Haiti's Historic Sites a Cruise Excursion? Royal Caribbean the Steward of Henri Christophe's Legacy?

This weekend I ran across an interesting opinion piece from Caribbean News Now.  Entitled "Turning Haiti's Historic Sites into Tourist Destinations," the article begins with a quote from an article I wrote in January 2010 following the horrific earthquake in Haiti: 

Is it appropriate to sail into the idyllic port of Labadee, Haiti on a pleasure cruise when the dead remain unburied and the impoverished country writhes in chaos? (Cruise Law News, January 19, 2010)

Labadee - Haiti - Royal CaribbeanThe opinion piece was written by Anthony L. Hall, who publishes an interesting and well written blog called the iPinions Journal.  Mr. Hall discusses developing tourism around two of Haiti's historic sites - the ruins of the Palais de Sans Souci, which was the residence of Henri Christophe, Haiti’s revolutionary war hero and first president, and the Citadelle Laferrière, which is a fort he built in anticipation of fighting off the French.  

Mr. Hall is critical of Royal Caribbean's attitude toward Haiti, which he compares to " . . . resort developers throughout the Caribbean who have been invited over the years by local governments to treat vast areas of their pristine coastline as exclusive, almost hermetically sealed enclaves for visiting tourists."  

But he is not content hurling "belated moral indignation" at what I have often characterized as the worst cruise line in the world.  Instead, he suggests that if Royal Caribbean could develop these historical sites as shore excursions, and in the process raise money for a ten mile stretch of roadway from its private port of "Labadee," the cruise line might "make itself a better corporate citizen and earn an unprecedented amount of international goodwill."

In theory that would be great. 

But Royal Caribbean as the steward of the historic residence and fort of the first President of free black Haiti? 

Oy vey! 

From a historical perspective, it's a repugnant notion.  The cruise line's private enclave of "Labadee®" is a name that Royal Caribbean trademarked as a variation of Marquis de La'Badie who settled in Haiti in the 1600's.  That's right, Marquis de La'Badie, the French slave owner, whose descendants fought against Henri Christophe and his army of former black slaves. 

Royal Caribbean wasn't thinking of the 1791 Slave Uprising or the Haitian revolution when its snabbed the 260 acres of sovereign Haitian land to create its own enclave.  It ignored Haiti's black national hero when it went about marketing its slice of Haiti.  So why should Royal Caribbean be Henri Christophe - Haititrusted to be the steward of such historic sites when it already staked its presence on the island bearing the white de La'Badie slave owner name?

Putting history aside, there are practical business concerns that make it unlikely that Royal Caribbean will open up the gates and send its passengers outside of its barb wire fences which surround Labadee without expecting to make lots of money using the Citadelle as a shore excursion. 

The cruise line makes tens of millions of dollars a month keeping the thousands of passengers locked in Labadee where their only sources of fun are drinking, renting jet skis, para-sailing, and zip lining.

For Royal Caribbean to invest in developing these sites, it would need a deal where the venture would be highly profitable and it would probably demand the name rights to market the project.  Would it advertise these sites to its passengers as part of the Royal Caribbean "Private Destinations?" 

Royal Caribbean has already drafted plans to develop the Citadelle for its guests.  You can see the cruise line's plans here.

For the past 25 years, Royal Caribbean has accomplished little in Haiti outside of Labadee, other than a $425,000 school which it named after itself as a publicity stunt but it still could not figure out how to feed the school kids or provide them with transportation to the school bearing its name.   

Mr. Hall's challenge to Royal Caribbean to rehabilitate its image and make itself a better corporate citizen is laudable.  But this is a corporation which consistently underachieves when it comes to the interests of Haiti.  

Royal Caribbean will never help Haiti develop the historical Haitian sites associated with Henri Christophe without demanding that it control the operation, name the project, and profit the most from it.  It makes too much tax-free money keeping its passengers safely ensconced in its fantasy creation of Labadee®.   And for historical reasons, the notion that a corporation like this should be the steward of the legacy of Henri Christophe is a farce.    

 

For other articles about my view of Royal Caribbean and Haiti, consider reading:

Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

The Royal Caribbean School in Haiti - A Genuine Commitment or a Publicity Stunt?

Royal Caribbean: $6,800,000,000 in Tax-Free Income, But No Lunch Money for the Kindergarten Students in Haiti?

 

Photo / Images credit:

Top:  Not My Tribe

Royal Caribbean: $6,800,000,000 in Tax-Free Income, But No Lunch Money for the Kindergarten Students in Haiti?

The New York times published an excellent article about a small school which Royal Caribbean built in Haiti.  Entitled "In Haiti, Class Comes With a Peek at Lush Life," the article was written by Sarah Maslin Nir and contains some interesting photographs by Piotr Redlinski.  

