A pastor from North Las Vegas was killed on Monday, July 30th in a canoe excursion accident during a cruise to Alaska, according to several news sources.

50-year-old Steven Todd Willis and his wife were reportedly on a cruise to Alaska celebrating the first anniversary of their marriage.

The news accounts state that an excursion company was taking, what has been reported to be, between nine and eleven passengers on a canoe tour when their canoe overturned in rapids.  Four people were reportedly reported missing.

The incident occurred nine miles south of Haines. The first news account states that the canoe was being used for a guided tour for passengers from three different unidentified cruise ships.

One news account reports that one of the passengers was unresponsive at the scene. First responders reportedly performed CPR, but the passenger remained unconscious. Another account states that the passenger had sunk in deep water and could not be retrieved.

A third account states that the Coast Guard dispatched a Jayhawk helicopter from Sitka to search for the missing members of the tout.  A Coast Guard crew reportedly pulled the body of  Mr. Willis from the Davidson Glacier River, according to KTNV News.

KTNV states that “everyone on board wore life jackets.”

The owner of the excursion company, identified as AlaskaX Excursions, told the Skagway News that he has been cooperating with the authorities involved and will be conducting an investigation into the fatality.

KHNS FM reports that this excursion company “employs about 20 people year-round and 150 seasonal guides, running five tours around Haines, Skagway, and Juneau. That includes a canoe tour at Glacier Point, where they boat up to 15,000 cruise passengers each summer from Skagway to where the Davidson Glacier calves into a lake.”

KHNS further states that, according to an Alaska assembly member,  “there have been specific, and credible, and very damning accounts” of the excursion company’s poor safety record, reportedly referring to a dozen former employees who have lodged complaints about the company’s operations.  “They say the company prioritizes profit over the safety of employees and guests.”

The news articles do not state which cruise ship Mr, Willis and his wife had taken to Alaska.

Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Read:

One Dead, 10 Safe After Canoe Overturns Near Haines via Juneau Empire.

Safety Complaints From Former Employees Pile Up Against Skagway Tour Company. via KHNS FM.

 

 

Cuba remains a popular tourist attraction, especially for Canadians who visit the island. But there are dangers there which few tourists may realize.

Newspapers in Canada are reporting that a 47 year old Canadian tourist from Quebec, who was on vacation in Cuba with his wife and two young daughters, is facing criminal charges after a boating excursion accident in Cuba killed another Canadian tourist.

CTV News reports that the Canadian tourist, Toufik Benhamiche, was "driving a small boat as part of a tourist excursion in July 2017 when the boat veered out of control and fatally struck a woman fromTravel to Cuba Ontario."

A Cuban court found the tourist guilty of criminal negligence and sentenced him to four years in prison. 

Mr. Benhamiche and his family were enjoying a week-long family vacation in Cayo Coco, Cuba. He had flown to Cuba as part of a tour organized and sold by a Canadian tour company, Sunwing, whose Cuban partner organized the water tour through another Cuban sub-contractor. The article explains that the fatal accident took place during an adventure tour reportedly offered by Sunwing’s local Cuban partner, Gaviota Tours, which reportedly subcontracted the boat portion to the Cuban company, Marlin SA.

Mr. Benhamiche’s lawyer Julius Grey said that he intends to bring a legal action against Sunwing for the failure of company and its local tour operators to provide basic instructions regarding the watercraft and permitting the small vessel to be overloaded. According to the Canadian newspaper, Mr. Grey alleges that his client was provided with inadequate direction on how to pilot the boat. He stated: "it’s obvious they’re at fault . . . our client had been taught nothing, knew nothing, did not have a license and was told he could just do it for a few dollars."

Although this incident obviously does not involve a cruise, it raises a common issue when tourists are injured in foreign countries by the negligence of local tour partners. This case is unusual because the tourist was arrested for what appears to be a case of simple negligence.  

The tourist’s lawyer was critical of both Cuba and Canada. He criticied the Canadian government for not assisting the Canadian who was arrested and imprisoned in Cuba following the excursion accident. The lawyer stated that Cuba was trying to protect a Cuban company which it is responsible for from a "potentially high liability" for the deadly accident. 

Gaviota Group is a popular Cuba company which provides a wide range of tours in Cuba, including sail boats and jet skis. Marlin SA is also a popular Cuban company which offers sailing, fishing, and jet skis tours to tourists visiting Cuba. 

One account of the incident, from the Canadian newspaper La Presse, indicates that the "Cuban state . . .  is the true owner of the Marlin company." The newspaper also states that three employees of Marlin were initially charged with criminal wrongdoing but the Cuban government eventually withdrew these charges, leaving the Canadian tourist as the soul culprit.

