Royal Caribbean's PR debacle.

One of the most surprising things about the Royal Caribbean cruise visit to Labadee is that company officials apparently spent a long time thinking about it, according to Advertising Age.

'This is a massive debacle and shows absolutely horrible judgment,' said a high-ranking PR executive at a global firm that has worked with travel and leisure companies in the past. 'Even if they are donating one million dollars, you can't have pictures of people sunbathing and cruising. Their judgment just boggles the mind. Royal Caribbean should have used the ship as a floating hospital or a temporary housing unit for those who lost homes.'

Mr. (Paul) Gallagher said combining the commerce and humanitarian relief stories is a recipe for disaster. 'This happened way too soon,' Mr. Gallagher said. 'The marines are still coming in, and the relief effort is just getting its footing. If the ship came in with humanitarian efforts, that would have made such a strong statement. But to combine the commerce and relief is a bad decision, and people are responding quite strongly to that.'

Some of the commenters here disagreed with that assessment earlier, but there's no doubt that if Royal Caribbean wanted to help there are loads of other things it could have done with its big boat and functioning dock. It's nice that they've donated so much money, but what Haiti had the hardest time doing in the immediate aftermath was getting people to help in and getting the people who needed to leave out. A boat might have helped with that. Haitians needed supplies and fuel, and Royal Caribbean has said it took some, but it could have taken more without worrying about being an entertaining cruise ship.

Moreover, many who've been to Labadee are suspicious of the company's claims that it employs, and therefore helps, local Haitians. And don't forget, it's walled off from the rest of the island. So while donating the proceeds to Haiti is helpful, relatively wealthy cruise-goers frolicking on an island paradise while they're blocked off from watching one of the world's poorest nations fall apart serves as a visual symbol of what's been one of Haiti's biggest problems; companies and countries will give Haiti money, so long as they don't really have to engage with it.

-- Monica Potts

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