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

 

Carnival Cruise BrawlCarnival Cruise Line characterized the recent brawl on the Carnival Legend as limited, isolated and unprecedented. But anyone who follows the cruise industry knows that these type of fights which occur on Carnival ships are hardly rare. 

There literally are dozens of videos on YouTube of fights which have erupted on cruise ships over the years. The vast majority of these brawls occur on Carnival ships. 

There are reasons for this problem, in my opinion:

The "wider audience:" Cruising is now more popular than ever. The cruise line’s trade organization, CLIA, says that over 27 million passengers will take a cruise this year.  Cheaper fares have attracted what Carnival Corporation chairmen Micky Arison characterizes as the "wider audience." Eight years ago in an article titled Cruise Ship Brawls – A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships, I wrote about CEO Arison discussing potential issues associated with cheap cruise tickets and a more diverse group of passengers.

Cruise executive Arison said: “cruise ships are a microcosm of any city or any location and stuff happens . . . The negatives of discounting might be less commission for agents and less revenue for us but the positive is it opens up the product to a wider audience.” I mentioned that the "wider audience" will undoubtedly include a younger crowd from a different demographic, including what I call the hard partying "Bud Light – tank top" crowd.

Too much alcohol on increasingly gigantic ships: Cruise lines aren’t profitable based solely on their cruise fares. Of all "onboard purchases," including casino sales, shore excursions, specialty restaurants and gift shops, alcohol sales are the key to keeping the tax-free foreign flagged cruise ships profitable.  Pushing alcohol sales are a key part of Carnival’s fun ships. Carnival collects literally Carnival Cruise Brawlhundreds of millions of tax-free dollars a year selling booze on the Carnival Cruise Line fleet. Bartenders, who make a earning solely on gratuties and tips, are often prone to over-serve guests. 

Ill trained and and insufficient number of security guards: A common complaint we hear from passengers is that ship security does not intervene at an early stage to stop potentially violent situations from escalting and getting out of hand. Carnival responded to the recent brawl between ship staff and cruise guests by praising its "highly trained security staff." But images of its security personnel and ship officers kicking and beating passengers last week (and trying to stop passengers from filing the out of control violence) speaks volumes about Carnival’s shipboard security and the cruise line’s so-called "zero tolerance" of such violence. In the videos below, the Carnival security personnel are often seen observing the fights or trying to stop people from taking videos of the melees.

Eight years ago, I asked how Carnival will handle the "wider audience" flocking onto its larger cruise ships. If cruise ships are like cities and "stuff happens," as Carnival’s Arison righfully suggests, what steps are cruise lines taking to protect U.S. families? I asked then and will ask now whether Carnival and other cruise lines will ever hire a full complement of well trained and experienced security guards? Or will they continue to try and save money with only a few inexperienced "guards" trying to protect their guests from the inevitable violence when thousands of people squeeze into the huge ships and far too much booze is added to the mess? 

The answer to these questions is contained in the videos below, which I have ranked in order of out-of-control violence. There are far too many videos to include them all here, including the recent brawl aboard the Carnival Legend.  

If you have a video to nominate, send me a link and we can add it to a ten ten list. 

Carnival Dream (2010): 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Asi0fqG0BB4%3Frel%3D0

 Carnival Splendor (2010): 

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

 Carnival Ship (2011): 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=D7HGc2aoOGc%3Frel%3D0

Carnival Glory (2016):

https://youtube.com/watch?v=qkFuX4IFJXI%3Frel%3D0

 Carnival Breeze (2015):

https://youtube.com/watch?v=2pNB4QUP2IQ%3Frel%3D0

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Carnival Legend BrawlA video of a brawl on the Carnival Legend shows Carnival security officers and other security personnel kicking passengers while they are on the floor. Carnival officers are also shown trying to prevent other passengers from videotaping the violence.

The video, which was taken by a passenger and aired by Australia’s 3AW693 Talk Radio, is circulating on social media. It shows as many as six officers and a equal number of personnel wearing dark colored shirts with “SECURITY” on the back fighting with unruly passengers on the Carnival Legend.

The news article also states that passengers reported that ship security staff attempted to “censor the situation.” A father who received a telephone call from his son on the ship said that “the security came in and took his phone, and deleted a lot of images from his phone.”

