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Should Cruise Ships Go to Haiti?

Written by: Paul Motter

MSNBC has characterized Royal Carribean’s ships continuing visits to Labadee as a “public relations nightmare?” But most cruise enthusiasts according to our posts see no problems with cruises continuing to go to Labadee. Most believe the cruise line is doing exactly the right thing.

First of all, Royal Caribbean has a significant investment in Haiti, and they are the only cruise line that stops there at all. Ask any Caribbean island how they feel about cruise ships coming to their islands and every single one of them will tell you the cruise industry has been their economic salvation. Cruise Ships bring money and jobs to these islands, and as the poorest nation in all the Americas, there is no place that needs this economic commerce more than Haiti – especially now.

What kind of investment does Royal Caribbean have in Labadee?

First of all, Labadee is a private beach on an isolated peninsula protected by steep and rocky mountainous hills from the regular Haitian population. Locals are not allowed inside of the Labadee complex unless they work there, and many of them do. The entire area is surrounded by armed guards from the Haitian Police, a necessary measure, so the passengers who stop there are safe.

I was just at Labadee myself December 3rd, 2009. The area has a 2600-foot zip line and a gravity-based roller coaster that starts at the top of the same hill and zig-zags all the way down to the beach. The line just finished building these attractions and they are marketed heavily as part of the itinerary of the ships that go there. Not to deliver that promise would be a disservice to these paying passengers. But that is a small point.

Would it be better for Royal Caribbean to change itineraries? First of all those passengers were promised the attractions of Labadee, which are a big part of the Royal Caribbean experience after an investment of some $30-million to the area by the cruise line. Part of that renovation is a brand new pier to accommodate Oasis of the Seas – the largest cruise ship in the world. There are just not that many other places that Oasis can go.

The important thing is that all of the cruise lines have a strong relationship with all of the Caribbean islands. Royal Caribbean has already pledged $1 million in aid to the Haitian people. Every time a ship stops there it brings powdered milk, food and medical supplies.

By the way, Carnival Corporation, whose ships do not even stop in Haiti, has already pledged $5-million to the Haitian relief effort. NCL has a pledge drive going where it will match every dollar donated by guests and employees and give it to the Red Cross in Haiti.

The important thing is that Haiti is a country in trouble. Why should anyone NOT go there for any reason if they are bringing aid and comfort? I thought about going back there myself when I saw the devastation. I wanted to help. Is the mere presence of Americans now an afront to the rest of the world – even if they are there to contribute to the ocal economy and give charity?

The Royal Caribbean ships that stop there are bringing food, aid and jobs for the locals who may have relatives directly affected by the tragedy in Port Au Prince. Rebuilding Haiti is the most important thing. If this is not done then neighboring Dominican Republic (where Carnival Corp ships do stop) which shares the island of Hispaniola, and other Caribbean islands as well, could start seeing refugees coming in from Haiti.

The cruise industry is supporting Haiti in its time of need. Why does the sensationalistic media have to turn the very presence of a cruise ship into a controversial topic? How ungrateful and judgemental can the American media possibly be? Why don’t we ask the people of Haiti how they feel about Royal Caribbean ships coming to Haiti to bring food, medical supplies, jobs and $1 million in cash?

Royal Caribbean – you are doing nothing wrong. I support your efforts completely. Guests of Royal Caribbean, I say to you, “do NOT feel guilty about going to Labadee. You are contributing to the aid and comfort of suffering people by stopping there. To change that itinerary would be wrong, despite what the sensationalistic media might want you to think.”

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Comments

Comment from kuki
Time January 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Paul,

I agree with you. I see nothing at all wrong with RCI continuing to call there, and to try and be charitable at the same time.

When tragedy strikes a friend or family member those who can generally pay a condolence call, and if I were a passenger stopping there, I’d view my stop there in the same way.

Condolence calls are never very comfortable to make, yet as anyone who’s been on the receiving end will tell you, they are effective in comforting to those you are visiting.

