By Nick Papa
Although most of Haiti has been rocked by an earthquake that the New York Times called “the worst in the region in more than two hundred years” and with almost 200 thousand missing or dead, a small division of this devastated country remains unaffected by all of this.
Ninety miles from the devastated capital city of Port-au-Prince (16 miles outside the epicenter of the earthquake) is a spick-and-span resort known as Labadee.
Leased to Royal Caribbean International by the Haitian government, the port allows tourists on Royal Caribbean cruises to dock in Haiti with the protection of a 12-foot tall fence separating them from the disaster that surrounds.
While I am disgusted by the fact that an American company is able to lease land in a foreign country for the purpose of setting up a disturbing Disneyland-like version of Haiti in Haiti (complete with private beach, American restaurants and bars and a reconstructed Haitian market), there is a far bigger issue at hand.
How could anyone justify spending, at base price, anywhere between $500 (an interior stateroom) and $2,500 (a deluxe suite) to enjoy a holiday on the beach, when, just beyond a partition, they are surrounded by an impoverished and suffering country?
Artwork by Alicia C. Stamm
A large part of the problem is that a number of passengers are not even aware they are in Haiti.
David Southby, Royal Caribbean’s site manager for Labadee, said, “If you are honest, even if you tell them, most passengers don’t know where they are, usually,” according to csmonitor.com.