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Cruise Ships to Haiti: Disrespecting the Dead? Bringing Much Needed Economic Support? What Do You Think?

By Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger
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While thousands of rescue workers from around the world mobilize to bring aid to some two million earthquake-ravaged people of Haiti, others are coming via cruise ship to enjoy a vacation.

Royal Caribbean cruise line has taken a “business as usual” stance for the company’s private island destination in Labadee, about 100 miles from Haitian capital city Port au Prince. Luxury liners have long enabled tourists to bask in comfort, far away from the violence and poverty that Haitian residents face every day. Advertising materials call the area a “private paradise” and tout a relaxing environment and adventures including scuba diving as attractions. When piles of corpses continue to grow, and people are struggling to even have basic food and water, questions are being raised about whether such cruises show blatant disrespect for the dead and dying.

The U.S. alone has mobilized more than 11,000 military personnel, both on the ground and in ships off shore, to support rescue and recovery efforts following Haiti’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake Jan. 12 and a secondary 6.1 temblor Jan 19. One of the worst earthquakes in history, the quake has caused an estimated 200,000 deaths, injured more than a quarter million people and left more than a million people homeless.

Travel writers, bloggers, media outlets and even late night comics have harshly criticized Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines. On CruiseCritic.com, one blogger wrote, “I understand that if you have paid for a cruise you will want to visit the ports, and Labadee is very beautiful ... but that should not stand in the way of decency and, for decency's sake, the ships should stay away, at least until all those loved ones have been buried and put to rest and the people given food, water and shelter."

Another blogger posted, “…As the song says- there is a time for every season-would you want people frolicking at the cemetery, while you are laying your loved ones to rest - staying on board ship while it is in Haiti, would be for me even worse-as I would feel even more helpless, so close and yet immobilized to help-I'd feel compelled to go and jump ship to help with the rescue efforts.”

Yet another passenger said, "I just can't see myself sunning on the beach, playing in the water, eating a barbecue, and enjoying a cocktail while there are tens of thousands of dead people being piled up on the streets, with the survivors stunned and looking for food and water."

In a formal press release and in media statements, Royal Caribbean executives have defended their business practices and noted the company’s contributions to the Haitian economy on both a regular basis and in this time of crisis. Calling their company “one of Haiti’s largest foreign investors for almost 30 years” the company pledged to provide at least $1 million in humanitarian relief to Haiti and is partnering with multiple relief organizations to deliver supplies to Haiti via their cruise ships.

"The effect of the earthquake on Haiti has been catastrophic, leaving the country in need of not only immediate support, but assistance in their long-term recovery," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "Royal Caribbean wants to do its part to help out not only the general response, but also our hundreds of Haitian employees and their families through this disaster. In addition to our financial contribution, Royal Caribbean will continue to provide economic support through the continuous business we bring to Labadee.”

Leslie Voltaire, Special Envoy of the government of Haiti to the United Nations said, "Given the terrible economic and social challenges we now face in Haiti, we welcome the continuation of the positive economic benefits that the cruise ship calls to Labadee contribute to our country."

What do you think? Does the continuation of tourism help support Haiti’s economy or is it showing disrespect for the dead? Should the cruises continue since the ships can bring in supplies, or should they be stopped? What would you do if you scheduled a vacation and your destination suddenly became a disaster area? We’d like to know your opinions.

Add a Comment8 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

As a frequent cruiser, this one really makes me think. On the one hand, most cruise ports are, ah, shall we say, "home to less financially blessed nations that really need our support". On the other hand, yeah, I get that partying it up while they are still digging out from under the rubble is a bit unseemly.

Most cruise ports are located such that vacationers are steered into the "tourist traps", not brought into the villages and cities where those not affiliated with the travel industry live. In fact, you could easily visit all kinds of countries and never see how their people actually live- you get the "Disney" version. So, I think we'd be doing more harm than good by staying away- they needed our money before, they certainly need it more than ever now. I hate to think of yanking the rug out from under them in this way.

January 22, 2010 - 12:25pm

I have to agree with the 2 before me. They need the tourism dollars now.

I also feel it's good for some people to witness the devastation so they can share what they saw with other to inspire them to do something about it.

January 21, 2010 - 2:39pm
EmpowHER Guest

You guys are all morons, they are supporting Haiti so that Haiti's economy can still be supported by the tourists. If they STOPPED going to haiti they would be hurting them more than helping them.

January 20, 2010 - 7:14pm
EmpowHER Guest

Where do some draw the line? Should all cruise ships be stopped everywhere? Most of the people around the world are livings each day as they did before the Haitian earthquake. Yes some have donated money and some are on site donating time, but for the most part, life for the rest of us is going on as before. if there were bodies on the beach or near the area I can understand why people would be upset. Haiti is better off with the cruise boats than without them. If you are concerned prove it by giving money to the Red Cross or another reputable group that is on the ground helping.

January 20, 2010 - 5:54pm
EmpowHER Guest

I think it's understandable to have misgivings -- the contrast between wealthy vacationers and tragedy-stricken Haitians is gut-wrenching. But it won't help Haitians at all if the cruise ships simply avoid Haiti. It will save the wealthy from having to SEE the contrast, but it won't make the contrast go away.
I blogged about it, here:

January 20, 2010 - 12:37pm
EmpowHER Guest

If you're in an area relatively unaffected by the quake, but now you lose your income because tourists stop coming, are you any better off?
The cruise ships are not going to devastated areas and they're bringing aid to those areas that are. The best thing for Indonesia after the tsunami was tourists. There's always somewhere that is suffering. Should I not take a vacation because people are starving in Africa? Or there's a war in the middle east? No. Life must go on. The economy must keep flowing. Let them stay on their little island off Haiti and have the ship bring in supplies. Haiti was always a dump. At least now they're getting aid.

January 20, 2010 - 12:33pm
EmpowHER Guest

Off course the cruise ships should go to Haiti!!! But not to bring tourists. They should bring water, food and medicine! And after they help out they can always resume their stops at Haiti. I think what's the worst thing about this question is the question itself. It says a lot about the mentality of people nowadays!

January 20, 2010 - 11:46am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I 100% agree with you.

What If they canceled that one or two cruise ships just for one month. To give people in Port a prince a clean safe place to sleep, shower and eat OR to use the ship as a place to treat people in need of a hospital...

Even better? If each cruise-line donated one ship for one month..

Do you think it would really hurt them financially???? HELL NO! There is really something wrong with there world today......
My prayers r with you Haiti xoxoxo

January 20, 2010 - 4:50pm
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