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? 

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:


Middle:  Royal Caribbean International Flickr photostream

Bottom:  Luke Reamer

  • Carolyn Barkley

    We were on the Freedom of the Seas, May 1st cruise and we couldn’t get a straight story about what happened to the Captain. First we heard he got the flu, then we were told he had a heart attack, then, that he had a stroke. We’d rather be told the truth then the gossip from the crew. Can you look into this ???? Thanx

  • The article in the New York Times was horrible! I have written a full reaction. I invite you and your readers to discover why the New York Times isn’t doing Haiti any favors!

  • John

    Wow,what a Royal Screw-Up company,peanuts for you millions for me…eh eh eh

  • lauren

    This article is completely biased and features no research past whatever suffices to credit the author’s own point of view. After reading this article, I was curious about all of the open ended questions- such as – What other charities does Royal Caribbean give to? Here is an answer to that (copied and pasted from Royal Caribbean’s own charity blog)- notice the entire paragraph dedicated to how Royal Caribbean has helped Haiti by fundraising and donating:

    “Our Royal Caribbean International brand has a wonderful partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation (MAW). Over the past 11 years, we have sent thousands of Wish families on cruises and have executive officers that sit on their local MAW chapter board. Each June, we run a program named Destination Joy and let our ships be creative in fundraising with our guests onboard and enjoy a little competition between the ships. When we get the results of their hard work in July, we are always blown away by the results!

    Last year in January, all of the normal work in our office came to a screeching halt when the earthquake hit Haiti, our corporate partner for more than 30 years. We immediately launched a massive effort to transport relief supplies on all our Labadee, Haiti- bound ships and donated the profits for two months from our private destination there to the Solano Foundation in Haiti, collected funds onboard our ships around the globe for Food for the Poor and contributed to Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) to provide relief aid to our employees and their families who live in Haiti. This past fall, we completed the construction of our first school in Haiti L’Ecole Nouvelle. Royal Caribbean International is fortunate to be able to help the people in the Labadee community, but there is much more work to do.

    Right now, our office is full steam ahead with planning for G.I.V.E. Day, our corporate volunteer day. We plan local projects in cities where we have offices in the US and our employees come with their families to assist with cleaning, painting and landscaping; Wichita and South Florida offices are having their days in April then the other cities will have their projects in the late Spring & Summer. G.I.V.E. stands for Get Involved Volunteer Everywhere and this year, we will be celebrating our 13th year. Check out some of our projects on our G.I.V.E. Day website.

    Since our neighbors in Japan experienced multiple earthquakes, a tsunami followed by snow with freezing temperatures, and a nuclear threat, the number of inquiries from our ships, guests and offices has grown – all wanting to help collect funds for relief efforts in Japan. We have partnered with World Vision and they are currently on the ground in Japan providing emergency supplies. Our ships are collecting funds from guests through auctions, special events onboard and donations on their SeaPass. World Vision created a page on their website for any guests, employee’s, vendors, family and friends who want to contribute to World Vision’s Japan Quake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

    Our company also sponsors mentor programs as well as a partnership with our local United Way. These are just the highlights of the many ways we give back to our community.”

    Perhaps the author would do himself justice by providing a complete picture…just saying. One further point, a corporation is under no obligation to donate to anything just because it makes money. Even without donating, the Royal Caribbean Corporation employs thousands of people, giving them a chance to support their families. This alone should give any corporation a bit more respect. The problem with the author is he forgets that to make a profit and stay in business is their first objective. Without this, they could stop hiring, stop employing and, hey, stop visiting the Haiti island and giving Haiti ANY business whatsoever. Think upon these issues before you judge.

  • Talk about being biased. You sound like a shill for Royal Caribbean.

    Perhaps you should disclose you work as a marketing / cruise Manager for a cruise tour company.

    Jim Walker

  • John

    Lauren, how much money have been collected from the crew to support charity and then RCCL looks good because the money of the crew.

    So many crew menbers have lost the mother, father etc
    while on duty and no day off, no single penny to help
    the ticket and many can’t go home because of low salary.

