There has been some talk on cruise websites and blogs recently about the safety of some of the ports that cruise ships visit. Critics say that cruise lines and travel agents should warn passengers more about recent crime while others point out that very few/if any of these crimes happen in the cruise port/tourist areas.
There is one thing for sure, crime can happen anywhere at anytime. This is especially true in areas where the economy is sluggish, unemployment is high, and poverty is rampant. It is smart to do some research before your cruise on the ports you will be visiting.
On one of my recent cruises that stopped in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, the cruise director gave a warning about safety at the shopping talk the day before the scheduled visit.
He said, “I am not saying this to scare you or to get you to stay on the ship. If Ocho Rios was truly unsafe we would not stop there. However, you do have to be careful where you go. Crime and unemployment are high and the locals are very aggressive when it comes to selling merchandise. I just want people to know what to expect when they get off the ship”.
This article is not trying to scare anyone from taking a cruise or to keep them from getting off the ship when in port. It is simply to remind everyone of the dangers that are in many poor countries that are frequently visited. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you think about safety and crime on your next cruise.
Stay on the Beaton Path
If there was one thing that has caused more cruisers to get robbed is when they want to “explore” a new cruise port and wander off into an area that isn’t safe.
A friend of mine told me that on a stop in Nassau, he thought he would do some exploring with his wife. He is from a small town in the country where everyone is friendly and says hi when you walk by. He wandered outside of the tourist areas and quickly realized that a man was following really close behind him.
He told his wife to get in front of him and walk as quickly as possible back to the ship. He kept one eye on his wife and one eye on the man who was just feet behind him. When they got to a main street, the man “disappeared”. He said he had no doubt that he was about to get robbed and quickly learned that you can’t just wander off away from the tourist areas by yourself.
There are also many areas and attractions in Chicago that are great to visit. However, I would not walk through many parts of the south side at night. Use common sense when visiting a new area. Stay in the tourist areas and you will be fine.
Leave Your Valuables in Your Cabin Safe
The first thing my wife and I do before we get off the ship when in port is too take all of our jewelry off and put them in our cabin safe. This includes all watches, rings (yes, even wedding rings), gold necklaces/earrings, extra credit cards, debit cards, and cash. I don’t want that diamond on her hand tempt someone to rob us. Another reason I leave our wedding rings in the safe is because I like to snorkel. I have heard many accounts of people having rings slip off their finger into the water, including my brother in law.
Save the flashy jewelry for formal night, not for your port excursions. If you are in port and happen to win at the casino, try and keep your emotions to a minimum. Nothing will attract a crowd (usually the wrong type) like “making it rain” after a big win.
I will bring one credit card with me and around $80-100 in cash. The amount of cash I bring depends on my plans or excursions I am looking to take. It is wise to not use debit cards while in a foreign port. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard someone say that they used their credit card to pay for lunch and a few hours later there were many extra charges on it.
If you use your debit card, your money is tied up until you can get it cleared up with your bank. This can include your mortgage/car payment, utility bills, and insurance money. With a credit card, the only thing tied up is some of your credit. I would rather have some of my credit tied up than my hard earned money until the bank can clear things up. Debit cards, leave them in your safe.
I usually bring the credit card that has the lowest credit limit on it, so someone can’t go too crazy with charges if my card number is stolen. It also makes it less of a headache if there are unauthorized charges. Many cruise experts will tell you to only use cash in port.
Book Shore Excursions Through the Cruise Line or a Reputable Company
Never book an excursion through someone who is not licensed/regulated by the port that you are in. They will always have documentation with them and don’t be afraid to ask to see it.
Please don’t get the impression that booking through the cruise line or with a reputable company means that you are 100% safe. A couple years ago, a bus was stopped and robbed by armed gunman, and it was an excursion booked through the cruise line.
Crime can happen anytime, anywhere. However, you will generally be safer by booking through the cruise line than with a random local holding up a sign in port.
Only Carry What is Necessary
Only take the things that you absolutely need when in port. If you do not plan on using your cell phone, leave it on the ship. Cell phones are the most stolen item among travelers. If you do need to carry your cell phone, carry it in your pocket. Wearing it on your belt makes you an easy target for thieves.
Make photocopies of your passport and carry that with you instead of your actual passport. What would you rather lose? Your passport or a copy of it?
Avoid Looking Like a Tourist
Fanny packs, Hawaiian shirts, large camera bags are all things that make you stick out and be a target. It is always best to try to blend in with the crowd and not to draw attention to yourself.
We encourage you to visit each port that your cruise stops at and learn about the local culture. However, taking a few precautions can go a long way in your safety.