The little school is called "École Nouvelle Royal Caribbean," which translated literally is the "New Royal Caribbean School."  Naming a school for disadvanged kindergarten and grade school Haitian students after a Fortune 200 corporation seems to be somewhere between arrogant and clueless, but this is a cruise line struggling for self-promotion. 

Ecole Nouvelle Royal Caribbean - Cruise School LabadeeThe cruise line built the school last year, following the public ridicule and loathing it received after it continued to sail to Haiti after the earthquake in January of 2010 which killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians and left millions more homeless and in a state of shock.  The breadth and depth of the Haitian suffering appeared lost on the cruise line executives as Royal Caribbean cruise ship after cruise ship unloaded thousands of passengers in Labadee to graze at the oversized buffets and sip margaritas in lounge chairs on the cruise line's private beach while hungry Haitians on the other size of a ten foot barb wire fence begged for food. 

I commented on this gross spectacle in an article Royal Caribbean Sails  to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers.

When the school opened last October, I asked the rhetorical question whether it was a genuine commitment or a publicity stunt?   Royal Caribbean said it spent some $425,000 to build the school.  Not much, particularly considering that Royal Caribbean collected around $6,800,000,000 (billion) last year and pays no U.S. Federal income tax because it incorporated itself in Liberia and registered its cruise ships in places like Liberia and the Bahamas.

The NY Times article takes a critical look at school today, some six months after the school opened to great fanfare and cruise line CEO Richard Fain then flew back to his mansion in Miami.  Although the residents seemed to appreciate the school, many of those interviewed by Ms. Nir asked why hasn't the cruise line done more?

The article points out that the cruise line fails to provide any meals to the children, "leaving many children hungry .  .  .  the vast majority of the 200 or so students do not eat anything from early morning until they get home after school, teachers said.  Some students fall asleep at their desks from fatigue."

The Times also explains that many students commute for an hour and are often piled dangerously in the back of pickup trucks.   

Cruise CEO Fain defended the cruise line's modest project, telling the Times "we are a business. We're not a charitable organization."   

Richard Fain - Adam Goldstein - Cruise Executives There can be no debate about that, considering last year CEO Fain and cruise president Adam Goldstein (photo right) together pocketed over $12,500,000 in income.  

How can any executive justify not feeding kids lunch, particularly in a school which bears the corporation's own name, not to mention the destitute circumstances surrounding the cruise line's private beach? The cruise line didn't even bother to install a stove, cook top or refrigerator for juice for the children.  Inexcusable, considering the orgy of food at the buffets on the mega-ships which sail from Miami into Labadee.  And consider this cruise review a couple of years ago about Labadee:

One of the best Private Island experiences you could ever wish for!  Labadee has four beaches and facilities for lots of people!  Labadee is owned and operated by Royal Caribbean for the exclusive use of it's own passengers only . . .  Royal Caribbean maintains a nice lunch area on the island.  Here you can graze at your heart's content,  The cuisine was hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, various salads, and deserts.  No charge.  It's all included in the cost of your cruise!

If Royal Caribbean can charge passengers thousands of dollars to cruise on its ships like the Oasis of the Seas and around $100 to ride jet skis for just an hour, certainly it can figure out how to buy a few buses to safely transport the children to school and install a few grills to feed the kids some left over hotdogs from the other side of the barb wire fence? 

 

To learn about a responsible corporation's approach to education and improving communities, consider reading: What the Cruise Industry Has to Learn From My Cousins Back in Arkansas - my cousins' company pledged to pay $50,000,000 over the next 20 years in tuition to students graduating from high school in our home town in South Arkansas.

 

Royal Caribbean Cruises - Haiti - LabadeeMay 10th Update:

Luke Renner has a different view of this issue in Luke's blog "The Royal Treatment."  Check out his non-profit organization - Fireside International.

 

 

Image credits:

Top:  prodevhaiti.org

Middle:  Royal Caribbean International Flickr photostream

Bottom:  Luke Reamer

The Royal Caribbean School in Haiti - A Genuine Commitment or a Publicity Stunt?

The Miami Herald published an article on Friday entitled "New School, New Hope for Young Haitians" about Royal Caribbean Cruises building a new school in Labadee on the 260 acres which it leases from the Haitian government. 

The article points out that the new 6,500-square-foot campus consists of six buildings, twelve classrooms, administrative offices and a computer lab.  Around 230 students from nearby villages, from kindergarten to fifth grade, will study at the new school.

Royal Caribbean School Labadee Haiti - L'Ecole Nouvelle Royal CaribbeanThe construction was overseen by a Miami company Innovida which used lightweight yet sturdy materials which can withstand an earthquake and high winds. 

