The murder of a Star Clippers cruise passenger last month in Antigua has prompted the cruise line to cancel calls there and is also having an effect on land visitors as well, according to a major Caribbean tour operator.
We spoke to representatives of MLT Vacations, which manages both Continental Airlines Vacations and Delta Vacations, and learned that Antigua bookings have dropped significantly since the widespread media coverage of the murder has gotten bigger.
For MLT Vacations, bookings to the island were strong for this travel season with the two-week period of January 14- 28 representing the company’s two biggest booking weeks for the destination to date.
“We did see a drop this week, so we feel the media surrounding the incident is having some impact, but it's too soon to tell how big that impact is,” a spokesperson for the company told Travel Agent.
However, MLT still stands by the destination.
"In my experience, Antigua is no less safe than any other destination in the Caribbean," says Amanda Buckmier, MLT's product manager for the Caribbean. "Unfortunately, crimes can occur - and do - everywhere in the world. The Caribbean islands are not immune to occasional crime. The same safety precautions are recommended for travel in Antigua as anywhere; travel in groups when exploring more remote areas, be aware of your surroundings and the people around you and don't display expensive jewelry or obvious signs of wealth. Antigua is a beautiful island destination with its own unique appeal and charm and it's unfortunate that it's reputation has been marred in this way."
The move by Star Clippers came 10 days after the body of a 30-year-old American woman was discovered near Pigeon Point Beach, an area popular with tourists. According to reports, Nina Nilssen, 30, from San Francisco, had wandered away from a nearby barbecue during an onshore break. A 24-year-old man has been arrested and charged with her murder.
But this wasn’t the first line to remove Antigua from its itineraries.
Carnival Cruise Lines removed Antigua from its Caribbean itineraries in January after several of its passengers were involved in an altercation with local police. However, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea, Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line are among the other cruise lines that stop in Antigua and are still operating as normal.