This morning, Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas arrived at Labadee -- the first cruise ship to do so since Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince was devastated by a massive earthquake earlier this week. Labadee, Royal Caribbean's private "island" port, is situated on the northern coast of Hispaniola, the island that contains the sovereign nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic; the port, located some 100 miles from Port-au-Prince, sustained no damage in the quake.
A post yesterday on Royal Caribbean President and CEO Adam Goldstein's blog detailed the line's humanitarian effort, which includes bringing ashore relief supplies such as rice, dried beans, water, dried milk and other canned foodstuffs, which will be distributed through charity Food for the Poor (the items were brought aboard during the ship's port call in San Juan earlier in the week). The line will also be donating 100 percent of today's net proceeds from shore excursions and other activities to Haitian relief.
Next week, Labadee will welcome Navigator of the Seas (January 18), Liberty of the Seas (January 19) and Celebrity Solstice (January 22).
As detailed in a press release today, Royal Caribbean has committed to providing $1 million in humanitarian relief to Haiti, a portion of which will augment the company's Crew Relief Fund, which can be drawn on by any of the company's more than 200 Haitian crewmembers. Passengers onboard can make a donation to Food for the Poor's Haiti Relief Fund, via a charge to their onboard account; others can visit the organization's Web site to make a donation.
On our message boards, Cruise Critic members share mixed feelings -- though mostly positive -- about Royal Caribbean's commitment to calling on Haiti with guests and goods:
"I'm proud to be going to Labadee with Liberty of the Seas on Tuesday," posts JSnow789, "and will happily spend what I can to help the locals working there. I was laid off yesterday -- but that is nothing compared to what is happening in Haiti."
"I do not think it will be the same level of a party there," writes temple1, "but more of a visit with a determination and purpose. By tipping workers, purchasing from vendors and other activities cruisers will be helping the locals in Cap Haitian and the relief efforts in Port-au-Prince."
Some posters, however, feel it's too soon to return.
Bakincakes posts, "It was hard enough to sit and eat a picnic lunch at Labadee, before the earthquake, knowing how many Haitians were starving. I can't imagine having to choke down a burger there now...."
And Shelby_36 agrees: "Contribute to your relief agencies and then show your support by buying their wares when they get back to some sense of normalcy."
Are you onboard Independence of the Seas today? Tell us about your visit to Labadee on the message boards. And be sure to vote in our homepage poll.
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor
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First Cruise Ship Arrives in Labadee After Haiti Quake
January 15, 2010