Is the Bahamas' Nassau safe to visit? That's the question that many travelers are asking after 18 cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint while on a ship-sponsored Segway tour in Nassau on November 20.
After the incident, which involved passengers on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas
and Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wonder, five cruise lines -- Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean -- canceled their Segway shore excursions to Earth Village, a natural Bahamian ecosystem and site of the armed robbery.
Beyond canceling the tour, cruise lines at this point don't seem to think that passengers in the port of Nassau are in any danger. We checked in with Carnival, NCL, Royal Caribbean, Costa Cruises, Disney and Celebrity and none have plans to cancel calls to Nassau altogether.
Still, there are concerns. The Bahamas' Tribune newspaper reported in October that 11 cruise passengers on a taxi tour of Nassau were robbed at gunpoint at the top of the Queen's Staircase, a popular tourist site. Plus the Nassau Guardian reports that crime statistics for the year to date are showing a 25 percent increase in robberies from the previous year. Maritime attorney James Walker, who did some research into the Bahamas situation for his blog cruiselawnews.com, told Cruise Critic last week that "we've got almost 40 people who've been robbed in the past 30 days: eight at the Queen's Staircase [attraction in the Bahamas], these 18 and a number of other tourists robbed just walking around the streets."
So, is crime on the rise? "This is not a country gone wild," says Basil Smith, chief communications officer for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. "It's an extremely safe destination. With over three million cruise passengers a year, the Bahamas has an exemplary record with visitor safety." He adds that until this recent incident, there had never been a problem with tours to Earth Village, which is run by the Bahamas Association for Social Health (BASH) and manages a residential substance dependency treatment and rehabilitation center on the premises. And it's true that neither the U.S. Department of State nor the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office is advising against travel to the Bahamas, though both address the islands' crime rate and the need to exercise caution.
Smith points out that after the incidents, Nassau has increased police patrols and has CCTV and undercover police at major attractions. Of the three incidents that took place that day -- the Segway robbery and two other thefts in tourist areas -- two resulted in immediate arrests and police are getting close to apprehending the gunmen in the third. In addition, the Segway tour operator is putting in place appropriate precautions to protect future participants.
Smith says visitors to Nassau should be no more worried about crime than they would be in other ports. Cruise passengers who aren't on a shore excursion and want to know where they should or should not go in Nassau can ask questions and get advice from the Ministry of Tourism representatives at the port's welcome center.
How do you feel about visiting Nassau? Join the discussion here.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
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Cruise Lines Cancel Excursion, Not Calls, in Nassau
December 1, 2009