Should Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships Continue to Visit Haiti?

An interesting dilemma for cruise line Royal Caribbean:  The company has decided to allow its ships to continue to visit its private beach in Labadee, Haiti, despite the obvious mayhem occurring just 60 miles south in Port-Au-Prince. This has caused a bit of an uproar among some folks (including many naval-gazing public relations types) that the cruise line is being wildly insensitive by pulling up a ship stocked with midnight buffets to one of the country’s ports while people are starving just miles away.  Says one of these PR types, “The symbolism and optics of a big white ship sitting right off the beach and people playing were very damaging to the brand, and they have to be prepared for medium to longer-term damage.”

Royal Caribbean counters that it employs several hundred Haitians whose livelihoods depend on the ship stopping in Labadee.  Avoiding the port, in this case, certainly wouldn’t help these people at all.

I appreciate what the navel-gazers are saying, but I think the best thing that cruise line can do for Haiti right now is to continue to visit.  After 9/11 people were not telling tourists to avoid Philadelphia, were they?  No they were not.  Labadee has not, thankfully, been affected by the quake, and avoiding it because there was a disaster on the other side of the country actually doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

After the typhoon in Southeast Asia, Thai resorts were begging people to come back.  Haiti doesn’t have the infrastructure to beg people to come to Haiti; for the only company that actually WANTS to bring tourists to the country to avoid doing so because it would somehow look bad is just crazy.  Eliminating the stop in Labadee would bring economic disaster to the Haitians who depend on the ship to make a living.  Why is anyone suggesting that cutting them off from their livelihood is a good idea?

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  1. Jared, I agree that while on paper it could be a PR disaster, in reality these Haitians depend upon RCI (and their passengers) for their livliehood. That being said, why not have Royal Caribbean turn this into a humanitarian gesture at the same time? Announce that they will continue to stop at Labadee, but they will be carrying additional supplies (food, water, medical etc.) in their storerooms, which will be offloaded and transferred to Port Au Prince. (For example, the airline I work for is adding relief supplies to the belly of every passenger aircraft we fly from Europe to Miami for eventual transfer to Haiti.) Remember when Carnival came to the aid of Katrina victims by making ships available as temprorary housing? There are ways for all of us in the travel industry to do our part to help Haiti. Hurting the fragile economy (or what’s left of it) by skipping Labadee is not one of them.

  2. I completely agree – they could definitely be doing more to show concern (though I still believe that continuing to employ Haitians is the best thing they can do). I don’t know if they are bringing additional supplies or not. But I’m guessing that the reality is this: getting supplies the 60 or so miles from Labadee to Port-Au-Prince is more difficult that it would appear. Their best bet would probably be to drop stuff off in Miami and have planes bring it to Haiti from there.

  3. well it´s not a good Idea for royal caribbean stop going to labadee cause even the Idea is to relax themselve
    in the beautiful beach and sun over there, It does´t mean they are happy of what is going on in the other side, instead they are gladly helping people with water, clothes, etc… and even crew member like me who from port-au- prince. And I think any Haitian would be angry to hear such a news, ( to stop royal caribbean to go to it´s part in haiti) witch a great help for our peole. maybe the Idea come from other invidioso ship company. have them to put their mouth or their Idear out of royal caribbean, Put their mouths on wht is really concerning them at their house.
    take care.

  4. ‘Just 60 miles’ – 60 miles is actually a long way – try walking it.! Royal Caribbean should continue calling at Labadee – imagine if your livelyhood depended on the visiting cruise ships, and thanks to a disaster 60 miles south of you, you lost your job. How would you feed your family then?

  5. I’ve asked RCL twice Not to stop at Labadee. I’ll be there Jan.11th and I’m not going ashore. I realize it’s a fenced off area but the vendors live outside that fence!

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