The interactive TV monitors in the onboard cabins show the ship moving across the ocean to an Island clearly marked Haiti. But, the Royal Caribbean's website mystifies the bay as a "private," and "secret" destination. When it is labeled, they call it "Labadee, Hispaniola," in reference to the name given to the island by Christopher Columbus, who, incidentally, thought he was in China when he dropped anchor here in 1492.
The cruise line doesn't go out of its way to clear up any confusion about the actual location of its private beach.
"We make no pretense of where we are," says David Southby, Royal Caribbean's site manager for Labadee. "The real question is 'Where is Haiti?' - and 'What is Haiti?' If you are honest, even if you tell them, most passengers don't know where they are, usually."
And, referring to the island as Hispaniola and not Haiti, is merely a marketing tool, wrote Craig Milan, a senior vice president at Royal Caribbean, in an email exchange.
"It's much like we refer to our port in Bayonne, N.J., as Cape Liberty Cruise Port," he says. "We were getting the same response about not calling that port 'Bayonne Cruise Port.' "
"I used to be mad about the cruise line trying to mask the identity of Haiti," says Jean Cyril Pressoir, author of the "Guides Panorama, Haiti" tour books. "But now, I understand: We have an image problem and this is a way to get people to give the country a chance. Fair enough. We really need the tourists."
Since 1986, the Royal Caribbean line has provided the largest source of tourism revenue to Haiti. The cruise company pays the Haitian government $6 per passenger and employs about 300 locals, including security guards, beach monitors, waiters, cleaners, as well as some managers. Approximately 200 more locals find work here selling their wares, often at inflated prices, at the market stalls, or by providing entertainment.