Labadee® in Limbo - When Will Royal Caribbean Return to Its Private Resort?

Today is the third occasion when Royal Caribbean has canceled a port call in its private destination of Labadee, Haiti. The Vision of the Seas was supposed to call on Royal Caribbean's fenced-off private port today but instead the cruise line has chosen to avoid Labadee and take passengers on the Vision of the Seas to San Juan a little earlier, according to the unofficial RCL Blog.  

The last two times a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was suppose to call on Labadee ( Freedom of the Seas on January 19th and the Navigator of the Seas on January 21st), the cruise line initially encountered a small group of boats with protesters aboard and then on the second occasion refused to disembark its passengers there because it had not yet received assurances from the Haitian government that the drama would not be repeated. It replaced the port on these two cruises with a sea day. Royal Caribbean has reportedly returned the passengers' port taxes for Ladabee, as it is permitted to do in its one-sided passenger ticket. There are rumors and a couple of postings on social media sites that Royal Caribbean has replaced Labadee with Belize, but the company has decided not Labadee Haitito post anything official. The cruise line has done a poor job notifying guests who are booked on cruises which include Labadee in the next few weeks exactly what is happening. 

Today was suppose to be the day of the much anticipated national elections in Haiti. Royal Caribbean has implied that the protests in Labadee were about the national elections, but there appears to be far more to the story that the cruise line is admitting publicly.  

The cruise line took over sovereign Haitian land when it made its deal with Baby Doc Duvalier in 1986. It separated the village of Labadie with a 12 foot chain-linked fence, covered with barbwire, from its private resort which it trademarked Labadee®.  

Labadee® is a major money maker for the cruise line. Royal Caribbean pays no actual rent of any kind for the 260 acres of waterfront property, but its passengers pay a $10 to $12 head tax. Few people will argue that this money reaches the local villagers in Haiti, which some local people contend is the real source of the local protests last week. Passengers pay hundreds of dollars to Royal Caribbean to ride on the "Dragon's Breath Flight Line" (a zip line which towers over the beach), or to rent jet-skis, or to lounge in a private cabana.  A "Labadoozie" frozen rum drink costs a whopping $14 plus 18%. Needless to say, Haitians on the other side of the barbwire do not receive any of this money and are mired in abject poverty. The local artisans, who are permitted thought the barbwired scurity fence, receive only a pittance selling their local artwork. In contrast, cruise ships from Royal Caribbean and its sister company Celebrity bring many millions of dollars of money generated in Labadee back to their headquarters in Miami on each cruise.  

Many cruise passengers don't know, or seem not to care, about the troubled history of Haiti or Royal Caribbean's sharp deal with the former corrupt leaders of Haiti, which resulted in the Miami-based cruise line obtaining 260 acres of water front land for 50 years. Many people don't seem to understand that the resort of Labadee is part of Haiti. Some still believe that it is an island unto itself or is part of Hispaniola, a marketing image encouraged by the cruise line knowing that selling a vacation spot in an impoverished and sometimes violent country like Haiti was a long shot. Even a travel article published recently in the News-Gazette newspaper in Champaign, Illinois about cruising to Labadee mistakingly calls it a "private island" located just "off the shore of Haiti."  

Indeed, Royal Caribbean's official video of Labadee misleadingly refers to it as "Royal Caribbean's Private Island Paradise."

Large multi-national companies obtaining sweet deals for valuable land of impoverished Caribbean or Central America nations for private destinations seems like business as usual in the winner-take-all world of the cruise industry. Multi-billion dollar, Fortune 200 companies gobbling up ports in one-sided deals with beholden and often corrupt leaders of tiny countries in the Caribbean and Central America seems to be viewed as just good business.  

