In our last blog, our cruise ship lawyers discussed a recent report that was published by the U.S. government regarding escalating crime rates in the Bahamas. As we’ve previously noted, crime in the Bahamas, and several other foreign ports frequented by cruise lines, is reaching an all-time high. Though there have been a number of ships that have either temporarily ceased calling on foreign destinations, or have at least issued warnings to passengers venturing to these dangerous locations, the fact still remains that cruise travelers are constantly at risk of getting injured or even killed due to the increasing criminal activity in some of the more popular Caribbean cruise destinations, the Bahamas being one of the most perilous.
Cruise lines can only do so much to help keep passengers and crew members out of harm’s way. Sure, stopping port visits would be the ideal situation, but let’s face it, if all of these dangerous locations are taken out of a Caribbean itinerary, the Caribbean itinerary would basically consist of an extended sail around the ocean without any actual stops. Cruise lines have no authority to implement crime-reduction tactics in the foreign ports they visit, but even when a cruise line tries to do the right thing, such as educate passengers of the potential dangers associated with a particular port, that nation’s government will fire back and complain.
After Carnival Cruise Line issued a warning to its passengers regarding crime in the Bahamas, and which places should be avoided the most, Nassau’s most popular resort, Atlantis, retaliated and demanded Carnival stop issuing the guest warnings because it would diminish their revenue. As usual, the providers of travel often favor money over a traveler’s safety. Atlantis officials said they were concerned about Carnival’s informative warnings, especially the warning of increased gun violence. Carnival also warned guests not to carry cash while in Nassau, over which Atlantis officials expressed their concern. Since Atlantis boasts one of the largest casinos in the world, of course a lack of cash would be an issue for them. Cash is much easier to spend than a traveler’s check or a credit card.
But then given the escalating number of attacks against travelers in the Bahamas, what exactly is the Bahamian government doing to minimize the risk for cruise passengers and crew members?
Well, for one, Bahamian officials attempted to increase police force in Nassau last year in the hopes of reducing the crime rate. The government enforced 12-hour shifts for police officers, random police checkpoints, and a variety of other crime reducing plans that covered areas where tourism was most prevalent. Still, crimes continued to rise. And sadly, many of these crimes result in fatalities.
Not only are attacks against tourists frequent, but they are usually accompanied by the treat of a dangerous weapon. Criminals in the Bahamas are assaulting cruise passengers with a variety of weapons, including knives, daggers, guns, and even machetes. Sexual assailants are also taking to drugging victims, which is why our cruise ship lawyers have continually stressed the importance of traveling in large groups and to always keep a close eye on beverages. Drugs can easily be slipped into a person’s drink without their even realizing. (It’s important to also note that drugs can easily be slipped in drinks while onboard a cruise ship, which is why passengers should never leave their guard down.) At least in the company of a large group, it is much less likely the assailant will be able to take advantage of the victim. If signs of drugging are present, other group members will quickly respond and get the victim back onboard the cruise ship and to safety.
Carnival Cruise Line’s warning to travelers also provided a list of some of the “safer” areas, where criminals were less likely to strike. Señor Frogs, for example, was deemed a safe location. But as the U.S. government report demonstrated, there really isn’t a safe place anywhere on the island. Crimes have been reported close to the port where the ships dock, known as Prince George Wharf, as well as in the Cable Beach resort areas. Last year, a U.S. citizen was fatally shot in the Bahamas and a U.S. Embassy worker was injured during a robbery. How many more people will be forced to suffer before Bahamian officials take greater steps to enforce penalties against these criminals?
If a criminal knows they are able to get away with an offense without much risk of punishment, of course they will continue to take their chances and engage in illegal activity!
But crime in the Bahamas isn’t just limited to tourists, which makes the nation as a whole extremely volatile. Criminals also target locals, and as the report shows, the number of home burglaries has risen, as has the robbery of local gas stations and stores. Even drive-by shootings have been recorded. And this is just what has been reported. We can only imagine what horrific figures would be returned if an accurate account of all crimes would be reported.
It seems to remain that tourists, especially cruise passengers, are often the most attractive targets. Given that tourists travel with cash mostly, cameras, electronics, jewelry, and other valuables, criminals are much more likely to attempt an attack on a non-local, since the chances of getting away with a greater amount of valuables is highly likely. It’s also less likely that a tourist will file a police report because they know they will have to leave the area within a few hours anyway.
We sincerely advise potential cruise passengers to research the areas they will be visiting, to travel in large groups, and to remain as close to port as possible. Travelers can also download our free Cruise Ship Lawyer app for iPhone and Android phones, which can assist in the event a crime does occur. The app provides a log to keep track of incident details and expenses and also has a Skype feature that lets the user contact our firm for immediate legal advice. Though we hope no one will actually have to use it, the app can at least offer added protection to cruise passengers traveling abroad.