In the March 18, 2015 terrorist attack on the National Bardo Museum in Tunisia, more than 20 foreign tourists were killed and more than 50 more were injured. At the time of the attack, more than 200 tourists were in the area, most from the cruise ships MSC Splendida and the Costa Fascinosa.
The attack, the deadliest in over 13 years, was said to be timed for the arrival of the cruise passengers. Comments to news reports and on cruise related forums overwhelming placed the blame on the cruise lines. Generally stating that it was the cruise lines’ greed that put passengers in harms way.
The United States State Department did not and does not have a travel warning in effect for Tunisia. As a result of the attack all cruise lines except P&O have canceled all port calls for 2015. P&O has no immediate calls planned, so they will review the situation further.
For cruise passengers, the terror attack should raise questions regarding the safety of certain ports. Recently, itineraries to Puerto Vallarta were canceled by Celebrity Cruises’ Infinity and Royal Caribbean International’s Jewel of the Seas. The reason stated was violence between drug gangs and local authorities. Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Miracle made a port call in the same time frame, but did cancel some tours that left the main area of the city.
So put yourself on each of these ships, how would you have reacted to the decision the cruise lines made?
Travel Warnings and Travel Advisories
United States Federal Courts have ruled in the past that cruises lines have the responsibility to notify passengers of potential dangers while off the ship. They have also historically tempered that view point when a government travel advisory or warning has been issued. This places most of the responsibility back on the individual, except in cases where there are recent changes that the cruise line would have been aware of.
On May 15, 2015, the United Kingdom issued “Foreign Travel Advice” to a known cruise destination. This followed two crime warnings from the United States this year and four in 2014, plus one from Canada. Eight warnings total in 16 months. The warnings are all very similar: violent crime and armed robbery is on the rise, gang wars with police are occurring, and a disproportional percentage of sexual assaults are against tourists. These travel warnings specifically call out the tourist areas of New Providence, Grand Bahama, and Freeport.
The most frequent cruise destination in the world, Nassau, has one of the worst crime statistics in the world. The U.K. issued“Foreign Travel Advice” stated that the Family islands have a very low rate of crime.
The point to be made here is that all is not always as it seems. Do not rely on the cruise lines to tell you what is safe and what is not. Their advice is certainly welcome, but do some research yourself; understand what areas need to be avoided. No location is without risk, but make sure your cruise destinations is within your comfort zone.