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.