There have been a few incidents involving cruise ship passengers which have brought safety on land, not the high seas, back under the spotlight. Back in July a 14-year old passenger from a Carnival ship was unfortunately caught in the cross fire between rival gangs in St. Thomas, and died from gunshot wounds. Then, just a few weeks ago, a tour bus carrying guests from a Celebrity cruise ship was held up and robbed in St. Kitts.
In the first incident, the guests involved in the unfortunate shooting had gone exploring independently, and unwittingly wandered into a dodgy area of the island. The second occurred on an official ship’s tour. Both, however, may have lasting implications for those of us who don’t just want to cruise, but also see exotic and sometimes remote parts of the world.
Like any form of travel, cruising isn’t immune to problems, or dangers. Years ago, on a repositioning cruise I took on the Seabourn Pride from Phuket to Israel, which stopped in Egypt en route, the tour I went on had fully armed military escorts at the head and foot of the bus convoy. Was it unnerving? In a way, yes, but as one astute passenger pointed out, at least we weren’t going to be an easy target for highwaymen in the middle of the desert.
Exploring a new country or port of call is one of the great joys of cruising, and as new territories are opened up to travellers, especially where poverty or political problems are an issue, problem are likely to arise once in a while.
A few years ago, for example, we ran into problems in Bali on a cruise. Determined to explore independently, we agreed a price with a taxi driver. On good advice, however, we’d left our jewellery, watches and wallets on the ship, taking with us only enough US dollars to cover the cost of our private tour.
Halfway to Ubud, the driver left the road, stopped the taxi and wanted to renegotiate the deal. It all worked out in the end – we weren’t having any of it – but as he later told us, the locals had suffered terribly after the Kuta bombings, with tourism all but collapsing and money being in short supply.
Things can go wrong when you are away from home, and cruise lines are very wary of taking guests into dangerous territory. After the St. Kitts episode a few weeks ago, several cruise lines bypassed the island until the police had a chance to investigate the robbery and make arrests.
At the end of the day, when on shore from a cruise ship, you need to exercise the same caution you would on a land-based holiday. Don’t carry too many valuables with you, don’t flash your jewellery or money around, and always be aware of your surroundings. That way, although you may not completely eliminate the risk of something bad happening, you will certainly have reduced the odds. Happy cruising!