Americans are increasingly getting on board cruises well beyond the calm waters of the Caribbean. Sailing worldwide is generally safe, but as Cruise Critic points out, the high visibility of the arrival of a ship in port makes its passengers more identifiable, and therefore more easily targeted. It pays to choose your destination wisely and to be fully informed about the potential threats in a region.
Here are the top 10 places to keep your wits about you when you cruise.
Long known for political differences with the U.S., the problems for cruise passengers here lies primarily with human trafficking and the narcotic trade. The CIA's website says there is, "significant narcotics-related money-laundering activity, especially along the border with Colombia and on Margarita Island."Margarita Island is one of six ports open to cruise ships. In February, a passenger on the Carnival-owned AIDA line was shot and killed during a robbery attempt on the island. Star Clippers stops at Margarita Island, Coche Island, and Testigo Grande Island in 2015.
2. El Salvador
In its November 2014 travel warning regarding travel to El Salvador, the U.S. State Department says, "There is no information to suggest that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted by criminals." That does not address the issue of 33 U.S. citizens killed there in the past four years. There are two cruise ports, La Union and Acajutia. The major cruise lines avoid both, but Azamara has a 2016 stop in Acajutia scheduled.
Colombia is the world's leading grower of coca, the source crop for cocaine. Narcotic trafficking is at the root of the state department's travel warning for Colombia. One reviewer on Cruise Critic says, "This was by far the worst city/experience I've had whilst cruising."There are five ports of call, with major cruise lines like Carnival, Princess, Disney, and Holland America calling at Cartagena and/or Santa Marta in 2015. Star Clippers stops at San Andres Island next year.
The most threatening conditions in Mexico exist primarily beyond the major cities and tourism areas, but known crimes against tourists include robbery, carjacking, and murder. Major cruise lines sailing from California, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida embarkation ports service the 17 Mexican ports. According to the state department's travel warning for Mexico, the west coast port of Mazatlán has the following caution: "We recommend that any travel in Mazatlán be limited to Zona Dorada and the historic town center." That said, a recent reviewer on Cruise Critic says about a visit to Mazatlán, “There is a lot of police presence along the way, so I always felt safe.” Carnival, Princess, and NCL are among the lines stopping in Mazatlán in 2015. Mexico's popular eastern ports of Costa Maya, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, and Progreso are generally considered safe.
5. The Philippines
The lush Philippine islands attract a number of cruise lines including Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and luxury lines like Azamara, Regent, and Seabourn. Of the country's 10 cruise ports, Manila is the most frequently visited. Production and trafficking of methamphetamine are at the center of criminal activity in Manila according to the CIA.
The greater threats of kidnapping and violence toward visitors is in the southern Sulu Sea, far from most normal cruise routes.
Several secondary cruise lines make stops in one or both of the cruise ports in Algeria. The Department of State travel warning for the area lists, "a high threat of terrorism and kidnappings," among the reasons it cautions against travel here.
Only Swan Hellenic lists a 2015 stop at the cruise port in this tiny nation neighboring Somalia. The travel warning for the region contains strong language, stating that Westerners are specifically targeted for kidnapping and acts of terrorism.
8. Ivory Coast (Cote D’ Ivoire)
The port at Abidjan has 2015 stops scheduled by both Oceania and Silversea late in the year. According to the Foreign Commonwealth Office in the U.K., "Côte d’Ivoire has closed its land borders with Guinea and Liberia," as a result of the ebola outbreak in those neighboring countries.The CIA's published information on the country lists narcotics and money laundering among the notable criminal activity.
Beirut probably isn't high on your bucket cruise list. Only one line, Thomson, has stops scheduled in 2015. If you decide to venture here, this is what the travel warning says: "The potential for death or injury in Lebanon exists in particular because of the frequency of terrorist bombing attacks throughout the country."It doesn't get much clearer than that, unless you consider this: "Kidnapping, whether for ransom or political motives, remains a problem in Lebanon. Kidnappers have abducted business people under the guise of coming to Lebanon for meetings. Suspects in kidnappings sometimes have ties to terrorist or criminal organizations. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to hostage takers."
In July of this year, most cruises to Israel diverted when rocket shrapnel landed on the deck of the German cruise ship AIDAdiva as it left Ashdod.Cruises that stop in Israel utilize three ports: Haifa, Eilat, and Ashod. The danger in these ports lies more in their proximity to conflict zones than in the ports themselves. Haifa lies 87 miles from Israel's border with Lebanon and its previously discussed dangers. The state department travel warning for Israel says personal safety conditions in the metropolitan area of Haifa, "are comparable to or better than those in other major global cities." Ashdod is 18 miles northeast of Gaza. Warnings against travel to Gaza are explicit. Cruises in 2015 that stop at both Haifa and Ashdod include those operated by Holland America, Silversea, Azamara, and Royal Caribbean.
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