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Published on Friday, March 20, 2015

Was a terror attack on cruise passengers inevitable?




When US cruise lawyer Jim Walker wrote on his website about the threat of terrorism to cruise passengers last month, he had no idea that within weeks his predictions would chillingly ring true. Here he outlines his fears to TravelMole readers, and explains why he believes cruise lines are putting passengers at risk.

"Having often been asked whether Islamic terrorists pose a threat to cruise ships, a few weeks ago I decided to write an article on this subject on my website. At the end, I concluded that although families thinking of cruising in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, Vancouver, Alaska) may be reasonably safe from an ISIS attack, and that a terrorist attack seems extremely unlikely in the Caribbean, when it comes to sailing into a port in Morocco, Tunisia or Egypt on a cruise ship, it's not a matter of if, it's just a matter of when. Following the terrible attack on cruise passengers in Tunis this week, I am sad to say that my fears were justified.

The problem is that cruise lines are continuing to put profits before passenger protection. Cruise lines take passengers to dangerous ports because they profit handsomely from selling cruises, irrespective of the dangers in the port. We see this in the Caribbean ports where all of the ports have murder rates substantially higher than in the US. The murder rate in the US is 4.5 per 100.000 compared to the murder rates in the Caribbean which is 30 per 100,000 (Bahamas) to 90 per 100,000 (Honduras). But most cruise passengers sailing to Nassau or Roatan don't realize this.

Cruise lines tell their passengers they should use official tours marketed and sold by the cruise lines, including bus excursions. Excursions are a substantial part of the business model of cruise lines and they profit from the tours they sell. But being on a bus with other cruise passengers, in my assessment, makes you more far more likely to be a target of crime and violence. Tour buses in the Caribbean, for example, have been targeted by criminals with all cruise passengers aboard robbed. Being on a tour bus filled with Europeans or US citizens in a North African port is dangerous.

Cruise lines have a legal obligation not to take their passengers to unreasonably dangerous ports. The cruise industry has a legal obligation to warn of dangers throughout the entire cruise. This is to be contrasted with airlines, which the courts have found to provide only 'point to point' transportation, and have no duty to issue warnings. Cruise lines, on the other hand, advertise not only about their cruise ships but the entire cruise experience, including the ports of call.

Earlier this week I was at a major cruise convention, Cruise Shipping Miami, where I heard NCL's Frank Del Rio bragging that his cruise line is way ahead of competitors, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, in preparing to do business in Havana. He then remarked that 'Libya, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon could be more lucrative than Cuba.' I couldn't help tweeting: 'Have you heard of ISIS?'

Cruise lines have taken thousands of passengers ashore to Tunis on excursions, thinking of their sales and profits, but ignoring how dangerous it may be. I believe this is a trademark of the cruise executive mindset. Tragically, terrorists have now targeted and killed cruise tourists in buses visiting a museum in Tunisia. Del Rio might be regretting his words."

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