As much as a school facility like this was needed in Haiti, I could not help but to think what a meager expenditure a project like this represents considering the financial resources of this cruise line.  It made me think of two basic questions:

1. What, if anything, has Royal Caribbean done for Haiti in the last 25 years?

Royal Caribbean has been in Haiti for over 25 years.  This is the first development of anything remotely benefiting the local people.  The cruise line was roundly criticized when it sailed into its "private destination" in Labadee earlier this year, after the devastating earthquake to the south in Port-au-Prince, a PR nightmare which I wrote about in an article "Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers." 

The Miami Herald article mentions that the new school cost only $425,000 to build.  Royal Caribbean collects over $6,000,000,000 (billion) a year and pays no U.S. Federal income tax because it is incorporated in Liberia and its cruise ships fly foreign flags.   Its last "investment" in Haiti was the multi-million dollar zip line amusement ride in its "private destination" of Labadee for the exclusive of its paying guests.  Haitians are kept on the other side of the cruise line's barb wire fence

Everytime a cruise ship like the Oasis of the Seas sails with 5,000 or 6,000 passengers to Labadee, the cruise line collects millions and millions of dollars in cruise fare each cruise.  An investment of $425,000 from a corporation like this is peanuts.

2. What, if anything, does the cruise line plan to do in the future?

There was some talk about this being one of, maybe, two schools to be built in Haiti.  That's it.  I doubt that there will be a second school.  I hope I am wrong.  But there are no discussions of anything resembling a multi-million dollar building project, like you see when a new port is constructed and hundreds of millions of dollars are budgeted.  

Is this the extent of the cruise line's investment in the host country?  When you think of what commitment really means, is $425,000 reflective of this cruise line's sense of loyalty and duty to Haiti?  Probably so.

Royal Caribbean School Labadee Haiti - L'Ecole Nouvelle Royal CaribbeanSeems like a pittance.

There are a number of online photographs of the school opening, such as the Innovide's Royal Caribbean School photo page.

You can see Royal Caribbean's CEO, Richard Fain, attending the opening ceremony, cutting the royal blue ribbons, standing in front of the sign for the "Royal Caribbean" school, posing in front of a banner proclaiming the opening of the "Royal Caribbean" school," and smiling for the camera in front of Haitian school children wearing "Royal Caribbean" blue polo shirts emblazened with the "Royal Caribbean" name and the "Royal Caribbean" logo.

These photos make me feel rather squeamish.  Is this a marketing stunt?

When I clicked on Fain's Chairman's Blog, I could not help but note that one of the first comments to his article about the new school reads as folllows: 

"I really love the RCI brand, but was it necessary to brand all of the kids?"

December 4, 2010 Update: Interested in a true commitment by a corporation to education? Read: What the Cruise Industry Has to Learn From My Cousins Back in Arkansas

 

Photo credits:

Photo 1:  Innovide

Photo 2:  Ricahrd Fain's Chairman's Blog

 

Royal Caribbean's Tea Party Cruise To Labadee, "Hispaniola"

Barbados Free Press reports that in September, Royal Caribbean is hosting a "Tea Party At Sea" aboard the Liberty of the Seas.

In an article entitled "Anti-Obama Tea Party Cruise Conceals Haiti Destination As “Hispaniola,” the Barbados Free Press explains that Royal Caribbean is teaming up with the right-wing conservative website World Net Daily to sail a ship full of tea party fanatics around the Caribbean.  The "Tea Party At Sea" cruise will be full of anti-Obama speakers and their like minded "patriots." 

Tea Party At Sea - Tea Party Cruise - LabadeeKinda like the S.S. Fox News captained by Glenn Beck on steroids.  

As the Barbados Free Press points out, the promotional materials for the cruise omit the fact that the cruise ship will be sailing to, among other locations, HAITI.  The organizers have instead listed the Haitian port of Labadee as being in "Hispaniola" - which consists of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  For decades, Royal Caribbean marketed its "private resort" of Labadee as being in "Hispaniola" in order to keep the image of starving and impoverished Haitians away from the American public.

We have written many articles about Royal Caribbean's boondoggle in Labadee and its exploitation of the people of Haiti.

"Labadee®" is a name that Royal Caribbean trademarked  as a variation of the French slave owner Marquis de La'Badie who settled in Haiti in the 1600's.

What a spectacle this will be!  Tea Party cruisers criticizing our first black President as they sail aboard a foreign flagged cruise ship operated by a tax avoiding Liberian company into the cruise line's private resort named after a slave owner, while millions of impoverished, injured, and homeless Haitians suffer on the other side of Royal Caribbean's 12 foot high barbed wire security fence. 

Tea Party At Sea - Tea Party Cruise - Labadee

Credits:          World Net Daily (via Barbados Free Press)

 

Royal Caribbean Continues Shipping Relief Items to Labadee, Haiti - Is It Enough?

Syracuse New York local news station Channel 10's "Travel with Val" takes a look at Royal Caribbean's controversial decision to continue sailing to its "private resort" of Labadee, Haiti. 

