Dangerous Cruise Ports You Should Stay Far Away From!

Dangerous Cruise Ports You Should Stay Far Away From!

Experiences on my two last cruises reminded me that just because my cruise ship is calling into a port does not mean that I can assume it’s safe for me to get off and explore. In fact, even in the two most popular cruising regions, the Caribbean and Mediterranean, many of the most visited ports are amongst the riskiest. Let’s look at some of the most dangerous cruise ports.

Dangerous Cruise Ports In The Caribbean

Let’s start in the Caribbean. It’s the most popular cruising region and so it’s easy to get lulled into a sense of false security. But poverty is widespread across the islands and there’s increasing gang activity and political instability in many. Creating six risky ports that ships regularly call to. In fact, my two recent back-to-back cruises there called into all of them!

The first three I visited on my first cruise which was on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas.

In the run-up to the cruise departing, the US State Department raised the travel advisory against going to all ports I was calling on that cruise.

Haiti was the first.


The third largest country in the Caribbean, Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic and gets around three-quarters of a million cruise visitors a year.

Just before I made my way there, the US State Department increased the travel advisory to level four, which is “do not travel”. Due to kidnapping, crime, and civil unrest. In fact, they told US citizens to leave.

Gangs had overthrown the prime minister, there was widespread lawlessness, and violent battles for control.

Haiti has been troubled and dangerous for many years. So, cruises calling there avoid the urban areas by going to Labadee, which is the Royal Caribbean owned resort on a remote peninsula fenced off from the mainland. It is a stunning place, though we were one of the last ships to call as the situation deteriorated even more.

At the time of writing, ships are still not calling there. Even when they do, Haiti will remain a volatile and risky country.

The second port we called on was Jamaica, another island with issues.

Dangerous Cruise Ports You Should Stay Far Away From!


Jamaica is about 100 miles west of Haiti, and about 90 miles south of Cuba, and popular cruise island getting up to 1.4 million cruise passengers a year.

Just before I went there, the US State Department raised its travel advice to level three, which is “reconsider travel” due to rising crime levels.

There are 5 cruise ports in Jamaica ( Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Falmouth, Port Antonio, and Kingston), and Symphony of the Seas went into Montego Bay.

I had seen lots of online advice about avoiding self-exploring outside the secure port shopping area. Some who did do this came back and told me they had felt unsafe and were harassed. Quickly hurrying back to the secure area or ship.

As a reminder, I’ll be giving advice later on what to do in these risky and dangerous ports.

The third port that we went to on the Symphony of the Seas was the Bahamas. Another one with issues.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas is the closest Caribbean Island cluster to the USA, lying roughly between Cuba and Florida, making it enormously popular as a cruise stop. Nassau alone gets around four million cruise visitors a year, with 20 to 25,000 passengers often in port each day.

Just before my visit, the US State Department raised its advice to level two, which is “exercise increased caution” due to rising crime and murders. On their site they reported that in the month before I went there had been 18 murders, including in broad daylight on the streets mostly related to gang violence.

In addition, a few weeks before I arrived, two female passengers on Carnival Elation had gone to Pirate’s Cove Resort on the Grand Bahama Island and say that they were drugged and raped by employees.

So, the area, despite its beauty and popularity has risk. I did go out self-exploring alone but not for long, as those warnings made me feel less secure.

The issues in the area and the fact that it’s so beautiful, is why many lines are creating their own private islands in the Bahamas. For example, I’ve been to Holland America’s Half Moon Cay several times, which is stunning. I felt very secure there, and there are many others in the Bahamas including the famous Royal Caribbean Perfect Day CocoCay, MSC’s Ocean Cay, Disney’s Castaway Cay, and others.

After disembarking Symphony of the Seas, I boarded Oceania Vista thinking that I’d put all the risky ports behind me. But I soon discovered that two of the ports had elevated travel advisories against them, and one of the previously safe ports was no longer one.

Let me talk about that one first. That is Cozumel in Mexico.

Dangerous Cruise Ports You Should Stay Far Away From!


Cozumel has always been considered one of the safer ports. It’s an island located off the east coast of Mexico, near Playa del Carmen. Around three million cruise passengers visit Cozumel every year.

While parts of Mexico have strong warnings about travel from the US State Department due to crime, gang issues and kidnapping. Cozumel was seen as safer because it is not on the route that the drug cartels and gangs use to move drugs up from South America into the United States. But that seems to have changed.

Seven days before my stop there, I read of escalating gang issues, with what appears to be a gang hit where a man having lunch with his family at a restaurant not far from the Punta Langosta cruise port was shot dead.

The increase in gang battles and crime was so serious that the Mexican authorities sent in the National Guard, Army, and State Police to run raids and try and take control. Another dangerous cruise port you wouldn’t expect to see in this list. This is covered well by Jason in a video on his “The Travel Scouts channel”.

Next, call on Oceania Vista was Honduras. Another risky island.


Honduras is a Central American country between Guatemala and Nicaragua, getting around one million cruise visitors every year.

