If you've read the cruise news blog in an online national newspaper web site this week, you know about the death of a 14-year old Carnival Victory passenger who was, unfortunately, in the wrong place at the wrong time in St. Thomas on Monday. The young teen and other passengers, including her parents, were riding in an open-air taxi (similar to the one pictured here) bound for a day at Coki Beach when the vehicle was caught in the crossfire of what appears to have been a gang-related shooting. Another passenger in the taxi was wounded and the teen died.
Apparently there have been problems in the area around Coki Beach, but not at the beach itself or the adjacent Coral World attraction. While the passengers in the taxi were sightseeing independently, Carnival has wisely suspended ship sponsored shore excursions to that part of the island for the time being. Other cruise lines have taken notice as well. One of Cruise Diva's colleagues, Alan Wilson who publishes Cruise News Daily, was aboard Celebrity Solstice, which docked in St. Thomas two days after the incident. He and his fellow passengers received letters advising them of it. He reports, "Even though a suspect was arrested, Celebrity has canceled a shore excursion to the Coki Beach area, and is advising passengers to use common sense and to be aware of your surroundings when going ashore" He also reported that if Celebrity Solstice passengers had a shore excursion booked through the ship and preferred to remain on board, they were issued a refund without penalty.
Alan went ashore and said it seemed to be "business as normal, at least in the area of the port" and added, "I had no sense of danger." While ashore he heard no one discussing "murder, murder, murder," as was so breathlessly reported in the aforementioned US newspaper website article, which was simply rehashing what had been published earlier in a St. Thomas newspaper.
It would be a shame if St. Thomas were to share the same fate as St. Croix, another US Virgin Island with a reputation for high crime, that has been a cruise port wasteland for nearly a decade. Yes, crime statistics have increased in St. Thomas, but they have elsewhere as well. Should cruise lines bypass the US Virgins altogether, as has been suggested by some? Should you remain onboard if your ship docks there? Based on the sensational stories published this week, you'd think so. But if you do, then you might want to avoid the cities of Chicago and Atlanta and even our nation's capital. Bad things happen everywhere.
Celebrity Cruises' advice to their passengers is the right approach: common sense and awareness of your surroundings. Sadly, it's too late for the innocent young teen passenger who was simply going to the beach.