Here's what travelers should know about concerns over Bahamas, Jamaica – Florida Today

The State Department has updated travel advisories that it previously issued for Jamaica and the Bahamas — two popular destinations for cruises and for spring-break vacations.
Many of the Port Canaveral-based cruise ships have port-of-call stops in the Bahamas, including some at cruise lines’ private islands. Some of the longer cruises also stop at ports in Jamaica, an island that is south of Cuba.
Here’s what you need to know about the State Department’s actions and the reaction to it:
The State Department, in its updated advisories issued in late-January, kept its advisory levels for both destinations — a Level 3 advisory for Jamaica and a Level 2 advisory for the Bahamas.
A Level 3 advisory means the State Department recommends that U.S. residents should “reconsider travel” to the location. A Level 2 advisory means residents should “exercise increased caution” when traveling to the destination.
The other levels are Level 4 (“do not travel” to the location) and Level 1 (“exercise normal precautions” when traveling to the location).
The State Department added more detailed context to the advisories, and that has created buzz within the travel industry and the general public.
“Reconsider travel to Jamaica, due to crime and medical services,” the latest advisory said. “Violent crimes — such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults and homicides — are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts.”
The State Department advisory warned that “emergency services and hospital care vary throughout the island, and response times and quality of care may vary from U.S. standards. Public hospitals are under-resourced, and cannot always provide high-level or specialized care. Private hospitals require payment upfront before admitting patients, and may not have the ability to provide specialized care. Ambulance services are not always readily available, especially in rural areas, and are not always staffed by trained personnel.”
“Exercise increased caution in the Bahamas, due tocrime,” the State Department said. “The majority of crime occurs on New Providence (Nassau) and Grand Bahama (Freeport) islands. In Nassau, practice increased vigilance in the ‘Over the Hill’ area (south of Shirley Street), where gang-on-gang violence has resulted in a high homicide rate, primarily affecting the local population. Violent crime — such as burglaries, armed robberies and sexual assaults — occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas. Be vigilant when staying at short-term vacation rental properties where private security companies do not have a presence.”   
The advisory about the Bahamas warns that “activities involving commercial recreational watercraft, including water tours, are not consistently regulated. Watercraft may be poorly maintained, and some operators may not have safety certifications.  Always review and heed local weather and marine alerts before engaging in water-based activities. Commercial watercraft operators have discretion to operate their vessels, regardless of weather forecasts. Injuries and fatalities have occurred.”
Miami-based cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron said he does not believe people should have to cancel their cruises.
If they are concerned about a particular port, they can always stay on the ship or remain in a secure area of the port.
That’s what Alabama resident Laura Strickland plans to do.
“I am sure the cruise lines makes every effort to protect you, but I’ll just stay on the boat at Nassau.” Strickland said, as she was preparing to board Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas on Monday at Port Canaveral. The four-night cruise has scheduled stops at Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas.
But other passengers on the Allure of the Seas appeared to be not as concerned.
Cleveland resident Joe Walters said he’s not worried about safety issues in the Bahamas, saying: “We have been to Nassau a few times already, and feel safe there. I don’t think it’s a problem.”
“You just need to try to be safe and aware of your surroundings,” Connecticut resident Matt Hovan said. “That is really all you can do. Everywhere can be dangerous.”
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Chiron — who has followed the cruise industry for about 35 years and operates the cruiseguy.com website — advises that cruise passengers with concerns should only book excursions that have been vetted by the cruise line, rather than setting out on their own with a random tour operator or taking ground transportation from someone not recommended by the cruise line.
Chiron also noted that the cruise lines’ private islands generally are safer than venturing into a city near a cruise port that is not overseen by the cruise line or the port.
“These are not events that are happening on the ship,” but rather in the areas outside the port, Chiron noted, in reference the incidents alluded to in the State Department advisories.
In responding to the State Department advisories Michele Paige, CEO of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, said: “As always, the safety and security of guests, crew and the communities we visit are the top priority for FCCA and our cruise line members. We are aware of the U.S. State Department travel advisory, and have been working closely with global security experts and government authorities — including the U.S. Embassy — to monitor the situation. We and our cruise line members will continue monitoring conditions in all the destinations we visit to make decisions that prioritize safety.”
Paige said, as with visiting any destination, travelers should “practice common-sense security measures for their safety and make informed decisions about their travel. We also recommend they pay close attention to updates from their travel adviser or cruise line, including referring to shipboard announcements, no matter the destination.”
Dave Berman is business editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at dberman@floridatoday.com, on X at @bydaveberman and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dave.berman.54

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