On at least two occasions in the past my Royal Caribbean cruise itineraries have included Labadee, yet the ships I sailed on didn't call there due to civil unrest. Haiti, now wracked by last week's devastating earthquake and aftershocks, has long been a troubled country. Among the world's poorest people, Haitians have suffered from slavery, corrupt governments, and crippling tropical storms for decades. Despite those adversities, there have been bright spots in the country. One is Labadee, where Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has provided employment and hope for a better life to hundreds of Haitians for nearly thirty years.
As we reported last week here in the Cruise Diva Blog, Royal Caribbean is not only providing monetary support to Haiti in response to the catastrophic earthquake in Port-Au-Prince, but they are also delivering much needed food and other supplies to the country via their cruise ships. Pictured above, relief supplies are being off loaded from Independence of the Seas. Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, said, "Royal Caribbean wants to do its part to help out not only the general response, but also our hundreds of Haitian employees and their families through this disaster. In addition to our financial contribution, Royal Caribbean will continue to provide economic support through the continuous business we bring to Labadee."
Sadly, there are critics in the media who label Royal Caribbean as heartless and uncaring for bringing their ships and passengers back to Labadee so soon. The UK's Guardian asserts that passengers have mixed feelings about going ashore and quotes one as saying, "I just can't see myself sunning on the beach, playing in the water, eating a barbecue, and enjoying a cocktail while [in Port-au-Prince] there are tens of thousands of dead people being piled up on the streets, with the survivors stunned and looking for food and water." The Guardian also reports other passenger reactions as ranging from afraid to leave the ship because "desperate people might breach the resort's 12-ft high fences to get food and drink" to "determined to enjoy their holiday."
There are two sides to every story and we feel Royal Caribbean is on the side of the angels in this one. After 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, travelers were urged to visit New York and New Orleans to bolster the tourism economy in each city. What's so different with Royal Caribbean returning to Haiti so quickly in order to do the same? Nothing? Far from it. Royal Caribbean is bringing supplies and hope and not abandoning its employees. Plus, they are delivering much-needed aid in an efficient manner. That's more than you can say for some governments and institutions. Yes, United Nations, we're looking at you.