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Protestors Shut Down Royal Caribbean’s Private Resort In Haiti A Second Time

evans paul

Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul

PORT-AU-PRINCE – Local protesters in Labadee, Haiti have forced Royal Caribbean to cancel a second port of call to the cruise port. The Royal Caribbean Blog reports that Navigator of the Seas was scheduled to call at Labadee on Thursday but the cruise line decided to cancel the call.

This is now the second Royal Caribbean ship to cancel Labadee in one week due to local protesters on boats. Freedom of the Seas also cancelled its call at the destination.

Even though the protests are not violent, Royal Caribbean does not want the displays to impinge upon their visit. Until the protests are amicably resolved more cruise ship calls could be at threat.

Vision of the Seas is scheduled to call at RCCL’s “private destination” Labadee on Sunday, January 24. It’s not yet clear if the ship still sail to the port. The 142,000 gross ton Navigator of the Seas is on a 6-night western Caribbean cruise which is scheduled back in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on January 24. Labadee, Haiti was the last port of call on the itinerary.

“Royal Caribbean has not received any guarantees or assurances that there will not be any protests in the future. If a protest takes place while a ship is port, there would be a significant impact on our guests’ ability to enjoy Labadee, or we may have to cancel the visit completely,” according to the RCL blog on Thursday.

As first reported Tuesday in the V.I. Free Press’ Facebook site, a small flotilla of boats carrying Haitians protested when the Freedom of the Seas tried to approach Labadee.

Although most of the traditional media tried to downplay the incident or suggest that it was part of the protests about the national election in Haiti, many have suggested that the protests were focused on the exploitation of Haitian people brought about by Royal Caribbean and its trademarked resort of Labadie.

Royal Caribbean’s “Labadee®” is derived from the name of the 1600’s French plantation baron and slave owner Marquis de La’Badie.

After the Royal Caribbean ship was turned away, Prime Minister Evans Paul issued a press statement on Twitter, praising the cruise line and promising that regular tourist activities would continue in Labadee.

“The Haitian government strongly condemns with the utmost vigor the incident that occurred, this Tuesday, January 19, 2016, at the tourist port of Labadee with the inopportune arrival of a group of protesters to the dock of this port,” Paul said. “This situation caused a regrettable tension for cruise passengers arriving at the site. Therefore, the Government believes that some different can be resolved through dialogue and calls for calm everyone. The government has taken steps to remedy this situation caused by social order demands. Government officials will have to meet as soon as possible, residents of Labadee area and thus start a dialogue process.”

Labadee is a port located on the northern coast of Haiti. It is a private resort leased to Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. Until 2050. Royal Caribbean has contributed the largest proportion of tourist revenue to Haiti since 1986, employing 300 locals, allowing another 200 to sell their wares on the premises for a fee and paying the Haitian government $12 per tourist.

“On the other hand, we want to reassure and give our largest tourism partner of the cruise ship company Royal Caribbean all the guarantee that the arrangements will be made by the government to secure the area and allow the tourism activity to continue on the site of Labadee as usual, Paul said. “The government of the Republic of Haiti reaffirms the implementation of its overall policy to ensure that Haiti can become one of the main tourist destinations in the Caribbean that can accommodate visitors from around the world.”

The resort is completely tourist-oriented and is guarded by a private security force. The sitee is fenced off from the surrounding area and passengers are not allowed to leave the property. Food available to guests of the island is brought from the cruise ship.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation and are in close communication with local and government officials in Haiti,” Royal Caribbean said. “At this time, we have not made any decisions regarding any additional upcoming port calls to Labadee.”

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 50 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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