Cruises to places with travel warnings can still be safe

Cruises to places with travel warnings can still be safe, experts say

Cruises to places with travel warnings can still be safeplay

Travel warnings for Bahamas, Jamaica

The US State Department has issued travel warnings for citizens traveling to the Bahamas and Jamaica.

After two Carnival Cruise Line passengers were allegedly sexually assaulted in the Bahamas despite travel warnings, some travelers may be wondering whether they should visit ports with active advisories.

The guests, two women from Kentucky, said they were drugged and raped while ashore on the island of Grand Bahama. Bahamas police arrested two men on sexual assault charges last week.

The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas issued a security alert in late January warning of the recent killings in Nassau, and the State Department has had a Level 2 security alert for the popular island nation since 2018, urging travelers to “exercise increased safety.” “To exercise caution.” Crime. But such warnings don't necessarily mean it's unsafe to visit.

“It all comes down to personal risk assessment,” said Jared Feldman, owner of travel agency Jafeldma Travel. “It is also not intended that you give up your journey completely. It is exactly what it is: it is advice. Be careful.”

Is it safe to cruise to places with travel advisories in effect?

Cruise operators pay attention to possible safety problems long before departure. “Safety is a top priority for cruise lines and they are constantly paying attention to areas of concern,” whether due to terrorism or other threats, Feldman said.

Feldman said cruise lines also generally distribute warnings about safety issues to their guests, such as through onboard announcements or in notes in the daily planners they distribute to passenger cabins.

Nicholas Gerson, an attorney for Carnival guests Amber Shearer and Dongayla Dobson, told USA TODAY last week that his clients were unaware of the Bahamas warning at the time and were “not aware of any warnings from Carnival.”

Carnival spokesman Matt Lupoli said in an email Tuesday that the cruise line's “onboard team routinely provides guidance to guests about shore safety,” although he did not specifically comment on Gerson's statement.

According to John H. (Jack) Hickey, a maritime litigation attorney in Miami, this is not just a voluntary move. Cruise lines are required by law to warn guests of dangers “of which the cruise line knew or should have known.”

“They have a duty under customary maritime law to their passengers to inform them of these risks,” he said. This includes all the dangers of port stops, which Hickey said are “an integral part” of a cruise.

However, travel warnings are “fluid”. They can change depending on geopolitical developments, the environment and other factors, according to Carrie Pasquarello, CEO and co-founder of Global Secure Resources Inc., a company focused on risk mitigation and planning threat assessments. They can also be more nuanced than a single number can reveal.

Mexico, for example, has different warning levels for different states. “There are a lot of different risks in Mexico, and yet so many people travel to Mexico and have great, successful trips and vacations,” Pasquarello said.

The Bahamas, for its part, has also pushed back on the crime warning communicated by the US Embassy, ​​with the Prime Minister's Office noting that the Level 2 classification has not changed. The Bahamas has been listed at Level 2 since the travel advisory system began in 2018 (in 2021 it was temporarily raised to Level 3 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

The office said in a statement that the incidents described in the crime alert – which warns of nearly multiple murders in Nassau since the start of the year – “do not reflect overall safety in the Bahamas, a country with 16 tourism destinations and many additional islands.”

“Our law enforcement agencies are taking rigorous action to protect our well-deserved reputation, including increased police presence and additional police resources (including facial recognition CCTV surveillance technology) and training,” the statement continued.

Are cruise lines canceling stops due to travel advisories?

Feldman said cruise lines are “trying to disrupt the passenger experience as little as possible” and are unlikely to change course based on advisories like those currently in effect for the Bahamas and Jamaica.

“They will only change the itinerary if there is a really significant and serious threat to the safety of passengers or if it is simply not safe for guests to leave the ship or if it is not safe to sail in certain waters,” he said . Due to ongoing attacks on commercial and naval vessels, many cruise ships have recently canceled or rerouted their Red Sea sailings.

“The safety of our guests and crew is our priority and as part of our regular security procedures, we routinely monitor the local destinations our ships visit and are in close contact with government and law enforcement authorities,” said Lupoli, the Carnival spokesman. If changes are needed, he added, the line will “respond quickly.”

The contracts that passengers agree to when booking a cruise allow operators to change ports if necessary without owing them any compensation (although they may offer this as a goodwill gesture).

Tips for staying safe in port on cruises

There are ways cruise passengers can protect themselves during their trip.

Pasquarello recommended researching destinations before booking. “We want to make sure our travelers are proactive and prepared and consider these risk indicators and these safety advisories,” she said.

Pasquarello also likes to review recommendations from other countries, such as Canada or Australia, for a particular destination to provide better context. “Each of these countries has their own risk rating and looks at things differently. That’s why I want to get the complete overview of the location I’m visiting,” she added.

Crime on cruise ships: What you should know if you are sexually assaulted on a cruise

Travelers can also enroll in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which provides security information about their destination, helps the U.S. Embassy reach them in an emergency, and more.

Many health insurance policies do not cover travelers abroad. Pasquarello urged travelers to call their provider to find out about travel insurance if they lack coverage.

For shore leave, Feldman recommended booking an organized shore excursion. “Try to travel with other people and not necessarily be alone,” he said, recommending following other general safety practices such as: B. If possible, explore during the day and pay attention to your surroundings. Cruise passengers also have the option to remain on board at any time during a stop.

Pasquarello pointed out that there are risks and crime in the United States and on board cruise ships and that travelers should assess their own health. “We have to be our best advocate for safety,” she said.

Nathan Diller is a consumer travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Nashville. You can reach him at [email protected].