|Photo courtesy of Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park|
In the wake of Sunday's brazen robbery at gunpoint of a bus full of Celebrity Mercury passengers on a St. Kitts shore excursion, at least two cruise lines have canceled calls on the island. Carnival Miracle, scheduled to visit St. Kitts headed to Antigua, and Princess Cruises' Grand Princess will make a similar detour on Wednesday.
Two masked gunmen on St. Kitts held up 17 passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Mercury who were on a ship-sponsored tour, called "Essential St. Kitts", that includes a sight-seeing drive of the city of Basseterre. The tour was headed to Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a popular tourist spot.
According to police reports, the gunmen blocked the road with a fallen tree which prompted the bus driver to exit the vehicle to clear the road. When this was done, the band of robbers emerged from the bushes and robbed the tourists at gunpoint before disappearing back into the woodlands. The passengers' cash, jewelry, cameras and other valuables were taken and fortunately noone was injured in the incident.
Celebrity Cruises has cancelled the tour indefinitely and indicated that it will closely monitor the safety situation in St. Kitts, but has yet to cancel any calls at the island. They released the following statement:
"We are thankful that none of our guests were injured in this unfortunate event, and will continue to provide them any support they may need. A vacation is supposed to be filled with fun, rejuvenation and relaxation. An act of crime should not be part of any vacation, and we regret our guests had to experience those events."
St. Kitts-Nevis Observer was told by a police spokesperson, "this tour bus robbery is an unprecedented incident in St. Kitts, where visitor safety is of the highest priority. Last year, over (500,000) cruise passengers safely disembarked in St. Kitts...we deeply regret any type of incident that might tarnish our visitors' experience."
It is believed that the recent surge in violence in the Caribbean is linked to an increase in drug traffic. Much of the cocaine headed for the U.S. and European markets from South America transits the Caribbean.
Watch here for updates from the cruise lines in reaction to this incident.