Labadee, Haiti – More than Meets the Eye
Labadee is a port on the northern coast of Haiti which is leased to Royal Caribbean until 2050. I wasn’t really sure if I would like this stop on our Caribbean cruise, since the thought of a port built by Royal Caribbean sounds extremely commercialized.
While the port is definitely geared towards selling tours and souvenirs, there is much more to Labadee than meets the eye.
My initial reaction to a huge cruise ship company leasing a portion of an untouched paradise is to automatically assume the worst, but it’s important to see the bigger picture and learn how it can actually improve the lives of some of the locals.
According to Wikipedia, “Royal Caribbean International has contributed the largest proportion of tourist revenue to Haiti since 1986, employing 300 locals, allowing another 200 to sell their wares, and paying the Haitian government US$6 per tourist.”
Not only that, after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Royal Caribbean donated $1 million to fund relief efforts and to use cruise ships to ferry relief supplies and personnel.
In Haiti, going to school isn’t a birthright. Parents must pay up-front for their children to attend school and it’s not cheap. The boat captain who led our shore excursion in Labadee was extremely grateful to have a job so he could send his children to school that year. Free education for children is something we often take for granted and it surprised all of us to learn this unfortunate fact about the education system in Haiti.
For those of you who are interested, I found a great cause called the Haiti Education Foundation, where you can donate to help put a child through school.
Labadee grew on me, that’s for sure. During our visit, we found one of the best things to do in Labadee, Haiti.
Your Own Private Beach
While most of our fellow cruise ship passengers chose to lounge on the crowded beach just steps away from the dock or zipped through the air on the Dragon’s Breath Zipline (the longest zipline over water), we found a little piece of heaven.
My dad, an extremely generous guy, looked into booking a catamaran for all 14 of us to float away to the privately owned beach of Malfini, just a 20 minute boat ride away from the main beach.
They limit this private beach to 25 people, so we almost had it all to ourselves. When we ask the kids which stop was their favorite, they all unanimously say Haiti because it felt like one of those once in a lifetime moments.
The beach is set up with comfortable chairs in the shade, plenty of rafts for lounging in the water, cheap beer and fresh (straight from the tree) coconut water for the kids. Needless to say, none of us wanted to leave when the boat came back for us three hours later.