While the cruise line is shipping pallets of food and supplies to Labadee and committed $1 million from its net proceeds, is this enough from a corporation which grosses over $6 billion and pays no taxes? 

 

 

We have written many articles on the relationship between Labadee and Royal Caribbean.

 

Credits:   

Video               Syracuse New York local news station Channel 10's "Travel with Val"

Labadee - Royal Caribbean's Deal with the Devil

In 1986, Royal Caribbean shook hands with the tyrant Baby Doc Duvalier (middle photo) to seal a deal where it obtained exclusive control of 260 acres of sovereign waterfront land from Haiti.  Dead Albatross - Curse- Voodoo - Labadee - Royal CaribbeanRoyal Caribbean trademarked it's new "private island" - "Labadee®" - derived from the name of the 1600's French plantation baron and slave owner Marquis de La'Badie. It then erected a 12 foot high security fence around its "island" and hired armed security guards to keep the impoverished Haitians out.  

For the past twenty years Royal Caribbean exploited Haiti. Labadee became a private resort where its mostly U.S. cruise passengers pay hundreds of dollars each to buy alcohol, pay for a private cabana, rent jet skis, para-sail or, more recently, zip line.  All of this money leaves Haiti and goes straight to the cruise line's coffers in Miami. 

Royal Caribbean does not pay Haiti anything.  Instead, the deal it struck with the despot Baby Doc requires only that the U.S. tax-paying passengers pay $6 each to have the privilege to lounge around Royal Caribbean's "private destination."  Royal Caribbean has perfected its business of avoiding paying its fair share. The cruise line incorporated itself in Africa and registered its cruise ships in Africa and the Bahamas in order to avoid U.S. taxes, safety regulations, labor and wage laws.   

Royal Caribbean claims that Haiti benefits from this arrangement. Yes, there are minimally paid Haitians working as cocktail waiters and cooks who are appreciative of having a job.  But many critics point out that most of the Royal Caribbean employees in Labadee come from countries other than Haiti.  In an article entitled "Haiti, Cruise Ships, and Colonialism in the 21st Century," the popular blog Feministing reveals that the Royal Caribbean employees in Labadee are not Haitians but come from: 

". . .  Indonesia, the Philippines, Romania, Turkey, etc. There was one, maybe two RC employees on Labadee from Haiti."

This criticism is not new.

On "Fantasy Island:  Royal Carribean Parcels Off a Piece of Haiti, Catherine Orenstein described Royal Caribbean temporarily suspending its cruises to Labadee when Haitians protested the few number of Haitians employed there. Cruises resumed only when Royal Caribbean agreed to increase the number of Haitian employees and to let a local band perform at their site.

Criticism of Royal Caribbean continues. Yesterday was a particularly brutal day for the cruise line Baby Doc Dulavier - Dictator - Haiti PR people.  Newsweek magazine joined the ranks of those questioning Royal Caribbean's corporate morality in an article "Setting Sail on a Haitian Pleasure Cruise - the Moral and Economic Dilemmas of Royal Caribbean's Labadee Port."

On the same day, the widely respected non-profit organization, Center for Responsible Travel, issued a press release chastising Royal Caribbean for not doing enough. The non-profit group characterized the cruise line's move as "unsound" and a "colossal public relations faux pas."

This sentiment echoes the criticism by PR experts in Advertising Age's "Royal Caribbean Blasted for Continuing Stops in Haiti" where the consensus is that this was a "massive debacle" which may have long term damage to the Royal Caribbean "brand." 

The Feministing blog admonished Royal Caribbean for taking advantage of the incredibly poor country of Haiti and urged its readers to consider going on a cruise line other than Royal Caribbean "or tell them that these practices are unacceptable."

And hip Daily Kos bloggers pointed out the dis-connect between Royal Caribbean supplying extra lounge chairs to a hospital when surgeons desperately needed hack saws and medicine.  Meanwhile cruise tourists continue to enjoy Royal Caribbean's zip line, (YouTube video below), one of the cruise line's much touted "investments" in Haiti.

Deal with the Devil - Royal Caribbean -Baby Doc Dulavalier - Labadee - HaitiSeveral weeks ago, TV evangelist Pat Robertson claimed that the Haitians are cursed because they "made a deal with the devil" to free themselves from slavery 200 years ago. Although preacher Robertson was openly ridiculed for such a preposterous notion, I for one believe in curses. Not that Haiti is cursed at all, mind you, (and no doubt that Reverend Robertson is becoming increasingly delusional).  But, yes there are curses. Whether you call them bad karma, voodoo, superstition, what goes-around-come-around, don't tempt fate, don't tug on Superman's cape, an eye-for-an-eye, or there-goes-I-but-for-the-grace-of-God.

