A series of armed attacks on cruise ship passengers in Nassau has raised fears about the safety of visitors to the Bahamas – several Europeans were among a group of 18 tourists held up by two men wielding shotguns during a guided tour of an eco-park close to Nassau last weekend. Their local guide was tied up and a woman hit in the face with the butt of a gun as the robbers took money, cameras, mobile phones and passports from the passengers…
Last month, in another daylight incident, 11 cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint as they stood at the top of the Queen's Staircase, the city's landmark attraction.
Police authorities in Nassau have reported a sharp rise in muggings in the city, including a recent attack on a Canadian tourist as he walked along Bay Street, close to the cruise line terminals.
The increase in violence at a destination previously considered safe for visitors has caused Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise lines to suspend some shore-based excursions.
"A holiday is supposed to be filled with fun, rejuvenation and relaxation. An act of crime should not be part of any vacation, and we regret that our guests had to experience those events," said Lyan Sierra-Caro, a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman. "We are thankful that none of our guests was injured."
Royal Caribbean has joined Disney in halting its excursions to the Earth Village park, which offered Segway and horseback tours through woodland, while it conducts an investigation.
Tourism and police chiefs, wary of the threat to this £2.3bn industry, have promised to deploy more uniformed officers at tourist sites and renew efforts to catch those responsible for the attacks.
The Bahamas is trying to combat an increase in violent crime – there have been a record 77 murders so far this year. In the past it was rare for tourists to be targeted.
"It is difficult to promote the islands as a place for people to consider for their holiday when these kinds of incidents occur," said Vernice Walkine, minister for tourism. "We are deeply concerned about a troubling series of events involving rogue elements of our society. We want to assure our cruise line partners that we will work closely with the police until they have rooted out these problems and restored these places and activities as safe for the enjoyment of our visitors."
Nassau is one of the most popular stopovers on cruises from Florida, with more than two million passengers visiting last year, according to the Bahamas tourism ministry.
According to the London-based Passenger Shipping Association, 208,000 Britons took a Caribbean cruise in 2008.