The armed robbery of 10 Britons during a shore excursion from a cruise ship’s tour of St Lucia has cast doubt over the safety of tourists in the Caribbean.
Some 55 passengers are thought to have been robbed by three masked gunmen while they were on board a bus at the Botanical Gardens in Soufrière on Friday.
While no injuries were reported, jewellery and money were taken from the group, who had come ashore from the Celebrity Cruises vessel Eclipse.
The St Lucia Tourism Minister, Lorne Theophilus, told the local broadcaster DBS that another such attack could cripple the island’s income from tourism dollars. He said it was an “unfortunate and horrible scenario” which left passengers on the 2,850-berth ship “shaken”.
“This is a rare incident,” stressed Matthew Beaubrun, chairman of St Lucia’s tourist board. He added: “This is such an important industry for us that we need to respond. We have taken it very seriously at the highest level and I know the Minister’s been in touch with the Prime Minister.”
According to Celebrity Cruises, the Eclipse offers an “impressive level of sophisticated service” as it travels from Southampton to Norway, Russia, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
The 121,000-ton ship is one of many that ferry passengers to the island each year and had been on a 14-day Caribbean tour after departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, last week.
Two crew members from the vessel had also been on board the bus when it was robbed.
Last night a spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said that no Britons were thought to have been injured.
A statement from Celebrity Cruises said the guests had returned to the Eclipse unharmed after the attack. It said: “We are thankful that none of our guests was injured in this unfortunate event, and will continue to provide them with any support they may need.”
However, an Eclipse passenger wrote on the Cruise Critic forum: “One woman fell and broke her leg; no one else was injured, all their money and jewellery were taken.” Another British cruise passenger wrote that in order to make an impact and improve its crime figures, island authorities would have to “wake up and crack down on crime”. The robbery follows a series of high-profile incidents involving British tourists in the Caribbean this year, including a couple who were shot and a man who was stabbed in Barbados.
Ann Prior, 59, and her husband Philip, 72, were shot during a botched street robbery in Bridgetown, Barbados, last month while on a stopover on a three-month P&O round-the-world cruise.
Dr James Bridges, a leading expert on toxicology from Surrey, was injured along with his wife when they were stabbed while arriving at their holiday villa in Barbados in January.
Some 71,600 Britons visit St Lucia each year and it is largely trouble-free. FCO travel advice states: “There are incidents of petty crime including thefts from hotels, yachts and holiday homes. There have also been some incidents of violent crime including assaults and murder.”
Local police tonight said they had arrested three suspects.