Cruise lines are making sharp deals throughout the Caribbean. The government of Belize just passed a bill which "legislates tax and duty exemptions for Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), a billion dollar multi-national company that has been given a 25-year exclusive contract to control cruise operations in southern Belize," according to a local newspaper in Belize. The Supreme Court of Belize earlier found that NCL "fast-tracked" its dredge-and-fill Harvest Caye project with the government hastily approving the NCL’s new port and resort project over environmental concerns. 

The indefinite postponement of the elections, apparently due to violence and fear of corruprion, will result in Royal Caribbean postponing its decision when it will return its ship to Labadee.  Have no doubt about one thing - Royal Caribbean will return to Labadee. It has directed far too much of its profits on building a pier, zip-lining and roller-coaster rides and cabanas to walk away from such an immensely profitable waterfront boondoggle that it has tied up for the next 24 years.

It seems questionable to me whether any significant percentage of Royal Caribbean passengers care about whether the cruise line is exploiting the local villagers. It's just another private destination, they say, like Coco Cay (another Royal Caribbean private resort), or Half Moon Cay (operated by HAL), or Castaway Cay (operated by Disney).  

But it seems, unnfortunately, that Royal Caribean feels compelled to first make a point with the protesters. It will continue to freeze out the local people, just like Carnival Corporation did when 150 Indian P&O waiters congregated on the pier in Seattle and politely protested their low wages and the withholding of tips. When it was over, despite promises that there would be no retribution, the Carnival CEO's terminated all of the waiters and black-balled them from ever working in the cruise industry

One Royal Caribbean crew menber left a comment on my Facebook page: "guests did not pay to change the world during their visits but to relax and have fun." Is this true? Once Royal Caribbean shows the protesters who is boss of Labadee®, will passengers again be unloaded into the cruise line's private resort to zip-line, parasail and drink $14 Labadoozies in their private cabanas, or will they wake up to the injustice of Labadee®? 

Photo Credit: Tancy Talks Cruising Part 2: Fake Haiti

January 26, 2016 Update:  Time magazine weighs in

January 28, 2016 Update: A travel agent takes a look at Labadee.

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Comments (16) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Jess - January 24, 2016 8:45 PM

Why are they not diverting the ship to a different port? An extra day at sea is not why people go on cruises.

Katherine - January 25, 2016 12:02 PM

I'm looking forward to the extra day at sea instead of hour long waits for the attractions, overpriced drinks and floating mats. Will donate to a Haitian relief organization instead...

tinikini - January 25, 2016 12:16 PM

Because, IMO, if they take you to another port, they won't make as much money. If they keep you trapped on the ship, they have an opportunity to make money off of you. God forbid they let anyone else make money.

Bob - January 25, 2016 8:12 PM

> One Royal Caribbean crew menber left a comment on
> my Facebook page: "guests did not pay to change the
> world during their visits but to relax and have fun."
> Is this true?

Yes.

You're welcome.

tinikini - January 25, 2016 11:28 PM

Wow Katherine what an awesome idea!!!! (:

Diane Wellday - January 26, 2016 6:09 AM

We just returned from a Royal Caribbean cruise that turned away from Labadee on Jan. 18, 2016, because of protesters. They said it was because of the upcoming elections but I had a feeling it was personal. Then when I got home I googled "Labadee" and read about the "fake" Haiti. The protesters had been holding signs up about Royal Caribbean not keeping their promises about building schools and hospitals. This was my favorite cruise line but now I don't know about cruising again, because it's not just R.C. Norwegian Cruise Line has arranged a sweetheart deal with the government of Belize from what I read. The article seems to imply that the cruising customers don't care and just want to vacation without the politics. Are we that shallow? I just wish the cruise lines wouldn't put us in this position and would keep their promises.

Chris Felder - January 26, 2016 6:30 AM

As a very hard working person who has looked forward to this trip for 2 years, I am heart broken we might not stop on our cruise on RCCL leaving 2/21. Yes, I have compassion and understanding for the people of Hatii & wish I could chance there circumstance. RCCL made 6.8 billion dollars last year and paid no federal taxes due to a loop hole.