We have reported on many such ship brawls, which have primarily occurred on the Carnival brand of ships over the years.

This latest incident occurs just a few days after a violent brawl on the P&O Pacific Explorer.

We first wrote about the problem of violence on cruise ships back in 2009 in Cruise Ship Brawls – A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships, where we covered a “mini-rampage” on the P&O cruise ship Ventura and a brawl involving Carnival passengers who punched, scratched and bit it out with police in Antigua. The following year, we covered another violent brawl on another Carnival ship in More Carnival Legend BrawlCruise Ship Violence – A Drunken Brawl On Carnival’s Dream. We also wrote about this problem in Another Brawl Breaks Out on a Carnival Fun Ship. YouTube is filled with videotapes of violence on Carnival ships.

The problem arises when the “wider audience” (a term coined by Carnival chairmen Micky Arison) finds their way onto cruise ships attracted by low prices. Add too much alcohol, and too few well-trained security guards on these budget ships, and this is what happens.

Carnival quickly sent out a press statement which states:

“Safety is the number one priority for Carnival Cruise Line, we take a zero tolerance approach to excessive behaviour that affects other guests and we have acted accordingly on Carnival Legend. The ship’s highly trained security staff have taken strong action in relation to a small group of disruptive guests who have been involved in altercations on board. The ship’s security team is applying our zero tolerance policy in the interests of the safety and comfort of other guests.”

Many people posted comments on our Facebook page about the outrageous conduct of the Carnival security personnel kicking the passengers and trying to prevent the videotaping of the brawl.

February 17, 2018 Update: The Washington Post has an interesting article about this incident – A Carnival cruise in the South Pacific descended into violent anarchy.

Photo and video credit: 3AW693

El Salvador CruiseThe U.S. Department of State issued another warning to U.S. citizens that crime and violence in El Salvador continue to be at high levels. U.S. citizens traveling to El Salvador should remain alert to their surroundings. This travel warning supersedes the last warning (November 21, 2014). 

Since January 2010, 34 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador with only 6 convictions of those murders.  During the same time period, 419 U.S. citizens were victims of crime including violent crimes.

Like other Central American countries, El Salvador lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases and to deter violent crime.

Last year, we picked El Salvador to be the ninth most dangerous cruise destination in the world. Here’s what I wrote: 

"El Salvador is one of a few countries which is subject to a "critical" crime warning from the U.S. State Department. It has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. In 2012, it suffered from a murder rate of 69 per 100,000 people. By comparison, the murder rate in Massachusetts, with a similar geographical area and population, was 2.6 per 100,000. Murders and crimes against U.S. citizens are rarely solved."

Fox News picked El Salvador as the second most dangerous cruise port in the world. There are two cruise ports, La Union and Acajutia. The major cruise lines avoid them but Fred Olsen has sailed there and Azamara is scheduled to do so next year.

The latest murder rates (2014) is 68.6 per 100,000 inhabitants (the U.S. murder rate is less than 5 per 100,000). There are numerous violent gangs. In addition to violent crime, a common crime affecting U.S. tourists credit is card skimming. U.S. citizens have been victimized at well-known restaurants, hotels, and El Salvador retailers.

This year I visited the El Salvador booth at Cruise Shipping Miami (photo above).

Last month, the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) held its 2015 regional meeting in El Salvador to promote cruising to Central American countries. 

In March, El Salvador Tourism Minister José Napoleón Duarte (photo) met FCCA / Carnival chairman Micky Arison at Cruise Shipping Miami in March to promote his country to the cruise industry.

You will find no mention of this latest crime warning by the FCCA, CLIA, Carnival, or El Salvador tourism representatives. 

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Photo Credit: top Jim Walker; bottom seatrade-cruise  

Viking CinderellaAccording to a documentary on Swedish TV4 as discussed in the Finnish newspaper Uutiset, cruise ship violence in the Baltic has grown “exponentially.” 

36 women and girls were raped on Baltic cruise ships last year (2014), according to a report from another Finnish newspaper, HBL, covering the documentary. 

The reporters used  hidden cameras to document "violent, dangerous, drunken behavior by ship passengers" and a "lack of proper oversight by ship personnel." The documentary focused on three cruise ships, the Viking Line Cinderella (photo above), the Tallink Silja Galaxy and the Birkaline Birka.

