Cruise with a Purpose: Report from Labadee, Haiti

When Karyn Altman, our VP of Business Development, booked a cruise on Celebrity Solstice for a well-deserved vacation, she had no idea she would be part of a humanitarian voyage to an  earthquake-ravaged country. Here is Karyn’s first-hand report from Labadee, along with her compelling photos of relief supplies bound for Haiti.

Report from Haiti by Karyn Altman, Seasite VP of Business Development:

Water for Haiti Relief

This is one of three photos of water and other humanitarian supplies being delivered on Celebrity Solstice to help with relief efforts in Haiti.

It is so surreal to watch the devastation on CNN from the comfort of my stateroom and then to arrive at this beautiful beach playground on the other side of the very same country. Before we docked at Labadee, I was happy to receive the special notice from Celebrity Cruise Line that 100% of all net revenue from the port would be donated to the relief efforts. Also, the cruise line made it very easy for passengers to donate directly to the Food for the Poor’s Haiti Relief Fund via a charge to their onboard accounts.  That helped tremendously, in spite of the bittersweet experience.

I wandered through the crafts market knowing just how much our dollars mean now to those who are working and living here on Labadee. As I compared two hand crafted bowls, a young man asked if he could help. I looked into his eyes for a minute and asked where he was from (knowing of course that chances were it was Port a Prince) which it was. I took a breath and asked quietly ” and your family?”
“All are dead ” he responded. It was difficult to hold back the tears.

One lady asked the shopkeeper if she could pay with a credit card.
“No, I’m sorry” said the lady behind the counter surrounded by hand woven bags and painted souvenir shirts that say I was in Haiti.  “We cannot take your credit card because we have no banks.”

Overall, it was very gratifying to see how many passengers were returning to the ship with their arms filled with purchases and shopping bags from the local vendors and artisans. I was also happy that most people appeared to be tipping generously when the local staff graciously helped with beach chairs and offered assistance with directions. Although the total amount of our contributions and purchases are a small drop in the bucket needed to help this devastated country, every drop counts and we could see that our being there did in fact, make a difference.

Yesterday I returned home and unfolded the beautiful painting I had purchased on Labadee, and held it up on the wall of my bedroom. I knew that the memory of that bittersweet day and the warm, grateful smile on the face of the artist when I agreed to the purchase, would remain with me forever.

6 Responses to “Cruise with a Purpose: Report from Labadee, Haiti”

  1. Karyn…thank you for sharing your experience. While I can only vaguely imagine what the Haitian people are experiencing or the challenges that they will continue to face, it is good to know that help & supplies continue to arrive and that a genuine kindness of others still exists . What a remarkable journey – I bet the painting is beautiful and will prove to be a gentle reminder of your “vacation” for years to come. Big Hugs!

  2. Wonderful article Karyn . I’m sure this is an experience that will remain with you forever . I’m glad to have been a small part of it.

  3. I was on the Solstice as well for the January 22nd stop in Labadee. I watched the U.N. Trucks leave with supplies. I spent a few hours on Labadee in a low key manner. I have read the media’s version of my trip in which they labeled me as being “well-off” and “gluttonous”. Accoding to them we should have stayed away from Haiti and not delivered all the aid they so desperately needed, not to mention the personal donations and the proceeds from the shore excursions. Apparently they think that being 100 miles from a disaster or 12,500 miles makes some sort of difference.

    I disagree. The Haitian government wanted us there to keep the tourist dollars flowing, the media would prefer that they stopped along with any visits.

  4. Thank you for sharing your first hand view point of this very important port of call and for shedding a positive light on what it means for the ships to continue to stop here and support Haiti!

  5. Thanks for the article. It doesn’t matter how “far away” you are from a disaster. I’m glad to see the cruise lines going there. I’m sure every bit helps. I know many people that are there now helping out. Not everyone can go and help, so by donating money you are still helping. I personally can’t go right now, but would love to be on a plane right going to Haiti to help.

  6. Karen, Nice article! You must have felt good being there to help out. Thanks for sharing the experience