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Ship of Ghouls

1/27/2010

Just days after 250,000 people were killed in the earthquake in Haiti, one of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships sailing in for a scheduled stop. The photos of holiday-makers made the cruise line (and its passengers) seem self-centered and uncaring. But there is more to this story -- first reported in the New York Post) -- than just black-and-white.

The cruise ship had scheduled the visit months in advance, docked about 60 miles away from the epicenter in Port-au-Prince, and brought relief supplies for the victims. Additionally, Royal Caribbean said it would donate more than $1 million in humanitarian relief.  In a country that faces huge economic challenges, the cruise industry employs Haitian people who might otherwise not be able to earn a living. It’s unlikely that sailing lines, which sell pleasure and relaxing scenery, will be flocking to return to Haiti in the near future. Further, Haitian officials say they are thankful for cruise ship visits and the resulting economic impact for their economy.

It's a public relations quandry.  Royal Caribbean faces a difficult challenge; in many ways, the cruise line is damned if uses the port of Labadee and damned if it doesn’t. One solution would have been to have the scheduled ship dock in the Dominican Republic instead, pay the Haitian port workers anyway, and perhaps even send a ship with medical supplies to Haiti as an act of good will. Then, at some point in the future – when the bodies have been buried and the country begins to rise again – vacation visits to Haiti will seem more appropriate.

What do you think?

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