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More than 50 cruise ship passengers had the fright of their lives when they were robbed at gunpoint by three masked men while on a shore excursion aboard a bus at the Botanical Gardens in Soufrière, St Lucia.
In the course of Friday’s armed robbery, cash and jewellery were taken from the tourists, who had come ashore from the Celebrity Cruises vessel Eclipse.
St Lucia Tourism Minister Lorne Theophilus told local broadcaster DBS that another such attack could cripple the island’s income from tourism.
The minister described the incident as an “unfortunate and horrible scenario” which left passengers from the 2,850-berth ship “shaken”.
Matthew Beaubrun, chairman of St Lucia’s tourist board, described the incident as “rare”, but emphasized its seriousness.
“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,” he said.
According to a statement from Celebrity Cruises, the guests had returned to the Eclipse unharmed after the attack.
“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,” the statement noted.
Despite this assertion, 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 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 armed robbery in St Lucia comes in the wake of a series of high-profile incidents involving British tourists in the Caribbean this year, which have captured the attention of the international press.
Philip Prior, 72, and his 59-year-old wife Ann were both shot during a daylight robbery on a street in the capital of Barbados last month during a stopover on a three-month P&O round-the-world cruise.
Professor James Bridges, a leading expert on toxicology, was injured along with his wife when they were stabbed repeatedly shortly after arriving at their vacation villa in Barbados in January.
Meanwhile, over 70,000 visitors from the UK travel to St Lucia annually and their trips are said to be largely trouble-free.
“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,” according to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice.
Yesterday, police in St Lucia said they had arrested three suspects in connection with Friday’s armed robbery.