A family of five sailing on a Carnival Conquest vacation earlier this month were robbed at gunpoint ashore during a port call at the island of Roatan, Honduras, according to CruiseCritic.com.
On Jan. 2, passenger Jeff Smith, his wife, and three daughters, ages 8, 14 and 15, were traveling along a remote road in their rental car when a masked man brandishing a gun emerged from the bushes and began shooting.
While attempting to flee, Smith wrecked the rental vehicle. The gunman pursued the family on foot and stole their stole their cash, iPhones and camera. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Local police are investigating.
Agents might read the full CruiseCritic.com account of the story here: http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/news/news.cfm?ID=5682.
The family also was exploring a remote part of the island not typically visited by cruise tourists. They're weren't on a cruise line-sponsored shore excursion; Smith handled the rental car arrangements.
He acknowledged that may have made him a target but he isn’t sure cruise-line sponsored shore trips would have been any safer. However, Mario Aguirre, a Honduras Tourist Board spokesman, told CruiseCritic.com that cruise line-sponsored excursions are safer because they visit popular tourism sites that all have beefed up security.
The U.S. State Department recently issued a Honduras travel warning, which Smith, a frequent business traveler to both Central and South America, said he'd seen.
But the cruiser admitted he let down his guard as he was traveling to a tourism-focused island, rather than the Honduran mainland. More than 800,000 passengers arrive via cruise ships at Roatan each year.
Most cruisers who go ashore remain on the island’s western side. Or they take guided shore trips that focus on zip lining, eco-walks or dolphin encounters.
But being on a cruise-line sponsored excursion isn't always protection against robbers, as Celebrity Cruises guests found out on a shore trip in St. Lucia last year.
Aguirre said his tourism board has advised local tour operators, car rental companies and cruise lines about the incident so they could alert clients to avoid the specific area where the robbery occurred.
What did Carnival do to assist the Smiths? According to Smith, Carnival Conquest’s security officer interviewed him and took a written report that went to high-level management at the line. Carnival offered medical treatment and counseling for family members, which Smith declined.
In addition, Smith said Carnival provided unlimited telephone and Internet access so he could cancel his stolen credit card and report the lost phone. The cruise line also sent a bottle of wine and invited the family for a bridge tour.
Smith took to the CruiseCritic.com message board to give this advice for future Roatan cruisers: "Use extreme caution when off the main path, especially when in a highly noticeable rental car.”
Carnival Cruise Lines has issued the following statement on the incident:
"We were very distressed to learn of the Smith family's experience and provided our full support and assistance to them. Roatan has been a featured destination on Carnival Cruise Lines' itineraries since 2009 and several other lines call there, as well.
During the past five years, the cruise industry has brought nearly 3.5 million visitors to the island. Roatan has historically been a safe destination for our guests and incidences of crime are quite rare.
We encourage our guests to remain in main tourist areas in all destinations and to generally be aware of their surroundings.
In addition to general safety messaging by our cruise directors, we also publish a notice in our onboard newsletter reminding guests to stay in main tourist areas, not carry large amounts of cash or jewelry and to be aware of their surroundings.
The safety and security of our guest and crew is our foremost priority and we continually monitor the security environment in all of our ports of call."