Cruise-line companies are building private Caribbean play zones – The Economist

Island shopping-  A trip to Haiti, with Vodou and no passport control

Island Shopping

| LABADIE – The Economist


This is Labadee, a beach run by Royal Caribbean. Its name is a riff on Labadie, the name of the typically poor Haitian village next door. Though the resort is actually on the second-largest island in the Caribbean, the cruise giant markets it as a “private destination”. And in a sense they are not entirely wrong.           

Since its inauguration in 1986, passengers who come ashore have not been subject to customs or immigration controls. Extras, such as the signature “Labadoozie” cocktail, are paid for in us dollars, never the Haitian gourde. Haitians not employed by Royal Caribbean cannot enter.

Caribbean countries striking deals with firms to open exclusive resorts (with or without customs checks) are “a growing phenomenon”, says Jim Walker, a lawyer based in Miami who deals with cruise liners. In 2015, Carnival opened the $85m Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic; this year, Royal Caribbean will open CocoCay in the Bahamas after a $250m renovation. A third of the 30m people who will cruise in 2019 will go to the Caribbean.

For cruise companies, the benefits are clear. Customers—and their money—are kept in one place. And the experience can be tailored to fit nervous travellers. Dillon Mangs, an expatriate resident of Labadie whom Royal Caribbean contracts to run shore excursions, says he tries to showcase Haiti’s culture without dampening holidaymakers’ spirits by exposing them to too much reality. One excursion is to a mock Haitian mountain village, complete with a Vodou show.

Is it a problem that cruise companies have such privileges? Some worry that the deals firms strike with governments are lopsided. To keep cruisers on side, Caribbean countries are “basically giving away parcels of land”, says Ross Klein, of the Memorial University of Newfoundland. Governments which demand too much find the ships go elsewhere.

But for the troubled Haitian government, the Royal Caribbean deal does at least generate some cash. Each passenger, of whom there are over 700,000 a year, pays the state a $12 surcharge. The company provides jobs, and has also contributed to a school. As a boy, Rodman Decius, who lives in Labadie, attended the École Nouvelle; now he works as first mate on a yacht chartered by Royal Caribbean. He is pleased with the job and does not mind clueless guests. “If they ask questions, it’s nice for me to tell them about my culture,” he says. “But it doesn’t bother me if they don’t.”■

This article appeared in the The Americas section of the print edition under the headline “Island shopping”
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  • kamtanblog  On 08/27/2019 at 4:10 am

    Nice one
    Guantanamo bay in Haiti for tourist/cruise
    Disgusting !

    Corruption by the Haitian political jackasses.
    Gated beach space reserved for “rich” tourists.
    Hope it’s a tsunami beach front !
    Surely the Haitian poo poo can be employed
    or security guards employed to keep the
    “Criminals” out !
    Poo poo armed AK47 or assault rifles is not
    way forward.
    Uniformed/undercover surveillance a much more effective option.

    Sorry this is typical of the CEOs knee jerk reaction to protect their customers.
    None of my family/friends certainly won’t be
    such a cruise on a floating hotel.

    My choice


    • Trevor  On 08/27/2019 at 5:49 pm

      A decade ago, Haiti found gold, vast amounts, just like how Guyana has found oil, vast amounts. Many thought Haitians would become like Saudi Arabia.

      Today, 10 years later, Haitians are fleeing in droves to Brazil, GF, USA, Canada, Quebec, and Europe.

      Where did the gold monies go? Ask the people from the cruise ships.

  • wally n  On 08/27/2019 at 2:02 pm

    I am sure that lots of tourist areas [better ones] in the Caribbean are gated, and you are warned “go out on your own risk”
    I have seen in Antigua and Barbados, when the passengers come off the ships, they get surrounded by all kinds of shady people, especially weed suppliers. On the beach outside Sandals in Antigua you get approached constantly.
    What is quite prominent at restaurants etc, younger generation not too happy with spending their lives in the service Industry, most have an “edge”
    I can understand the Cruise lines wanting all the money, and the Haitian politicians wanting a cut of the action.
    This can only get worse, and I am surprised the Caribbean governments were/are not prepared. BTW in Cancun the beaches are patrolled by soldiers and security services. Different world today, different.
    Promo Alert… Spent last winter in Montserrat, greatest time I had in many many years, little or no crime, nicest people [some not too fond of Guyanese] I promise you reconnect to your soul, and for some reason, great water, yes water. Ima going back for sure, before that goes away too.

    • Trevor  On 08/27/2019 at 5:54 pm

      Offshore Guyana has almost 7 billion barrels of documented oil discoveries to date. Tell me if those who are not fond of Guyanese aren’t planning trips to GEO to work for oil companies like Schoenberg, British Petroleum, Exxon 666, Tullow, etc.

  • Costa Cruceros  On 10/28/2019 at 2:24 pm

    Royal Caribbean are to develop a private resort-style destination on the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific.

    Just this week Royal Caribbean’s Chairman Richard Fain told an Australian newspaper ‘our American guests prefer a day at one of our private islands to a day at an actual port’.

    Enough said!

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