    The heart of RCCL is made of $$$, profits first people

  • Gabs

    Lauren, I was a crew member for a while and I can tell you that hiring people from undeveloped countries so that they can be paid peanuts and be treated as garbage by both guests and management is not really a favor. Crew members that stay for more than a couple of years usually have no prospects back home and are forced to suck it up and save every penny to survive. Oh the stories I (or most crew members) could tell you…

  • Dave

    Hey Jim,

    I wonder something… you call Lauren biased (but at the same time fail to show that anything she wrote above, was incorrect) but honestly, your work, your career comes from fighting against and bad mouthing the cruise industry…naturally you yourself are probably biased against them (indeed your blog and its articles would suggest a biased nature) so doesn’t it seem a little hypocritical for you to label anyone biased? Especially since that person didn’t say anything that was incorrect?

    I want to point out somethings that you fail to mention in your article here and in previous articles. RCI (Royal Caribbean International) is Haiti’s largest foreign investor (meaning RCI invest more money into Haiti then any other company). To run a operation like Labadee takes millions of dollars and much/most of that goes into the local economy. You continually bash this school that they have built (BTW $425,000 is not cheap considering all the factors around this school) but I want to ask you…isn’t this better then nothing at all? RCI has no obligation to spend any money on Haiti but they still do, they built a nice school (far nicer then anything else Haiti has or that anyone else is building for them) and are even working to open up other destinations, to tourist in Haiti, which can help turn the country around in the long run.

    Also, it surprises me that you yet again fail to mention that while the earthquake relief was going on and while RCI continued to call on Labadee, that they (RCI) shipped hundreds of tons of much needed supplies to Haiti via their ships. Also you should consider the fact that Labadee brings in money for many of the local people and economy. Had RCI stopped calling there, these people would have lost their income and the cash flow and the donations from Labadee would have stopped. In the end RCI made the right choice and helped Haiti more because of it.

    Maybe you will call me biased, but since this is a law blog, I think (and I hope you agree) that it is important for your readers to get all the facts and hear both sides of the issue.



  • Crew

    Mr Jim regarding your last article of rccl charity, we crew menbers give away 1000’s times more money than rccl if we compare the ratio of both sides because the company practice what we call “conspiracy”. We give away and the company show the face of our money …
    So many collegues can’t fly back home in emergency cases because they have sent the money in the previous week some have no money because of low salary and the company simple anwser “we are running a business.” Believe me any news about rccl in your site is very less if we compare …

  • Dave:

    Lauren’s comment provided no insight but was just shilling for a cruise line without disclosing that she was a manager for a cruise tour company. She gets the dumb and dishonest award.

    Spending $425,000 by a $15,000,000,000 (billion) non-U.S. tax paying corporation is like you spending a nickel and boasting about it.

    After the earthquake, Carnival (which has no relationship with Haiti) immediately donated $5 million, with no strings attached. RCCL didn’t start bringing water or promise to donate money (only from its Labadee profits) until it was shamed into doing so.

    RCCL should feed the school kids and provide safe transportation. You and Lauren can’t even concede such basic points. You talk about “both sides” of the issue.” There is no other side of this issue, unless you’re suggesting that the kids should not be fed or provided safe transportation?

    The fact is that virtually no money goes into the local community around Labadee. RCCL ships transport food and produce from Miami to Haiti. The millions of $ collected in cruise fares, zip line rides, jet ski rentals, and booze are for RCCL alone. The cruise line brings all of the money back to Miami except for the few dollars sold by a few vendors in trinkets to the passengers.

    But let’s talk about the kids, which was the focus of the article. RCCL makes the kids wear RCCL logo shirts while attending the RCCL logo school. Great branding. But it speaks volumes that the executives let the kids go hungry all day, while the passengers pig out on ribs and barbeque on the other side of the security fence. How hard is it to box up some fruit, juice, hot dogs & hamburgers for the kids to eat?

