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Carnival Shore excursion robbery -Jamaica

This is just a warning for new travelers. Make sure you research your travel destination. Check out the crime stats for the area. I know carnival Cruise line does not provide this information. You are basically sent out without any knowledge. You have to research yourself.
13 years ago, August 9th 2007 No: 1 Msg: #17637  
Kenneth Williams
Dickinson, TX

On June 10, 2007, my wife, 12-year old son, 10-year old daughter, and I set sail on the Carnival Conquest from Galveston, Texas. Being that this was our first cruise, we were looking forward to spending some quality time together as a family. The first stop was Jamaica, when we opted for a Carnival excursion, “Lethe Village Tour”. We selected this tour to show the kids traditional Jamaican culture. We had no idea how this decision would change our lives forever.

I am a 17-year police veteran. Before my current profession, I proudly served in the U.S. Army. Safety and protection is my number one goal with anyone, especially with my wife and children. With this in mind, I attended the excursion meeting that was held on the ship by the Cruise Director, Mr. Price.

During that excursion meeting, the Director's words were… “In order to see the true Jamaica, you have to take a Carnival Shore Excursion." He added, “The Carnival Shore Excursions are guaranteed safe." He explained that in the port city, we may encounter some undesirables, attempting to sell marijuana or pressuring us to take their cab. He explained that the Red-Tag cabs were the only registered cabs. He continued to persuade us to take a Carnival Excursion. There were no other warnings mentioned, other than the marijuana and high pressure taxi-sell. After the meeting, I was confident in my decision to take the Carnival Excursion, because of the “guaranteed” safety.

We arrived in Montego Bay on June 13th, where my family and I boarded the excursion bus, along with 13 other passengers. Two of the passengers were my father and step-mother. My father, who is 67 years old, has had two major heart attacks with the last one in July of 2006. This was the perfect relaxing excursion for him.

We drove approximately 30-40 minutes into the country of Lethe, Hanover. Along the way, we observed extreme poverty. The people looked at us as though they were angry with us for some reason.

We arrived at the plantation and we learned a few things about bananas and coconuts. Then, we boarded a green and yellow trolley, connected to an old John Deer tractor. The excursion tour guide had turned us over to an elderly Jamaican plantation worker, Dalton, who pulled the trolley further into the plantation, surrounded by lush, thick jungle vegetation. I was relaxed and felt secure, as my family and I observed the flowers and tropical plants. Dalton had given a presentation on the banana plant and was pulling us through the plantation, towards a botanical garden to view some flowers and listen to a kindergarten class sing to us.

As we traveled further through the plantation, we approached a side-road to our right that was also surrounded with vegetation. It was here that our world came crashing down… Two men ambushed our trolley, approaching with guns and a knife. They immediately took control of our lives, pointing a pistol at the driver and ordering him to stop. Visibly shaken, Dalton exited and pleaded for the men not to hurt anyone.

The two gunmen began yelling, "F_ _king foreigners. Give us your f_ _king money, man. Don't f_ _k with us, man. We're f_ _king crazy." They approached on opposite sides and were either madmen or on some form of drug. My two children were sitting behind my wife and me, next to my stepmother and my father.

One of the gunmen placed an 8" revolver in my 10-year-old daughter’s face. My daughter was crying and pleading with the gunman not to kill her. I have never felt so helpless in my life! I still get physically sick thinking about this. As visions of my daughter’s life passed before my eyes, all I could think of was how badly I wanted her in my arms. The gunman kept the gun in her face, as he stole her disposable camera and all the belongings of the other passengers.

These gunmen were jerking passengers around, as they removed the valuables. One gunman took his knife and cut a camera strap from around the neck of one of the passenger. There was no doubt that these guys were violent and on the verge of hurting one of us. They continuously called us “F_ _ king foreigners” and it appeared as though they were angry about us being there. Once they had stolen everything, both gunmen disappeared back into the jungle, leaving my family and all the other victims visibly shaken, violated, and terrified.

The driver brought us back to the starting point of the plantation, where we exited the trolley and told other tourists of our nightmare. They all loaded back onto their buses, and were taken back to the Carnival Conquest, leaving us at the plantation still in fear and shock.

The other plantation workers were upset about us being robbed and grabbed their machetes and some sharpened cane poles. They wanted to go back to the robbery site to search for the gunmen. I had never seen the sharpened cane poles, but later, I figured that they knew it was dangerous around there or they never would have had the weapons. As a police officer, it was easy to tell that these guys must have known this area was dangerous and they needed these weapons on-hand for protection. Carnival should have known, as it was a Carnival Excursion.

Approximately 20-minutes later, the Jamaican police arrived. One officer took shorts statements from all of us; however, I wrote out a statement for him. He kept saying that more officers were supposed to come and help with statements. They never showed, but I believe all available officers were out searching for the robbers. The officer told me that they were notifying the local villages to look out for the suspects. I did find out that the owner of the Lethe Village Tour Plantation was running for the Ministry of Tourism.

After approximately 3 ½ -hours, we were transported back to the Carnival Conquest, where some of the crew shuffled us back onto the ship and into a debriefing room.

