Crime in Cruise Ports

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013

Yes, crime does happen once in awhile in the poverty-stricken Caribbean islands cruise ships visit. Certain individuals will come to believe that cruise tourists can be "easy pickin's" for hold ups. There have been incidents in Jamaica where entire busloads of tourists were stopped by armed gunmen who boarded the bus and stole everyone's wallets and jewelry. It's pretty typical for any cruise guest to be carrying some cash (maybe $100) plus a digital camera. Far too many women wear expensive jewelry when on vacation.

It's a little funny that several times when this has happened several passengers have reported that they thought the bandits were just putting on a show at first, until they saw the terrified look on the group leader's face who generally advised everyone to comply with the thieves as non-confrontationally as possible.

Just about three weeks ago a group of nine cruise passengers from Disney Wonder were taking a little tour in Nassau, Bahamas, on the new Segway scooters (If you've seen promos for the movie "Harry Blart - Mall Cop," you know what they are) when two men jumped out of the bushes with shotguns and made them all lay on the ground. After they swiped all their belongings, patting them down to make sure they missed nothing, the nine people watched as the same gunmen hijacked a group of nine more Royal Caribbean tourists just coming around the bend. However, the gumnen were far more agressive with the second batch, because the leader resisted a little. They fired a shotgun blast into the ground, scaring the daylights out of everyone.

In this case, complete cooperation was the proper response. But who can forget 70-year old Warner Segura who was riding on a tour bus of Carnival Liberty passengers near the Costa Rica city of Limon, 80 miles east of San Jose just two years ago, was suddenly it was boarded by three assailants intent on mugging the 12 senior citizens onboard. Warner Segura, believed to be about 70 years old and an American citizen, apparently killed one of the alleged muggers with his bare hands, while his traveling companions aboard the tour bus fended off two other assailants, Limon police said.

Segura, a retired member of the U.S. military, put the suspect in a head lock and broke his clavicle after the 20-year-old and two other men armed with a knife and gun tried to hold up the tour bus. The two other men fled when the 12 senior citizens started defending themselves during the attack. Afterward, the tourists drove the assailant to the Red Cross where he was declared dead, apparently from asphyxiation. The Red Cross also treated one of the tourists for an anxiety attack, Hernandez said.

Then there were the six tourists aboard the Carnival Legend who got into a scuffle with a taxi driver when they claimed he had over-charged them. They demanded to be taken to the police station, where the police sided with the cab driver. A real scuffle broke out, between the passengers and the police, resulting in the six people being arrested and held on the island. Bail was given, but they were not allowed to leave the island for a month - until the hearing was held. In the end all but one pleaded guilty, they all paid a fine and were allowed to go home. But the lesson is that it is better not to fight with the locals, even if you think you have the law on your side -- or you're a pretty tough 70-year old scrapper.

According to the US State Department, far more crime happens in the Caribbean at night, so I do not know why anyone would want to stay in the Caribbean in a hotel unless you never plan to leave it after dark. The State Department site says this: "The Bahamas has a high crime rate; however, areas frequented by tourists during the day are not generally prone to violent crime. Visitors should exercise caution and good judgment at all times and avoid high-risk personal behavior, particularly after dark."

My advice is to go see the Caribbean during the day by cruise ship, stick to organized tours that are well populated, and do not carry more than you need with you; a little cash, one credit card, some ID (to get back on the ship) and maybe a cheaper digital camera. And then enjoy the ship at night, leaving the islands to the locals.

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