The hidden cameras revealed fights between passengers and cruise staff ignoring young women so intoxicated they were nearly unconscious. Cruise lines were criticized for selling liquor to inebriated guests and allowing passengers to drink duty free liquor during the cruise. These problems were characterized as endemic and something something the cruise companies deny.

In 2008, there were 43 reported rapes on these cruise ships. Although the program suggested that violence is increasing, it appears that there have dozens of sexual assaults each year on cruise ship in the Baltic for the past decade.

 

Photo Credit: EnDumEn via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0 

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?

 

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

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe United States Department of State just issued a warning to U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains "critically high."  

The warning is similar to the critical crime warning issued by the U.S. State Department last year

The warning states that ". . . crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and police often lack vehicles or fuel to respond to calls for assistance. The police may take hours to arrive at the scene of a violent crime or may not respond at all. Members of the Honduran National Police have been arrested, tried, and convicted for criminal activities. Many more are under investigation. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras."

"Honduras has had one of the highest murder rates in the world for the last five years. The U.S. Embassy has recorded more than 100 murders of U.S. citizens since 2002."

Roatan Honduras CruiseThe warning specifically mentions Roatan:

"Roatan and the Bay Islands are geographically separated from Honduras and experience lower crime rates than the Honduras mainland. The national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security. However, as on the mainland, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur, and you should exercise caution, especially at night." 

The warning also includes cruise passengers. The warning says that although the vast majority of cruise line passengers to Roatan experience no problems, there have been reports of cruise passengers who have been victims of armed robbery and carjacking. We wrote about such incidents here and here. The warning fails to mention that a cruise ship employee was gunned down last year in broad daylight near the port, which we wrote about here

The U.S. warning says although crime remains "critically high," violence allegedly has declined in the past two years according to the State Department. Despite such assurances (no statistics provided), children in Honduras fleeing violence and drug gangs and trying to enter the U.S. remain a critical problem for U.S. – Roatan Honduras CruiseHonduran relations. President Juan Hernandez is committed to the militarization of Honduras (with the support of the U.S.) to try and stem the flow of drugs from Colombia to the U.S. But there recently have been armed confrontations between National Police and the Military Police, both of which have been accused of corruption, which many see as a new level of chaos and corruption. 

A problem plaguing both mainland Honduras and Roatan is that the vast majority of murders are carried out with total impunity. This is exactly the case with a number of killings which I wrote about on Roatan last year, like this and this and these killings involving four boys and young men whose bodies were retrieved and placed in a pickup truck while a NCL cruise ship was moored nearby. 

Meanwhile expatriate resort owners, tour operators, land owners and travel writers are assuring tourists and retirees that Roatan remains paradise.

March 3 2015 Update: Honduran Police Clean Up Declared A Failure

 

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Photo Credit: LaPrensa – top; Teledifusora Insular – bottom. 

One of the focuses of Cruise Law News is not only crime on cruise ships, but crimes in ports of calls. 

Cruise lines have a legal obliCrime in the Caribbeangation to warn passengers of crimes which occur in the ports of call where they take their passengers. Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have agents in the ports and have first hand knowledge regarding which ports are dangerous. 

Cruising is not considered by the courts to be just "point to point" transportation, as in the case of the airline industry which has no duty to warn of crime in a destination the passenger picks to vacation. The ports of call are considered to be an integral part of the cruise experience. Cruise lines must tell their passengers if its safe to proceed down the gangway with their children. Unfortunately, cruise passengers have been mugged, raped and shot and killed. The problem is that many cruise lines don’t bother to tell their guests what their crew members already know. Some crew employees don’t get off the cruise ship in certain ports because of the fear of being a victim of armed robbery, but the cruise lines refuse to pass this information on to the passengers. 

Next week, I’ll publish the "Most Dangerous Cruise Destination of 2015." You can read my last list here. I’d like to hear from our readers which ports they have found to be dangerous, what experiences about crime ashore they wish to share, which itineraries they totally avoid, and what ports they chose to stay on the ship.

The cruise industry is too busy promoting the image of idyllic ports of paradise and selling excursions to tropical wonderlands to be honest with you. Next week we’ll give you our predictions regarding which ports you’re most likely to be at the wrong end of a gun during your cruise vacation.