After the debriefing, we were released back to the cruise. We began hearing from Carnival employees, regarding their knowledge of how dangerous Jamaica can be, and their reason for not leaving the ship. Every crewmember to whom I spoke stated that they do not leave the ship, because they fear for their safety; yet, Carnival allowed us and other passengers to leave the ship, guaranteeing our safety?

The next day, I was told that the two gunmen tried to exit the jungle approximately 2 miles from the plantation around 10:00PM, where they encountered the Jamaican Police and tried to shoot their way out. One gunman was shot and killed and the second one got away.

Carnival brought a Crisis Intervention Therapist onboard, who met with us. She remained on the ship, all the way back to Galveston, Texas. At the end of the cruise, she recommended that our family seek further counseling, in order to deal with this traumatic event. My wife and I agreed. A letter was also delivered to our cabin from the CEO of Carnival, apologizing for the incident. It also stated that Guest Relation Supervisor, Dorothy Georges, would be standing-by for our phone call on Monday morning, June 18th. When I called on Monday to inquire about the additional counseling, Ms. Georges was not available. I left a message.

When Ms. Georges returned my call, I expressed my concerns and asked how we would go about having Carnival pay for our counseling. She stated that she could not confirm whether or not Carnival would pay for the counseling, and would not have an answer on this for a few days. This infuriated me even more, thinking that if it had been THEIR 10-year old girl, who had a gun shoved in her face and forced to plead for her life, they would have immediately said, “Yes” to my counseling request. At this point Carnival began handling this incident as ‘strictly business’. There was no compassion whatsoever!

My wife continues to shake at times, so much that she has been unable to return to work. My son claims that he sometimes sees one of the gunmen in our house. My daughter has broken out in hives. I, for one, get so angry and upset that I physically shake and then cry. I go back and forth. I am nauseated just writing this story. We all have nightmares in relation to this incident. It is ridiculous and totally neglectful on the part of Carnival that we were not given the true facts and information about Jamaica. I would never have subjected my family to this if I had received this valid information, in advance, and I will now live with that decision forever.

I wish to strongly encourage anyone, who is considering traveling to Jamaica, to STOP! It is not worth the risk. They prey on the tourists, knowing that they carry money and other valuables. Unfortunately, the local citizens earn approximately $50-$100 dollars a week. The two gunmen, who robbed us, escaped with approximately two to three thousand dollars. This is the equivalent to someone robbing a bank in the USA. This will only continue. They have no choice. The poverty is too bad.

I am hoping to get this information out to the public and caution all tourists, who are contemplating a cruise or trip to Jamaica. It’s not safe! I want to warn you, because Carnival will not.
Reply to this

12 years ago, July 9th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #41351  
N Posts: 1
I read your entry. I'm booked on this same cruise for this upcoming October. Did Carnival ever come through for you or do anything to improve security on their Jamaican tours? Thanks for any info..
Cathy Reply to this

12 years ago, July 14th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #41788  
Hi Kenneth,

I have read your story and it just sounds like a terrible ordeal. I hope you are all eventually able to fully recover.

Take care,
Ruth Reply to this

12 years ago, December 3rd 2008 No: 4 Msg: #56436  
N Posts: 1

I was on this same cruise with you and your family. I have to admit, I hated Jamaica. I was a wreck the whole time we were there. I felt like someone was going to jump us the whole time. I am so sorry this happened to you and your family and all the others that were with you. It could have been any of us. Stay strong! I am praying for you and your family. Reply to this

12 years ago, December 4th 2008 No: 5 Msg: #56500  
I am so glad that people are still able to see this story. Carnival has done nothing that I know of to help in regards to security. I know that they are offering this tour again. Please do your research,,, again...Carnival will not do it for you, they just want your money. Their excursions are for profit only. Thanks and be careful. Reply to this

11 years ago, November 1st 2009 No: 6 Msg: #91598  
My wife and I went to Jamaica in 2008 onboard the Carnival Conquest. We had a good time, and the land was beautiful. We took a Carnival excursion to Dunn's River Falls. It was a lot of fun. However, there was an eerie feeling about being there. Some of the people were friendly, but others appeared as if they didn't like us. They were very pushy and tricky about trying to sell souveniers. They would offer something for free, and then request a donation for it. While I was there, I was having a good time, but couldn't wait to get back on the ship. I didn't know why I felt that way. After we got back on board the ship, we heard stories of some of the people being detained by the Jamaican officials, and being searched for drugs in which the officials had planted on them. One lady was stripped searched and fined about $1500. A young man was arrested and had to call his parents to get him out of jail. There were several cases of this kind of activity. We later learned that there are about 10 cases on every trip by Carnival, but they still go there. No one told us about any danger before we departed. Needless to say, we won't be going back to Jamaica. If we do, we plan to stay onboard the ship. We will go to other ports instead. This was our 3rd of 4 cruises. It is the only one that we were uncomfortable at. Reply to this

11 years ago, February 21st 2010 No: 7 Msg: #104457  
I am so sorry for what happened to you. I remember when this happened and the headlines read that some Houston folks on Conquest had been robbed at a banana plantation in Jamaica. I had no idea that this was at Lethe, though, and was just now looking at the excursions currently offered off Conquest when I decided to google this particular area...and found your post on this blogl

When your unfortunate experience happened, so many wanted Carnival to cease going to this port...but they never did and probably never will unless Jamaica closes the country to tourism as they did 1970 right after I went there.

