January 22, 2010
(3:45 p.m. EST) -- A cruise passenger was murdered on Tuesday while visiting Antigua -- marking the fourth time in less than two years that a tourist has been slain on the Caribbean island.
The victim has been identified as 30-year-old Nina Elisabeth Nilssen, a U.S. citizen from New Mexico. Nilssen was visiting Antigua as part of a Southern Caribbean cruise aboard Star Clippers' Royal Clipper.
According to a statement issued by Star Clippers, Antiguan police officials say her body was discovered around 5 p.m. on a secluded trail at Windward Bay, near Pigeon Point Beach. Authorities have a description of the alleged assailant but have not yet made an arrest. Nilssen's family disembarked Royal Clipper Tuesday evening and received assistance from both Star Clippers and the Antiguan government with accommodations, flights home and arrangements to return Nilssen's body to the United States.
Tuesday's murder is the latest in a string of violent crimes committed against visitors to Antigua, which is heavily dependent on tourist dollars. In January 2009, Australian yachtsman Andrew Gollan was shot to death during what was believed to be an attempted robbery. In July 2008, two British honeymooners, Ben and Catherine Mullany, were killed when an armed intruder broke into their cottage at the Cocos Hotel.
The island, famous for its beaches, regularly plays host to three cruise ships a day and hundreds of thousands of passengers per year. A number of cruise lines -- including Princess Cruises, NCL, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Silversea and Crystal -- have ships scheduled to call on well-trafficked Antigua in the coming weeks. Another is Carnival, which famously announced in September of 2009 that it would be pulling Carnival Victory from Antigua. Three weeks prior to the announcement, six Carnival passengers were arrested after an alleged brawl with police, which followed a disagreement with a cab driver. However, Carnival says the decision to pull Carnival Victory from Antigua was unrelated to that incident or concerns with crime on the island, and Carnival Freedom does still call there.
The question is: Will the latest tragedy prompt cruise lines to reconsider stops in Antigua?
For now, no. A spokesman for Star Clippers told Cruise Critic that no decision has been made on whether or not the line's ships will return to the port. Royal Clipper is next scheduled to call there on February 2. NCL has adopted a similar wait-and-see policy. "We are monitoring the situation in Antigua," says NCL spokesperson AnneMarie Mathews. "But, we plan to continue our scheduled calls there at this time. We also continue to emphasize safety and awareness to our guests when they go ashore." Spokespeople from Princess and Silversea Cruises also said there were no itinerary tweaks to report at this time. Cruise Critic has yet to hear from Celebrity, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Crystal on the matter.
Meanwhile, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, "The Government of Antigua recommits itself to implementing additional policies and programmes to ensure security and safety for everyone in the country." A spokesperson from the tourism board was unable to provide specifics of the new policies. He did tell Cruise Critic that Antiguans are outraged by the crime and that a number have come forward with information to assist the police with the investigation. "The good news is, they have some good leads, and they basically know who they're looking for."
Star Clippers' statement further reads: "CEO Mikael Krafft has expressed his heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the members of Ms. Nilssen's family."
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor