Luxury Cruises Resume to Haiti: Bad PR, Good Deed, or Both?

Cruise purveyor Royal Caribbean stirred up a public relations storm last week after it resumed taking vacationing tourists to its luxury Haitian beach resort, Labadee, located just 100 miles from the shocking scenes of rubble, suffering and desperation brought by the earthquake. Cruise passengers could choose to lounge on the beach under palm trees, get a massage on tables screened from view with billowing curtains or order up a fresh mai tai from the waiter while just a few hours away, desperate Haitians were scrounging to find some food or a drink of clean water. From a PR standpoint, resuming the cruises so soon seems like a violation of good taste and decency, and makes Royal Caribbean look bad. The cruise company, however, points out that while passing Haiti up might have been the more sensible decision, keeping their ships away would hurt the hundreds of Haitians who depend on cruise line passengers for their livelihood, and would keep the ships from bringing in food and relief supplies for the people who need them. Still, advertising and PR executives say the cruise line has done lasting damage to its image by resuming its luxury cruises to Haiti. Some cruise critics who defend Royal Caribbean's move are urging people to go to Haiti, get off the ship, have a subdued day, spend and tip generously, and perhaps leave some unopened bottles of water, new T shirts, food and some brand new flip flops with the Haitians.


The Guardian has has a better write up of cruise operatons in Haiti. The ships have some food and water aid for Haitians but the fenced compound they use was indefensible to begin with. Passengers are understandably disturbed.

"It was hard enough to sit and eat a picnic lunch at Labadee before the quake, knowing how many Haitians were starving," said another. "I can't imagine having to choke down a burger there now.''
Some booked on ships scheduled to stop at Labadee are afraid that desperate people might breach the resort's 12ft high fences to get food and drink...

The cruise lines should be repurposing themselves to aid the survivors.

The decision to stop in Haiti is indefensible. I hear what they are saying about supporting the local economy dependent upon cruise traffic, but REALLY??? Why doesn't the company donate funds to Haiti. Why don't the guests do something good for the economy by staying on board the ship and giving what they might of spent on land to reliable charity like Red Cross.

Ultimately it would be good if guests could donate time to help the victims, but right now people with expertise are needed to the disaster relief. The time for amateur volunteers to lend a hand are still a ways off, but the company ought to figure out something that would be meaningful to the Haitian people and economy, not looking at tourist spend on land as some kind of do good effort. Royal Caribbean is deaf dumb and blind.

Indefensible? Royal Caribbean has already donated $2.1 million to relief efforts and each ship that stops is dropping of huge amounts of food and water. And that's on top of what RCCL pays the employees there. And the money made during each stop is being donated to relief efforts. You would prefer the ships skip the stops and put 200 people out of work at a time when they desperately need money to help support family and friends fleeing Port au Prince. The Haitian government has asked the cruise lines to keep visiting, the Haitians working at Labadee have said they want the ships to keep coming. But you want to criticize RCCL so you can feel some moral superiority? I'd rather help the Haitians.