Comment from Dave Beers
Time January 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm

I don’t understand why people want to immerse themselves in guilt over this. Somehow it is bad to have a cocktail on the beach at Labadee yet if you do it on the ship a few yards away it is okay? Or is there some imaginary line of decency farther out in the Caribbean? Those criticizing RCI get caught up in some sort of empathic symbolism, or the appearance of being uncaring. If an earthquake hits Los Angeles does that mean tourism in San Francisco needs to grind to a halt? It’s the same logic.

Sympathy is nice but it doesn’t provide any tangible relief to the hungry and homeless.

Life goes on in northern Haiti and lots of people rely on Labadee for a living. The normalcy provided by the ships stopping is helpful, and as Kuki points out it is comforting. What kind of signal is sent if RCI suddenly pulls out? That is more damaging to the local morale than the naysayers might think. How about that kind of stress, wondering when the ships will return so you can start making money again?

I applaud RCI for staying above the fray and doing what really is the only thing they could do, which is to support Labadee and their loyal Haitian employees and local vendors.

Meanwhile there are many people parading around the internet and on TV who have wrapped themselves in the flag of self-righteous indignation. I think they need to step down from their soapboxes and stop questioning RCI’s sincerity and efforts.

Comment from Don
Time January 19, 2010 at 5:34 pm

RCI is doing nothing wrong and they are helping the ecomomy of Haiti, they are taking supplies. Every little bit helps. I would rather see the itineraries of the ships stopping at Labadee remain as sold rather than stopping at another island in place of Haiti so that the money spent is in Haiti rather than another island. That reads odd but I think you can understand what it means. Pray for all the people in Haiti and their loved ones.

Comment from Mike M
Time January 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Royal Caribbean is doing nothing wrong in stopping in Labadee. If they don’t stop then the food and relief supplies don’t arrive, the local vendors don’t sell anything and the local employees don’t have a job.

Many folks think it’s better to go and sail around for that day because everyone should be guilty of enjoying themselves in a location 100 miles from the epicenter of the quake.

You can’t wrap yourself in quilt and think that if people don’t go it will be better. I can’t find one thing that would make it better. Labadee is 100 MILES away. Yes, there are people who may have some family effected and if they do they should be allowed to be with them but to deny others an income or allow supplies to be delivered is selfish and does nothing other than enforce their own or someone else’s standard of “mourning”.

People have to concentrate more on what good comes out of a company providing money, supplies and jobs rather than their own feelings of pity and how people and corporations should act after a crisis. Especially if how they act benefits the people effected by the crisis.

Take care,
Mike

Comment from Tim Butler
Time January 20, 2010 at 2:42 am

Paul, I agree whole heartily with you. Those who work there and sell goods are probably supporting a much larger family now as they take in affected earthquake victims. For RCI to quit going to Haiti would make the problems that Haiti is facing much worse instead of better.

Comment from Anne Campbell
Time January 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm

You are way off the mark in what I said. I never said RCI shouldn’t go to Haiti. In the latest blog posting I put an interview to the MSNBC interview and I suggest readers go to it and decide for themselves.

** I said I wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting on a beach. It was my personal reaction. I never said anyone else would feel this way.

** I pointed out the positive actions Royal Caribbean is taking. The benefits of the cruise line going to Haiti.

*** I said it would have been easier for Royal Caribbean to change itineraries rather than going to Haiti because, after all, they aren’t even making money off the port call.

*** Most of all, I said that “it’s a complicated” situation.. Not everything is black and white but you obviously lack the abilities to decipher shades of grey

I received a letter from Royal Caribbean president Adam Goldstein thanking me for the interview. So you are obviously wrong about me saying Royal Caribbean made a mistake.

Did you bother to really listen to this interview?

Comment from Anne Campbell
Time January 20, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Here is a direct link to the interview…I made a huge effort to be balanced. Not everything is black and white!

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/34937918#34937918

Comment from rciaddict
Time January 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm

This situation reminds me of Katrina and New Orleans. Once the devastation was over and the clean up and rebuilding began, there was a large public cry for people to resume visiting the area to help pump up their economy, and in effect, assist in the rebuilding efforts. If you have mixed feelings about enjoying yourself in Labadee while others in the country are suffering, perhaps donating to the cause either via reputable charities or at the Haitian market will help soothe your conscience.

