Backstory: 17 Cruisers Robbed at Gunpoint in St. Kitts

(3:35 p.m. EST) -- Four people have been arrested in connection with the robbery at gunpoint of 17 Celebrity Mercury passengers on a ship-sponsored tour in St. Kitts, according to the island's police department. The arrests followed home searches by the police in the Sandy Point area of the island, the police statement said. The High Command of the Security Forces, the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Tourism have joined together to create an action plan that "involves the establishment of a special investigative task force to investigate this incident and increased tactical patrols and uniform police presence in the tourism concentrated areas and others areas deemed vulnerable." Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez also told Cruise Critic that the authorities are responding by stepping up foot and mobile patrols in the island's most popular tourist areas, which include Black Rock, Brimestone Hill, Caribelle Batik and surroundings, Scenic Railway, Basseterre and the Frigate Bay beaches. Celebrity had acted swiftly following the robbery on Sunday, canceling the tour in question indefinitely, while two other lines canceled calls on the island altogether. Late Monday, Princess Cruises told Cruise Critic that "due to this incident, the Nov. 17 port call of Grand Princess has been canceled and replaced with St. John's, Antigua." Carnival Miracle, scheduled to stop in St. Kitts on Tuesday, followed suit later in the day, according to the St. Kitts-Nevis Observer newspaper. (It should be noted that in January, a Star Clipper passenger was murdered while ashore in Antigua and the line responded by canceling the rest of this season's calls.) NCL will be making a decision about Norwegian Dawn's November 25 call next week. British line P&O Cruises says its Azura will call on St. Kitts as scheduled on Sunday.

For its part, Celebrity is no longer offering its "Essential St. Kitts" shore excursion. The tour, which is sold in some form by every line that visits St. Kitts, provides an historical overview of the Southern Caribbean island, with one of the highlights being a stop at the 300-year-old Brimstone Hill Fortress. The 17 Celebrity Mercury passengers were on their way to the popular UNESCO site on Sunday morning when masked gunmen robbed them of their cell phones, jewelry and cash. Somewhat confusingly, only Celebrity's "Essential St. Kitts" tour has been canceled. The line's "Caribbean Scenic Rail and Sail," which also incorporates a stop at the Brimstone Hill Fortress, is still available for purchase.

A statement issued by St. Kitts police on Sunday called the crime against tourists unprecedented. "Last year, over five hundred thousand cruise passengers safely disembarked in St. Kitts to enjoy the many attractions of our island," it read. "We deeply regret any type of incident that might tarnish our visitors' experience. As law enforcement authorities, we are committed to root out and expose the persons responsible."

This latest Caribbean crime calls to mind the 18 Disney and Royal Caribbean passengers who were robbed last November in Nassau while on a ship-sponsored Segway tour. The lines reacted quickly, suspending sales of the tour indefinitely. At the time, NCL and Carnival also removed the tour from their rosters. A year later, Disney and Royal Caribbean still do not sell the excursion; Carnival and NCL offer Segway tours in Nassau, but the tours take place in the Nassau Botanical Gardens instead of original "Earth Village" location.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor

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Backstory: 17 Celebrity Passengers Robbed at Gunpoint in St. Kitts