Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I can understand how the imagery which immediately comes to mind puts some people off: the juxtaposition of luxury cruise ships packed with cocktail-schwizzling tourists versus the misery, hunger and death that has become Haiti. So it was clearly going to be a massive PR challenge for cruise line Royal Caribbean to articulate why it would be “steady as she goes” with respect to continuing to send its ships to the Haitian beach resort known as Labadee. But here are the facts: Labadee is 160 kilometres from the epicenter of the quake, and was essentially unscathed. Some 230 Haitians are directly employed by the cruise company, and just as many independent vendors make their living selling their wares to the thousands of tourists who can come ashore with every docking. Royal Caribbean has been including these pertinent facts in its communications in response to the criticism, also noting that they checked with – and got the full blessing of – Haitian officials for continuing the port calls. The company is also donating $1 million to the relief effort in addition to bringing along emergency food supplies on each ship. "Simply put, we cannot abandon Haiti now that they need us most,” was how one executive put it. It would be a different story if Labadee had been hit hard by the quake, and ditto if cruise ships were not fully self-sufficient – in other words, they bring people with money to spend into an area but without putting additional demands on local food and water supplies in a time of need. Finally, if Royal Caribbean had stopped sending its ships at this time of need, THAT would have been a much more difficult position to defend.

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