On Friday, for the first time since October, Richard Fain and I visited Labadee. We had three goals for the trip. One, to meet our local management team and express our support for our people and their country. Two, for Richard to pursue the concept of building a school to serve the surrounding area. Three, for me to visit the Citadelle and understand what needs to be done to enable our guests to visit it when the ships call at Labadee. Joining us throughout the day were Minister of Tourism Patrick Delatour and one of President Clinton’s top advisers in Haiti, plus Craig Milan, John Weis and Maryse Kedar.
The site looked great and was in full stride with Independence of the Seas at the beautiful new pier.
I’ve been talking about the Citadelle for a long time so it made sense to actually go and see it for myself. It’s extraordinary. It is the largest fort in all of the Americas and it sits on top of a 3,000 foot mountain. How people in the early 1800’s got the rocks and munitions up that big hill is mind boggling. It was great getting the tour from the Minister of Tourism. Apart from his position in government, Minister Delatour is a historian/architect who has been personally involved in the restoration of the Citadelle since 1972. He explained, for example, that the cannons with Latin inscriptions are French, whereas the cannons with French inscriptions are British. Go figure. Each cannon has its own story. Many are still on their wooden mounts that allow the cannon to swivel and aim from various angles, waiting silently for the French invasion that will never come. The 360 degree view is phenomenal.
The tour to the Citadelle would be an all day affair with a lot of travel logistics. The decision to take the tour would be a decision to forego the normal Labadee experience. Whenever this tour gets going it will be in the category of adventure tour with a relatively high (> $100 per person) price point. The site needs to be enhanced from a safety standpoint before we could consider bringing our guests there. With the right funding from international donors and a concentrated effort to get the site ready, it could be ready within a few months. But until work actually begins, there is no way to project when this will happen. We are determined that it will eventually happen.
Back in South Florida, we corrected an oversight from the Oasis of the Seas naming by bringing back godmother Dara Torres, this time accompanied by her lovely four year old daughter. Although Dara is of a different social media species than I am – she constantly tweets, I occasionally blog – a good time was had by all. Her daughter liked the H2O zone the best but was also excited to see her mommy’s picture by Guest Relations.