Comment from meens
Time January 20, 2010 at 9:32 pm

I think that it is critically important to support Haiti’s economy as the country begins to rebuild. I do see something very, very wrong with visiting Haiti to experience a relaxing vacation right now. I applaud the cruise lines that are giving money to help the Haitian people, but I find it troubling that cruisers would even want to drink a cocktail and relax when bodies are still lying in the streets, people are still without food and water, and people are still being pulled from the rubble. Surely all the partying and relaxing can wait a few weeks. To call this behavior unseemly is an understatement.

Kuki – making a condolence call is uncomfortable, but it’s just plain weird to sunbath and enjoy a swim while doing so.

rciaddict – the sentence you wrote is “once the devastation is over.” The devastation in Haiti is still unfolding. Your point will be far more relevant in a few weeks.

Comment from Trackypup
Time January 21, 2010 at 10:10 am

“Anne just appeared on MSNBC where she was asked if Royal Carribean’s ships continuing visits to Labadee were becoming a “public relations nightmare?” Anne said “I would feel uncomfortable about sipping a pina colada on the beach knowing about the devastation 100 miles away.”

I disagree.”

How can you possibly disagree with how Anne feels? You might feel differently which is a completely different statement than what you wrote.

Comment from Paul Motter
Time January 21, 2010 at 10:14 am

Don’t worry Anne… I did see the interview, there is nothing wrong with having a difference of opinion. I think a lot of people agree with you that they would feel uncomfortable sitting on a beach sipping a pina colada knowing about the devastation 100 miles away.

I agree that is a normal human reaction, but being more logical I think it does the people of Haiti far more good being in Haiti, spending money and paying wages, than it does to pull out and go elsewhere.

Comment from Paul Motter
Time January 22, 2010 at 10:40 am

Trackypup. I see your point and you are correct, I cannot disagree with Anne’s feelings. I can only disagree with what I heard her say.

But for the people who have a problem with this, I urge you to consider that Royal Caribbean is in the tourism business. Their is nothing morally wrong about sunbathing or even drinking Pina Coladas (responsibly) while you are spending money to be on vacation.

That vacation business is exactly what enables Royal Caribbean to give the aid and comfort Haiti needs so desperartely right now.

What I see is a “can’t win” situation for RCL here. I personally believe that if they had said “we are going to stop going to Haiti, even though our beach is 100 miles away from the devastation, because we think it is in bad taste to go to Haiti now” that there would have been twice as may reactionary responses saying “you are abandoning a people in their greatest time of need just because your pina colada-sipping tourists want to ignore the pain and suffering happening just 100 miles away.”

As far as Anne’s statements, I feel she may have been misinterpretted, even by myself, when she said “I think it would have been easier for Royal Caribbean just to go someplace else.” That sounded rather callous to me, like “lets turn a blind eye to the whole situation” but I think she meant to say “Royal Caribean could have done that, and continued to bring aid and donate $1,000,000. Unfortunately, that was not the way it came across to me when I heard the interview. Unfortunately, it also is not true since RCL invested a lot of money into a special pier there to accommodate Oasis of the Seas, one of the biggest ships in the world. It cannot easily go to other places.

If the business was making coconut candy and it was located 100 miles from Port au Prince, would you expect the factory to shut down just because you find it immoral to enjoy coconut candy when there is devastation 100 miles away. Would you want the factory to shut down and still donate $1,000,000, food and clothes?

I just don’t see how anyone can even begin to criticize a company that has invested in haiti (Bill Clinton visited Labadee just 6 weeks ago and praised Royal Caribbean for their presence on the island) and is now giving comfort, clothes food and money to the stricken population. Exactly what are they doing that is morally wrong?

I just don’t get it.

Comment from Richard Caudle
Time February 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm

I just got back from Labadee and got to interview our tour guide to Malfini Beach. He had some interesting thoughts about this subject. http://www.youtube.com/richardjcaudle#p/a/u/0/zyMSXZRegj8

Comment from Monkeythyme
Time May 1, 2010 at 1:09 pm

My wife and I am going to Labadee on RCI later this year, and we are saving up a fund of cash to donate in whatever way we can. We believe RCI has a closer connection to the people of Haiti than any organized charity could possibly have.

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