I sure paid federal taxes!

Today I intend to write corporate head quarters and expect them to inform us, as well as re- direct ship to a new port if protests continue. If no, then I want a refund for Labadee port taxes. It's a disgrace.

Sincerely, A very unhappy cruiser

Hardworkpays - January 26, 2016 7:16 AM

I'm on Allure right now and we are pulling up to port Labadee.. I guess all that drama the author said about NOT coming here is over. We're about to disembark. If something changes, I will keep you posted.

Jim Walker - January 26, 2016 8:48 AM

"Bob:"

Enjoy your Labadoozie . . .

Pat - January 26, 2016 9:47 AM

I will not disembark in Labadee and will try to avoid cruises with it in the itinerary , I have always been well aware of the plight of the Haitian people but thought that the cruise line hired Haitians to take care if the resort but I guess the amount of poor people in that country far out number those who work there.

Dan Pahl - January 26, 2016 10:07 AM

People need to wake up and have a bit of integrity.What's going on in Lababee is beside the point. It's the fact that RCCL is lying to us to make money. I was on the Freedom last week when we were turned away and given the BS about local elections. If you had a retail store lying to you about what they sold you would not shop there. If you had a restaurant lying to you about the food they sold you would not eat there. Why is this cruise line any different. I will never cruise with them again or any other line that has a privately owned destination.

Jennifer - January 26, 2016 11:07 AM

This is very sad. I will be cruising this weekend with RCCL, this will be my 4th trip with them. I am sadden to hear that they are not helping the economy of this country(Haiti) which is much needed. No matter what kind of deal they made with Baby Doc Duvalierback in 1986. These people need schools and hospitals, heck good jobs! That is basic people!. We do pay a lot to travel with them and they dont take care of the locals at Haiti? If we dont help each other what kind of world are we gonna leave for our children?

Instead of leaving my money in Labadee, I will find an organization to help the people from Haiti, like the Haitian relief organization or any other.

james - January 26, 2016 12:01 PM

can you actually trust any organization to do the right thing with the donations you send? im very saddened and disappointed in the developments. just hope the leadership get this right not only for the passengers who spend hard earn money but for the HUMAN BEINGS who suffer the most.

Guy - January 27, 2016 9:54 AM

Let me see if I understand - The Haitians would be better off without the cruise lines? By the way, as a retired naval officer, another day at sea is like another day in heaven, so quit complaining.

Angela Preston - November 6, 2016 11:44 AM

I went on a 7 day cruise with Royal Caribbean in September 2016 and was actually sickened by the plight of these poor people. After arriving a relaxing on the beach we went to eat lunch only to see peopl on the other side of the fence begging for food, I literally cried and could not eat after watching them doing signs of hunger and rubbing their stomachs. I along with an American guy went around to the fence and asked the guard to give them some food which he did. The thing that sickened me most, was on our return to the ship all the uneaten was being taken back on to the ship! Why couldn't it have been left for the people of Haiti. No Royal Caribbean want to make more money, where is there humanitarian pledge. The money alone they charge for the use of the beach goes into thousands and they can't give back with a little food. On my return to the ship I went to reception to make it very clear how I felt about the way in which the people of Haiti are treated, no wonder they have nothing but hatred for the West. I for one can not sit back and watch an organisation like Royal Caribbean get richer and the people of Haiti suffer more. I feel that strongly about this I am writing to the American and British governments about how change needs to be made to improve the lives of the oeopke of Haiti. Royal Caribbean are making millions from an island where its people are slowly dying. Sickened and disgusted I will not sail with this distasteful and horrid cruise liner. I refuse to line the pockets of those that have no human touch nor compassion for people

Patricia gillies - January 26, 2017 10:21 AM

Yes its very sad that the country is so poverty stricken, but by Royal caribbean no going to Labadee, then the large number of haitian residents who work there will also be out of work.

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