    Jim Walker

  • Dave


    Actually, Lauren’s comment brought more facts and insight to this discussion…facts which, for some reason, never appear on this blog (I wonder why?). I am curious though…was anything she said incorrect? You accuse her of being biased because of her job but could she not also accuse you of being biased because of your job?? Yes she could.

    Just so you know, RCI does not make $15,000,000,000 every year (you contradicted your own article there)… it’s much closer to revenues of $6,750,000,000 with a net profit of less then billion. Not that much when looking at the grand scale of things.

    But like you said, lets talk about the kids.

    Like I said in my comment above… all things considered, $425,000 for this school is not necessarily a drop in the bucket. Could RCI have spent more? Yes, but really, why would they, or why should they, when $425,000 builds a perfectly adequate and nice school?? The school consist of a complex of a 6 buildings centered around a courtyard, with 12 class rooms, offices, a computer lab and bathrooms. The school will educate over 230 students this year in several different subjects, and on top of that it provides vocational training to adults during the night.

    Considering the fact the only about 8% of Haitian students make it through Haiti’s broken education system; this school (no matter any problems it might have) is a blessing for these people…no matter how you look at it. I should also note that according to other sources, food and water is provided.

    RCI, by building this school, also provided much needed jobs during the construction and in the staffing of this school. It should also be noted that RCI is already working on plans for another school in Haiti.

    Now, as to your other statements…

    You are wrong about the money issue at Labadee. The vendors and RCI are not the only ones who benefit from Labadee. RCI employs over 300 locals to staff and take care of Labadee, and on top of that allows over 200 vendors to sell their merchandise to passengers (and as I am sure you know, passengers can spend a lot of money). On top of this, RCI also pays the Haitian Government $6.00 per passenger…and when you consider just how big RCI ships are, how much capacity they have, and how many calls RCI makes in Labadee, that adds up to a lot of money. Also, RCI leases Labadee from Haiti, which means that they pay for it.

    In regards to the earthquake… it was not as long as you would lead your readers to believe before RCI responded. RCI was sending relief supplies by the 3rd day after the earthquake (which was faster then some government and relief agencies). On top of this RCI has donated over $2.5 million dollars to the relief effort on top of the money Labadee already injects into Haiti…(by contrast, Disney, a much larger company, only donated $100,000 to Haiti). However you slice it, RCI helped Haiti during the earthquake.

    Also worth noting, RCI’s company in Haiti, Solano, started helping with the relief effort immediately, providing things like water and shelter. Even a RCI executive traveled to Haiti to help with and oversee the relief effort.

    Also, as far as the logo shirt goes…this is hardly anything to write about. Any company or organization would have done the same thing. The logo on the shirts is pretty small and it should be noted that considering the fact that the only people who will ever see this shirt are the kids and local (who are unlikely to cruise with RCI) this can hardly be called marketing or branding.

    In the end, it should be remembered that RCI is under no obligation to do any other this, yet they do, and for that, whether they do out of the goodness of their hearts or just for the business value, they should be commended, or at the very least, these things should be apreciated.



  • You are incorrect about most of your cheerleading for the cruise line. Take a look at the on line annual reports for Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. and you will see that it has a net worth of over $15,000,000,000 not less than $1 billion as you write. Please explain how you think that a cruise line with over 30 mega ships ranging in value of several hundred million dollars to over a billion, can have a net value of less than a billion?

    Royal Caribbean did not donate $2.5 to Haiti, that’s false.

    Yes, Royal Caribbean promised a second school. Check back here in a year and I’ll write another blog asking why they never did build it.

    Oh, the kids. The point of my article. I see that you didn’t comment about the lack of transportation or the fact that they stay hungry all day.

    Perhaps you, Lauren and your alter ego “Clark M” can take a cruise to Labadee together and enjoy the jumbo buffet at the beach and a few rounds of margaritas and reflect further on Royal Caribbean’s great investment into the children of Haiti.


    Jim Walker

  • unknown

    Rcl is not a big help to Haiti actually they are robbing the haitians of their beautiful beaches and making a killing. I’ve been there and they don’t even let the haitians enter their own beaches.