The U.S. and Canada both started issuing travel warnings for cruise vacationers. The U.S. started issuing travel warning at the end of December 2018 and Canada began issuing travel advisories two weeks ago.

The U.S. State Department also recently began posting warnings on Twitter regarding certain dangers about cruise ships and ports of call. Its Travel – State Dept‏  page links to an internet travel page addressing certain security issues on cruise ships and in port of call.

The page is titled Cruise Ship Passengers and lists certain steps which the State Department recommends taking “before the cruise” (research the destination, take your passport, obtain the necessary visas and obtain medical, emergency evacuation, and other insurance to cover unexpected travel expenses, etc.) as well as “during the cruise” (remain vigilant, limit your alcohol intake, ensure cabin safety and make sure the door and balcony are properly locked at all times, and store travel documents and valuables in a secure location, etc.).

Canada also just started posting similar travel warnings on its official travel page. The Canadian travel advisories includes many of same “common sense” issues about obtaining insurance mentioned by the U.S.  But like the U.S. site, Canada also warns it citizens to:

  • Avoid becoming the target of an assault or robbery by . . . staying in public areas when interacting with other passengers and ship staff;
  • Never leave your food or drinks unattended; and
  • Ensure cabin safety by keeping the door and balcony properly locked at all times.

I was particularly surprised to see the posting on Twitter this week from the U.S. State Department’s Twitter page ():

Researching the safety records of local tour operators may sound like a good idea, but the fact of the matter is that cruise lines don’t disclose the name or contact information of the local companies which operate the excursions. So it is impossible for cruise travelers to research the safety record of a local company, in the Caribbean for example, even if they wanted to. Yes, such local companies often use improper equipment (open air buses, no seatbelts, etc.) with unqualified employees (particularly bus drivers who drive recklessly), which can lead to accidents, injuries and even deaths, but there is zero chance of a cruise passengers ever learning this information despite trying to research the excursion beforehand.

Cruise lines also usually promote their cruise excursions as the “best,” using the “best” tour operators and the “best” equipment without clearly explaining that they cannot really vouch for the operators who will actually be taking families on the excursions.  After a passenger is killed or seriously in a cruise sponsored cruise excursion, like this case or this one, the cruise lines will always deny liability for the accident and claim that the local tour operator is an independent contractor for whom the cruise line has no control, despite their advertisements to the contrary.

The State Department also warns cruise tourists to be aware of crime in certain port of call (these type of warning are not new).  It provides links to safety and security issues in many port countries.  We recommend that families, who decide to cruise, review the State Department crime warnings carefully. Reading the local newspapers in port cities is also a good idea.  Many cruise lines routinely take their passengers into dangerous ports without warning, particularly in port in the Caribbean like Nassau.

For example, the State Department has repeatedly warned travelers to Nassau, Bahamas to avoid jet ski operators who have sexually assaulted several young women at the beaches in that destination. The State Department’s link below on Twitter is rather nebulous but the crime situation in Nassau (“exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime” – CLICK MORE – “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”) can be easily accessed at the State Department’s website.

The new governmental warnings by the U.S. and Canada reflects the reality of ongoing dangers on cruise ships and in ports of call. These sites are worth reviewing and researching before a family thinks that they are embarking on a carefree cruise to an idyllic island in the Caribbean.

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Blue MosqueThere are mixed messages about cruising to Turkey, following a spate of terrorist attacks in the last six months and the failed military coup two weeks ago.

A number of cruise lines stopped calling on Turkey following the June 29th ISIS-inspired terrorist attack at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul when three suicide bombers exploded powerful devices that killed over 40 people and injured over 230 others. This latest attack came after at least eight terror attacks in Turkey dating back a year.

On July 15th, a coup led by some military officers failed. President Erdogad responded by engaging in what the New York Times is calling a "widespread purge, jailing and suspending tens of thousands of state employees . . . " The Times further notes that "the military that has long served as a unifying force for the country is deeply divided, diminished and discredited." 

The U.S. State Department "warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey. In light of the July 15 coup attempt and the resulting potential for interruptions to travel and daily life, we suggest U.S. citizens reconsider travel to Turkey at this time."

The Maritime Executive published an article yesterday stating that even before the failed revolt, terrorist attacks had prompted cruise operators to reduce their stops in Turkey. But the July 15th coup attempt caused cruise lines to cut back further on scheduled port calls in Istanbul and other Turkish ports. It quoted a travel agent stating that "I would not feel comfortable sending people on holiday in the next few months. [The coup attempt] is more damaging for tourism than the terror attacks.” 

But other publications are suggesting that the cruise business in Turkey has already bounced back to what it was before the coup attempt. The Turkish Daily Sabah says that a representative of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) reported that the failed coup attempt caused only "slight losses" in Turkey’s cruise tourism sector.  According to the Daily Sabah, Cihangir Canıyılmaz, the marketing director of Royal Caribbean in Turkey, said that shortly after the coup attempt, that the cruise line canceled 46 cruise voyages to Kuşadasi and five voyages to Bodrum until the end of year. However, he claims that Royal Caribbean has resumed cruises to Turkey on July 20th, following President Erdogad’s declaration of the state of emergency on July 20th, and the number of tourists in the country remains high.

Whether that is true or just wishful thinking by the tourist people in Turkey, it is concerning that the Turkish military, which has been an ally of the U.S. in fighting terrorism and in curtailing the threat of ISIS, is now diminished. The military in Turkey was also vital in "controlling the migrant tide that has overwhelmed Europe," as the Times puts it.

Turkey is a beautiful country with a spectacular history and architecture, filled with warm and friendly people. It is a wonderful place to visit. But with its recent history of ISIS terrorist attacks and migrants at sea and ashore, cruising to Turkey may cause a prudent traveler to pause and reconsider. 

Photo of Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque: By Dersaadet – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.  

Photo of Istanbul credit:  By Ben Morlok – Istanbul panorama, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Two and a half months ago, I was on the front page of the Nassau Guardian warning cruise passengers about crime in Nassau Bahamas following a critical crime warning from the U.S. Embassy.

Yesterday the U.S. Embassy in Nassau issued another crime warning, advising U.S. citizens residing in and traveling to the Bahamas to be aware of their surroundings and remain on "heightened alert" to avoid being a victim of crime. The warning referred to a number of armed robberies which occured in the last two weeks.

This is the thrid critical crime warning for the Bahamas since December 2013.

The most recent warning states, in part: 

"Armed robbery and violent crime remain major threats facing both U.S. citizens and residents of The Crime Cruise Ship Passengers Nassau BahamasBahamas, including in areas frequented by tourists on New Providence and Grand Bahamas Islands. In the past year, a number of U.S. citizens have fallen victim to armed robbery."

The advisory also suggested that U.S. tourists should "monitor local news stations for updates" and maintain a "high level of vigilance."

You can read the warning here

We have written over a dozen articles about the high crime rate in Nassau. Before booking a cruise, we suggest reading:

Nassau Bahamas Crime Watch: Cruise Passengers Beware

U.S. Attorney Raises Alarm Over Crime – Bahamas "One Shot Away" From Cruise Line Exit

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