat to intercept the ferry and stormed the vessel at about midnight. Again, the attackers wore masks and carried assault rifles and pistols. They stole $2,600, several mobile phones and they stripped equipment from a vehicle being transported by the ferry.

Another incident of river piracy was reported in May 2016 in the city of Barcarena, near Brazil’s northern Atlantic coast. Tourists were robbed by 10 heavily armed men who stormed their vessel, but no one was injured or killed.

Although they have all been relatively small-scale events, the assaults highlight insecurity in these remote areas, which are often centers of illegal activity like informal mining and drug trafficking or production."

July 17 2016 Update: More trouble for river cruises on the Amazon.  Aqua Amazon Explodes & Sinks in Amazon, Four Crew Members Missing.

September 1 2016 Update: More troubles for the daughters – After parents died on the Amazon, two sisters are frustrated in their search for answers.

September 12 2016 Update: Determined Nebraska Sisters Seek Answers in the Mysterious Deaths of Their Parents Aboard Luxury Amazon Cruise – "Kelly and Jill’s investigators concluded that the fire was caused by a faulty electrical power strip in their parents’ cabin and that fire and smoke alarms weren’t working. And video footage showed that it took crew members 22 minutes to pull their father from the second-story cabin, and another six minutes to rescue their mother . . . to make the sad outcome even worse, says Jill, her parents wedding rings have gone missing ‘and were likely stolen off their dead bodies . . . ‘"

November 19. 2016 Update:  The New York Times published There’s No Law on the Amazon: River Pirates Terrorize Ships By Night

Today, the United States embassy in Nassau issues a "Personal Security Awareness" security message about the crime problem in Nassau. The message says: 

"This message is to remind U.S. Citizens resident and visiting New Providence Island (Nassau) and Paradise Island to be mindful of their surroundings at all times and employ practical personal security awareness when in public and at home to avoid being a victim of crime.

Over the course of the past six months, the U.S. Embassy has received reports of a significant Nassau Bahamas Crimeincrease in armed robberies throughout New Providence, specifically targeting patrons of ATM machines, parking venues at various retail locations, and armed car-jackings.

For your safety, you should:

• Avoid using ATM machines located in isolated areas and consider using ATM machines located in shopping centers that have security coverage. Use the buddy system when using ATM machines.

• Keep your car doors locked and your windows rolled up as you drive. Keep valuables out of sight in your vehicles when parked (cell phones, laptops, cash, GPS or other valuables).

Armed robberies and violent crimes continue to be the primary criminal threat in The Bahamas – which in many instances have occurred in areas frequented by tourists."

There have been over a dozen crime warnings from the U.S. about Nassau, Bahamas in the last several years, from the U.S. embassy in Nassau and the U.S. State Department. The last warning was released just two months ago – Crime in Bahamas Remains Critical. In January of this year, the U.S. embassy in Nassau reported that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 U.S. tourists in just 18 months.

When I first started this blog in 2009, several of the first articles were about the armed robbery of cruise ship passengers in Nassau. In October 2009, the Tribune newspaper in Nassau reported that two "vicious robbers" held a group of 11 terrified cruise tourists at gunpoint and robbed them of cash and their possessions at the Queen’s Staircase on a Sunday afternoon.  A month later, gunmen armed with a shotgun robbed and terrorized 18 Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise passengers on a Segway Tour. 

None of the gunmen were ever arrested. A cruise passengers said that the Bahamian police falsely told her after she was robbed that "this never happens here. Never." It seems that it has been downhill in Nassau ever since. 

Nassau has received, by far, the most critical crime warnings of any port in the Caribbean. Nassau has an ineffective police force and a broken legal system.  It is the one port which I say avoid at all costs.

July 13 2016 Update:  Is the Bahamas travel advisory a tit-for-a-tat for prior U.S. travel warnings? Is this U.S. security message retaliation for the travel advisory issued by the Bahamas?  Read:  Bahamas Wrong To Issue Travel Advisory To Black Men and U.S. Hits Back With Security Message To Citizens And Visitors In The Bahamas.

July 14 2016 Update: National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage insists that the U.S. embassy is “wrong” and the assertions made in their latest crime advisory regarding the Bahamas are “not true. Unfortunately, we have seen these type of denials by the authorities in Nassau as long as we have had this blog. Meanwhile, the Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis says Prime Minister Perry Christie and his administration have ignored the reality of crime. Dr Minnis says it is “frightening” for Bahamians to see the government continuously dismiss the crime warnings.

Photo Credit:  242 Breaking News 

Vision of the SeasA couple of days ago, we posted an article about cruise passengers who were robbed while visiting the Altun Ha Maya ruins site in Belize. During this incident, two cruise passengers were reportedly robbed of a gold necklace and $450 in cash by two men, one with a machete and one with a handgun.

A local television station said that "the tourism police officers were lax in carrying out their duties. When the last tourist bus left, so did the tourism police, although the site had not been closed."    

But the Ministry of Culture later issued a press release saying "there was adequate police and security presence at the Archeological Site."

Today, we were notified by a passenger, wishing to stay anonymous, who visited Belize City on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Vision of the Seas, and told us that her husband had been physically assaulted and battered in an apparent robbery attempt on March 8th after their cruise ship docked at the Tourism Village. She indicated that after a ten minute walk from the port on Gabourel Lane, she and her husband ate luch and began to return to the ship.  A local man "came up from behind with a rifle and said he was going to kill us if he did not get my bag."  Here is her account:

"We were victims of an attempted armed robbery on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 near the Museum of Belize after lunch at Senor Coconuts while walking back to port. My husband was hit on the head with the barrel of a rifle and sustained injury to the head (requiring stitches) and bruises on the arm and hand and I also sustained scratches and bruises. Luckily, there was a women nearby who scared him off. The police never arrived until we were at the hospital. We were driven there by a couple in the area. We were treated at the hospital and driven back to port. We were on RC Vision of the Seas. It is our understanding there is little police presence because they are underfunded and undermaned. This is a very dangerous place filled with crime and cruise ship visitors are not advised of this by the ships. I was really concerned because of all the young college girls on the ship. Do not go out of Tourism Village. The city of Belize is very unsafe."

The passenger told me "I want people to know if it weren’t for two kind women, I don’t know what more could of happened . . . There were three cruise ships in port that day, probably over 3,000 people. The cruise ships need to warn you, but they don’t. We learned the hard way."

Photo credit: ZipIt at English Wikipedia transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons