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"