Cruise Ship Accidents, Vacation Accidents

What Are The Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations?

Charles R. Lipcon

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Charles R. Lipcon is the firm’s founder and one of the preeminent maritime attorneys in the United States. Mr. Lipcon has been handling maritime lawsuits – including personal injury, wrongful death, sexual assault and rape – for over 40 years. In that time, he and his firm have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.

Going on a cruise is meant to be a relaxing and carefree experience. After all, what could be better than a few days of sunning yourself at sea and exploring your excursions? Lately, it seems that there are more reasons than ever to embark on a cruise. Unless, of course, your destinations pose a threat to your personal safety.

As educated travelers, it’s important to know which ports of call you don’t want to see on your itinerary. So if you’ve been wondering, “what are the most dangerous cruise destinations?” then we’re here to answer your questions. We’ve compiled information from sources around the web, as well as our personal experience with handling different cases within the maritime law context, to offer a comprehensive overview of the locations where you’ll want to be extra aware of your surroundings…or avoid altogether.

In The Caribbean

The first port you’ll want to look out for is St.Lucia. Robbery and attacks on tourists are not uncommon here.

The U.S. Virgin Islands is another hot location for violence. The island’s weak economy has led many to turn to violence against tourists. And while the government is attempting to stimulate the economy to reverse this problem, it’s best to still be on the lookout.

Antigua, though beautiful, has a murder rate three times that of New York City. Although the crimes may not be specifically targeted towards tourists, this is still something to keep in mind if you plan to spend some time here.

St. Kitts and Nevis should raise some red flags for all tourists, as visitors to the island have been robbed at gunpoint. This is not a destination you’ll want to explore on your own, especially after dark.

While the Bahamas are a beloved destination for cruise-goers everywhere, they too pose their own crime concerns. Tourists will be safe if they stay in their resort areas, but venturing out into the rest of the island–where the locals live and work (and where you may likely standout)– may make you a very desirable target.

In Central America

Mexico is a popular destination for many U.S. tourists as it’s within such easy reach from our Southern borders. However, travel to this country could include some less than enjoyable experiences. The country is known to have rampant crime and drug cartels, with tourists sometimes getting caught in the crossfires.

Not far from Mexico, El Salvador has a particularly high incidence of crime. With murder rates going off the charts, you may want to re-evaluate any time you plan to spend there.

Honduras has long been a popular spot for vacationers inspired by the natural beauty of this Central American gem. However, Roatan especially is a port to watch out for. Since 2010, upwards of 40 American citizens have been murdered here; perhaps not surprising, as this country has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Taxi-cab rapes, robberies at gunpoint, and general violence towards tourists characterize this scenic vacation spot.

Although Guatemala often attracts wide-eyed tourists with its beauty and amazing fresh fruits, tourists should be weary of stopping here. Theft and armed robbery are not uncommon, even in daylight hours.

Rounding out the list here is Belize, which suffers from similar murder statistics, in addition to being a hotbed of gang violence and illegal drug activity.

In South America

Colombia, with its reputation for drugs and violence is not an especially surprising addition to this list. The heavy involvement in the narcotics trade brings the usual increased violence, murder, and general unrest that you might expect. But, recent reports say that kidnappings are down in recent years.

Margarita Island, Venezuela is a common port of call for cruise ships. Unfortunately, the entire country is awash with poverty, crime, narcotics and human trafficking, making it an especially dicey place for tourists to explore. The country has one of the highest rates of crime and drug cartels, with a government that is mostly complicit with the outrageous levels of human trafficking there. The government is also inconsistent with reporting when U.S. citizens are arrested. So if you do visit, make sure you abide by the law.

The problems in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil came to light on the international stage with the Olympics in 2016. Here, disease may just outweigh crime in terms of most dangerous issues at play. This was the original breeding ground for the Zika virus, and possibly many more viruses, considering that the country dumps raw sewage into the water. However, that’s not to say that violent crime is nonexistent. It is very much in effect. This is perhaps due to the fact that the likelihood of catching a criminal who has robbed a tourist is less than 20%. According to reports, thieves abound on beaches, and crime is only getting worse.

In Asia

The Philippines are an alluring cruise destination for many. However, the Sulu Sea is gaining a reputation for the kind of violence that most people will want to avoid. Extremist activity in Mindanao, in addition to kidnappings, violence, human trafficking, and methamphetamine production in Manila make this one country you may want to skip.

Jakarta, Indonesia is another port of call that has caught our attention due to the high rates of piracy in the waters, petty crimes, and suicide bombers specifically targeting foreign tourists.

If you were considering going to Dhaka, Bangladesh, you’ll likely want to reconsider. Crime against foreign travelers has increased there since 2015, mostly related to ISIS activity. The U.S. Government warns that, “The terrorist threat is real and credible.”

In Africa and the Middle East

Many tourists travel to Israel without a problem each year. However, there have been reports of rocket shrapnel landing on cruise ship decks near the port of Ashdod. The ports of Heifa and Eilat are also especially close to conflict zones.

Speaking of conflict, Izmit, Turkey is the port closest to ISIS activity in Syria and Iraq. It is also just 65 miles from Istanbul, which has suffered from a series of terrorist attacks in recent years.

Due to wars raging in Yemen since 2015, ports in the Gulf of Aden, and Aden specifically, are contentious ports of call. The terror activity is so prevalent here, that cruise ships are known to turn off GPS and any other means by which they could be identified by parties looking to hijack the ship.

Similarly, Tunis, Tunisia should be avoided as well. The U.S. places Tunisia’s terrorism levels at “critical” due to a “significant” amount of both violent and non-violent crime taking place in the area.

Across the continent, the Ivory Coast has been a known location for tourist-targeted violence, in addition to narcotics and money laundering.

And nearby Nigeria, specifically Port Harcourt, has one of the most dangerous maritime areas of the world. The location is basically a no-go zone with Boko Haram active in the country.

How To Stay Safe

First, before you travel, it’s always a good idea to check the US Department of State website for travel warnings and advisories.  We often argue that when there are warnings of violent crimes in cruise ports of call, the cruise lines should be bringing these official US warnings to their passengers’ attention before the ship arrives in port.

Also, in general, it’s a good idea to travel in groups, book with a trusted tour company, and stick to the itinerary–no wandering off in places you’ve never been before.

As a tourist, you’ll likely stick out wherever you travel, so it’s important to minimize the opportunities thieves may have to stage an attack. Stay alert in crowded places, be mindful of your jewelry, and do not explore after dark.

Unfortunately, personal injury can take place on a cruise vacation when you least expect it. And if it does, we are here to help. A maritime attorney on our team can make a world of difference. We have represented clients around the world with cases against many major cruise lines. So you can rest assured that we have the necessary experience to achieve the results you deserve. Contact us to find out more.

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