However, it is seen as a country with issues and the US State Department has a level three warning, which is “reconsider travel” due to crime and kidnapping. Some areas have more risk than others, which is where Roatan, where cruise ships call into, comes into play. Roatan is an island, and is seen as having less risks.

There are two key ports there. Mahogany Bay, which is Carnival operated/owned, and Coxen Hole, which is where we called on as a non-Carnival line.

I have been to both, and on further checking before this trip I saw warnings that the areas outside the enclosed port shopping and entertainment areas when heading out self-exploring had risen levels of crime and harassment, including prostitution.

Our next port of call which also had issues was Belize.

Dangerous Cruise Ports You Should Stay Far Away From!


Belize is another Central American country, with Mexico and Guatemala on its borders. And receives around one million cruise visitors a year as the same cruises usually call on Roatan and Belize.

The US State Department has a level two warning here, which means “exercise increased caution” due to crime, some of which is gang related.

If going to Belize as a cruise traveller, a lot hinges on which cruise line you’re going with.

I was on Oceania, part of the Norwegian Group, and so we called into their secure private island, Harvest Caye, off the coast. It was safe and rather beautiful. The tours all seemed to be ocean based, not visiting the mainland.

However, I have also been to Belize City on a cruise, which falls in the area with high risk of crime, and it was recommended that we did not self-explore.

So, what should you do in a port like this? More on that later but before that I want to move from the Caribbean to the next biggest cruise region, the Mediterranean. It has risky ports, but for some very specific reasons.

Dangerous Cruise Ports In The Mediterranean 

These ports to watch out for are not only the main embarkation and disembarkation ports, but several will also be on whatever Mediterranean itinerary you do, and as they are major cities, it is mostly about big city crimes: pickpocketing and theft.

I have seen or know people who have been victims in every one of them.


The first is Barcelona, which is the busiest cruise port in the Med. With around three-and-a-half million people cruise visitors a year.

The greatest place of risk is Las Ramblas, which is where everybody heads to as it’s near the cruise port. It gets very busy and is a pick pockets dream.

Dangerous Cruise Ports You Should Stay Far Away From!


The next is Rome where most cruise passengers head from the port of Civitavecchia to explore the historic city.

On my last visit there, I was on a tour off an MSC cruise and during the tour of the main sites, including Colosseum, Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain, two people on our tour were pick pocketed at different spots. This isn’t one that many people consider as a dangerous cruise port.


The other prime one is Venice, which gets around two million cruise passengers every year. Tourists are jammed together and jostled in the small alleys, and even in the large St Mark’s Square. Again, on my last visit there on a tour off Viking Sky one of passengers on the tour was pickpocketed.


I had never thought of Athens as it being an issue until a follower and Patreon Patron of my channel, Carol Copeland-Thomas, had a traumatic experience being pickpocketed on public transport where even her passport was taken, meaning she could not embark her cruise as planned. She talks about it on her “Conversations with Carole” podcast in more detail.

Livorno: Florence and Pisa

If you’re heading to Livorno, the gateway port to explore Florence and Pisa. These are two other cities for pickpocketing and thefts.

So, if you are going to any of the ports I’ve spoken about on a cruise, what should you do?

Dangerous Cruise Ports You Should Stay Far Away From!

What Should You Do In These Dangerous Cruise Ports?

First, check the latest advice just before you go because things change fast, as you heard from my experiences around Haiti, Cozumel, Jamaica, and others.

Latest Advice

I check the US State Department and UK Foreign Office sites. Both make it easy to search for the country and are constantly updated. The UK site allows signing up for email alerts by country if anything changes to make it even easier than keep checking back.

I also check ports on www.whatsinport.com as they often have latest safety issues listed for some of the more dangeerous cruise ports.

Another thing is to check the daily program and go to the port talks because they should give warnings. Although I would advise to not overly rely on these. I feel they downplay some issues. On my Symphony of the Seas cruise, for those places with increased travel advisories, they only had nondescript, vague references to raised warnings and not very prominent.

Cruise Line Excursion

Second, if you’re going to any of these ports, I recommend booking a cruise line excursion or book one through a very trusted provider. Just avoid self-exploring. That includes even just walking out and using a taxi, or those people that stand by the ports offering taxi tours, because there are many scams that are related to that.

Dangerous Cruise Ports You Should Stay Far Away From!

Stay On Board/ In Port Area

Third, which is what I usually do in these ports, is stay on board and enjoy the ship or spend time in the secure port area.

For example, there was a large one in Jamaica with shops, bars, places to eat, and some entertainment.

In Roatan both Mahogany Bay and  Coxen Hole have the same, the latter even having a pool with bar.

Port Agent

Fourth, if planning to self-explore, take the daily program with the details of the local port agent in it. They will be key if something happens to help you sort it out.

Of course, don’t wear valuables, stay alert, and stay in busy tourist-filled areas.

But even if you are going to ports considered safer, there are still risks around scams. More on this to come…



Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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1 Response

  1. Kristine Vazquez says:

    Gary, great article! Very informative and well written. As a solo female traveler, I book the cruiseline shore excursions. I recently traveled to the Western Caribbean ports you mentioned, and stayed in the cruise port areas. I felt safe, but I would not have ventured out on my own.

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