Today 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 CruiseCritic.com, 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.