Twenty three years ago, Royal Caribbean shook the bloody hand of dictator Baby Doc Duvalier. A deal with the devil, no doubt.  Since then, Royal Caribbean sucked hundreds of millions of dollars out of Haiti while the destitute country languished. But what goes around comes around. Royal Caribbean released its 2009 fourth quarter results yesterday, earning only 3.4 million dollars on gross revenues of 1.4 billion dollars.  If it had to pay U.S. taxes, it would file for bankruptcy.

This cruise line's economic future is questionable. Many tourists will shy away from the zip lines in Labadee while Haitians languish on the other side of the security fence.  Royal Caribbean's plans to unload over 6,000 passengers from its ostentatious Oasis of the Seas and, later, the extravagant Allure of the Seas seem increasingly fanciful and frivolous at this time of death and destruction.  

Perhaps Pat Robertson was half-right.  It's Royal Caribbean - not Haiti - which is cursed for making a deal with the devil . . .  

 

 

 

 

Read our other articles on Ladabee:

Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

An Open Letter to Royal Caribbean Passengers Cruising to Labadee, Haiti

Royal Caribbean Tries to Muzzle Press as Controversy Over Labadee Continues.

 

 

Credits:

Rime of the Ancient Mariner Artwork      Iron Maiden Wallpaper

Baby Doc Duvalier photograph               Guardian U.K.

Deal with the Devil                                  Side Line Forum

YouTube zipline video                             FlaggerBoy

Royal Caribbean Tries to Muzzle Press as Controversy Over Labadee Continues

Royal Caribbean's crisis management team remains in over-drive as the international press continues to focus on the incongruity of tens of thousands of affluent U.S. citizens sailing to Royal Caribbean's "private destination" in Labadee, as Haiti remains in turmoil.

Labadee - Haiti - Royal Caribbean - Zip Line Over the weekend even the Arab news station Al Jazerra sent a film crew to Labadee to document the story (video below).  Al Jazerra reported that Royal Caribbean forbid the reporters from interviewing any passengers at what is often erroneously referred to as the cruise line's "private island."  The video shows a Royal Caribbean security boat trying to waive the reporters away from the resort.  

Other news sources report that the cruise line tried to restrict reporters from interviewing the passengers at the beach resort.  In an article entitled "People Still Vacationing in Haiti Despite Devastation Miles Away," Fox News indicates that "Royal Caribbean allowed a team of journalists from the Associated Press to visit Labadee on Friday, but the cruise company's spokeswoman . . . would not allow them to interview or photograph cruise passengers."

It looks like Royal Caribbean's attempt to control the media did not work.  There are hundreds of stories, photographs and videos popping up on the internet regarding Labadee. 

On one side of the debate are those outraged that vacationers are drinking beer and jet-skiing with over Haitians 100,000 dead and devastated survivors are desperate for food and medicine. An editorial in the U.K.'s Mirror characterized the spectacle of Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Labadee - Haiti - Royal CaribbeanSeas docking at the "heavily guarded Labadee resort to allow its residents to jet-ski, parasail or have rum punches brought to their hammocks," as "rampant self-interest and insensitivity."

The other side of the debate, most often voiced by travel agents and the cruise industry itself, is that the cruise ships are bringing some supplies as well much needed income to the Haitians who work at Labadee.  This sentiment is reflected in the ABC News article "Haiti Cruise Stops: Without This, We Don't Eat."  The article mentions that about 200 Haitians work at Ladabee and are wholly dependent on the cruise passengers. 

But even the ABC article states that Royal Caribbean would not allow reporters to interview or photograph cruise passengers.

Notwithstanding the cruise line's attempt at censorship, the images and video from Labadee continue to appear - showing what ABC News describes as the uneasy image of "vacationers stretched out on beach chairs in the sun, sipp[ing] cold beer and pina coladas with pineapple slices on the rim . . . "

 

 

 

 

Credits: 

Photographs   Lynne Sladky/AP (via Huffington Post  "Reading the Pictures: Haiti Cruises - The Fun is Just Beginning")

Video        Al Jazerra 

An Open Letter to Royal Caribbean Passengers Cruising to Labadee, Haiti

Haiti is in turmoil. Over one hundred thousand Haitians lay dead in the streets and rubble of Port au Prince alone.  The anguish and suffering of millions overwhelm our senses. 

There is a raging debate taking place in U.S. newspapers, television and the internet, as well as in the comments to this blog. Is it appropriate to sail into the idyllic port of Labadee, Haiti on a pleasure cruise when the dead remain unburied and the impoverished country writhes in chaos?

You must have conflicted feelings if you have a ticket on a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Caribbean this month.

But the fact of the matter is that the cruise line made a decision to sail to its “private destination” of Haiti irrespective of the public debate. In an interview yesterday, the President of Royal Caribbean, Richard Goldstein, explained to National Public Radio (“NPR”) that the decision to continue business as usual in Haiti was a “pretty easy decision . . . a no-brainer.”

A "no-brainer?"  Did he really say that?  Believe me, this is not a corporation racked with a social conscience.

