(6 p.m. EDT) What effect will Haiti's current cholera outbreak have on cruise travelers whose ships are slated to call at Labadee, Royal Caribbean
's private beach destination there? As a result of the outbreak, which began to spread last week in the country's central regions, there have been 3,015 cases of infection and 253 deaths.
Royal Caribbean's Cynthia Martinez tells Cruise Critic that at this point there is no impact on cruise visits to Labadee, which lies on Haiti's north coast. Celebrity Mercury
and Liberty of the Seas
were the most recent ships to visit Labadee; Enchantment of the Seas
, slated to call on Wednesday, is the next. No calls have been canceled.
Cholera, by the way, is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
as a “potentially fatal bacterial infection” that is spread by food or water that's contaminated by the bacteria. Only 25 percent of infected people exhibit symptoms. Most only experience moderate symptoms.
Martinez notes that Royal Caribbean is monitoring the situation – which according to numerous news outlets is actually improving – and taking some extra steps to protect passengers and crew. These include:
The cruise line does not get its food or water from contaminated areas of Haiti. Martinez says the water is purified and "is safe to drink." If you're worried about drinking regular water, you can safely drink hot beverages (coffee, tea, etc.), bottled or canned sodas, and wine and beer. All food served on the island is brought in from the ship.
Royal Caribbean is educating its Haitian staff on what cholera is, its symptoms and how to avoid contracting it. Martinez adds, "We will be monitoring the health and well-being of all of our staff at Labadee."
Passengers will be provided with hand sanitizer at various locations onboard, so they can follow proper hygiene rules. The line is advising passengers to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently.
Even so, some Cruise Critic members are concerned. Writes LouAllard
, “I believe that RCCL should perhaps change the itineraries going to Labadee. This is a high-risk situation.
“Even though some people would be disappointed, I being one as I am to sail to Labadee in 4 weeks, but why take the chance of somebody contacting this disease and chancing getting other passengers and crew members sick, especially the elderly.
“I do not think that I am over reacting as I sail during hurricane season, bed bug speculation, threats of political unrest, etc.
“This being said, RCCL should at the very least give passengers the chance to cancel or reschedule without penalty.”
disagrees. “I am going to Labadee in just a few weeks and don't intend to drink contaminated water or eat raw and unwashed fruits or vegetables. Since those are the primary ways that cholera is spread and not by person to person contact, I am not concerned. I also believe that RCI would not knowingly put its passengers and crew at risk and were there any reasonable fear that visiting Labadee would do so, they would cancel their stop. I don't expect that to happen and don't think that encouraging panic through less than fully informed postings is something that should be done.”
What's your take? Should Royal Caribbean cancel calls at Labadee? Join the conversation here.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor