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If you plan on traveling or cruising soon, here’s what you need to know to stay safe

by Staff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you’re planning a vacation to the Bahamas or any country outside the United States that is currently under a heightened travel advisory, there are a few things you should know before booking your vacation.

A dream vacation turned into a nightmare for two women who came forward about being raped in the Bahamas after getting off a Carnival cruise ship that left Jacksonville.

RELATED: State Department issues warnings for Spring Break travelers

Amber Shearer and Dongayla Dobson said they were visiting a Bahama resort for an onshore excursion when staff members offered them cocktails. The women now believe the drinks were spiked with drugs because they said they were barely conscious enough to realize they were being raped.

The Royal Bahama police later issued a statement announcing the arrest of two men accused of raping the women.

In the wake of what happened to the women, travel experts like Scott Lara are urging travelers to become informed about the countries they plan to visit.

“Ultimately, it’s up to the traveler to be aware and understand what’s going on. Yes, the State Department issues advisories. Yes, the cruise lines and those of us in the travel media let others know, but it’s ultimately up to the traveler to be aware of advisories in different countries,” Lara said.

On the state department’s website, the advisories are categorized by levels.

  • Level 1 means you should exercise normal precautions

  • Level 2 – you should exercise increased caution

  • Level 3 – you should reconsider traveling to a specific country

  • Level 4 – you need to avoid travel

When Shaerer and Dobson got off the cruise ship, they entered a country that was under a level 2 advisory because of reported violent crimes in tourist and non-tourist areas of the Bahamas.

Lara said if you are exiting a cruise ship to go on an excursion, make sure you are not alone.

“When you take a cruise,  you go down to the shore excursion desk and you’ll be on a shore excursion with 10, 15, or 20 people. So yes. There is safety in numbers. If you choose to get off a cruise ship or even in an all-inclusive resort to go out on your own or hire a taxi or someone to take you around, you’re doing that at your own risk,” Lara said.

Travel advisories also detail what specific streets and neighborhoods to avoid.

Travels can also visit step.state.gov to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to inform the nearest U.S. Embassy of your travels.

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