Guests aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas were unable to visit the cruise line’s private destination of Labadee today due to political protests in the area.
Video posted to Facebook shows Freedom of the Seas was able to dock at Labadee, but groups of protestors staged a demonstration in small boats. This caused Freedom of the Seas’ captain to decide not to let passengers off the ship.
Dozens of chanting protesters, banging pots and cymbals, and packed onto a half dozen small vessels, greeted Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship as it docked this morning in Labadee, Haiti.
Labadee is a 260-acre peninsula – dubbed a “vacationer’s paradise” by the cruise line — along Haiti’s lush, mountainous and secluded north coast. A small beachfront resort with palm covered cabanas, the area is separated from the rest of the island, cut off by a 12-foot high fence and guarded by security forces.
Royal Caribbean, according to various cruise websites, has leased the land until 2050.
At first it appeared the vessels were approaching the docked ship as part of a rehearsed welcoming ceremony. However, when two coast guard ships arrived and began circling the vessels and encouraging them to leave the waters, it became clear this was a protest – though the specifics of the protesters complaints were not completely spelled out.
One sign, held by one of the protesters, read “USA Away!”
The Freedom of the Seas cruise ship states it carries 3600 passengers. Many were waiting near the gangplanks waiting to disembark shortly after breakfast. With the protests going on many on the ship watched from their balconies taking pictures and waiting for further instructions
After some thirty minutes’ delay the ship, a voice over the ship’s loudspeaker system announce there would be a short delay before passengers could leave the ship. The vessels continued to play cat and mouse with the coast guard vessels, slightly larger than the protesters’ boats, but all dwarfed by the docked cruise ship.
After more than two hours a voice once again came across the loudspeaker system explaining to passengers that local Haitian elections will take place in another week and that the protests they were watching were a local matter.
It seemed a number of passengers and crew members weren’t buying this explanation.
Finally, the voice stated that the cruise ship would not be disembarking today “for the safety of our passengers, which we hold to be of the utmost importance.
One veteran crewmember told me said she had been sailing into Labadee for 13 years and this was the first time she had seen such a protest.
Nestled on the northern coast of Haiti, Labadee, according to Royal Caribbean’s website, “is the ultimate private destination for cruise vacationers – and we’re the only cruise line that sails there.”
According to several cruise websites, passengers are not allowed to leave Labadee to venture out to see the rest of the island. Haiti is the poorest of the nations in the Western hemisphere and suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010, although it apparently did not affect the northern part of the island where Labadee is located.
Cruise travel websites state that only a small group of Haitian merchants are given rights to sell their merchandise and establish their businesses at the Labadee resort. Most workers are employed by Royal Caribbean and come from outside nations. Reading Original Story Here