Kevin Bissett, writing for The Canadian Press, has posted this story about the controversial Labadee site in Haiti, Royal Caribbean’s cruise stop in “Hispaniola.” It is interesting only in that it’s “apology” for the site offers the main points of justification for the site offered by Royal Caribbean. [For another perspective you can go to http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2010/0125/Caribbean-cruises-to-Haiti-Sickening-or-the-right-thing]
More than two years after a powerful earthquake killed 230,000 people in Haiti and left many more homeless, the Caribbean country continues to battle despair — yet one tiny peninsula on the country’s north coast serves as a tropical oasis for travellers and an example of the tourism potential Haiti has to offer.
Labadee draws more than 600,000 visitors a year because of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
In 1985, the cruise line decided to lease the peninsula to give passengers a private beach destination as part of their western Caribbean cruises.
Since then, the company has added a large pier for their huge cruise ships, along with all the infrastructure and excursions to provide visitors with a day at the beach.
It’s a stark contrast to the tent cities and desperate conditions faced by hundreds of thousands of Haitians still trying to recover from the 2010 earthquake that devastated much of the country, particularly the capital of Port-au-Prince.
International aid agency Oxfam has blamed government indecision for keeping Haiti’s recovery on hold. Haiti has a population of more than 9.7 million people.
The country has a history of political violence including a coup in 2004 that forced the resignation and exile of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The current president, Michel Martelly, was elected in 2011.
“Years ago in the industry, we used to send people to Haiti,” said Ellen Tucker of Freedom Tours in Saint John, N.B. “In fact, there was a very well known Club Med there that we sent a lot of people to.”
Tucker says tour operators hope there could be potential for tourists to travel to Haiti in the future.
“Haiti is absolutely beautiful, but of course we all know the turmoil they’re going through now,” she said.
“It has made it a place that isn’t quite right for visitors just yet. But we hope it will be once again.”
For cruise ship passengers arriving in Labadee there’s no indication of the problems elsewhere in the country.
Instead, they’re greeted by warm, blue waters, and a backdrop of mountains and lush forests.
You’ll find a peninsula offering two very different beach conditions. On one side, the waves roll in, crashing on shore, while the other side offers the calm waters of a protected harbour.
Despite the large capacity of today’s cruise ships, Labadee is far from crowded, with no issue finding a stretch of sand to claim as your own for the day.
John Weis, vice-president of guest port experience for Royal Caribbean, said there are many things available to do once you’re there, including an aqua park and an authentic Haitian straw market.
“We have an artisans market, an artisans showcase, we have wave runners, parasailing, snorkelling, and cabanas.”
The small cabanas provide comfort and shade right at the water’s edge. In the markets, there’s an array of crafts, jewelry and carvings.
Weis said they also offer a number of excursions that travel a bit further away from the pier.
“One of them is the Haitian cultural tour, where you go closer to Labadie village, and it gives you a little background on village life and the history of Haiti,” he said. “You also get some of the history of sugar cane, rum and coffee.”
The average high temperature in Labadee is around 29C much of the year, but climbs to an average of about 34C in July and August.
Royal Caribbean employs about 230 full-time employees in Labadee.
While the company won’t reveal details of their lease agreement for the property, it does say Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has contributed more than $2.5 million to the Haiti relief effort.
“They’ve done a wonderful job in supporting that island and building the infrastructure there and making jobs for Haitians,” Tucker said. “Passengers who go there really enjoy it.”
For the original report go to http://www.mysask.com/portal/site/main/template.MAXIMIZE/?javax.portlet.tpst=90b817649d5ff20be621511060315ae8_ws_MX&javax.portlet.prp_90b817649d5ff20be621511060315ae8_viewID=story&javax.portlet.prp_90b817649d5ff20be621511060315ae8_topic_display_name=Travel%20News&javax.portlet.prp_90b817649d5ff20be621511060315ae8_topic_name=Travel&javax.portlet.prp_90b817649d5ff20be621511060315ae8_news_item_id_key=19982462&javax.portlet.begCacheTok=com.vignette.cachetoken&javax.portlet.endCacheTok=com.vignette.cachetoken