But in the next ten days, almost 20,000 Americans - most of whom have a conscience as well as a brain - will sail to Haiti on Royal Caribbean cruise ships:

On January 22nd the Jewel of the Seas will sail to Labadee, Haiti with 2,501 passengers. On January 23rd the Independence of the Seas will sail to Labadee with 4,370 passengers. On January 24th the Freedom of the Seas will arrive with 5,400 passengers. On January 30th the Navigator of the Seas will arrive with 3,114 passengers. And on January 31st the Liberty of the Seas will end the month with 4,375 passengers.

So those of you who are cruising to Labadee in the next 10 days acutely realize that you have already paid for your cruise. Unless you cancel, and believe me you will lose your fare because in the eyes of the cruise industry there is no such thing as a conscientious objector, you will be in Haiti shortly. Whether you like it or not.

So what can you do? How can you make a difference?

Royal Caribbean issued high profile press releases about donating a million dollars over the next year or so based on the net proceeds of the money you spend in Labadee. So if you spend $170 on a zip line and a jet ski - and the cruise line figures that its costs are around $160 for these Labadee - Haiti - Royal Caribbean Private Destinationservices - it may donate $10 to Haiti. Coming from a foreign corporation which does not pay U.S. taxes and collects $6,000,000,000 (billion) from tax-paying U.S. citizens each year? 

Not too impressive.

Especially compared to Carnival, with no relationship whatsoever with Haiti, which pledged to donate $5,000,000 - $4,000,000 more than Royal Caribbean.  

Royal Caribbean also released photographs (in the Nation of Why Not?" blog) and video to the media showing a small number of pallets of water and meager food supplies. 

Not too impressive. 

So its up to you to make a difference. Try and think outside of the box.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Don’t pay for the zip line, or jet skis, or para-sailing when you arrive in Labadee. Royal Caribbean will take most of your money and eventually send a pittance to Haiti after deducting its “expenses.” Instead, put $100 in an envelope and take it to the 12 foot fence which keeps the Haitians away from you and their beach. Hand the envelope to the people who are gripping the fence and desperately staring into the beach at you. Tell them to use it for their families and friends down south. If all 20,000 of you do it - that’s $2,000,000 by the end of the month.

2. Bring a case of water with you. Jam it into your duffel bag. Bring it into Labadee. Throw it over the fence. If all 20,000 of you do it, that's 20,000 cases - or close to 500,000 bottles of water.

3. Pull out your cell phone now. Text HAITI. (It feels good). $10 will go to the Red Cross. If all of you do it, Haiti will receive another $200,000.

In the next ten days, you and your fellow 20,000 cruisers have the opportunity to provide the Haitians with almost $2,500,000, one-half million bottles of water, and a lot of hope. That’s a heck of a lot more than Royal Caribbean is even thinking about providing for the next year.

And in February, we can talk about tearing that damn security fence down which Royal Caribbean erected to keep its “private destination” isolated from the reality of Haiti and its suffering people.

Labadee Security Fence - Outside Looking In

 

Credits:

Haiti dead     taranakidailynews.com.nz

Labadee security fence            Rudbeckia Flickr Photostream  "A Haitian view of Labadee"

 

Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

Following the devastation and destruction of Port of Prince, Royal Caribbean faced the potential public relations nightmare of sailing its mega cruise ships into its private resort of Labadee with Haiti - Earthquake - Poverty - Sufferingthousands of affluent Americans partying and gorging themselves while over 100,000 Haitians lay dead and decaying in the streets and millions more already impoverished Haitians face hunger and hopelessness.     

The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. reported that Royal Caribbean's decision to go ahead with scheduled cruises into Labadee "divided passengers." One passenger commented on the popular Cruise Critic forum that he was "sickened" by the thought of frolicking in the Haitian port while other suffered:

"I just can't see myself sunning on the beach, playing in the water, eating a barbecue, and enjoying a cocktail while [in Port-au-Prince] there are tens of thousands of dead people being piled up on the streets, with the survivors stunned and looking for food and water . . .  It was hard enough to sit and eat a picnic lunch at Labadee before the quake, knowing how many Haitians were starving," said another. "I can't imagine having to choke down a burger there now.''

Another article "Cruise Ship Docks at Private Beach in Haiti for Barbeque and Water Sports" debates the appropriateness of all of this. The comments range from pointing out the "grotesqueness" of the spectacle of thousands of partying Americans in an idyllic beach to the nonchalant attitude - "life goes on . . . and as always, life is for the living."

There has always been an uneasy disconnect between the opulence of a cruise ship like Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas and a country as desperately impoverished as Haiti with a poverty rate of around 80 to 85 %.  Most Haitians are forced to survive on less than $2 a day.  The U.S. passengers on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, on the other hand, spend more for the Labadee - Haiti - Inside the fence - isolated from povertycruise, drinks, casino chips, and excursions than most Haitians will see for decades.  In addition to the Independence, Royal Caribbean's Navigator, Freedom, Enchantment and Liberty of the Seas, as well as its subsidiary Celebrity Cruises' Solstice, will all call on Labadee this year. 

