In their ad campaigns, cruise lines typically portray their destinations as untouched beaches and tropical idylls where passengers have nothing to worry about. In reality, some of the top cruise destinations also rank as some of the places with the most violent crimes. And while cruise lines generally make an effort to keep passengers safe at their ports of call, some tourists from these ships have been the victims of robberies, sexual assaults, and other attacks.
In 2013, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released a global study on homicide that included a ranking of the ten countries with the highest rates of homicide, and more than half of the countries on this list are also cruise destinations. Let’s take a look at the cruise ship destinations with the highest crime rates.
Colombia comes in at number 10 on the UNODC list of most dangerous countries, and despite that dubious honor, its port city of Cartagena remains a popular destination for cruise lines such as Disney, Norwegian, and MSC. While the cruise review website Cruise Criticstresses that Cartagena is a clean and beautiful city, they also add that street crime is enough of a problem that tourists should avoid wearing expensive-looking jewelry or pulling out cash. Cartagena-based travel writer Glen David Short also warns tourists not to walk the city’s walls at night since it is a known site of robberies and sexual assaults.
Saint Kitts is a popular Caribbean cruise destination, but it also has an unusually high homicide rate for its small population (33.6 per 100,000 people in 2012). While most of the violent crimes in Saint Kitts are believed to be gang-related and committed by locals against other locals, tourists are still cautioned to be wary. The UK government recommends avoiding all isolated areas, leaving valuables behind, and watching out for unlicensed taxis.
One of the most well-known cruise ship destinations, Jamaica is also one of the most dangerous. The US Department of State listed Kingston as “critical” for crime in 2012 due to the high rates of murders, shootings, sexual assaults, robberies, break-ins, and larceny. While the majority of reported crimes are Jamaican-on-Jamaican, some also affect US citizens—in 2012 there were 4 reported murders, 15 reports of rape and/or sexual assault, and 4 reports of aggravated assaults against Americans, and the number of sexual assaults is believed to be underreported.
Cruise lines including Princess and Holland America offer cruises to the port city of Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala, a Central American country that is notoriously dangerous for tourists. Cruise passengers are often warned not to rent cars and explore remote areas, as ambushes and robberies of tourists are somewhat common in Guatemala. Sadly, a 73-year-old Norwegian Cruise Line passenger died in Guatemala last year after being shot in an armed robbery.
El Salvador has been working hard to position itself as a viable cruise destination over the past several years, and it has attracted several lines, including Princess and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, to the port city of Acajutla. Unfortunately, El Salvador’s efforts to promote tourism have not done anything to reduce the crime rate in this small Central American country, which has the fourth highest murder per capita rate in the world. Gang-related violence is a huge problem in El Salvador, and tourists have been victims of muggings, robberies, sexual assaults, shootings, and more.
Search for “Belize” on any cruise travel forum and you’ll find plenty of people asking whether it’s truly safe to get off the ship in this country. These concerns are valid—the US Department of State reports that Belize has a particularly high rate of murders, burglaries, and thefts. Tourists have reported being robbed at archeological sites with relative frequency, and some tourists have been the victims of violent crimes in resort cities and the cayes.
Just about every major cruise line offers trips to Venezuela, but that doesn’t mean this country (which has the world’s third highest homicide rate) is safe. Just this year, a 76-year-old cruise passenger was shot and killed outside a shopping center on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.
Honduras has the highest homicide per capita rate in the world, with a staggering 90.4 murders per 100,000 people. Violent crime in Honduras has become such a serious issue that the US Department of State issued a travel warning this past summer, saying that the level of crime remains “critically high” and that U.S. citizens are victims of crime at roughly the same rate as Honduran citizens.
Sadly, many cruise lines seem to be ignoring the high crime rates in their ports of call and are putting passengers in potentially dangerous situations. If you’re a victim of crime in any of the countries described above or any other cruise destination and you feel that the cruise line acted negligently in allowing you to visit that port, talk to an experienced maritime lawyer as soon as possible.
About the Author:
Ben Murphey is a personal injury and contracts lawyer, and a partner at the law firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphey. Mr Murphey has 10.0 Superb AVVO rating, was Reported in Verdict Search’s Top Florida Verdicts & Settlements of 2013 under the categories of Motor Vehicle, Worker Negligence, and Contracts/Legal Malpractice, named Top 1% of Car Accident Attorneys by Car Accident Lawyer, and was named a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers in 2014. Mr. Murphey is based in South Florida but represents people and businesses across the state who have been harmed by the wrongful acts of others.