Friday, January 22, 2010

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) and Haiti: Insensitive or Sensible?

Many people have been criticizing Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) on blogs and Facebook based on this Guardian story. The story references a Royal Caribbean ship that docked on a Haitian beach during the post-earthquake crisis in Haiti. The outrage comes from the allegation that people who are enjoying themselves next door to such a large humanitarian crises are callous and inhuman. The outrage may be misplaced.

People criticizing Royal Caribbean and the passengers who docked in Haiti might should read the Guardian's article more carefully: "100% of the proceeds from the call at Labadee [will] be donated to the relief effort." From an objective standpoint, more donations to help the Haitans are a good thing, right? A friend of mine summed it up this way:

The cruise ship is in business to provide vacations for its clientele. It is what they do. They're not in the business of giving up their source of income to provide help...It is best for people to focus on what they're good at doing and for businesses to do what they're good at doing. Asking businesses to lose money to provide aid isn't reasonable.

Another friend of mine disagreed:

If that [humanitarian work, charity] is not what they do, then why bother dissembling? I say they port in Haiti and keep the profits!

The rebuttal:

Now that's just wrong. Its either your way or the highway? They give $1 and you want $100, so you tell them to keep their dollar? Is that productive? I say if you want to help, regardless of what it is, it is appreciated, and [most] people are grateful.

At this point, another person jumped in:

If I saw a guy selling shirts on 9/12 that said "Glad to not live in New York," and he said proceeds go to 9/11 victims, I'd still punch 'em in the face. There are just better ways to lend support without being insensitive too.

His comment seems to have energized others into participating:

People in Haiti depend on those tourism dollars. I think it would make things worse to not stop at that port. One day of not bringing tourists into the craft market at that port could mean no food for a family for a week for all we know.

Another person asked about what the more fortunate Haitians were doing to help each other:

This is an excellent reminder that the earthquake did not devastate all of Haiti (let alone Hispaniola) and that for some part of Haiti it's possible to conduct business as usual and return to one's home at the end of the day. What are these Haitians doing for their fellow citizens?

Personally, I felt that the people criticizing Royal Caribbean were being hypocritical. After all, we tend to forget that suffering happens 24-7, even when it's not televised:

Most Americans don't make any sacrifices to help the poor 340 days out of the year. Only when the telly shows a bunch of poor people getting really hurt do most Americans, God bless them, pay millions of dollars to help.

365 days out of the year, the majority of the world is suffering, and most Americans go about their daily business. When a child dies from starvation in Somalia, Americans go to Disneyland. When an American drone kills Afghan civilians, we go to the supermarket and choose from 50 different cereals. As malaria kills thousands of people every day, who are the main persons who help blunt this tragedy? Rich Americans like Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, who have done more to help the poor than any of us will.

My point? People suffer every single day, and the way to help them isn't to cause Americans to become more poor or to have less fun. If we truly want to help the poor, as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and the founders of Kiva have done, the goal should be to help Americans get rich so we have the money to help others. Only the strong can help the weak, in my humble opinion.

I've never been on a cruise, but hats off to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. for donating "100% of the proceeds from the call" at Labadee, Haiti to the relief effort. If I do have time to go on a cruise, I will remember RCL's generosity and give them special consideration when choosing among potential cruise ships.

1 comment:

Slovebunny said...

So I was on a cruise when this earthquake happened.
Steve and I gave our own charity to our bartenders, waiters and stewards they work 70 hours a week to make sure we're all fat & happy!
One of our bartenders happen to be Haitian and we ended up giving him a $40 tip when the trip was ending. I'm not saying $40 isn't a lot but in the grand scheme of things $40 is not that much to my husband and me (dinner out), but to this man who was about to take emergency leave once we got to port of miami to try and get to his family it means ALOT!
So I think most people try and help in their own way, or at least I hope they would.