The disparity between the haves and the have-nots will become even more pronounced as the $1,400,000,000 (billion) Oasis of the Seas, which visited Labadee in December last year, will begin arriving every other week in Labadee starting in May.

The executives at Royal Caribbean know how to make a hard bargain with Caribbean islands which have little economic bargaining power. CEO Richard Fain cut a deal where for only $6 a passenger (paid by the passenger), Haiti turned over a 260 acre tropical waterfront paradise of Haitian sovereign land for Royal Caribbean to consider it "private property" bearing the trademarked name "Labadee®." Yes, that's right.  This is a name that Royal Caribbean trademarked  as a variation of the French slave owner Marquis de La'Badie who settled in Haiti in the 1600's.

Many years ago an article revealed the hypocrisy of this whole endeavor.  Entitled "Fantasy Island:  Royal Carribean Parcels Off a Piece of Haiti," the article explained that Royal Caribbean began docking in Haiti in January 1986 after the ruthless dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier leased the land to Royal Caribbean.  He thereafter fled to France and the country turned into chaos for the next decade. 

Cruise Ship - Party - Eat, Drink and Be MerryRoyal Caribbean's timing was perfect.

The article continues: "plagued by a ravaged economy, residual political unrest, and 7,000 unemployed soldiers, the Haitian government was willing to bargain . . . Royal Caribbean got dirt-cheap entry, minimal regulation, and tactful silence."  The Haitian government earns less than $30,000 a week from the Royal Caribbean cruise ships, but, as Haiti's minister of tourism said: "we need to start somewhere."  Haiti was desperate. Royal Caribbean was Haiti's only choice.

Many argue that for the past many years, Royal Caribbean has not promoted or invested in Haiti.  Instead, as the article explains, it "exploited an acquiescent government and dictated its own terms of entry."  Its plan was to sell U.S. customers on an imaginary paradise.

Travel agents took the cue from Royal Caribbean and marketed the port as a "private island."  The fact that it was no island at all, but part of the mainland of Haiti, didn't bother the travel agents or the cruise line.  And it worked.  Consider a cruise review a couple of years ago:

One of the best Private Island experiences you could ever wish for! Labadee has four beaches and facilities for lots of people! Labadee is owned and operated by Royal Caribbean for the exclusive use of it's own passengers only . . .  Royal Caribbean maintains a nice lunch area on the island.  Here you can graze at your heart's content,  The cuisine was hamburgers, hot dogs, Haiti - Earthquake - Disasterchicken, ribs, various salads, and deserts. No charge. It's all included in the cost of your cruise!

Even last week, the Miami Herald ran a headline, cluelessly referring to Royal Caribbean returning to the "island" of Labadee. But the pretense of an island is only half of the illusion. Not only did Royal Caribbean fail to promote Haiti, it didn't even refer to Labadee as being in Haiti.  Rather it referred to Labadee as part of Hispaniola (the island comprising the Dominican Republic and Haiti) to try and keep the image of Haiti's poverty, violence, and civil unrest away from its customers.  

Labadee might as well be an island, considering that Royal Caribbean hires armed guards to patrol the 10-12 foot fences which isolate the Haitians from the cruise line's "private island."  Royal Caribbean keeps the locals away from its passengers who are "happily ensconced on the shores of paradise" with no idea that just over the walls are shanty-towns, sweat shops, and hungry and impoverished Haitians. The money spent in the private paradise of Labadee doesn't spread far beyond the fences. The article points out that all of the food, drinks, and even the tropical fruits and vegetables all come from Miami.

So now after isolating itself physically, financially and figuratively from Haiti for the past 20 years, Royal Caribbean is trying to justify not disrupting its business while not seeming indifferent to a country it has been indifferent to for 20 years. It just spent big bucks ($50,000,000) building a new wharf - one of the few locations which can handle the new mega ship Oasis of the Seas - as well as the world's longest zip line and an alpine coaster.  Royal Caribbean is banking on bringing the Oasis' 6,000 captive passengers onto that new wharf and charging them for the new zip line ($65), or wave runners ($80) or para-sailing, etc.      

In the last few days, Royal Caribbean has made a big deal talking about offloading pallets of food for Haiti. Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas sailed with only 60 cases of food and water  last Friday according to the Royal Caribbean President's "Nation of Why Not?" blog. That's just four pallets. The blog has some photographs of the few pallets from the Independence of the Seas - four pallets of flour, tomato sauce, can goods, and water bottles. Four pallets?  Considering that on a typical seven-day cruise Labadee - Haiti - Royal Caribbean "Private Destination"the cruise ship's passengers consume over 100,000 pounds of food and 12,000 gallons of alcohol over the course of over a hundred thousand meals- the photograph of the meager provisions sitting on the dock dwarfed by the huge Independence of the Seas seems like a sick joke. 

