[News] Luxury liners still docking at private beaches in Haiti

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 19 17:16:05 EST 2010

Cruise ships still find a Haitian berth

Luxury liners are still docking at private 
beaches near Haiti's devastated earthquake zone 
for holidaymakers to enjoy the water
Sunday 17 January 2010 21.53 GMT

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines faced a difficult 
decision over whether to dock as per itinerary at 
Labadee Beach, Haiti after last week's tragic 
quake. Photograph: Daniel Morel/AP

Sixty miles from 
devastated earthquake zone, luxury liners dock at 
private beaches where passengers enjoy jetski 
rides, parasailing and rum cocktails delivered to their hammocks.

The 4,370-berth Independence of the Seas, owned 
by Royal Caribbean International, disembarked at 
the heavily guarded resort of Labadee on the 
north coast on Friday; a second cruise ship, the 
3,100-passenger Navigator of the Seas is due to dock.

The Florida cruise company leases a picturesque 
wooded peninsula and its five pristine beaches 
from the government for passengers to "cut loose" 
with watersports, barbecues, and shopping for 
trinkets at a craft market before returning on 
board before dusk. Safety is guaranteed by armed guards at the gate.

The decision to go ahead with the visit has 
divided passengers. The ships carry some food 
aid, and the cruise line has pledged to donate 
all proceeds from the visit to help stricken 
Haitians. But many passengers will stay aboard 
when they dock; one said he was "sickened".

"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," one 
passenger wrote on the Cruise Critic internet forum.

"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.''

Some booked on ships scheduled to stop at Labadee 
are afraid that desperate people might breach the 
resort's 12ft high fences to get food and drink, 
but others seemed determined to enjoy their 
holiday."I'll be there on Tuesday and I plan on 
enjoying my zip line excursion as well as the time on the beach," said one.

The company said the question of whether to 
"deliver a vacation experience so close to the 
epicentre of an earthquake" had been subject to 
considerable internal debate before it decided to 
include Haiti in its itineraries for the coming weeks.

"In the end, Labadee is critical to Haiti's 
recovery; hundreds of people rely on Labadee for 
their livelihood," said John Weis, 
vice-president. "In our conversations with the UN 
special envoy of the government of Haiti, Leslie 
Voltaire, he notes that Haiti will benefit from 
the revenues that are generated from each call 

"We also have tremendous opportunities to use our 
ships as transport vessels for relief supplies 
and personnel to Haiti. Simply put, we cannot 
abandon Haiti now that they need us most."

"Friday's call in Labadee went well," said Royal 
Caribbean. "Everything was open, as usual. The 
guests were very happy to hear that 100% of the 
proceeds from the call at Labadee would be donated to the relief effort."

Forty pallets of rice, beans, powdered milk, 
water, and canned foods were delivered on Friday, 
and a further 80 are due and 16 on two subsequent 
ships. When supplies arrive in Labadee, they are 
distributed by Food for the Poor, a longtime 
partner of Royal Caribbean in Haiti.

Royal Caribbean has also pledged $1m to the 
relief effort and will spend part of that helping 200 Haitian crew members.

The company recently spent $55m updating Labadee. 
It employs 230 Haitians and the firm estimates 
300 more benefit from the market. The development 
has been regarded as a beacon of private 
investment in Haiti; Bill Clinton visited in 
October. Some Haitians have decried the leasing 
of the peninsula as effective privatisation of 
part of the republic's coastline.

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