Caribbean cruises to Haiti: 'Sickening' or the right thing?
More than 15,000 vacationers have ported at the beach at Labadee since the 7.0 earthquake hit on Jan. 12. Despite reported moral outrage of some passengers, a spokesperson said no passengers have requested their money back.
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Beginning with the 4,370-berth Independence of the Seas on Jan. 15, four Royal Caribbean cruise boats and more than 15,000 passengers have ported at the company’s Labadee resort in Haiti, just 60 miles from the beleaguered country's capital, Port-au-Prince, where an estimated 200,000 lay dead and 250,000 injured.
At Labadee, cruise ship passengers can ride a zip line or roller coaster, snorkel or kayak in the turquoise water, or sunbathe on the sparkling white sand – even while hundreds of thousands of Haitians go without food, water, or shelter nearby.
As the Christian Science Monitor reported in 2006, many cruise-ship visitors to Labadee don't even know they're on Haiti.
The tourists have a good excuse for their confusion. "Welcome to Labadee!" reads the banner - emblazoned with the face of a Johnny Depp look-alike pirate - strung up on the pier. A small wooden sign facing away from the incoming crowds reads "Labadee, Haiti." Most, however, just pass it by in the rush to the Ben & Jerry's ice cream stand.
For those who do want to cancel their cruise to the ravaged island, however, you’ll still have to notify the company 70 days prior to your sailing date.
“Our regular cancellation policies still apply,” says Royal Caribbean spokesperson Cynthia Martinez.
That isn’t palatable to every passenger.
“I just can't see myself sunning on the beach, playing in the water, eating a b-b-q lunch, and enjoying a cocktail while a 100 miles away, there are tens of thousands of dead people being piled up on the streets, with the survivors stunned and looking for food and water,” a cruise passenger said on the internet forum Cruise Critic.
But Ms. Martinez disputes that passengers are divided over the decision to continue cruises or that any felt “sickened” by the decision, as The Guardian reported. She says more than 85 percent of the passengers from the first two cruise ships disembarked on Labadee.