The Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' ship Independence of the Seas went ahead with its scheduled stop at a fenced-in private Haitian beach surrounded by armed guards, leaving its passengers to "cut loose" on the beach, just a few kilometers from one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the region's history. The ship's owners justified it as a humanitarian call, because the ship also delivered 40 palettes of relief supplies while its passengers frolicked on zip-lines and ate barbeque within the 12-foot-high fence's perimeter:
The Florida cruise company leases a picturesque wooded peninsula and its five pristine beaches from the government for passengers to "cut loose" with watersports, barbecues, and shopping for trinkets at a craft market before returning on board before dusk. Safety is guaranteed by armed guards at the gate.
The decision to go ahead with the visit has divided passengers. The ships carry some food aid, and the cruise line has pledged to donate all proceeds from the visit to help stricken Haitians. But many passengers will stay aboard when they dock; one said he was "sickened".
"I just can't see myself sunning on the beach, playing in the water, eating a barbecue, and enjoying a cocktail while [in Port-au-Prince] there are tens of thousands of dead people being piled up on the streets, with the survivors stunned and looking for food and water," one passenger wrote on the Cruise Critic internet forum.
"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."
Cruise ships still find a Haitian berth
(Image: Frontal view, a Creative Commons Attribution photo from Bernt Rostad's photostream)
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