Have a comment? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

Excursion Bus in DominicaA newspaper in Dominica reports that an excursion bus taking passengers from a MSC cruise ship to a tourist attraction crashed today in Dominica.

An infant reportedly died in the accident, according to the online newspaper in Dominica. 

The bus was heading on an excursion to Trafalgar Falls.

The newspaper says that five people have been taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital. MSC Cruises indicates in a statement (below) that seven passenger were injured.

The MSC cruise ship is the Orchestra. The cruise line says that the passenger had "independently booked through a third party."

There have been a number of deadly bus excursion accidents involving cruise passengers.

Most recently an excursion bus was struck by a truck as the Royal Caribbean excursion was returning to the Freedom of the Seas in Falmouth, Jamaica, resulting in one death and multiple serious injuries.

Prior to that accident, two passengers from the Celebrity Summit were killed in Tortola, British West Indies when the excursion bus apparently lost control near "Round Hill" on the Cane Garden Bay Hill.
The cruise line earlier tweeted that "16 of 20 passengers reported injured, 2 critically."

In 2010, an excursion bus carrying Princess cruise passengers crashed in Tortola, killing one young man.

Cruise passengers from the Celebrity Summit cruise ship were seriously injured in an excursion vehicle mishap in the Caribbean islands. In 2009, a dozen passengers from the Summit were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica. We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident. You can read information about the Dominica excursion accident in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

There were two cruise excursion bus crashes in 2012 in Caribbean islands, both involving Royal Caribbean passengers.

Photo Credit: dominicanewsonline

MSC statement:

"It is with deep sadness that MSC Cruises confirms that a tragic accident involving seven of its guests happened earlier today at approximately 11 AM, local time, in Trafalgar on the Caribbean island of Dominica.

The seven guests involved in the accident were five Italian and two Brazilian nationals. They were on their way to a on shore visit which they had independently booked through a third party.

Immediately after the accident, the guests were transported to the nearby Queen Margaret Hospital in Trafalgar and a support team from the ship has since arrived to the hospital to assist them in every way they can.

Simultaneously, MSC Cruises’ crisis team was activated and has already contacted all the families and relatives of the guests involved in the accident.

The guests were all aboard MSC Orchestra which was calling at Roseau, Dominica, for the day.

Since then, we are glad to report that two Italian and two Brazilian nationals are safely either already back on board or on their way. Regarding the young boy and his family, his parents are out of harm’s way but still at the hospital. I am unfortunately not at liberty to disclose the condition of the young boy, since the relevant authorities have yet to make a formal assessment. Having said this, I have also been reading that he has passed and we are led to believe that this is sadly the case."

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?

 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Photo Credit: Loretta Reinholdt and Andy Wasinger via Calgary Herald; Ambergris Caye 

In less than three days after Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández declared that guns are prohibited in Roatan and the Bay Islands, a young man was gunned down early on Sunday morning. 

Teledifusora Insular reports that Henry Alexander Almendarez Orellana was shot by two men in the early morning hours of July 13th.

The crime reportedly took place where the young man lived in Barrio La Punta of Coxen Hole. 

Roatan HondurasThe online source says that police are trying to figure out the identity and whereabouts of the perpetrators of this killing. The murder occurs just when the Government of Juan Orlando Hernández has declared a general disarmament of Roatan to safeguard this main tourist destination. 

Last Friday we reported what we predicted would be a futile policy, Roatan: Gun Free Zones.  

President Hernández blamed U.S. drug policy for sparking violence in Central American countries and driving a surge of migration to the United States, according to an interview published today in a Mexican newspaper.

The U.S. State Department updated Honduras travel warning in June mentioned Coxen Hole as a place to avoid after dark.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. 

Murders against local residents in Roatan, like this or this, are rarely solved. 

This year I have written a dozen articles about the high crime rate in Roatan Honduras. 

The purpose of my blog is to report on "everything the cruise lines don’t want you to know."

So if there is a destination which the cruise line and tourism officials market (for profit) as a "tranquil" and "peaceful" paradise, but it is really a dangerous place, I will tell you about it. 

If cruise passengers and crew members are robbed, raped and killed in a cruise destination touted as Roatan Hondurassafe, I will tell you about it.

So far this year, I have told you about a family of five with three young kids from a Carnival cruise ship whose rental car was shot up during an armed robbery; a Royal Caribbean family robbed at machete point and a tourist interested in diving the reefs who was violently assaulted; a NCL crew member shot in the head, dead; and several local residents of Roatan killed and left in the streets. 

