The Controversy: Haiti and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line


In case you’ve been living under a rock, two weeks ago Haiti experienced an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale causing massive amounts of damage coupled with a disheartening number of Haitians left dead, dying or  severely injured. With an estimated death toll upwards of 150,000, the number of fatalities in Haiti has far surpassed that of the 2004 tsunami that ravaged Thailand (with numbers there reported at around 4,800). Haiti is in a state of distress and will be for quite a while. On a higher note, both financial and recovery support has been pouring into Haiti. George Clooney hosted a telethon last week, the Red Cross has set up a text-to-donate service and there are many other way for people to show their support for the country. Which brings me to the point of this article. I work for an advertising agency and my client is a cruise line so I have to stay up-to-date with other cruise lines, be it campaigns, new ships or just general news about our competitors, Royal Caribbean International (RCI from here on) being one of these competitors.

Last week I noticed a few articles on the web highlighting some controversy over the fact that RCI has continued stopping at it’s own private island, Labadee, about 60 miles north of Port-au-Prince, the center of the earthquake. Harsh criticism has come down on RCI for continuing to bring it’s cruisers to the island get away to play and vacation in the sun while so much destruction and death is around the corner. It’s unimaginable to some that RCI would continue to shuttle people to the island to have fun. On the flip side, RCI has not only brought passengers/tourists to the island (who stimulate the local economy by spending money), but has also brought supplies (food and water) and has pledged to donate at least $1 million (some say the total with supplies will reach $2 million).

The issue at hand is whether or not RCI should continue to bring its passengers to the country in such proximity to and so soon after the earthquake. While I can see why this has caused some controversy, at the same time I see that RCI is aiding in the relief effort for the country. It’s hard to imagine people frolicking and having fun in light of everything that’s going on, however, would it be better if RCI just wrote a check and changed it’s itineraries and pretended that their island wasn’t there until the situation improved? I do believe that while it may be hard to stomach enjoying yourself with all that is going on, RCI is providing the island with resources it might not otherwise have – tourism being a major resources. Sure you can donate $1 million dollars and call it good, but what about the millions that tourism brings. The Haitians might not be able to go to their grocery store (that is now most likely rubble) and buy something off the shelf, but they can start putting money away to restore their homes and the government can use the taxes for further relief.

In the end, any money, resources, time and effort that can be spared for Haiti will help, but is RCI wrong to continue with their planned itineraries and means of support?

    • Scott

      I think that the draw for a lot of guests on RCI would be the fact that they have their own island. I don’t work in anything related to cruise ships, but other than Disney, I don’t know how many cruiselines have their own islands. I think that if RCI was to change all of their itineraries immediately after the earthquake, it would cause a lot of chaos, and they could potentially lose a lot of money, or guests.

      It might sound like their being a little insensitive, but they’re looking out for their business, and above all else, their customers.

    • Nick

      Having been to Haiti and labadee, it’s not an island at all. It’s a private tip of a cove that to get into from Haiti you have to pass through huge barbwired fences and gates. I do think what RCI is doing is huge for the country. That beach brings in a ton of tourist income and employs some Haitians as well. If someone is going to get all up in arms over RCI, what about the dom republic. It’s all part of the same island. At least with labadee the Haitian government is making an income.

    • Anita Greencard

      Haiti is a shithole. The earthquake just sped the process. Remember how the Japanese were coping with their earthquake? They lined up were orderly… remember they’re the only country they got atom bombed and lots the war. See how they’ve moved on.
      Haiti has been given Aid for years and it’s still the poorest country in the Americas.