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Royal Caribbean's Labadee is a 260-acre private beach resort carved out of Haiti's rolling, densely forested north coast. It's located some six miles from Cape Haitian, a city of 190,000 that's played a prominent part in Spanish and French colonial history. According to RCI, Labadee was discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus -- but it wasn't until 1986 that the line leased the peninsula of property from the Haitian government. Today, as in the 15th century, the geography -- an undulating coastline creating a series of lagoon-like bays, all protected by a reef -- sets the scene for the visit. A typical day in port may include snorkeling, filling up a plate or two at the all-you-can eat BBQ, zipping across the water on the 2,600-foot-long Dragon's Breath Flight Line or snoozing soundly in a beach chair.
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How You'll Get There
Royal Caribbean ships might visit Labadee during Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises. As part of the $55 million refurb in 2009, the line added a two-slip pier able to accommodate the world's largest cruise ships, Oasis and Allure of the Seas. (Vessels previously anchored offshore, and passengers were tendered into port.) The occasional ship from Celebrity Cruises, RCI's sister brand, also visit Labadee.
The focus is on watersports, and Labadee offers the requisite snorkeling, jetskiing, parasailing, kayaking, powerboating and banana boating. You can also rent floating beach mats. Fees vary for rental equipment and activities. A pair of beach volleyball courts are situated on the eastern end of the peninsula.
Labadee's Arawak AquaPark (fee applies) is a roped-in circle of sea featuring climbable ice bergs, sea-saws, trampolines and slides. The park is monitored by life guards, but children under four feet tall must be accompanied by an adult. Also for the kids: Royal Caribbean's youth program, Adventure Ocean, has an enclosed pen feature water-spiriting contraptions, jungle gyms and the like. Organized, supervised activities are offered during visits.
According to Royal Caribbean, the Dragon's Breath Flight Line is the world's longest zip-cable over water. But despite the claim that you'll reach speeds of 40 to 50 miles per hour, adrenaline junkies will need to content themselves with the seagull's-eye view and sensation of floating. Enjoyments enough for most, but the real problem is the expense; it's $89 for a ride that lasts less than 90 seconds. The Dragon Coaster, an alpine slide that cuts twists and turns through the dense island foliage, is another option.
A lovely oceanview spa is set up on a hillside overlooking the beaches. The venue offers a handful of treatments at Royal Caribbean's typically inflated prices.
Passengers looking for a little culture can embark on a Haitain cultural tour.
Five "island-style" bars are scattered across Labadee. The venues sell the standard list of frozen cocktails, mixed drinks and beer. Roving bartenders diligently fill in the gaps, darting from beach lounger to beach lounger to drop off coronas and daiquiris.
A licensed group of Haitian merchants hawk their wares -- wood carvings, necklaces, paintings, T-shirts --in the outdoor "Artisan's Village." The winding stretch of stalls is a bit of a gauntlet, so expect to hear "Where you from? Sir, let me show you something," ad nauseum. The Artisan's Village is not to be confused with the "Artisan's Market," a mostly hard-sell-free indoor space displaying beaded necklaces, wood carvings, local rum and cigars. There are also the obligatory Royal Caribbean shops selling T-shirts, sun block and other beach-day paraphernalia.
What's for Lunch
A free BBQ lunch includes a spread of burgers, dogs, jerk chicken, salads, fruit and lemonade.
What You'll Pay For
The beach chairs are complimentary. Alcoholic drinks and sodas are extra. All water-based activities and excursions carry a fee, as does use of the jungle coaster and the Dragon's Breath Flight Line.
Visitors can pay for everything with their ship card, with the exception of the two markets.
What Sets It Apart
You won't find a massive zip-line (the world's largest over water) or alpine slide at any other private island.
For More Information
Check out Royal Caribbean's Labadee info page.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor