Royal Caribbean still helping Haiti- a year later

Royal Caribbean HaitiA year ago Royal Caribbean International came under close scrutiny as the line planned to visit their private destination of Labadee, Haiti shortly after a devastating earthquake rocked the island. I was on board Freedom of the Seas last January when critics said it was in bad taste for the line to have cruise passengers go ashore for fun and sun while so many were suffering on different parts of the island nation. A year later, not a lot is better in Haiti and Royal Caribbean continues to call.

“Please go back to the ship and tell everyone to come ashore, we need them” I was told by local resident and Royal Caribbean island crew member “Franclin” at the time.

His plea was in response to a lower than normal number of passengers getting off ships calling at the island, a move that was hurting them financially as natives tried to sell hand-crafted items.

At the time, Royal Caribbean was scorned by some for visiting the island even though they were delivering much-needed relief supplies including much-needed basics like water at a time when ports elsewhere were damaged and unusable.

The effort continues today, a year later, as the cruise line continues to call at Labadee.

Humanitarian Relief to Haiti is an ongoing effort at Royal Caribbean. Highlighted by opening one fo the first schools to be built after the earthquake in October 2010 and company blogs that helped keep the world informed, relief efforts started just three days after the earthquake. The efforts continue too as company lets those with Royal Caribbean Visa cards help by donating their points to help in aide programs. Guests aboard sister-lines Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises can donate to Food for the Poor’s Haiti Relief Fund via their onboard charge accounts while sailing.

Noted by AOL Travel as one of 2010’s Worst Natural Disasters, the question remains:

“Well, it can only get better there in 2011, right? Right??”

Royal Caribbean has made much more than a “show” of support as they continue efforts long after the TV cameras and journalists have moved on.

Photos: Whitney Owen

12 historic sites in danger of disappearing

The Global Heritage Fund has released a new report that lists 200 World Heritage Sites around the globe that are in danger from a variety of threats, turning the spotlight on 12 in particular that could disappear altogether due to a lack of funds, neglect, and mismanagement.

The 12 sites listed in the report include Palestine’s Hisham’s Palace, Turkey’s Ani, and Iraq’s Nineveh. Hisham’s Palace, the remains of a royal winter retreat built in 747 AD and the ancient city of Nineveh are both under threat from encroaching urban development, while Ani, an 11th century city on Turkey’s border with Armenia, finds many of it’s ancient structures literally falling apart on their foundations.

Other Heritage Sites that make the list of “most threatened” include Mahansrhangarh, the oldest archeological site in all of Bangladesh and Mirador in Guatemala, which is a pre-Columbian Mayan ruin which sits in a remote jungle location. Haiti’s Sans Souci Palace suffered damage during the recent earthquakes that hit the country, while the Maluti Temples in India suffer from years of neglect. Kenya’s Lamu Village, Famagusta, located in Cyprus, Pakistan’s Taxila, Intramuros and Fort Santiago in the Philippines, and Chersonesos in the Ukraine round out the list.

The GHF’s report recommends that the countries in which these historic sites are located invest in restoring and preserving the ancient places. While those repairs could cost millions of dollars to complete, the sites could potentially generate that income back through tourist dollars, although UNESCO representatives say that caution should be taken when going down that road, as sustainable tourism is not always an easy thing to accomplish and there are a lot of factors to consider before proceeding.

One thing that everyone agrees on however is that these amazing sites need to be preserved for future generations to visit and explore. Just how that will be accomplished remains to be seen.

[Photo credit: Christian Koehn via WikiMedia]

Take action: Clean water saves lives in Haiti

Since the tragic events of the Haiti earthquake, the country and its supporters from around the world have worked tirelessly to rebuild, revive and rejuvenate. From building orphanages and schools, to offering medical supplies and household items, Haiti is moving full-speed ahead to reclaim the vibrancy it once had. But it takes more than four walls and power drills to rebuild a country.

Clean water is the key to saving 3 million lives a year but due to costs of filtration, clean water is a luxury Haiti can’t afford. According to Partners in Health, diseases spread by unsafe water cause 3 million deaths a year. Young children are the most likely to suffer and die from these diseases, but with increased water projects changes can be made.

Water projects save lives, and while they do cost money, it’s an investment that pays back. The World Health Organization estimates that every $1 invested in water and sanitation yields between $3 and $34 in reduced medical costs and increased productivity, depending on the region. In Haiti, a
bout one-third of all Haitian children die before they reach the age of five, with 60 percent of all these deaths directly related to malnutrition and diarrheal disease. The lack of clean water is not only an environmental problem, but a matter of life and death.

In joint collaboration with Blog Action Day and the issue of water around the world, Gadling bloggers are talking about travel and water and ways to make the most out of both. As for me? I’m taking on the issue of water projects in torn countries like Haiti. While it would take many years and endless dollars to improve health in impoverished countries, companies like Partners in Health, for example, are working to make clean water available so they can improve lives immediately.

What can you do? Few people know that more than 1.1 billion people around the world don’t have access to clean water – check out Blog Action Day 2010 and learn how you can help with the conservation of water around the world.

Haiti’s first airport hotel set to open in 2012

Recovery continues in the Caribbean island of Haiti as the first airport hotel readies to break ground later this year.

The $33 million project near the Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport will feature 240-rooms, offer restaurants, a fitness center, swimming pool, spa facilities and lounges. According to Luxuo, the hotel is designed with “a distinct Creole feel.”

Much of Port-au-Prince was destroyed following the earthquake on Jan. 12, including many hotels, and the airport was closed to commercial flights. Rebuilding continues throughout Haiti and Port-au-Prince in an effort to improve the economy and position Haiti for long-term recovery.

The airport hotel is scheduled to open in 2012.

Amazing videos of Haiti being rebuilt one brick at a time

UPDATED: The earthquake that rocked Haiti back in January caused unimaginable death and destruction, and as the poorest nation in the Westen Hemisphere, Haiti lacks the resources for a high tech (or even normal tech) rebuilding of its infrastructure. But what the country’s inhabitants lack in material wealth they almost make up for with their ingenuity and perseverance. Check out these amazing videos of Haitians rebuilding their country one brick and one shovelful at a time.

Via the comments, the following video appears to be from Bangladesh, not Haiti. Still, impressive!

[HT: Chris Blattman]