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



Haiti dead     taranakidailynews.com.nz

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


  • Doug

    Thank you for posting this information. I posted this to my facebook site but I am afraid it is not enough. I sure wish this could be read by more folks.


  • Outstanding Jim and well written. Slams this important issue well and truly home. Hopefully Mr ‘no-brainer’ may actually grow up for once and stop counting personal profits before the clear ethic’s here.



  • Peter Kammeyer

    I believe that a donation of almost $150 is appropriate from tourists at Labadee. The issue is how to do this. If there were a way for each tourist to bring a jump rope and a soccer ball, and be sure they were distributed to children in the damaged area, that might help mitigate mental trauma. If the remainder could be used to bring American educators (coming in by cruise ship) and Haitian educators together, and make of them a network, that might be even more important.

  • jude

    Folks..Let’s get a grip!!! If there were such a major earthquake in San Francisco; would we shut down all business activities in Chicago or New york?

    Enough with the misguided ponctification.

    Send a few dollars to the Red Cross if you care so damn much. Oh by the way, I am Haitian.

  • Jim Walker


    How long ago did you leave Haiti and move to New York?

    Are you a member of the Nation of Why Not?

  • I acually took Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas to Labadee, Haiti about two weeks after the frist earthquake and the damege wasn’t that bad because Royal Caribbean had stirdy new buildings put up weeks before the 7.2 quake. It was beutiful there.

  • Josh

    Fairly silly opinion to have of this whole situation. I agree help should be given to Haiti but there are much better ways to bring relief to the Haitian people than cramming water in your bags. Give to the groups who can take what it costs you to bring a few bottles of water and bring gallons of water.

    The charge to take down the fence is well, nieve at best and at worst criminal negligence. Haiti is not a safe country and if they want RC to do any business in the country RC needS to provide protection for their customers. The only reason Haiti is receiving all the income from RC is because the resort is isolated and protected. Remove that and RC leaves along with the bulk of Haiti’s tourism income.

    Capitolism is great. A company comes in and secures a area for its own benefit but in doing so directly benefits all the Haitians working there and provides tax income to their government. Why on earth would you want to stop that? Americans are going to continue going on cruises elsewhere in the caribbean if this is closed.. only difference is Haiti will not benefit.. now that is a shame.

  • Roger

    I just visited Labadee on 5/26 a board the Oasis of the seas. I must say it was quite a humbling experience. The Haitians I encountered were very polite and grateful for my purchases and contributions. I embarked on one of the jet ski excursions and I never jet skied in the states. I was approached on open seas by haitians that were on canoes with souvenirs they wanted me to purchase. To them I was rich and seeing the joy on their faces after my purchases made me feel
    rich knowing that I’m helping households that are at least 30 to a home with some form of aid.

  • Melissa Patterson

    If you are still reading this… Please Please Please DO NOT go to the fence in Haiti and try to donate items to the people that way!! My daughter was on this cruise w/ family 2 years ago and I didnt realize (not being a world traveler and all) what was going on there! They warn you not to go towards the fence at all! I’m sure there are good and bad people in Haiti, just like everywhere else in the world, but i am told that if they can get ahold of you through the fence or somehow turn their law against you, bad things can happen. Please look to your own safety and the safety of your family and donate through Red Cross and not by throwing donations over the fence!!

  • Dave

    Going on a cruise, going to Haiti.

    My comment is I helped set up a hearing clinic to provide free hearing aids in Honduras, my buddy did Doctors without borders to Haiti just after the earth quake.
    I will say big business changes things in positice ways take the DR which shares this island with Haiti and little people kike me and my frined do it on a personal level. Please advise how much you donate back to the people in percentage of your litigation. Surely you are exceptionally generous

  • Romner

    Whoever posted a picture like this on the net just to decrade the caribean island is an idiot. I understand there are poor people living in the region, but it is not as bad as some idiots make it looks like. Peoplecan still visit Haiti and have a good time. I am not only talking about Labadee, but other nice tourist area where thousands of people can enjoy a nice vacation. What idiot you are to take a pic from somewhere in Haiti and make it seems like it was taken around the beach area. Whoever travel the island can have a good time and enjoy the atmosphere better than if it was in Florida or any part of the US. Remember, we are talking about the Island where the beach feels different, food taste better, and everything else is natural.
    Learn that from the Haitian guy.

  • Lisa

    I agree, get a grip. And BTW most of your money and out tax money that was donated to the recovery of Haiti was kept by American NGOs. The Red Cross being one of the worst. 3 million pledged. Yeah, now only three, 3! buildings are in place.
    Get a grip. Fly into Port Au Prince, fly to Jacmel, take a private vacation with the worlds best seafood, best beaches and shops. Help by being a tourist!!
    The only reason I will travel RC is because they go to Haiti!

  • Janet Garlenski

    I just came back from this trip. Absolutely beautiful.We were basically told not to pay full price
    for anything but to barter. I couldn’t do that. I totally do not mind paying full price as I would
    in any cruiseline store. I loved my trip on RC but they should promote more buying from the
    Haitians. I told them so in my survey. All I saw in their beautiful faces is sadness and anger,
    even though they were very polite. We are very blessed for what we have.So much money has gone over to help them and the government is so corrupt-the averge Haitian see’s none of ii.At least the
    tourist trade gives them jobs but still do not pay very well.

  • KH

    wonderful letter! I agree. We did cruise there 4 yrs ago & donated ourselves. I remember the ship also unloading truckload after truckload of supplies. But yes, the cruiselines should give more themselves. They are the ones who can afford it