All of this violent crime occurred in Roatan, Honduras. Yes the Roatan marketed by Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean as the idyllic, tropical get-a-way, the paradise island of Roatan.

I have written about other dangerous cruise destinations: the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Kitts, Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize. But the residents of these countries have never come close to voicing the level of animosity and threats which I receive from the residents of Roatan when I write about crime.

I received a half-dozen emails yesterday from Roatan. Here are two good ones. Judge for yourself:

From Doug in Roatan: 

You are a fucking piece of shit im sure its real safe where you live which I assume is miami which is a complete shit hole how many people die there every night do you tell cruise ship passengers how fucking dangerous the departure ports are of course not ie: miami, new orleans, houston all shit hole cities if you want to write about violence try san pedro sula you fucking moron I will take my chaces in both roatan and san pedro sula before visiting any one of the cities in america mentioned all you are doing is praying on a bunch of people who are afraid of there own shadow you cant hold everybodys hand when they travel but shit happens in colorado at the resorts but you dont make a big deal out of that senseless crime happens everywhere you fucking idiot whatever your deal is with roatan all your doing is making it harder in aplace where life is already hatd enough fuck you

From Michelle in Roatan:

Interesting stats you’re choosing to post about Roatan. I live here and am NOT afraid for my safety. You mention that the expatriate community downplays the crime issue and where are your stats about crime regarding them? The truth of the matter is ANYWHERE you go in the world there is crime, except perhaps, Iceland. The crime that we’re witnessing here on Roatan is mostly what others would consider, drug related, revenge related or motivated as well as "Indian on Indian". Which is why the deaths of the man by mud hole or by la colonia belfate were featured but aren’t causing a stir.
They have nothing to do with the general public. My safety is not jeopardized by the death of either of those men and neither is anyone else’s; unless they were associated with them in whatever business or crime they were previously involved in.

People die violent deaths in US cities every single day and the reason people still feel safe in their homes is because they don’t hear about them due to the fact that it isn’t considered news. "A woman was found shot/strangled or beaten to death in her apartment" could be a news title on just about any newspaper in just about any city or town in the US but once officials realize that she was murdered by her drug dealer boyfriend, that she herself was a drug user and that she is a woman of color, she no longer is classified as news. And her death does not change or influence anyone else’s safety. The same goes here. So I urge you to stop focusing your interest in stories that are not being shared and worry about your own interests. It is unfortunate that many people have had negative experiences while traveling here. It really truly is but it doesn’t represent the island as a whole. People are safe, just like anywhere else in the world; again, except for Iceland, one must ALWAYS be mindful of what they are doing, where and with whom. Bad choices and bad decisions usually have bad results.

Roatan Honduras came onto the radar of Cruise Law News in January of this year when a U.S. family who took a Carnival cruise to the island was robbed at gun point while driving in a rental car. The bandito shot the car up, terrifying the three children in the car as well as their parents, who had no idea that they had taken the kids to such a violent place for a family vacation. 

The mother subsequently left us a message saying:

"My Husband, 8, 14, 15 year old daughters and I were shot at, robbed and almost killed after returning Roatan Honduras Crimefrom one of the Roatan Beaches. I find it hard to believe that cruise lines would be wanting to increase tourism to Honduras. People innocently go there to enjoy it’s beauty unaware of the danger lurking. My heart goes out to the family of the Norwegian cruise line crew member that was just killed there in broad daylight."

We subsequently reported about several other tourists robbed or assaulted at gun point this year. We were also the first in the U.S. to report on the murder of a NCL crew member in Coxen Hole.

What struck me most about Roatan when I began speaking to local residents and people who fled the island was not just the crime and sense of lawlessness. I was surprised by the extraordinary efforts of the expatriate U.S. citizens who live in Roatan to create the false and misleading impression that the place was a safe, tropical paradise.

Today in reading the local Insular Teledifusora Facebook page, I see that a local man identified as Rodrigo Mendoza Nelson was shot multiple times. His body was dumped along a road from Coxen Hole to Sandy Bay near an entrance to a place called "Mud Hole" late last night.

The images of the lifeless body on the Teledifusora Insular page are graphic.

Roatan Honduras Crime The web page also shows several crude images of men who were quickly arrested for the murder. 

A week ago I wrote about another murder of a local man who was bludgeoned to death near the  Balfate colony area.

None of these images or stories will be seen by tourists to Roatan.

Nor will the expatriate citizens running the tour or dive shops, or the restaurants or bars, or the resorts or realty companies mention these incidents to cruise ship passengers. 

 

Image Credit: Teledifusora Insular

The Honduras newspaper La Prensa reports today that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández will accompany representatives of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) on possible locations which will be marketed to cruise passengers arriving in Honduras. The FCCA is an organization which promotes the interests of the U.S. based cruise lines doing business in the Caribbean ports of call.

Tomorrow the president of Honduras will accompany the FCCA representatives during tours of the city of Gracias, Lempira, and the Copan Archaeological Park (el Parque Arqueológico de Copán), as part Gracious Honduras Cruise Visitof a "reconnaissance" trip to sites where the cruise tourists from Roatan, Bay Islands may visit.

The newspaper says that President Juan Orlando Hernández will accompany visitors on Thursday, May 29th together with representatives of the largest cruise lines in the world, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise. 

The distance from the island of Roatan to the city of Gracias, which is in the mainland of Honduras, is around 190 miles.

Is this really a suitable tourist spot for a U.S. tourist arriving in Honduras by cruise ship?

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world and is subject to warnings from the U.S. Department of State. 

I previous listed Honduras as the second most dangerous cruise destination in the world

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

 

Photo Credit: La Prensa

We’ve received a fair share of hate e-mail this year after we reported on several crimes against cruise tourists in Roatan during the first three months of this year. Many expatriate property owners and business operators became highly agitated when we were the first in the U.S. to report on the murder of a NCL crew member shot near the port in April.

Two men were arrested regarding the crew member murder. The first man arrested was quickly arrested but apparently had nothing to do with the murder. The second man, who apparently killed the NCL employee, was shot in the leg by his friends and turned over to the police for a modest little Roatan Murder Suspectranson. He remains in jail.

A U.S. citizen, Cory Lee Beckner, who lives in Roatan was arrested for allegedly being involved in an armed robbery of a family visiting the island on a cruise ship. His sister recently posted, on our Facebook Page, an affidavit from a local police department suggesting that her brother is innocent. If this is true, then whoever robbed the several cruise tourists has not been apprehended.

In the last two months, there have been several break-ins of homes and businesses run by expatriate U.S. citizens and local residents of roatan. Many people have expressed frustration with the crimes and the absence of any follow-up by the understaffed and ill-equipped local police.

Just last Sunday, a local resident was found murdered, apparently killed with a concrete block which was found bloodied upon discovery of the dead body. The incident reportedly occurred near the impoverished Balfate colony area.  

The arrests of two gunmen who allegedly killed two residents in separate incidents over the course of the last year or so was recently a topic of discussions in Roatan among expatriates. Some people are calling for the alleged gunmen to be publicly hanged to deter other murderers. 

The president of Honduras and tourism officials have announced meetings with the cruise lines to deal with the reports of crime in Roatan. There have been no details released of what has been discussed.

The expatriate community in Roatan is an interesting lot. Half of the people there spend considerate effort trying to convince you how safe and peaceful the island is. But they have a different conversation amongst themselves. There are others who are interesting in exposing the crime problem in the hope that the problem will be addressed and improved.

Belize Tour Excursion Van AccidentNews 7 in Belize published an article yesterday entitled Tourists Survive Head On Collision.

The story involves two cruise passengers who had taken an excursion ashore in Belize and were involved in a serious accident while riding in a van which had a head-on collision with another van. The tour van they were in was caused to flip over.

Here is the local news station’s account:  

"Two cruise tourists and their driver were involved in  a serious collision within Belize City limits this afternoon. This picture provided to us by a viewer shows the tourists slumped over on the side of the road in front of the mashed up and overturned tour van they were in. The collision happened at around 2:30 at mile three and a half on the Western Highway – right at the spot where a new speed bump was installed just last week. The circumstances of the accident are unknown but it seems two mini-vans collided at the speedbump and the impact sent the gold van spinning across the highway, causing it to violently flip. The tourists were taken to a private hospital for treatment, while the condition of the driver is not known."

The news station did not identify the cruise line or cruise ship. 

Automobile, bus and van accidents ashore are an unexpected part of cruising and taking excursions ashore. Cruise lines have liability for injuries suffered during excursions under some circumstances, such as when the cruise lines offer the tour and fail to have in place procedures to properly vet the tour Belize Van Accident - Cruise Excursionexcursion’s equipment and the driver’s background, experience and driving record. Other excursions where cruise passengers have been injured include:

Excursion Tour Bus Crash In Tortola Injures Princess Cruises’ Passengers From Caribbean Princess

Injured Clelbrity Cruises Passengers to Dominica Airlifted to Miami

 9 Cruise Passengers Killed, 14 Injured in Bus Excursion Accident

Royal Caribbean Sponsored Excursion Tour Bus Crashes in St. Martin

Royal Caribbean Cruise Passengers Injured During Excursion in St. Thomas

 

Photo Credit:  7 News Belize