Cruise crime is an issue our maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have long been discussing. We’ve talked extensively about how some of the most popular cruise destinations, including the Bahamas, Honduras and Belize, are among the most dangerous locations in the world. Yet, while the number of crimes against tourists at these foreign ports continues to increase, little has been done to improve passenger and crew member safety when venturing to these nations. One approach is to completely avoid these ports – at least for the time being until crime rates start to decrease. This would be the ideal approach, since avoiding a dangerous place entirely assures that no one will be placed in harm’s way. Realistically speaking, we understand that cruise lines can’t completely eliminate certain port calls, because Caribbean itineraries would fall apart.
Another approach, which would at least provide some sort of alert regarding a particular port’s crime level, is for cruise lines to start educating passengers and crew members as to the truth about these destinations and the fact that there is a very high chance of armed robbery and sexual assault. A few months back, Carnival Cruise Line issued warning notifications to its passengers taking Bahamian itineraries, informing them of the crime rate and instructing them on which areas were deemed “safe” and which should be avoided. This was, in our opinion, a great idea. While the port wasn’t entirely avoided, at least Carnival recognized the possibility of passengers and crew members encountering a potentially dangerous situation, and wanted to ensure everyone was fully aware of which areas were more prone to criminal attacks so as to plan a visit accordingly.
Unfortunately, it’s been over a year since this warning was issued, and the Bahamas, among other foreign ports, continues to be a volatile destination for cruise travel. In fact, the situation is so dire, the U.S. Department of State addressed the issue in a recent publication, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) crime report for the Bahamas for 2014.
The report touches upon the fact that nearly 80 percent of tourists who visit the Bahamas are U.S. citizens, which means that local criminals are already on the lookout for unsuspecting travelers, who, unfortunately, are easy targets and can be easily spotted. But while violent crimes have clearly escalated in the island nation, the Bahamian government has failed to publish national crime statistics since July, 2013. Obviously, there is something that the government is trying to hide. After all, what kind of person in their right mind would want to venture to a foreign country where not only the laws much more lax than in the United States, as far as punishment for criminals or safety in general, but where crimes against tourists are extremely frequent? We certainly wouldn’t want to.
It’s important for cruisers to have all the resources available to make their own choice as to whether or not they want to visit a port where crime is rampant. Concealing information, especially regarding a cruise passenger’s safety, is not only manipulative, but downright unethical. It also makes it much more likely that someone attacked by a local criminal would file a lawsuit – and likely win.
According to the report, crime in the Bahamas continues to escalate, particularly in Nassau, the capital. Nassau is the most frequented of all the Bahamian cities, which means there is a huge chance cruise travelers will be faced with a life-threatening situation. Each week, the Bahamas faces a slew of crimes that range anywhere from pick pocketing to bank heists to convenient store robberies. It also faces a high number of sexual crimes. Women are being advised to stay as far away from local bars as possible to avoid the likelihood of a sexual attack or even kidnapping. Though the nation does have anti-crime initiatives in place, apparently, they are no match for the criminal masterminds. Violent crimes against tourist occur in a variety of locations, even as close as the city’s port itself. Cruise guests have previously been advised to remain as close to port as possible, but even then, criminals know they can easily get away with theft, so they have no qualms about attacking a tourist out in the open and in broad daylight.
So what exactly is being done to keep tourists safe? Find out in Part 2 of our blog.