I wanted to share this tale of what, at first sight, looks like remarkable bad taste on the part of Royal Caribbean, reported in the UK’s Guardian newspaper – but which, on further reflection, may be the right thing to do.
Sixty miles from Haiti’s devastated earthquake zone, luxury liners dock at private beaches where passengers enjoy jet ski rides, parasailing and rum cocktails delivered to their hammocks.
The 4,370-berth Independence of the Seas, owned by Royal Caribbean International, disembarked at the heavily guarded resort of Labadee on the north coast on Friday; a second cruise ship, the 3,100-passenger Navigator of the Seas is due to dock..
I touched on the curious issue of Labadie – renamed Labadee TM – in this (pre-quake) post about the Haiti few Haitians will ever see.
It’s a difficult one. Even at the best of times, the thought that western tourists are living it up in a walled-off Xanadu while Haitians struggle in abject poverty is uncomfortable – although not unusual in the developing world.
On the other hand, tourism is likely to play a crucial role in Haiti’s long-term future, as a source of investment and income, and right now the island can use every dollar it can get. Only a few weeks ago, the world’s largest cruise ship – Oasis of the Seas – started its maiden voyage there; seen as an important display of confidence in Haiti’s tourism potential, and pointing to a possibly brighter future. Perhaps one should stomach the sickening contrast; it is better the ships dock than abandon one of Haiti’s few viable industries.
Still. Ugh. Right now? The whole affair feels deeply distasteful.
PS. I found these youtube videos about Labadee, uploaded by kidkut1 on Jan 14: