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10 of the Most Dangerous Cruise Ports in the World

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” We’ve all heard the quote. Inspiring though John Shedd’s sentiment may be, it’s not all true. Sometimes a ship in harbor isn’t safe, and neither are its passengers.

There are cruise ports around the world that should be known as places where there’s a much higher than average chance of being overpowered: stolen from, hurt, kidnapped, or killed.

“Do not assume that cruise lines would not dock at dangerous ports,” says Salvatore Grasso, a security consultant for Sicuro, a firm that analyzes intelligence to reduce risks for international companies and agencies, including Interpol. “Their priority is the bottom line and their liability is limited to warning passengers of possible risks. They are not accountable if you become a victim.”

So how can you determine which ports to avoid, or at least which to be more cautious in? Well, it’s complicated. As Grasso puts it, “It is very difficult to quantitatively define what constitutes ‘dangerous’ in the context of cruise ports, particularly in poorer countries, where crime statistics are seldom reliable as a dataset. What constitutes ‘dangerous’ in cruise ports, then, is largely dynamic—what violent or criminal acts are more pervasive at the time of your visit. There are many variables at play.”

So this list of 10 is not an official or scientific ranking. But it is based on hard fact, and on some data. It’s also based on up-to-the-minute input from travel-security experts, as well as government sources, especially the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisories, which, though they’re often pooh-poohed, are highly accurate.

This list doesn’t focus as much on pettier crimes that cause inconvenience—pickpocketing, purse-snatching, and so on, traumatizing as they may be—as it does on crimes that pose true danger, those that threaten loss of life or freedom.

It includes safety tips for each port that can help you prevent yourself from becoming a victim. As Aaron Laurich, a security-operations supervisor for Global Rescue, a travel risk and crisis management firm, puts it, “Passengers make ideal targets as they are unfamiliar with the area, are transient, stand out from the locals, and because of their perceived wealth.”

Elinore Boeke, a spokesperson for CLIA, the cruise industry trade association, assures potential passengers: “Cruise lines coordinate closely with national and international security and law-enforcement authorities around the globe to help ensure passenger security. In the event of any safety concerns, cruise ships have the flexibility to alter their itineraries as needed.” She adds, “Port facilities are strictly scrutinized,” and, “Providing for the safety and security of passengers and crew is the industry’s top priority.”

However, many experts, including Luke Bencie, the president of the global security consulting firm Security Management International (he’s also the author of Among Enemies: Counter-Espionage for the Business Traveler), remain skeptical. “If you are using mega cruise ships to see the world,” Bencie says, “you are probably setting yourself up for an increased risk of violent crime.”

More from SmarterTravel:

10 Cruise Lines Going to Inspiring Lengths to Protect the Planet
10 Great Cruise Companies for Solo Travelers
The Worst Decisions You Can Make on a Cruise

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