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


  • Tom Carten

    No RCI good deed goes unpunished at CLN.

  • Enjoy your next cruise to Labadee, Tom.

  • I did not know they made that kind of money and did not pay taxes! Amazing…

    David Maslow
    Vacation Getaways

  • Jay

    I work for a magazine focusing on Haiti and I am a bit perplexed at your article’s tone. The some 25K pax each week at Labadie brings in $7M to $10M to the govt. The resort directly employees some 300 Haitians, with a few hundred more making and selling local wares in the resort’s market plaza.

    3 days after the quake, the ships brought hundreds of pallets of supplies and they donated $1M to the relief effort.

    It is still a profit-seeking company, but your cynicism over its social responsibility may only serve as a chilling effect on other much-needed companies.

  • Jay:

    It’s the passengers who each pay the small amount ($6?) which eventually ends up going to the government of Haiti. (By comparison, Alaska charges $34.50 a person). Haiti is being taken for a ride charging only $6. Bottom line is that the cruise line pays nothing.

    Royal Caribbean agreed to donate $1 milllion from future profits from its Labadee operations. Have you seen any evidence that it has done so? Carnival, which has no relationship with Labadee, actually donated $5 million immediately.

    How can a corporation market this as evidence of its generosity, brand the school kids with cruise line logos, and not even provide food to them?

    What’s the name of your newspaper?

    Jim Walker

  • big d

    Did some surveying for that school. Don’t know about employing 300 people only saw about 50.
    Definetly taking advantage of those people.
    Also see there ether dredged up or covered up a BUNCH of live reef.

  • Kris

    Royal Caribbean is leasing that land, thus giving the govt. money. Haitian’s are employed by Royal Caribbean as well as able to sell their local wares to cruisers. The area is seeing wonderful improvements. Why do you expect a company to do more than that? They built a school, but that’s not good enough? Because it wasn’t bigger? They did help after the hurricane, but it wasn’t enough for you. Too bad to see such a negative approach.