Drama in the Bahamas Continues Over Carnival Cruise Ship Crime Warnings

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

BahamasWe have handled, and are currently handling, far too many cases where passengers have been robbed, raped or sexually assault in foreign ports of call.  Thus, just days ago, the cruise lawyers at our firm were thrilled to learn that Carnival Cruise Line had taken a step in the right direction, offering guests a letter warning of potential dangers prior to disembarking in Bahamian ports. Crime rates in the Bahamas have skyrocketed as of late, especially in Nassau, but the islands remain a popular spot for cruise travelers. Taking decisive action, Carnival wants to warn all of its guests to stay alert and avoid certain areas that are prone to robberies and violent crimes. We think it’s a great idea, but Atlantis Resort, not so much.

Last week, the luxury resort expressed concern over the warning letters and asked Carnival to stop issuing them to guests because of the potential effects on revenue.  Atlantis officials said they were concerned about Carnival informing passengers about the crime spurt in the city, particularly the increasing rate of gun violence. Naturally, Atlantis worries that cruise guests are being warned not to carry cash while in port because the resort boasts a huge casino and, let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to spend money at a casino when you have cash at hand instead of credit cards or traveler’s checks.

The resort stands to lose some revenue, but instead of worrying so much about their own pockets, they should worry about cruise guests, which in turn, are their guests as well. Atlantis draws thousands of tourist each day, over 4,000 of which are cruise passengers.  With reports of muggings, gun-point robberies and even sexual assault across the island nation, it would be wise of Atlantis to do everything possible to keep guests safe, instead of placing so much concern on their profits.

But Atlantis isn’t the only business in the Bahamas that’s throwing a fit over Carnival’s warning to passengers. The issue remains a concern for business owners in the islands who are arguing over whether Carnival should be issuing the crime warnings or not.

Local vendors in Nassau are also voicing their concerns over Carnival warning guests to refrain from carrying large amounts of cash, but what good is it to the vendors if travelers are robbed of their cash before they can make any purchases?!

Our cruise ship lawyers understand that the Bahamas relies heavily on the cruise tourism market for revenue, but where will the line be drawn between profit and safety? It’s common sense not to carry huge amounts of cash while in a foreign country. Cash is irreplaceable, unlike credit cards or traveler’s checks. Thieves will also be much more likely to target tourists carrying cash because they can make a quick getaway and the likelihood of tracing the crime back to a cash robbery is slim.

But alas, it seems as though profit is taking precedent over the safety of travelers in the Bahamas. So much so in fact, that John Bostwick, a Bahamian Senator, went as far as to accuse Carnival of scaring passengers into avoiding Nassau so they could be diverted to the cruise line’s new private island, Blackbeard’s Cay.

Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe is launching an investigation into Bostwick’s accusations, calling his concern “extreme” and doubting the cruise line, which has largely helped build the economy in the Bahamas, would do anything to jeopardize it.

It seems to us that Carnival is just trying to make good with guests after a long year of cruise ship accidents and mishaps. In fact, it’s high time the line did something in favor of promoting cruise ship safety. Yet, the line can’t seem to catch a break.

However, in the end, it is Carnival that has the upper hand. After all, the cruise line can choose to completely pull its ships out of the Bahamas and divert itineraries elsewhere. If Bahamian businesses push the issue too much, Carnival just might stop calling on the island nation altogether, which would leave businesses in a real struggle for revenue.

According to Bahamian officials, the nation is taking the crime spurts seriously and is working on reducing dangers for tourists, but this isn’t something that will or can even happen overnight.

It would be in the Bahamas own best interest to consider the needs of tourists, which they are so dependent on, above their own selfish needs. Hopefully Carnival will not back down and will continue issuing warnings to travelers. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to potential accidents and crimes in foreign countries. There have been numerous incidents that have been swept under the rug, never to be heard from again, but now that the new Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013 has been launched, cruise lines are under a lot of pressure to disclose accident and crime rates to the public.

Perhaps the fear of being caught downplaying a crime is the real driving force behind Carnival’s warnings. Either way, it’s an excellent idea and our cruise lawyers commend the cruise line for its efforts in promoting passenger safety.