Cruise purveyor Royal Caribbean stirred up a public relations storm last week after it resumed taking vacationing tourists to its luxury Haitian beach resort, Labadee, located just 100 miles from the shocking scenes of rubble, suffering and desperation brought by the earthquake. Cruise passengers could choose to lounge on the beach under palm trees, get a massage on tables screened from view with billowing curtains or order up a fresh mai tai from the waiter while just a few hours away, desperate Haitians were scrounging to find some food or a drink of clean water. From a PR standpoint, resuming the cruises so soon seems like a violation of good taste and decency, and makes Royal Caribbean look bad. The cruise company, however, points out that while passing Haiti up might have been the more sensible decision, keeping their ships away would hurt the hundreds of Haitians who depend on cruise line passengers for their livelihood, and would keep the ships from bringing in food and relief supplies for the people who need them. Still, advertising and PR executives say the cruise line has done lasting damage to its image by resuming its luxury cruises to Haiti. Some cruise critics who defend Royal Caribbean's move are urging people to go to Haiti, get off the ship, have a subdued day, spend and tip generously, and perhaps leave some unopened bottles of water, new T shirts, food and some brand new flip flops with the Haitians.
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