Cruise ships return to Haiti

Should cruise ships with tourists be making port calls in Haiti so soon after last week’s earthquake?

A post on the Telegraph’s Web site paints a clear picture of well-off tourists “cutting loose” on a private beach, while armed guards keep the Haitians away:

The Florida cruise company leases a picturesque wooded peninsula and its five pristine beaches from the government for passengers to “cut loose” with watersports, barbecues, and shopping for trinkets at a craft market before returning on board before dusk. Safety is guaranteed by armed guards at the gate.

The decision to go ahead with the visit has divided passengers. The ships carry some food aid, and the cruise line has pledged to donate all proceeds from the visit to help stricken Haitians. But many passengers will stay aboard when they dock; one said he was “sickened”.

However, at the Cruise Critic Web site, an editor paints a different picture:

Cruise Critic Editor in Chief Carolyn Spencer Brown shares this firsthand story after engaging in conversation with a Haitian taxi driver in Miami while traveling there this weekend. “He’s from Labadee of all places, which is a good distance from Port-au-Prince. I asked him: how do Haitians feel about a cruise ship coming back so soon. He said that Labadee was not affected and that it’s still crucial for people there to keep working, to have some sense of normalcy — and that the country needs any supplies it can get (which Royal Caribbean was bringing in).

“I said, ‘So it’s not disrespectful, then?’ He looked incredulous, and said, ‘absolutely not.'”

A poster in one of the forums has an idea that is… well, you decide:

“Honestly, you can get off the ship, contribute, and have a subdued day. I also would probably leave several pair of brand new pairs of flip-flops on the beach. Not to mention a few new t-shirts and whatever. New and unused.”

This 2006 profile of the area from the Christian Science Monitor reveals that the cruise ships’ captains didn’t generally tell passengers where they were, referring to the island of Hispaniola.

“It’s much like we refer to our port in Bayonne, N.J., as Cape Liberty Cruise Port,” a marketing spokesman for a cruise line said. “We were getting the same response about not calling that port ‘Bayonne Cruise Port.’ ”

Royal Caribbean has pledged $1 million to the relief effort and will spend part of that helping 200 Haitian crew members, the Telegraph said.

  • Alison

    Would it be less shameful to engage in gluttonous excess when you’re 20 miles out to sea? Or if there hadn’t been an earthquake? The whole floating Las Vegas atmosphere of the thing just rubs me the wrong way regardless of the circumstances.

  • Ben Chorn

    Why doesn’t a cruise line offer something like free air-fair to their port in exchange for volunteers to take care of the ship and then volunteer to help out on Haiti? Seems like a lot more involved than just donating money and hoping it actually goes somewhere.

  • Beth Royalty

    It’s complicated but there’s nothing easy about this situation. Most of life is lived in the gap of contradictions in our world. I guess I come down on the side of having the ships visit, encourage the tourists to leave donations, and give BIG tips to every person who helps them.

  • Carolynn


  • Momkat

    Leave some flipflops on the beach–not so helpful. I’m torn about the cruise ships stopping at Haiti already. They surely need the business but it seems, um, tasteless at the least.

  • karib

    Even before the earthquake, Haiti was struggling to stay afloat. The cruise line offers steady income to Haitians. I don’t think it would help the people of Haiti if the ships stopped coming. A few hundred employees would be out of work, the extra supplies they’re bringing would be lost, and the money made on the island would be gone as well.

    I think that the cruisers need to visit the island with respect. Enjoy the beauty of Labadee and be generous with their spending there.

  • Tim

    I was one of those “gluttonous” passengers who was there Friday. Not only did the ship offlload much needed medical supplies, food and water, they donated all the proceeds of their shore excursions throughout the entire trip to the Haiti Relief Fund. The last time I checked I booked my cruise in September with no magical foreknowledge of the events that would take place on January 12th. Since I was not the Captain I had no control where we went. I make $42,000 a year so the “well off” theory is a joke. I and other passengers donated thousands to the relief fund. I donated $400 of the $550 I brought on board.

    Do me a favor, stop criticizing the Cruise line and match my donation if you have any integrity at all.