November 24, 2009
Update, 1:30 p.m EST: Spokespersons for both Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Lines have confirmed that they've also suspended the tour in question until further notice.
(November 23, 7:15 p.m. EST) -- Eighteen cruise passengers on two separate ship-sponsored tours were robbed at gunpoint in the Bahamas on Friday, according to local newspaper, The Tribune. The passengers were traveling onboard Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas and Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wonder.
No passengers were injured in the robbery, and both Royal Caribbean and Disney have since suspended sales of and canceled the tour -- entitled "See Natural Nassau on a Segway" and "Segway Off Road Back To Nature," respectively -- even though this is the first reported instance of crime or trouble. The tour is an off-road adventure through Earth Village, a natural Bahamian ecosystem.
The Tribune reports that two men wielding shotguns tied up the first group's tour guide and ordered the cruise tourists to the ground before robbing them of money, passports, cell phones, credit cards and personal items. The second tour group approached the area during the hold-up and was also robbed.
A Royal Caribbean spokeswoman tells us that guests who were on the tour received a full refund of the shore excursion, complimentary calls to loved ones, follow up calls from guest services and a future cruise credit for 50 percent of the cruise fare paid; complimentary care in the medical facility would also have been available if necessary. A Disney spokeswoman says its shipboard and shoreside teams, too, "worked closely with affected passengers to make certain their needs were met and provided them with any additional assistance."
Other cruise lines who offer a similar Segway tour in Earth Village include Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line. At press time, it was unknown whether they have chosen to cancel the tour as well (spokespersons for both lines responded immediately and are investigating); we'll keep you posted.
We learned about the robbery via a tweet from @CruiseLaw, maritime attorney James Walker, who wrote about it in his blog on cruiselawnews.com. In turn, Walker tells us that he found out about the incident from someone who was on one of the tours and called to inquire about their rights.
So what responsibility does a cruise line have in a case like this? According to Walker, cruise lines have several general duties. One, cruise lines have the legal duty to warn of dangers that they are aware of -- or should be aware of -- in the port cities where they disembark passengers. Two, they have an obligation to make certain that the excursion companies they pick to operate sponsored, profit-generating tours maintain an acceptable safety record.
And finally, they have to be honest; Walker says cruise lines have been sued in the past by passengers for advertising particular excursions as "safe" or "safest" when that's a really tough promise to make.
As for the Bahamas, neither the U.S. Department of State nor the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office is advising against travel there, though both address the islands' crime rate and the need to exercise caution. "We did some investigation just today," Walker says, "and 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." Spokespersons for the Bahamas Tourist Office were not immediately available for comment.
Does this mean you shouldn't disembark the ship in the Bahamas? Not necessarily. However, it is a good reminder to take every necessary precaution to stay safe when traveling -- anywhere in the world, by cruise ship or otherwise. For more information on staying safe in port, click here to read our feature story on the topic.
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor