Royal Caribbean cruises to Haiti again

January 22, 1995|By Orlando Sentinel

When Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line president Richard Fain recently announced resumption of RCCL's cruises to Haiti, it was a call for celebration -- at least for RCCL passengers.

According to Mr. Fain, the cruise line's passengers consider Labadee, RCCL's private retreat on a peninsula off the north coast of Haiti, one of their favorite ports of call, and the line was eager to restart operations after a three-year hiatus. RCCL held a long-term lease, but Labadee visits were discontinued by the cruise line when Mr. Aristide was ousted in 1991.

Labadee will once again become part of the line's weeklong sailings on the 2,276-passenger Sovereign of the Seas and the 2,354-passenger Majesty of the Seas, both of which depart from Miami. It will replace Nassau and CocoCay (RCCL's other private island) on the ships' itineraries.

The line plans its first Labadee port call Jan. 23 during its Jan. 21 Sovereign of the Seas cruise.

Labadee, a resort on a 260-acre peninsula, boasts five spectacular beaches, dramatic rock formations and secluded coves. It features preserved historical sites, thatched-roof dining areas, a native-craft marketplace, an art gallery and a dive shop.

According to RCCL, passengers concerned about Haiti's political situation needn't fear. The nation was returned to democracy in October. The peninsula on which Labadee sits is separated from the rest of Haiti by a mountain range and is far removed from any cities. The isolated locale also is fenced and guarded.

Resumption of RCCL's service is expected to bring approximately 250,000 visitors to Haiti this year, with an annual economic impact of more than $10 million. In a press release, Mr. Aristide said, "I hope and expect this will be the first of many such announcements."

While it is not known if other cruise lines plan to follow suit now that Mr. Aristide is back, the release suggested that Haiti's commitment to establishing a friendly business and tourist environment greatly influenced RCCL's decision to return.

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