NCL Cruise VeniceYesterday, as I flipped through my feed on tweetdeck, I noticed an idyllic image (left) of Venice. The stock photo show a few small boats and gondolas on the Grand Canal, with the text:

Cruise to Venice. It’s a place where people float down man-made waterways or stroll down picturesque alleyways. There’s no more extraordinary place to find yourself, or lose yourself. Stay in Venice before your next Mediterranean cruise!

The photo is linked to NCL’s efforts to market cruises to or from Venice. You can see the same image on NCL’s website.

The last time I wrote about Venice and NCL it involved George Clooney’s romantic wedding procession in Venice, Italy which was disrupted when the 93,000-ton, 2,400-passenger Norwegian NCL Norwegian Jade VeniceJade cruised by on the Giudecca Canal. NCL cluelessly congratulated Mr. Clooney on twitter after crashing his party.

Putting movie stars and celebrities aside, the reality of Venice is now the sight of huge cruise ships operated by NCL and other Miami-based cruise lines towering over the city and downloading hordes of day visitors buying trinkets.  Many of the hundreds of cruise ships coming to Venice each year are over 1,000 feet long, displace 140,000 tons and have drafts well over 25 feet. They pose a substantial risk to this fragile Italian city which is struggling against mass tourism and the deterioration of the city’s underwater foundations.

This is an issue which I have written about for the past decade.

Will the Juggernauts of the Seas Ruin Venice?

Photo credit: @NCL_eu; Norwegian Cruise Line via Travel Pulse; Getty Images via Mail Online / Monster Cruise Ships Menace Venice.

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

NCL Cruises Venice

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. 

The Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Mexico is situated on the Yucatán Peninsula of the country, west of Cuba. It consists of the resort city of Cancún on the Northeast of the Pennisula on the Caribbean coast, with Playa del Carmen and Tulum to its south which offer beautiful sandy beaches and seaside Mayan ruins, with the popular cruise destination of the island of Cozumel to the east of Palaya del Carmen.

Recently the U.S. State Department issued a warning to its federal employeees not to travel to Playa del Carmen following an explosion on a Mexican ferry which shuttled cruise passengers and other tourists between Palaya del Carmen and Cozumel. The U.S. Consular Office in Playa del Carmen was temporarily shut down due to crime threats unrelated to the threat against ferries operating Quintana Roo Mexico Cancun Cozumel Playa del Carmen between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.  U.S. government personnel are still prohibited from using the Mexican ferry services). Some cruise lines have cancelled all excursions using the ferry services, as we previously reported.

Although Cancun is known for its spectacular white sand beaches and turquoise waters, the tourist hotspot, many report, is “in the grips of a brutal and growing crime wave that threatens to leave it a ghost town.”  The same article writes:

“Amid a thriving drug trade and widespread extortion, fear is rampant and most of the murders go unsolved. Now, the situation is so dire that its multi-billion dollar tourism industry is under threat.”

British journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy recently reported on the out-of-control violence in Mexico, fueled by drug cartels and extortion, in a special for SBS’s Dateline called Mexico Beach Wars. He reported that there were 169 killings in the first half of 2017, a per capita murder rate far, far higher than anywhere in the U.S. or Canada.

The fear is that the beaches in Quintana Roo will become like Acapulco, a once popular Mexican beach resort in Mexico frequented by movie stars in the 1950’s and 1960″s, which has long since been abandoned by the cruise industry due to violence.

The Mexico torurism officials, or course, are pushng back and claming that the region is safe for tourists to visit. Following the bombing of the ferry in Palaya del Carmen, the Ministry of Tourism for State of Quintana Roo in Mexico quickly issued press releases where it claims that there is “no risk” to tourists when visiting Cozumel. Meanwhile, the expanding cruise industry is still promoting Mexico as a regular attraction to its guests.

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

Interested in this issue? Please read:

Three Cruise Lines Plan to Return to Mazatlan: Will They Provide Bullet-Proof Jackets to Passengers?

Cruise Lines Return to Acapulco Amidst Violence.

Mexican Violence: Does Anyone Cruise to Acapulco Anymore?

Tainted Alcohol & Crime: Mexico Struggles With Image As Cruise Destination

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World 

See also: Washington Post – Acapulco is Now Mexico’s Murder Capital.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Rz6t2FEablA%3Frel%3D0

 

The United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security issued another warning to U.S. tourists about the danger of sexual assault in Nassau , Bahamas yesterday.  The warning states:

Avoid Jet ski operators: Jet ski operators continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists. U.S. Embassy personnel are instructed not to use jet ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands, including Cabbage Beach and Cable Beach. We strongly recommend you also avoid patronizing jet ski rental operations.

The warning also advises tourists to drink responsibly due to the foreseeable risk of being drugged and Nassau Bahamas Crimethen sexually assaulted:

Stay in a group of friends who have your safety in mind when in clubs, bars, out walking in dimly-lit areas, or in a taxi at night. Visitors found alone or incapacitated have been victims of sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Watch your drink at all times. Intoxicated individuals may be targeted for drugging and sexual assault.

