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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Posted: January 19th, 2010 under Paul Motter.