Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras, gets plenty of cruise activity throughout the year, with ships from most of the major U.S. cruise lines routinely making port stops here. The little island is a dream for snorkelers, scuba divers and lovers of relaxing beach days.
Yet some cruisers started questioning safety at the stop when a family of cruisers was robbed at gunpoint while touring independently in a rental car in January. (While drug violence on mainland Honduras has prompted a U.S. Department of State travel warning for the past year, their website does note that Roatan is safer than the mainland).
On a recent cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, we caught up with Cindy Carter, a former Fort Lauderdale, Florida, resident who moved to Roatan eight years ago. An avid scuba diver, Carter runs Maya Key, a popular beach resort for cruise ship passengers that’s just five minutes away from the port.
Carter says that the scare had no effect on her bookings. She offers tips on how you can stay safer while traveling to Roatan (or anywhere else, for that matter).
Don’t be conspicuous. That means, leave your expensive jewelry in your cabin safe, and don’t be flashy with your gadgets or cash. “Don’t walk around with your iPhone up to your ear; don’t walk around with $80,000 worth of jewelry,” Carter says.
Be aware and have a solid travel plan. Pay attention to where you are, use reputable tour guides and do your research. “You’ve got to be aware of your surroundings,” Carter says. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing and who you’re hanging out with.”
Use the buddy system. As with most any place, there’s safety in numbers. Travel with a group or with a ship-sponsored excursion. “Don’t go out alone at night,” Carter says.
Royal Caribbean International also preaches basic common sense when visiting Roatan on one of its cruise ships.
“Honduras is one of the world’s most beautiful countries, and the residents are warm and welcoming,” RCI told Cruise Critic in a prepared statement. “Yet, visitors to Roatan, like visitors to foreign cities in the world today, need to be mindful of their personal safety.
“You are encouraged to visit sightseeing and tourism locations as part of an organized tour or with an escort. It is not recommended that guests travel alone, or visit any remote locations.
“Also, to lower your risk of being a victim of petty theft or other non-violent crimes, please consider leaving valuables and irreplaceable items in your stateroom. We suggest you avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry, carry only the cash or credit cards that you will need on each outing and keep your belongings secure and out of sight.”
Carter says visitors to Roatan are at no more of a risk than in any other place as long as they follow such guidelines.
“I speak the truth; I don’t sugarcoat it,” Carter says. “It’s just like any other place in the United States.”
Passengers on our sailing seemed to echo Carter’s sentiments. Some passengers said they felt safer because they had booked a ship excursion, while others simply didn’t give a second thought to visiting Roatan, understanding that crime can occur anywhere in the world.
“I’ve had my house broken into in Fort Lauderdale; I’ve had it happen here,” Carter says.