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

US Virgin IslandseTN Global Travel Industry News recently published an article about  tourism issues in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the USVI Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty.

In its original publication, eTN cited several sources of information for the proposition that the USVI has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. The territory has a staggering homicide rate around 35.5 per 100,000 people, whereas the United States as a whole has a rate around 4.7 per 100,000 people. (In 2012, the per capita murder rate in the USVI was even higher, around 56 per 100,000 people). 

We selected the USVI as the eight most dangerous cruise destination in the Caribbean in 2014. Earlier this year, I wrote that there are "way too many guns, drugs, robberies, and murders to pretend the USVI is a place for a family to vacation."

The leading maritime case involving a cruise line’s duty to warn passengers of dangers ashore involves a young girl murdered while visiting St. Thomas during a cruise ship stop.

eTN concluded that "the discrepancy between the socioeconomic status, ethnicity and colonial history of the local population stands in contrast to that of the tourist, straining the relationship between residents and visitors which is evidenced, in some cases, by poor service and worker hostility. Negative employee behavior combined with infrastructure decline pushes tourism to other destinations and creates a downward spiral for USVI visits." This is an accurate insight in to the crime and tourism problems in my opinion. 

But then eTN received a phone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). CTO claimed that the article "had many errors" and disputed that the USVI is dangerous. CTO failed to provide eTN with any evidence or statistics to indicate that the USVI is safe.

Inexplicably, eTN published a second article in which it wrote "of course it should be acknowledged the US Virgin Islands is one of the safest travel and tourism destinations in the world when it comes to U.S. Virgin Islands Crimecrime."  It cited no evidence to support this conclusion which was 180 degrees opposite of what it concluded in its original article.

Tourism officials in the Caribbean are in the business of selling tropical vacations to their islands. To accomplish this feat in an ever-increasing dangerous environment, tourism bureaus often suppress crime statistics and dispute the statistics when they are released.

There’s no dispute that the USVI murder rate has been 8 to 12 times higher than the U.S. rate in the last couple of years. It’s dangerous for families cruising to St. Thomas not to understand this.

It’s disappointing to see a reputable publication like eTN flip-flop so dramatically after receiving a single telephone call from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. 

 

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Photo Credit: Top – Wikipedia / Charlotte Amalie Creative Commons 2.5; bottom – Virgin Islands Daily News

The headlines in the Nassau, Bahamas newspapers over the last 24 hours are ominous –  Man Shot Dead in Home InvasionShot Dead Defending Parents and Fatal Shooting in Fox Hill

These murders take the number of homicides in the Bahamas to 96 and 97 for the year.  

The Nassau newspapers read like a war correspondent’s daily account of mayhem and misery.  In the last week, the Tribune has blasted headlines like Shootings on the IncreaseTwo Murders in Six Hours, and Latest Armed Robberies Bring Month’s Total To 30. The Nassau Guardian’s recent Crime Nassau Bahamasgruesome headlines include Two Killed in Weekend Violence and Man Gunned Down Protecting Family

Last year there were 111 murders in the Bahamas in 2013. The country is averaging 10 murders a month in 2014. The 2013 rate will be exceeded sometime in December.

Defenders of the Bahamas point out that the Bahamas consists of some 700 islands. But there’s no question that the vast majority of these violent crimes occur in New Providence (Nassau) where the majority of the cruise passengers disembark.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Miami’s metro area has a population of around 5.5 million. That’s twenty-two times the population of New Providence (250,000). Miami-Dade had 229 murders in 2013. Even though the Miami metro area has 22 times more people, it has only approximately 2 times as many murders. Plus the police force in Nassau is ineffective, the legal system is broken and the tourism officials try to cover the violence up.

Many cruise tourists have an image of Miami as being high in crime, but they don’t understand that disembarking in Nassau is far more dangerous.

Both the U.S. and Canada have issued crime warnings for the Bahamas because of the violence.

More and more cruise passengers tell me that they stay on the ship when they reach port in Nassau. They say that they’re bored with the straw market and run-down Bay Street. They don’t want to risk walking off the ship into a shabby port and becoming a victim of armed robbery by a young man with a gun. 

 

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Photo Credit: Nassau Tribune