Update, 2 p.m. EDT: After rumors of Coke's possible surrender surfaced last week, authorities continue to search for the don, who the New York Times says is currently on the run. At this time, the U.S. State Department's travel alert remains in place. Carnival Conquest is due to call in Montego Bay Wednesday; Freedom of the Seas is slated to arrive in Ocho Rios Wednesday, and Carnival Freedom is scheduled to call there Thursday. Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean say there are no plans to alter itineraries at this time. We'll keep you updated.
What's the conflict?
(May 26, 8:30 p.m. EDT) -- Riots in Jamaica, one of the most popular cruise destinations in the Western Caribbean, have prompted authorities to declare a state of emergency in Kingston, its capital city, after attacks on police stations by gang members, according to CNN. The violence was spurred by the United States' attempted extradition of suspected drug kingpin Christopher Coke. In response, the U.S. State Department on Monday issued a travel alert for Jamaica, which means that the threat posed to U.S. citizens who travel there is likely short-term. (A travel warning implies a long-term threat.)
The alert warns against travel to Kingston and its surrounding areas, due to the escalated violence. It does not specifically mention Ocho Rios or Montego Bay.
Which ports and ships could be affected?
Ocho Rios -- Emerald Princess (May 26), Liberty of the Seas (May 26), Carnival Liberty (May 27)
Montego Bay -- Carnival Conquest (May 26)
What's the cruise impact?
At this point, there's little impact for passengers whose ships are calling at either of Jamaica's main cruise ports. Ocho Rios is about 84 kilometers, or 52 miles, from Kingston. Montego Bay is even farther away -- 180 kilometers, or about 112 miles.
Carnival Liberty is due in Ocho Rios Thursday, but line spokesman Vance Gulliksen says no itinerary changes have yet been made. He also verified that Carnival Conquest called at Montego Bay Wednesday, as scheduled.
Representatives from both Princess and Royal Caribbean say that the lines are continuing to monitor the situation, but no changes are anticipated. Emerald Princess and Liberty of the Seas both called at Ocho Rios Wednesday, as planned.
None of the three lines offer shore excursions in or near Kingston. However, boards member MiddleAgedBroad advises against independent excursions there: "...you might want to skip the Bob Marley museum trip," she cautions. Despite its location, the museum remains open and has not seen a decline in tourist visits, according to a spokesperson.
Both of Jamaica's major airports -- Norman Manley International in Kingston and Sangster International in Montego Bay -- remain open, although most of the departures listed on Norman Manley's Web site have been canceled. The State Department's alert also says that the Kingston airport has been closed intermittently as a result of the unrest.
Although Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are not generally ports of embarkation, there are a couple of U.K-based ships -- including Fred. Olsen's Braemar and Thomson Dream -- that sail from Montego Bay in fall and winter. Since those sailings are months down the road, there is no immediate impact.
What should I do?
No itinerary changes have been made at this time, but we'll keep you posted as we find out more. In the meantime, you can check out Cruise Critic's message boards, and be sure to check back for more news updates.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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