The warning is targeted to students traveling via cruise ship or air to the Bahamas for spring break to be on the alert for these dangers. 

We have reported many times on jet ski operators in the unregulated jet ski business in the Bahamas, who have raped tourists near Cable Beach or Paradise Island. Two years ago, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau states that jet ski operators sexually assaulted 5 tourists over the course of in 18 months.

We reported on four prior warnings about crime this year alone for Nassau, Bahamas by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau as well as by Canada.

In the past decade, there have been more crime warnings for Nassau, Bahamas than for all of the other Caribbean cruise ports combined. Nassau earned the title of the most dangerous cruise port in the world in 2014.

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

Photo credit: TampAGS, for AGS Media – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

An explosion aboard a Mexican ferry in Playa del Carmen ten days ago, followed by at least one explosive device planted on the hull of another ferry which was discovered yesterday, triggered a United States embassy’s alert last night, prohibiting embassy employees from using ferries operating between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo.

On February 21, 2018, we reported on a violent explosition on a ferry in Playa del Carmen which seriously injured around 25 passengers, includuing 7 U.S. citizens. The explosion on the Barcos Caribe, which has been operating a Playa del Carmen-Cozumel route, injured passengers as they were disembarking from the ferry to the dock. Mexican authorities initially said that the explosion was the result of a Carmen del Playa - Cozumel Warning Explosive Devices mechanical malfunction; however, news sources are now reporting that the explosion was the result of an explosive device.     

This news comes after a second device was located on another ferry in Cozumel also owned by the Barcos Caribe company, which provides regular service to toruists between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. A Mexican newspaper article contains a photograph of one of the explosive devices attached to the hull of a ferry. According to news accounts, Barcos Caribe is associated with former Quintana Roo Governor Roberto Borge Angulo who acquired the ferry line while he was still in office. After leaving office, Borge became a fugitive and was later captured in Panama. 

Roberto Borge Martín was apparently on board the first ferry at the time of the February 21 explosion, although the was reportedly uninjured. 

A Mexican drug cartel recently claimed responsibility for the explosion. According to a news source, the Cártel de “El Pumba” y “Tata,” associated with the Los Zetas drug cartel, threatened blow up the home of the current mayor of Carmen del Playa.

At least one cruise line, Princess Cruises, has cancelled excursions which use ferries between Playa del Carmen and Cancun. A copy of a letter dated today from Princess to cruise passengers on the Royal Princess sailing to Mexico arriving to Cozumel is above to the right.  The Princess letter to its guests on the Royal Princess states that "we strongly advise that ferries to the mainland be avoided." 

The violent ferry explosition injurying U.S. tourists is an ominous reminder of the often violent and dangerous state of the Mexican tourism industry. 

Meanwhile the Ministry of Tourism for State of Quintana Roo in Mexico is issuing press releases where it claims that there is "no risk" to tourists when visiting Cozumel. 

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

Video credit: El Pais YouTube  

https://youtube.com/watch?v=ys187GcxNbg%3Frel%3D0

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.

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

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.

NassauThe United States Department of State has again listed the crime threat in the Bahamas as "critical" and warned U.S. tourists to take safety measures while visiting the country.

The warning was issued by the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) which just published the the Bahamas 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Like other U.S. warnings about the Bahamas, this latest warning primarily involves Nassau (New Providence), not the "outer islands" not frequented by cruise ships. The OSAC estimates that there are approximately 370,000 people living in the Bahamas, with around 70% (around 250,000-260,000) of the population residing in crime-filled New Providence. Another another 15% (55,000) live on Grand Bahama. The rest of the population is dispersed over numerous islands (commonly referred to as the “Family Islands”), where crime is substantially less than in Nassau.

We reported on three prior warnings in the last thirty days by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Nassau as well as by Canada.   

The per capita murder and rape rates for the Bahamas as a whole are drastically higher than any port city in the United States. 

The Nassau Guardian covered the latest U.S. warning. 

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

Photo credit: NASA – Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas issued a new crime warning for the city following the assault of a U.S. citizen during the early evening hours of February 6, 2018, while jogging on West Bay Street just west of Goodman’s Bay Park.

This is an area around two miles west of the cruise port and downtown and east of the popular Cable Beach.

The Embassy urged that caution should be used in all areas of New Providence while traveling by foot Nassau Bahamas Crime Warningafter dark.

The Bahamas Tribune covered the new crime warning today.

The United States State Department issued its last crime warning for the Bahamas on January 10, 2018, which states, in part:

“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. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to visit the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime. Jet-ski operators are known to commit sexual assaults against tourists, including minors. As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.”

The U.S. government has issued more crime warnings for the Bahamas than for all locations in the Caribbean.

The common response from the Bahamian tourism officials to these warning is to suggest that Nassau is safe compared to major American cities like Chicago or New York.

But the per capita murder rate in the country of the Bahamas is much higher than the per capita rate in Chicago and many, many times higher than the per capita rate in New York City. 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.

Most cruise tourists don’t understand that the murder, rape and crime rates per capita are much higher in the Bahamas, particularly in Nassau, than anywhere the tourists are from.

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

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

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

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

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).

Have a comment?  Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook Page

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