Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Labadee, Haiti

It is no secret that some cruise lines actually own islands in the Caribbean. Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic has been visited by ships from the Celebrity and Costa lines, and Royal Caribbean has owned Coco Cay in the Berry Islands section of the Bahamas for years now.

Probably the most notable of these private resorts is the peninsula of Labadee, located in the nation of Haiti, on the island of Hispaniola.



Labadee has been under Royal Caribbean ownership for over twenty years now, and this should not change anytime soon. Labadee has actually contributed the most tourist revenue to the Haitian government since its inception as a Caribbean resort. It employs hundreds of locals, while hundreds more are allowed onto the property as vendors for their own goods.

Labadee
The wall of for-sale art near the market
(taken from webshots.com)


Many of Royal Caribbean's ships will visit this port, especially the larger ships. This is, for now, the only way to visit the resort. It is treated like most other ports of call in that the ship will arrive in the morning and will leave late in the afternoon or early in the evening.

At the time of writing, cruisers must tender in to the resort by boat. However, it has been reported that a brand new pier, complete with a dock, will be completed in late 2009. The dock will be large enough to service Royal Caribbean's new Oasis of the Seas ship, meaning that it will be plenty long.

Once in the resort, there really are a plethora of activities to take part in. An 'authentic' Haitian flea market, which will undoubtedly be one of the most frightening experiences of your life if you are are not physically and mentally prepared for it, is one of the main draws, with locals selling many handcrafted goods--the prices of which may change from one second to the next, depending on your bartering spirit.

A zip line--billed as the longest zip line over water in the world--is one of the main draws. If you've ever actually wanted to set foot in a non-private part of Haiti, know that the path to this attraction (you'll be in a truck/van/jeep/some sort of transportation) actually extends outside the boundaries of Labadee. As such, many large guns will be witnessed; every guard has them. The zip line must be booked through Royal Caribbean, and note that it is weather permitting--strong winds are a no-no.

zip line tower in labadee
See that big old structure atop the hill? You'll be starting from up there. Trust me,
it's really not that bad... I don't think anyone's actually died yet. Just don't mess
with the guards and their large guns.
(webshots.com)

For the less-daring vacationer, Labadee has multiple beaches for one to lie upon, as well as some prime snorkeling areas. Another popular point of interest is Dragon's Breath Point, at the end of the zip line. The formation of rocks not only happens to have a formation similar to the head of a dragon, but this as well:

Get it? It's like the dragon is breathing! Ohohoho. Actually, this is pretty cool.

A buffet lunch is provided free of charge for all visitors, which is of course one of the best parts of the day. Granted, the food may not be strikingly different from what one would receive for lunch on the ship (with a few exceptions), but it's the thought that counts.

The peninsula is gorgeous; there is a multitude of photo opportunities. Ruins of buildings from the last inhabitants (it is assumed, unless Royal Caribbean just planted them there) are also visible along some decent walking trails (one of which you WILL need some type of shoe for. You've been warned.).

As mentioned earlier, the only way to visit this pleasant escape is by Royal Caribbean. But all and all, it is a very nice place; a great way to unwind and to get off the ship without having to worry about taxis and island tours.

Labadee 3
(webshots.com)

2 comments:

  1. I have a couple of comments regarding your post:

    1. Why did you say that the flea market will be "one of the most frightening experiences of your life" without going into detail? How is the Haitian flea market so scary compared to any other Latin American and Caribbean flea market where people are overly eager to sell their wares and have to deal with Americans always coming in, gawking, but never purchasing anything?

    Secondly, you make it seem as if Labadee is exclusively the territorial property of Royal Caribbean. Whereas I am myself a bit hazy on the specifics of the land rights, Labadee is accessible by Haitians as well. We have to pay, which is a bit BS, but I have visited Labadee with my family and friends while I was staying in Cap-Haitian, and not through a cruise ship.

    I understand that being politically nuanced in your reviews is not necessarily your main objective, but it would have been nice for you to be a bit more sensitive or even critical of the fact that Royal Caribbean exploits Haitians to a certain extent by confining them to said frightening flea market and hair braiding. Meanwhile, are you eating Haitian food as part of the buffet? Are you interacting with the locals? Did you visit any town or were you offered any tours of the nearby city of Labadee? Just a few questions.

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  2. Hey, misticgoddess,

    Thanks for the comment, and I apologize for being unable to get back to you until just now. (How convenient it would be if I was informed that folks were commenting on this! If there's an option for that to occur, I've yet to discover it.)

    Here's the deal--to be wholly honest, I'm only doing this based on my own experiences and what I would like others to know. So am I going to be "politically nuanced"? Of course not. Moreover, this was the first time I even heard of Haitians being "exploited" by RC in Labadee. For goodness sakes, I've just been there three times with my family. I didn't know anything of it, nor would I want to think about it while I was there. If you want to, more power to you. All I did all three times was have a fun family vacation with my parents and my two siblings. This is not the sort of thing I am going to think about, and if it makes me a bad person in anyone's eyes, I think I can handle that.

    I considered the flea market rather frightening for me because the locals inside were definitely up in your face trying to get you to buy their things. Some people enjoy this, but I'm the kind of person that can get incredibly overwhelmed by these types of situations. That's just a part of who I am, and I don't necessarily like it. Perhaps I should have gone into more detail. But maybe this way, people can find out for themselves. I certainly don't want to scare anyone away from trying it--some people enjoy that! I was just giving fair warning! :] And I've been to other similar flea markets, and none were this overwhelming. I also cannot say that I've been in a lot, though!

    Thanks for your comment. I think it's rather clear that you do not believe I did my best on it. I will try harder in the future, but under no circumstances am I going to be blogging about exploitation of locals or anything somewhat along those lines--you know, a negative aspect of where one is visiting. I'm staying out of that. More power to anyone else who wants to try to expose larger corporations for that sort of thing if they feel they need to. I'm just here to blog about some places in the Caribbean that I found entertaining. Nothing more.

    As for the inconsistencies in factual information, I will DEFINITELY try to get that right next time. Thanks for pointing that out!

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