By Craig Davis, CraigslegzTravels.com
Royal Caribbean’s rescinding of a warning to cruise passengers about crime concerns in Nassau, Bahamas, illuminates the conflict of interest inherent to tourism world-wide.
Most important, it underscores that travelers must be vigilant and take responsibility for their own safety anywhere they go.
The tourist industry and popular destinations have their own agendas.
On Dec. 26, 2018, passengers aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas were issued a letter signed by the captain prior to arrival in Nassau warning of an increase in crime in the popular port.
A week later, Royal Caribbean backed down under pressure from Bahamian tourism officials, agreeing to stick to a generic message in its daily newsletter advising passengers to “use the same common sense you would in any major city.”
In a Nassau Tribune report, Dionisio D’Aguilar, Bahamas minister of tourism and aviation, said that “gentle nudging” convinced Royal Caribbean to drop the “unwarranted” passenger advisory.
Risky areas cited in Nassau warning
The Dec. 26 letter, signed by Capt. Srecko Ban, read: “We feel it is important to make our guests aware that Nassau has been experiencing an increase in crime. Non-violent crimes, such as theft of personal items, are the most common types of crimes being committed.”
It specified areas to avoid after sunset, including the Sand Trap, the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay and parts of Nassau referred to as “Over the Hill.”
The captain advised passengers to:
• Leave valuables and irreplaceable items inside your stateroom safe.
• Avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry.
• Carry only cash and credit cards needed on each outing.
• Use discretion when handling cash publicly.
• Keep belongings, especially expensive cameras and phones, secure and in sight.
It is unclear what prompted the timing of the letter, but the warning was similar to the Bahamas travel advisory issued by the U.S. State Department nearly a year before, in January 2018, that remains in effect, urging increased caution in the Bahamas due to crime.
The state department warned about the Sand Trap and Over the Hill areas and also said, “Jet-ski operators are known to commit sexual assaults against tourists, including minors. As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.”
The Canadian government issued its own warnings in December 2018 about the Fish Fry and Over the Hill districts.
Arawak Cay reviews vary
The Arawak Cay/Fish Fry area is a strip near downtown Nassau lined with colorfully painted eateries serving traditional Bahamian food and drink.
The majority of reviews on Trip Advisor rate experiences there as very good or excellent. But there are some that express safety concerns and report feeling uncomfortable or unsafe there.
The Nassau Tribune account of Royal Caribbean’s warning took on a protectionist tone for its tourist industry.
The Royal Bahamas Police Force has cited a 14 percent drop in overall crime and a 22 percent drop in violent crime in the Bahamas in 2017, but a 10 percent increase in murders.
The police statistics didn’t address crime against tourists, which is certainly not unique to the Bahamas.
Alarm was raised about liquor served in Mexican resorts after a college student passed out and died in a pool at a resort near Playa del Carmen near Cozumel. A subsequent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation in 2017 revealed more than 170 travelers have become ill or blacked out from tainted alcohol at all-inclusive resorts throughout the country.
Foreign travel can be rewarding in many ways. It also can be risky.
It is wise to consult the state department site before traveling abroad, and to enroll in the free Smart Traveler program to receive alerts about various destinations.
Travelers detained in China
In December 2018, the State Department issued 17 level 2 travel advisories for countries including France, Spain, Italy and Burma.
The first week of January 2019 saw the state department issue an increased advisory about China, warning that U.S. citizens could be prohibited from leaving China through arbitrary “exit bans,” which could keep them in China for years.
The advisory noted that U.S. citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened, and that they may be detained without access to U.S. consular services.
Thirteen Canadians have also been detained in China in the month following an arrest of a Chinese tech executive in Vancouver .
The advisories underscore the need to be aware that planning for a trip should include concerns for safety as well as fun.
For those who cruise, Cruiscritic.com offers helpful tips on staying safe in ports of call.
Traveler of the year, 2018
American Colin O’Brady became the first person to make a solo crossing Antarctica without support or artificial aid, making the 930-mile trek in 54 days. Read about his trip, plus the British rival who finished two days later, and about the Frenchman who is crossing the Atlantic in a barrel-like craft at CraigslegzTravels.