Will Cruise Ships Avoid Haiti Due to State of Emergency?

Cruise guests are understandably concerned about port visits in Haiti following a massive prison break. How are cruise lines adjusting?

The government of Haiti declared a national state of emergency on Sunday, March 3, 2024 after a massive prison break involving thousands of inmates who are now escaped.

The tense situation has cruise travelers concerned about whether or not itineraries that include Haiti might be altered, but no cruise line has yet confirmed adjustments to remove ports of call in Haiti or in the Dominican Republic, as the two nations share the island of Hispaniola.

Escalating Crime and Prison Break in Haiti

Crime and violence has been on the rise in Haiti for some time, along with increased gang activity. This culminated in a massive prison break on Saturday, March 2, 2024 when gangs descended on two prisons – the National Penitentiary in Port-Au-Prince as well as a nearby jail facility in Croix des Bouquet.

In total, anywhere from 3,500-4,000 prisoners or more are believed to have escaped, though exact numbers are not able to be verified, due to the lawlessness of the situation. Among the escaped prisoners are murderers, kidnappers, and other types of violent criminals.

In July 2023, the US Department of State elevated the travel advisory level for Haiti to Level 4: Do Not Travel – the highest warning level available. Violent crime, kidnapping, and civil unrest were all cited as reasoning for the advisory. Following the prison break, US citizens in Haiti were advised to depart the country as soon as possible.

What About Cruises to Haiti?

Only one cruise destination is found in Haiti – Labadee, a private destination for Royal Caribbean International. Labadee is on the nation’s northern coast, roughly 125 miles (200 kilometers) from Port-Au-Prince.

Read Also: Labadee, Haiti – What You Need to Know

Labadee is not a private island, but rather a private development on the mainland. While it surrounded by fencing and security, it would not be impossible for the destination to have trouble with criminals. At this time, however, there are no confirmed reports that any gang-related violence is moving toward the cruise destination, or that travelers are at elevated risk in visiting Labadee.

Allure of the Seas in Labadee
Allure of the Seas in Labadee (Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock)

At the moment, there have been no itinerary changes for ships scheduled to call on Labadee, though such changes may always be made as last-minute decisions en route as the most current situation is assessed.

In the next few days, several Royal Caribbean ships are scheduled for calls on Labadee, including Independence of the Seas (March 9), Adventure of the Seas (March 12), Liberty of the Seas (March 13), Oasis of the Seas (March 14), and Symphony of the Seas (March 15). Additional ships have calls scheduled throughout the month, and vessels visit the private port throughout the year.

It is possible that Royal Caribbean may adjust some itineraries for ships to visit CocoCay in The Bahamas in lieu of Labadee, but such decisions would depend on each ship’s itinerary and what the individual port schedules may be.

The Dominican Republic Is Nearby

Because Haiti and the Dominican Republic are both on the island of Hispaniola, cruise travelers visiting popular Dominican Republic ports are also showing concern about the rising violence in the adjacent nation.

It should be noted, however, that the top cruise ports in the Dominican Republic – Amber Cove and Puerto Plata – are 215-310 miles (350-500 kilometers) from Port-Au-Prince, depending on the route traveled.

A variety of ships from different cruise lines call on the ports in the Dominican Republic, including Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean International, and more.

Dominican Republic Cruise
Dominican Republic Cruise (Photo Courtesy: Dominican Port Authority)

At the moment, no cruise line has adjusted itineraries for the Dominican Republic due to the violence in Haiti. Cruise travelers with sailings to any of the ports on Hispaniola will want to stay in close contact with their cruise line to be immediately updated should there be any itinerary modifications.

All cruise lines do reserve the right to change or cancel port visits for any reason, including war, hostilities, national emergencies, and general safety.

For example, many cruise lines dropped visits to Russia when tensions with Ukraine escalated in early 2022, and likewise, ceased calls to Israel following the violence in October 2023.

Currently, the situation in the Red Sea is causing many cruises to be adjusted – including Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise aboard Serenade of the Seas.

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