Cruise ship crime is a growing problem that does not get the full attention it deserves. One of the best aspects of going on a cruise vacation is knowing that you will be safe from harm while out in international waters, but unfortunately, incidents such as theft, sexual assault and murder are all crimes that occur on the high seas. Staying informed of all incidents that can occur while on a vessel or in port will help you and your loved ones enjoy your vacation all the more and keep each other from harm’s way as much as possible.
This week, cruise lines are issuing a warning for all guests who are traveling to the Bahamas, one of the most popular tourist spots, to be wary of increasing cruise passenger crime levels in New Providence, particularly in downtown Nassau. Crime levels in these areas are increasing at such a rapid pace that Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said is a risk for cruise passengers.
Although cruise guests have not been advised to remain onboard their vessels while visiting the Bahamas, the Minister said they have been warned to take the proper safety measures to protect passengers and crew members as well as to stay informed of crimes that have been taking place against tourists.
Concerns were first brought to the attention of the cruise industry last week, ironically, just moments after Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade reported that crime numbers were down in Nassau. Our cruise lawyers have always warned about staying as safe as possible on the high seas, especially in foreign countries where U.S. laws that protect passengers might not apply.
It is important for cruise passengers to always travel in groups and never wander around a foreign port alone – no matter how safe the country might be. Tourists can easily be spotted and become targets for pickpockets, rapists and other vandals who are looking to make a quick buck and fast getaway, since they know the travelers will most likely not press charges or open an investigation.
Just this week, our firm reported that a St. Lucia robbery suspect who was among four masked men to hold Celebrity Eclipse travelers at gunpoint, was arrested. The cruise passengers had been touring a botanical garden in the town of Soufriere when the suspects made their move. The robbers stole money, cell phones, jewelry, cameras, and other valuables from 55 passengers and two crew members. Luckily no one was injured, but this incident goes to show that crime can take place at any moment and it isn’t only passengers that can get hurt, but crew members as well.
There have been several incidents involving cruise ship crew members who have gotten robbed, assaulted and who have gone missing in foreign ports. Marlon Griffiths, a 32-year-old Jamaican crew member onboard the Celebrity Constellation, went missing last December while in Falmouth, another popular (and dangerous) cruise destination.
According to Wilchcombe, the Ministry of Tourism is taking a serious approach to ensure visitors are safe in the Bahamas. However, one of the ways in which visitors are “protected” is by keeping incidents concealed.
Cruise lines have long been blamed for failing to report crimes that occur while onboard or while in port for fear of having to take responsibility for the outcome. If someone is hurt or vanishes while in the care of a cruise operator, the company may be found at least partially responsible for the incident and may be ordered to pay the victim or their loved ones damages for their pain and suffering. But the worst part by far is the negative press that will be reported. Once a cruise line loses its reputation for safety, it will also start to lose guests, and consequently, revenue.
Cruise travelers have been warned to avoid certain areas in the Bahamas prone to crime, and try to remain as close to port as possible. Women are advised not to go out to local bars, especially without a group. Female cruise passengers and crew members have been sexually assaulted or kidnapped by Bahamian criminals in Nassau more often than cruise lines would like to admit.
Señor Frogs, which is located at the Nassau dock, has been deemed as a safe location thus far. However, even in areas deemed “safe” travelers should still be on the lookout for suspicious activity and never accept drinks from strangers, which might be laden with drugs.
“We just need to be on top of things and the situation because we are a high-end destination,” said Wilchcombe. “Because we are, what differentiates us from the rest of the world is our quality. So our product has to be the best and that includes people feeling safe when they are in this country.”
Wilchcombe added that local authorities have agreed to work with Tourism officials to promote safety and reduce the incidence of attacks on cruise travelers.
Unfortunately, crime will occur no matter who is watching over cruise travelers. Anyone who decides to go on a cruise vacation should be wary of the possibility of danger and make sure to take part in activities within large groups, opt for excursions that are sponsored by the cruise line, leave all valuables onboard, carry travelers checks instead of cash, and bring walkie talkies to communicate with loved ones in the event that cell phone service is unavailable.
These are just a few steps to take to ensure you and your loved ones stay as safe as possible on the high seas.