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Labadee, Haiti: Royal Caribbean's Private Caribbean Island

The first stop on our fifth anniversary cruise, Labadee, Haiti, didn't begin with a lot of promise.

After a medical emergency with one of the fellow passengers caused us to return to Cape Canaveral several hours after we'd set sail. Because of that, the captain had to make up 10 hours of lost sailing time during our first day at sea. Since we were so behind on our schedule, we'd been told that we were losing all but 5 hours on Labadee.

Labadee, Haiti: Royal Caribbean's Private Caribbean Island | CosmosMariners.com


And on top of that, we'd heard from a few people back home (and from a bunch of internet reviews) that Labadee was dirty and not even worth getting off the boat to see.

Labadee, Haiti: Royal Caribbean's Private Caribbean Island | CosmosMariners.com


Since we didn't have any shore excursions, we debated about whether we were even going to wander around on the island.

After shaking off the lazy, we headed down into Labadee. And I'm so glad that we did.

Labadee, Haiti: Royal Caribbean's Private Caribbean Island | CosmosMariners.com


Once we'd made it past the front gate, we meandered along the path nearest the coast while several local steel drum bands brought the sounds of the tropics to us.

Labadee, Haiti: Royal Caribbean's Private Caribbean Island | CosmosMariners.com


About halfway to the main beach area, we heard a young man with a megaphone talking about a cultural show. My ears perked up immediately, and our trajectory changed so we could locate the ampitheatre.

Once we found it, a very friendly young Haitian led us around to the back of the ampitheatre where there were some picnic tables in the shade. Landon almost immediately left again to find something to drink since it was so warm out there. I made friends with two women from Iowa who were also waiting for the show to start.

After 15 minutes, Landon finally showed back up--he'd found something to drink, but he'd learned the hard way that the Haitian vendors were very aggressive. A vendor led him to the drinks area, but then pressured him into purchasing two bracelets for his services. (I absolutely adore the bracelets, so the hard sell tactics ended up being worth the hassle.)

Just after he came back to the ampitheatre, the show started. It was a pretty casual affair with a live band (mostly trumpets with a drummer and a singer), a dance troupe, and a few gymnasts. Even though there was a fairly small audience (20 people or so), the MC was quite lively and kept all of us excited about each act.

Labadee, Haiti: Royal Caribbean's Private Caribbean Island | CosmosMariners.com


It was so fun to see the cultural dances performed by the dance troupe--their colorful costumes and enthusiastic attitude for their art was contagious, and the audience was clapping along in no time.

After the dance troupe had their time on stage, three gymnasts came up. They were awesome! Unlike an American performance, they didn't have any floor pads or safety equipment, but that didn't stop them from bouncing all over the place. Their accuracy and flexibility made me feel completely lazy for sitting back and watching them.

Labadee, Haiti: Royal Caribbean's Private Caribbean Island | CosmosMariners.com


For the rest of the time on the island, we grabbed lunch at the Royal Caribbean buffet area, then hung out by the beach for a while.

Labadee, Haiti: Royal Caribbean's Private Caribbean Island | CosmosMariners.com


We loved the fact that the ship was docked onsite so we didn't have to wait for a tender boat when we were ready to head back in for the day.

Labadee, Haiti: Royal Caribbean's Private Caribbean Island | CosmosMariners.com

We might have only had a few hours on the island, but I'm so glad that we decided to experience Labadee for ourselves and not listen to the naysayers! It just goes to show that travel--and each destination--is an incredibly personal experience. Always try things out for yourself!

Labadee, Haiti: Royal Caribbean's Private Caribbean Island | CosmosMariners.com


Know before you go:

  • Be prepared to haggle if you decide to purchase from the local vendors or artists. Of all of our stops, the Haitian vendors were the most aggressive and really pushed for a sell. Be firm, know your final price, and be prepared to walk away if they don't bargain with you. 
  • If you attend the cultural show, it is free. However, they will pass around a box for tips after both the dance routines and the gymnastics routine. If you enjoyed both acts, divide your money and give both times. 
  • There are lots of activities to do on Labadee, but most (in my opinion) are seriously overpriced. There's a really long zipline for $100 per person, and a rollercoaster for $30 per person per ride. You can also take your kids on a bouncy inflatable area. From others we talked to on the boat, the rollercoaster and the bouncy area weren't worth the money. We heard that the zipline was great, but I'm far too cheap to pay that much money for 25 seconds on a ride. Hang out by the beach, listen to the bands, and go to the cultural show for an inexpensive way to experience Labadee.
Have you been to Labadee? What's been your favorite port of call on the cruises you've experienced?
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