Subsequent articles mention that other cruises have included up to 40 pallets of food, photographs of which no one has seen, but if true this still is a pittance given the enormous needs of the Haitian people and the huge capabilities of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. 

Supporters of the cruise line point out that Royal Caribbean also pledged to donate a million dollars to Haiti over an unspecified period of time.  It talks about using the net profits collected from the passenger's monies spent in Labadee.  Whether this occurs over the course of 6 months or a year remains to be seen.  Now a million dollars is a lot of money to me and probably anyone reading this article, but it is peanuts for a cruise line like Royal Caribbean. 

Royal Caribbean collects around $6,000,000,000 (billion) a year.  And because it registered its business in Liberia and its cruise ships fly the foreign flags of Liberia or the Bahamas, it pays $0 in federal Income taxes. $0.     

Why only a million dollars?  That will accomplish little. Even Royal Caribbean's competitor Carnival promised to send $5 million to Haiti, and it has no relationship with Haiti.  The $6 a passenger deal which Royal Caribbean struck with the leaders of Haiti rips the Haitian people off.  $6 to go into a 260 acre private paradise?  Well established ports in Alaska collect $50 a passenger in head taxes just to step off of the cruise ship. 

Americans are generous people. For the next two years, Haiti should receive $100 a passenger.   With 6,000 passengers from the Oasis of the Seas alone coming into Labadee a week, the country could receive $600,000 a week Richard Fain - President Clinton - Adam Goldstein - Labadee - Before Disasterrather than the current pittance of $30,000.  Each  passenger can pay $50 and the cruise line can pay the other $50.

If the cruise line can collect $65 for a 2 minute zip line in Labadee for fun, it can sure as hell can pay $50 a passenger to Haiti to deal with the humanitarian crisis unfolding before its eyes.

$600,000 a week could begin accomplish something.

But instead the cruise line is talking peanuts.  And its PR people have created the illusion that the Royal Caribbean executives are in Haiti walking the streets and helping the people.  

Royal Caribbean's website shows a photograph of CEO Fain and President Goldstein (above) walking with President Clinton with the mountains of Haiti in the background, next to headlines:

"HUMANITARIAN AID TO HAITI."  

The photograph looks impressive; any photo shoot with a President is worth hanging on your wall.  But neither Mr. Fain nor Mr. Goldstein have traveled to Haiti since the disaster.  And the photograph has nothing to do with humanitarian aid.  It was actually taken last year before the earthquake when President Clinton was visiting Haiti on an official visit as the United Nations special envoy. 

This U.N. trip was covered by Jason Maloney, of the Pulitzer Center, who ironically enough commented on Royal Caribbean's historical reluctance to support or even acknowledge Haiti. The center explained that there are "political sensitivities surrounding the ownership of the resort."  It called Royal Caribbean Pulitzer Center - Labadee - Haiti - Richard Fain - President Clinton - Adam Goldstein - Before Earthquakeout on its claim that Labadee is a “private beach destination” or the company’s “private island.”  It also ran a photograph (left) of CEO Fain, President Clinton, and Royal Caribbean President Goldstein (in baseball cap and shorts) when Clinton was visiting the cruise line's "private destination." 

It seems rather shameful for Royal Caribbean to pull out a photo which has nothing to do with the "humanitarian" crisis for its own PR purposes.

Royal Caribbean has a net worth of $15,000,000,000.  It has a (tax free) annual income almost twice greater than Haiti's gross national product. 

So in this context - Royal Caribbean's highly publicized pledge of a a measly one million dollars, random pallets of food and water, and a misleading photograph of the cruise line executives with an ex-President are - - - pitiful. 

Royal Caribbean is proposing nothing meaningful to address the profound problems of this impoverished and exploited country.   

 

To help Haiti, text HAITI and a donation of $10 will go to the Red Cross.  As of this posting, Americans have donated over $19 million via texting for Haiti.  

 For other articles on this issue:

South Florida Business Journal (Kevin Gale)

The Guardian "The Haves & Have Nots in Haiti" (Gwyn Topam)

Sphere "Vacationing in Hell: Cruise Ships Land in Haiti" (Dave Thier)

"Cruise Ships in Haiti and Misdirected Moral Outrage" @thethirdestate

 

 Credits:

Haiti - earthquake     AP (via Mail OnLine)

Royal Caribbean cruise ship        thewe.cc 

Haiti - earthquake                             @CarelPedre via @Mashable

Independence of the Seas                 "Nation of Why Not?" blog

Royal Caribbean executives (top)       Royal Caribbean's website

Royal Caribbean executives (bottom)     Pulitzer Center

null