How Cruise Lines Can Help St. Thomas Reduce Crime

StThomasToday we’re learning about the death of a 14-year old cruise ship passenger on St. Thomas, an Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She was allegedly caught between two gangs in the midst of a shootout while on a tourist bus en route to Coki Point Beach – one of the island’s most popular destinations. Many cruisers are worried about upcoming trips to the island, but should they be? Should this incident cause concern?

The teenager was traveling with her family on board the Carnival Victory which has seven day cruises out of San Juan. The tour bus they were traveling on was not a Carnival-sponsored excursion, though Carnival said it was canceling trips to that beach area. Princess cruises has followed suit, but according to, Norwegian Cruise Line (Epic is set to dock tomorrow), and Royal Caribbean have yet to determine any cancelations at this time

The cancelations of trips to certain beaches is a good start for the cruise lines, but in order to make real change, we suggest suspending travel to the island for a period of time until they can get their act together and reduce their crime rate.

For the last few years running, St. Thomas has recorded a violent crime rate between 5 and 7 times that similar-sized cities in the United States. Although St. Thomas is a territory of the United States, it is self-governing and has an independent police force – a group that many locals feel a sense of distrust for.

Tensions between local police and U.S. Federal officials have been strained in the last few years, after an ATF agent shot and killed a resident in 2008 while intervening in a domestic dispute. The local police cried foul, and the United States pulled out all ATF agents about 6 months later. The FBI and DEA still have offices on the island, though some believe they’re hands are tied for political reasons.

If local police are the problem, then it is up to the people to stand up for a change – and while the crime rates may seem like enough motivation to us, nothing has changed on the island for the better.

Cruise lines should suspend all travel to the island for one month – and only return pending an independent assessment of the changes made to help protect citizens and travelers.

St. Thomas is an economy based on tourism – it wouldn’t take long for every business owner (undoubtedly the ones with the most political power, too) on the island to be calling for a change. Until they need a reason to change, they will continue to sit on the sidelines as long as their business isn’t affected – and it hasn’t been.

The tragedy this week is terribly unfortunate, but maybe it will be the wakeup call to the cruise lines that supply the island with its cash crop – tourists – that it is time for more action if any real change is desired.

Will Norwegian Epic Entertainment Model Go Industry Wide?

BlueManGroupNCLEpicNorwegian Cruise Line describes their newest entertainment lineup as “revolutionary,” a surprisingly true statement. We’re surprised that it’s taken anyone in the industry this long to ask themselves “could our entertainment stack up against acts in New York City and Vegas?” NCL asked that question, and booked headlining act Blue Man Group not just for one or two theme cruises or the inaugural run, but for their headlining entertainment this season aboard their newest ship, Epic.

If anyone has come close to doing something similar, it would be Royal Caribbean. RCL’s Oasis of the Seas has a running production of Hairspray that casted in London, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City. While I can appreciate a good musical, if I was cruising with my entire family and the two venues were put to a vote, it would likely come to a 5-1 majority favoring Blue Man Group on Epic.

RCL’s Allure of the Seas debuting later this year, inked a deal with DreamWorks to bring characters like Shrek on board, and even though you can make the case that the movies and characters can have appeal to an older audience, there are lots of folks who may prefer to have breakfast without the possibility of being approached by an 8 foot tall green ogre.

Some cruise lines like Carnival are still running musical revue shows with OK dancers with one or two featured performers. Sure it beats sitting in your room, but acts like this would never stand on their own if they were on land and in a city with hundreds of other options.

Acts like Blue Man Group do come at a higher cost to the cruise lines, though. Carnival would probably contend that for an extra few hundred bucks per passenger, they could book expensive entertainment as well – but providing an affordable experience for families is a higher priority.

As more mega-ships roll out, expect to see more recognizable names and acts on board for more than just a few inaugural sailings. Booking based on the on-board entertainment as it relates to your party, rather than just how big/new/shiny the ship is, will help guarantee everyone a good time.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Lack of Bathrooms an Epic Failure?


Norwegian Cruise Line is hosting about 2500 travel agents and media on board their newest ship, Epic, prior to its first voyage with full-fare-paying customers. The practice is somewhat common in the industry just as many businesses have ‘soft-openings’ before a grand opening in order to work out any kinks and make last-minute changes. One such issue that has several on-board media members scratching their head is the lack of bathrooms in many of the guest suites on board the massive new cruise ship from NCL.

Every Epic suite will still have a sink, a shower, and a toilet, but instead of putting all these items in one room, Norwegian has separated them and placed them around the room to save space. The shower and toilet areas are both behind a translucent glass door, typically on either side of the doorway, and the sink is located closer to the middle of the room. A privacy curtain separating the shower/toilet area was added after the fact, but it may not be enough for everyone to feel comfortable.

“I think it just won’t be private enough of a set-up for many American vacationers — particularly those traveling with older children,” said Gene Sloan of USA Today who is live-blogging from the Norwegian Epic this week. “I know my own pre-teen and teen girls would feel uncomfortable preparing for the evening in such an open bathroom arrangement with me in the room.”

John Honeywell (AKA CaptGreybeard), reporting for The Mirror in the U.K., says that “a number of people I have spoken to say they would have to banish their partners from the cabin at appropriate times – which might prove somewhat inconvenient.”

Did Norwegian Cruise Line take “Freestyle Cruising” too far with their latest cabin design? Would the layout stop you from booking?

On a side note, and somewhat ironic, the smaller studio cabins on board do have a traditional bathroom setup.

Electric Guitar Rentals on Cruise Ships: Good or Bad?

Norwegian Epic Cruise Ship

Norwegian Cruise Line will soon debut its newest, and largest, vessel aptly named “Epic.” NCL is promising that the 153,000-ton, 4,200-passenger ship will take cruise entertainment to the next level. However, some of the new programs, like electric guitar rentals, may scare off more customers than they attract.

The Norwegian Epic has some entertainment options we’re excited about such as Vegas acts like Blue Man Group. Legends in Concert may not be something I’d pay to see in Vegas, but I’d still definitely attend an inclusive evening show on the ship.

Electric guitar rentals on-board are another story. At 27, I’m not sure I fit the demographic that cruise lines consider their bread-and-butter clients, but even at my age, when I’m resting in my cabin after a long day of activities or even an afternoon catnap, the last thing I want to hear is my cabin-neighbor learning how to play the electric guitar. NCL is providing headphones to go along with the package that also includes the guitar and amplifier, though I can’t imagine they would stay plugged in for long. “Hey mom, listen to what I just learned how to play,” followed by the worst version of Smoke on the Water you’ve ever heard.

For me, cruising isn’t a time for single-person activities to perform in your cabin, it’s about the social experience and having fun. So, I have a better idea for those itching for a little musical release without bothering the neighbors: A Guitar Hero Tournament.

Many ships already have video games like this set up in the kids programs, but why not make it adult friendly? Hold a tournament with the finals to be played in the auditorium on the big screen backed by the theater’s sound system and invite other passengers. This would be far more entertaining for more people (kids AND adults) and be far less of an annoyance for everyone else on board who may not have the patience to deal with a Jimmy Hendrix wannabe next door.

Norwegian Cruise Line is on the right track, they just need to adjust their strategy so that their programs don’t make some passengers think twice about booking.