This story lives on, believe me! Many of us will NOT go on excursions because of this horrible event.

We will be going to this port in May. I was actually looking for an excursion until I read your story. Hope you and your family are fully recovered. I know first hand how hard it is! Reply to this

10 years ago, March 31st 2010 No: 8 Msg: #107635  
N Posts: 6
This happens in NYC... It happens in Los Angeles... its happens in Guatemala, It can happen everywhere. My friend in Chicago was mugged, and car jacked at gun point about a year ago. I dont think Carnival would offer that excursion if that happened everytime! I do feel its there duty to make sure the route is secure. Ive never been to Jamaica and I never plan on going, but I know that its dangerous. It seems like one of those places you go to, but you never leave the resort. I do feel that people become angry, when we go into areas and take pictures of the homes of the less fortunate its almost like were turning them into Animals at a Zoo. That is a horrible thing for anyone to go through, I'm sorry you and your family went through that, but remember you walked away with your life, even if its just a lesson learned, you walked away with your life. Some people go through the exact same thing, and do not walk away with theirs.
Reply to this

10 years ago, May 11th 2010 No: 9 Msg: #110664  
I'm so sorry to hear about this incident, particularly how the children were traumatized.

However, the last poster is correct that this can happen anywhere. I have traveled to Jamaica for nearly 20 years, renting cars and touring every part of the country. Last summer I took my mother, and we spent a week driving through nearly every parish and had a wonderful time meeting wonderful people. I've never had the slightest problem, not even petty theft... although I HAVE experienced some negative feelings towards foreigners here and there. However, I'm certain it was nothing worse than any visible minority feels living in the US or Canada. I think that white folks (and I am one) are just not used to being "different", and when you are in Jamaica, you stick out like a sore thumb.... just like a person of color would stick out in Montana and would probably run into a vocal racist here and there.

I used to travel frequently to the US as well (I'm Canadian), and in 2001 my friend and I were carjacked. In the evening, on a busy street, in a good suburban area, in front of a convenience store, in DENVER. My friend was killed and I was injured.

Personally, I feel safer in Jamaica than I do in the US.... but in the end, it's all just perception and experience.

I'm sorry for the pain this experience caused you and your family. I'm sorry for the pain my experience caused me. However, I think the blame lies firmly in the laps of the criminal who commit the acts, and should not be placed on the good people who live in those area (of which there are many many more good, than bad).

Reply to this

10 years ago, May 30th 2010 No: 10 Msg: #112100  
I am so sorry this happened to you and your family. I just booked a Carnival cruise for my family and we will be stopping in Ocho Rios, Jamaica next week. I was searching for family friendly excursions when I found your post. With all of the recent drug wars in Jamaica, I have already been warned about safety from family and friends. After reading this, I have decided not to leave the ship in Jamaica at all. The fact that crewmembers stay on board is enough to convince me. While criminals can strike at any time and place, there are certainly locations that are far more dangerous than others. Thank you for helping us by sharing your tragic situation. I pray that you all are doing well today and can find comfort in the safety of your home and surroundings. Reply to this

10 years ago, February 19th 2011 No: 11 Msg: #129435  
N Posts: 2
My heart goes out to your family. I cannot imagine th pain it has left.
I do however want to let tourist know that this is NOT how all Jamaican are. There are thiefs and crooks in all countries, especially the US. My family worries about my trips to Jamaica and I have NEVER had a bad experience and i have been traveling there alone for 4 years. BUT just last week my salon here in the states was broke into and robbed.
As far as excursions. I went 4 yrs ago on the same cruise and did the WET and WILD FREESTYLE Catamaran tour from the ship. It was amazing, actually on that tour, I met the most amazing Jamaican man, the catamaran's Captain who has been my boyfriend since. Since then, the tour does NOT book through the ship any longer. His company books directly from the internet and referals at half the cost Carnival was charging. The crew are fantastic, helpful and respect the tourist 100%. I would recommend doing the water tours as " Freestyle" docks right at the ships dock, picks u up there, takes you snorkling and to the private secured beach or Margarittaville. You can see Montego Bay shorelineand get the feel of Jamaica without being on the streets, although the Hip Strip is safe. Some locals will ask for money but a firm and polite no will do it!. Jamaicans majority are spiritual, polite and grateful for what the tourism brings to their country. I have recently leased a home there in a locals neighborhood and love it. Reply to this

10 years ago, March 1st 2011 No: 12 Msg: #130112  
N Posts: 1
Thank you so much for the information. My husband and 4 children 14, 12, 11, & 9 will be going on a cruise there in 4 days. I was just looking for excursions to do there. After reading your story, I think we will stay on the boat. Nothing is worth what you and your family went thru. Even if you were very lucky to all walked away. I would be horrified. I could never take that "chance" with my kids. You never know. God bless you and yours and thanks again for sharing. I hope you all are doing well and have found comfort. Reply to this

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