One of the first places we cruised to in the early 1970‘s was Haiti. It was a beautiful, but desperately poor country then and is far more desperately poor now. Even then it was surprising how much better life was on the other half of the island of Hispaniola that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic. Certainly Haiti has had some bad luck at times; the recent earthquake is the most dramatic example of this, but our country has sent bazillions in aid over the last forty years and indulged in our favorite military maneuvers in an effort to improve things, but Haiti was worse off than ever, even before the earthquake. There’s something to be said for having competent government, Haiti’s greatest tragedy of all. This little travel blog is no place to get into politics, but it’s hard not to think about these issues when you pull up to this impoverished spot in a luxurious cruise ship.
Royal Caribbean has leased a small spit of land called Labadee for the last twenty years as a beach stop for its ships. It’s a perfect location with proctected coves covered with powdery sand. Over the years many improvements have been made to the area - open air restaurants for us to have lunch, buildings for tour personnel to organize and equip various adventure experiences, and zip lines and roller coasters for just plain fun. Many local vendors and artisans come to sell us their wares and their buildings and facilities have improved and grown as well. Recently a dock has been built which allows a ship even the size of the Allure to tie up; no more tendering on life boats here. It is clear that our presence brings money to this north coast community every week and gives people jobs. However, it appears that this good news is confined to this small spot. I would imagine that top personnel at Royal Caribbean discuss whether they should do more, but thus far they have concentrated on making this beach stop a great one for the passengers. After the earthquake they were criticized for coming here at all. But it’s not clear that leaving would have done anyone any good.
During our time here today we went snorkeling to an area called Coral Gardens, just a short boat ride away. The coral formations were impressive and the reef was larger than we could explore in the allotted time, but the fish were small and hard to spot at times. Their excellent camouflage made finding them even more of a challenge. Considering how many cruisers have come here every week for the last twenty years, the area was in great shape and the water was warm and clear.
After a great lunch that included grilled lobster tails, we wandered around listening to local musicians, watching colorful dancers, and admiring local handicrafts. The vendors hovered around us like a flock of pigeons, encouraging us to stop and buy, but there was nothing tempting. Too bad...
On our last cruise on the Crown Princess, we were blown away by the Captain’s Table, an eating extravaganza that had the chef and many of his assistants waiting on us hand and foot and serving us one toothsome delicacy after another. As soon as we got on board, we sign up for the same experience here, but it wasn’t the same experience at all. Instead is was a very nice meal. Between each course the waiter described the wine for the course and a chef described what he was preparing, but we never got to see him work as we did on Princess. The courses did not have choices, which meant that one guest who was allergic to shell fish had to ask for a special substitution. Three soups were served in little demitasse cups without spoons, which meant I left the lobster on the bottom of the lobster bisque. Never waste a piece of lobster! Moral of the story - not all Captain’s Tables are created the same.
After dinner we raced outside to see the Aqua Show, another show with no real plot, but great special effects and feats of athleticism. Divers dropped down what looked like four or five stories to a minuscule swimming pool that changed depths throughout the show. People did elaborate body-taxing routines on trapezes as well as on the edge of the pool. I’m sure there was more, but after five wine filled courses, that’s all I remember. Fortunately, we’ll be able to enjoy this show again next week with clearer minds.