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Welcome to Labadee! says the banner showing a pirate that looks like he stepped straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Labadee, Haiti

This place is absolutely beautiful!

Over 200 acres of land with mango and almond trees swaying in the breeze, and it is outlined with beautiful soft white sand beaches. And of course add to that the turquoise colored Caribbean Sea. The island has the feel of an unhabited manufactured paradise – but it is quite impressive.

Lots of the usual beach activities, but this island boasts the world’s largest inflatable water slide. And there’s even a Ben & Jerry’s – this is truly heaven, or is it?

Where is Labadee? It’s off the coast of Hispanola says one of the tour brochures. Hispanola is a large land mass shared by two countries – the Dominican Republic and the island of Haiti.

Labadee is actually a private island off the coast of Haiti owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. On the cruise schedule, the island is described as a “private” island, and most cruise passengers don’t know they have arrived in Haiti, the poorest country in the Caribbean.

The cruise line does not openly market Haiti, instead using the name Labadee because the U.S. government warns citizens against visiting Haiti due to violence and instability in the government. 

Labadee doesn’t have the flavor of the Caribbean, but that’s because it’s a “secret” and this island has been manicured to perfection by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. But, there is such despair in the faces of many of the Haitians who work on this island, they do not live on Labadee – that’s a place just for Royal Caribbean Cruise passengers – and day workers.  

As I spent time on the beautiful beaches of Labadee, I reflected on vacationing so very close to the poorest people in the Western hemisphere – and that left quite an impression – even to the present day as I write this posting. These thoughts are not the thoughts a vacationer likes to have, but it is the reality living in a world where wealth and poverty live side by side.

So if you take a Royal Caribbean Cruise, and one of the ports of call is a “private island“, or “mystery port of call” or a place called “Labadee“, just remember you will really be in Haiti.