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Date Published: January 19, 2010
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Haiti Debate Heats Up as Cruise Ships Arrive With Aid
(6 p.m. EST) -- In the few short days since Royal Caribbean resumed cruise calls on Labadee, the "should they or shouldn't they" debate over the return -- in media reports, on online blogs and, of course, here at Cruise Critic -- has been incredibly controversial. Most notably, a story that ran in the U.K.'s Guardian this weekend highlighted comments from travelers uncomfortable with visiting in light of last week's tragic earthquake, which sparked a flurry of articles and blog posts condemning the cruise line's decision.

While some Cruise Critic readers are among those who feel vacationing on Haiti at this time is inappropriate, the majority actually support the cruise line's decision, according to polls on cruisecritic.com and cruisecritic.co.uk. In total, 65 percent of U.S. and U.K. readers (almost 4,700 voted) praised the aid and financial support ships and passengers are bringing to the port, situated on the north coast of the island and nearly 100 miles from Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, which was devastated in the quake. Some 14 percent were on the fence.

Cruise Critic member libertylover posts on our message boards, "At first, I thought it was in poor taste for Royal Caribbean to continue to go to Labadee, but since reading blogs and articles about the efforts that Royal Caribbean is doing and speaking with my friend [who works onboard Liberty of the Seas] about how the crew feels about helping the people of the country then I think it's a no-brainer that they should continue to go there."

Royal Caribbean's President and CEO Adam Goldstein addressed the controversy in his blog today: "...in the last 24 hours, sparked by an article in the Guardian in the U.K., a different and more critical view has emerged that questions how our guests can justify having a good time in Labadee when there is such misery less than 100 miles away.

"My view is this -- it isn't better to replace a visit to Labadee (or for that matter, to stay on the ship while it's docked in Labadee) with a visit to another destination for a vacation. Why? Because being on the island and generating economic activity for the straw market vendors, the hair-braiders and our 230 employees helps with relief while being somewhere else does not help. These 500 people are going to need to support a much larger network of family and friends, including many who are in (or are missing in) the earthquake zone."

So, is it right or wrong in the end? It just depends. Wanda writes on Cruise Critic's Facebook page, "I would have to walk in their shoes to know exactly how the Haitians feel about the cruise passengers. Everyone responds differently. For some it may be a relief that takes them away from the strife and pain that they are experiencing, for some it may be a blessing to have compassion shown to them from people that they don't know, and I am sure that there are those who are so distraught that they can't imagine us vacationing there while their country is in ruins."

Royal Caribbean and sister line Celebrity Cruises have additional calls lined up, with Liberty of the Seas there today and Celebrity Solstice visiting later this week (Independence of the Seas visited Friday and Navigator of the Seas called yesterday). Click on the image above to watch video of 80 pallets of supplies being loaded aboard Navigator of the Seas in Miami, which Food for the Poor will distribute to those in need.

Have you visited Labadee since the quake? Please share your story with us -- e-mail melissa@cruisecritic.com.

--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor

--Video appears courtesy of Royal Caribbean International.

Related Links
Haiti Debate Heats Up as Cruise Ships Arrive With Aid
First Reports In from Cruise Passengers Back from Haiti
Members Speak Out: Should Cruise Ships Have Returned to Haiti?
Haiti Relief: Cruise Industry Response Update
How You Can Help Haiti
First Cruise Ship Arrives in Labadee After Haiti Quake
Cruise Industry Plans Haiti Relief Effort

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