A Cheap Holiday In Other People’s Misery!

I don’t want a holiday in the sun
I want to go to the new Belsen
I wanna see some history
‘Cause now I got a reasonable economy

— The Sex Pistols, Holidays In The Sun

haiti cruise ship

The Royal Caribbean "Schadenfreude"


…Royal Caribbean resumed bringing vacationers to Haiti after last week’s earthquake, which killed tens of thousands of people in and around the capital of Port-au-Prince.

Royal Caribbean deposits the tourists on the picturesque peninsula of Labadee, which was unaffected by the disaster and where the company has spent millions of dollars on what it calls its own “private paradise.”

The area is heavily guarded, and visitors don’t spend the night. But they enjoy Labadee’s “pristine beaches, breathtaking scenery and spectacular water activities,” according to Royal Caribbean’s Web site…

…The company’s cruise ships are also delivering supplies — including rice, dried beans, powdered milk, water and canned goods — to the region.

Officials with the cruise line have been trying to reassure customers who may be having second thoughts about going on a trip that includes a stop in Haiti.

“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,” Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, wrote on his blog?

No. Just no. You’ve already spent the “hundreds of millions of dollars” on fashioning this little savory chunk of someone else’s country full of desperately poor people into your own corporate-owned, gated getaway for foreigners only. That money’s already done whatever good it’s going to do – if indeed it did any (depending upon how you spent it, and who you hired). And I’m sure it takes a staff to maintain and keep your “private paradise” guarded from the thirsty, malnourished rabble even when the clodhopping feet of sunburned package-tour tourists aren’t there. Groundskeepers, cleaning staff, etc – all work probably harder and longer when the ship’s in “port,” true — but they don’t go away when the tourists aren’t there (with the possible exception of the bartenders and scuba instructors). In short, most of the money you’re spending in Haiti is either already spent, or you’ll continue to spend, even if your ships temporarily suspend going there for a month or two. And yeah, I know – you already donated some money to Haiti relief. Bully for you. It doesn’t excuse resuming normal business operations – which, for you, are frivolity and relaxation – in the midst of (not even the wake of) such a disaster. Haiti needs money right now, that’s for sure, and medical supplies and food.

Also body bags and gravediggers – with bulldozer licenses.

What they don’t need is to know that just over the next rise, there are fifteen hundred foreign dilettantes on a private beach who’ve been assured by your corporate PR department that if by ordering that third round of virgin piƱa coladas, they’ll be “helping the people of Haiti.” You really want to help, Royal Caribbean? Announce that you’ll suspend your normal cruise to Haiti for the next month, and convert as much of the ship that would have gone there with passengers to cargo use. Then hire some of those locals who you say would benefit so much from the tourism dollar to – instead of serving drinks and washing tourists’ laundry – ensure that a path is open to get supplies from Labadee to the people who need them most in Port Au Prince. That would help not only the local economy, but also the people whose lives have been so desperately battered by the earthquake.

And it’d have the added bonus of not making you look like soulless corporate hacks.

For f**k’s sake, you’ve made a mint for years off foreign – mostly American – tourists, by pimping out your own manicured slice of someone else’s country to the tourism industry. Isn’t it about time you gave something back other than the low-wage jobs that you had to provide in order to find people to serve up your shrimp cocktails and watered-down margaritas and mop the travertine tile floors of the surf club after the tourists have lumbered off to their next destination? Would it kill you to show a little respect, even if you’re not going to take my above suggestion?