The Haitis of Mitch Albom & Royal Caribbean

LABADEE, Haiti — One of our heroes is a man named Mitch Albom, a Detroit sportswriter-columnist-novelist-screenwriter of immense talent who for the last four years has taken a personal interest in this Caribbean island devastated by an earthquake that killed 150,000 people and left three million homeless.

Albom has made it his cause to help rebuild parts of Port-au-Prince, specifically orphanages, and he has done it not just with his heart and his fund-raising, but with his hands.

This Royal Caribbean enclave called Labadee is probably as far from "the real Haiti" as Labadee-welcomeyou can get, in every way imaginable. It is the playground of the cruise line's passengers, some of whom spend $100 for less than a minute of zip-lining on Haitian Labadee-ziplineshores on what is reportedly the longest zip-line over water in the world — a 14-second training run on land prepares you for 44 seconds over beach waters — and all of whom can disembark from Allure of the Seas (among other company ships that stop here) and sit in comfortable beach chairs watching the zip-liners go by.Labadee-beach

Passengers in Labadee can be Royal-ly entertained on spotless shores without being harassed by local vendors at every step, and most of the amenities from the ship (bars, restaurants, spas and shops) go with them.

Yet Labadee, like Albom, helps deprived Haitians. Many from this poor country — like Labadee-musiciansthese musicians on the beaches and the dancers on the dock — work at Labadee. The cruise line made an enormous financial donation to the nation after the quake. Cruise Labadee-dancerspassengers regularly spend money on the shores that helps raise the standard of poverty.

It's not digging holes to install plumbing like Mitch Albom does, his fingers lifting a shovel instead of punching out prose, but not everybody can do what this talented, thoughtful man can do…in more ways than one. In most cases, this is the only Haiti these cruisers will ever see.

And because they do, Labadee still makes a contribution Haitians wouldn't have if it didn't exist.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Royal Caribbean and Asia

Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas
14 nights
August 31, 2014
LondonParisPortlandCork, ReykjavikBoston
Inside: $937
Cost per day: $66
www.royalcaribbean.com

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