Saturday, 16 January 2010

Dreadful Faux Pas by Royal Caribbean

RCI promote their Haiti resort while ignoring the earthquake for hours!

I joined the Royal Caribbean fan page on Facebook. I'm a loyal P & O cruise passenger - it's only polite when the ships dock half a mile from my house - but I've been on one RCI cruise and always enjoy hearing news of cruise ships. Wandering on to their page the other day instead of doing urgent work I came across an eloquent piece of prose about the private resort of Labadee in Northern Haiti which is visited regularly by its cruise ships.

I'm not too keen on this private "island" idea. The passengers are waited on by cruise ship staff, eat and drink supplies brought by the ship and the local people are usually corralled into a small area to sell their wares if they're lucky. Not the kind of thing that makes you feel comfortable on holiday unless you're a rich person who doesn't care about the locals and would prefer them to be kept away.

I read the comments out of curiosity to see where it was. That geography A Level will not be wasted ... I was absolutely appalled to learn - from the comments - that the earthquake had just happened. I've been chained to my tax return program and hadn't seen any news. The post by Royal Caribbean could not have been more insensitive. Now that might have been unfortunate timing but RCI left the post there for several hours - at least six I should say - while commenters got more and more angry with them.

They have a public relations department, don't they? I imagine it employs several people. If a company wants to have a Facebook page as part of its marketing it's surely incumbent upon them to monitor it. If a car insurance company can pay a marketing bod to mess around impersonating a meerkat on Facebook then RCI can surely have someone watch over their page.

They quickly got their act together as soon as someone was kicked into touch. Unfortunately their blog is called "Why Not?" and anyone reading it would have a tab on their screen proudly proclaiming "Haiti Earthquake - Why Not?" Oh dear. Could their IT bods not have set up a new blog so we don't get the frivolous title and the superfluous information that their boss has a mean table tennis serve?

Today's/Yesterday's blog post by Royal Caribbean is HERE. They have sent the Inpendence of the Seas with supplies. That's all very well but a ship can't just dock and fend for itself - unless it's there only a short while it needs to hook up to water, power etc and needs port staff available, thereby using local resources already under severe strain. Delivering supplies is no doubt the best option from a logistics and, being cynical, PR point of view. Whilst a cruise ship has plentiful accommodation and medical facilities any cruise line cancelling a week or two of passenger cruising would lose millions. Far better to run the cruises and hand over the money to relief organisations. I see RCI have pledged $1 million. So far.

There's another piece in that blog post that bothers me. It seems Royal Caribbean passengers are now whingeing about security when they visit the private island.

"I’ve been reading some of the responses on the blog and one common concern I noticed from our readers is the subject of security. Throughout the 30 years that we have been working with Haiti, safety and security of our guest has always been our top priority. As any resort area would have, we do have a dedicated security team that protects the integrity of the site.

In addition, we approach security in Labadee by developing strong relationships with the local communities in which we live and work. We put these words into action by sponsoring schools; constructing water projects, bridges, docks, community centers; and supporting continued development efforts within the region. We do these things not just to ensure security, but also because it is the right thing to do for our neighbors and the people of Haiti.

We also create employment and financial opportunities for businesses who supply us with some of the goods and services that we need to operate on a daily basis. Labadee employs 240 full-time people and indirectly impacts another 300 through the straw market, hair braiding, and other companies that supply goods and services to the site.
"

I'd believe the last paragraph if I ever saw it in action. I find the first paragraph somewhat disturbing. What does it mean exactly? Do they propose to shoot the starving and homeless to protect the wealthy? I'm imagining a future RCI blog post - "The End of Days brought to you by Royal Caribbean - Why Not?"

I've commented in this vein on the RCI Facebook wall. Now that someone IS in charge of monitoring it it will no doubt be deleted. That's if they can find it amongst the sycophantic "We love you" posts from those more concerned with enjoying their cruises than helping the people of Haiti.

UK readers: Please go to www.dec.org.uk to make a donation to the relief effort.

The DEC Facebook Page is HERE

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