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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Luscious, Loquacious Labadee: the Jewel in Royal Caribbean’s Crown

When your ship nears Labadee, you’re immediately struck by its sheer loveliness. Lush, dark green mountains pull you in, the water blues and as you sidle up to the dock, you get the feeling paradise is just a few sand grains away.

 And you’re right. Royal Caribbean’s secluded and sprawling piece of Haiti, which it has leased until 2050 as its private itinerary port stop, is resplendent with calm coves perfect for swimming, water sports, food, drink, entertainment, and a large and exotic artisan market. You’re sure to find something to, well, float your boat:
 
Can’t sit still? You’ve got a lot of choices here—zip-lining nearly 50 mph over the surf, jet skiing, parasailing, snorkeling and kayaking. There are tucked-away spots for swimming in the gentle, clear water. And for the little ones, a water park with a 300-ft. slide.
 
Sun worship’s more your thing? The resort has lounge chairs ‘a plenty—crammed arm-to-arm facing the sea—as well as dotted throughout the resort in two-sies and three-sies under the sun or in the shade of the palms just tailor-made for napping.
 
Want to feel the rhythm?  Singers and bands—many in native dress—can be found in a number of spots to keep your toes tapping through your flip-flops.
 
Drink and be merry. Like all the cruise lines’ private islands, bars abound. And your sea card will be happy to pay the way.
 
Itching to spend? The artisan market is where a bit of the real Haiti shows up. A vast array of crafts, local and otherwise, can be bought at super reasonable prices. Some samples: doll in native dress: $11; painted magnet: $1; necklace beaded with coffee beans: $2. Note that you’ll need cash here; your ship card won’t get you anywhere.
 

Bargaining is not only welcome, but expected and encouraged. And what better way to keep your cruise going after it’s gone than to buy a bright and colorful, Caribbean-style original painting for your wall at home? A painting that started out at $40, after some haggling, was had for $16.
 
But be forewarned: shopping here is not for the faint-hearted. The shopkeepers are very aggressive and to be successful, you’ll need a coat of armor. Repeat after me: “No thank you. No thank you. No thank you.”
 
What else do you need to know?

Cabana for the day—You can rent cabanas at Nellie’s Beach for $395 or one over the water for $495, both work for up to six guests.

Stroll on, stroll off—Ships dock (vs. tender), so you can get on and off as many times as you want.

Bathrooms abound—Never fear, there’s always a restroom near.

Walk or ride—A free tram runs continuously with stations throughout the port.

It’ll make you feel all right—Skip the beer and get it here—the one and only Labadoozie