(5:15 p.m. EST) -- The cruise industry is responding to this week's crippling earthquake in Haiti with humanitarian aid. At the forefront is Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, which has made a huge investment of time and money in its private cruise destination Labadee, on the north coast of the island nation.
The key component of the relief effort? Royal Caribbean ships will call on Labadee as scheduled, bringing guests -- and aid -- with them.
Independence of the Seas will be the first to dock, tomorrow; next week, Labadee will welcome Navigator of the Seas (January 18), Liberty of the Seas (January 19) and Celebrity Solstice (January 22). The port, about 100 miles from capital city Port-au-Prince, was not damaged in the quake.
John Weis, associate vice president of private destinations, posted details today on President and CEO Adam Goldstein's blog: "From our standpoint, we have received and loaded the first relief supplies on Independence of the Seas, which will be taken to Labadee and distributed through Food For The Poor. We are also in the process of coordinating additional relief supplies that will be loaded on Navigator of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, and will be taken to Labadee on Monday and Tuesday of next week." Supplies include rice, dried beans, water, dried milk and other canned foodstuffs.
"I am happy to say we are committed to continuing calls to Labadee with Independence of the Seas tomorrow," Weis continues. "There were a lot of discussions about this, but in the end, Labadee is critical to Haiti's recovery and hundreds of people rely on Labadee for their livelihood." Haiti will benefit from revenues generated each time a ship comes into port.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Line tells us that a two-fold relief effort is underway and consists of monetary donations to the Red Cross with a dollar-for-dollar company match and a supply drive. Guests and crew can make a donation to the Red Cross either via their onboard account or by placing checks or cash into a designated drop box at reception fleetwide. Also, NCL's Miami office is collecting needed supplies and working with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) -- a non-profit organization representing 15 cruise lines that sail in Floridian, Caribbean and Latin American waters -- to have these delivered to Haiti.
Michele Paige, the president of the FCCA, tells us logistics are still being worked out. "What we're doing right now is communicating with Jamaica, the Dominican Republic [two nearby nations] and Royal Caribbean to find out how we will be able to get the aid to Port-au-Prince," Paige says.
At this point, other cruise lines are still formulating plans. A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Lines tells us that Carnival Corporation -- whose portfolio also includes Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, P&O Cruises, P&O Cruises Australia, Cunard, Ocean Village, AIDA, Costa and Iberocruceros -- is currently looking at a number of alternatives, but has not finalized anything. A spokesperson for Disney Cruise Line tells us that The Walt Disney Company will donate $100,000 to the Red Cross International Fund to support Haiti's relief efforts.
We'll post new information here as it is received.
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor