CUBA CRUISE 2019: Part 8: Labadee, Haiti

Sunday, January 13, 2019

THIS day was the most fun of all, one I excitedly looked forward to ever since planning the trip. 

Having sailed away from the Cuban island, we were, today on a different island nation. The whole island is Hispaniola but is divided into two countries, the Dominican Republic on the East and Haiti to the West. The island, discovered by Columbus, was settled by the Spanish. In 1697 Spain ceded the western side of Hispaniola (Haiti) to France.

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Our visit to Haiti was to a resort peninsula leased to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines for the exclusive use of it’s cruise lines, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. The peninsula is private and fenced off from the rest of the island. A controlled group of Haitians are allowed to sell their wares there. It is very family friendly.

Visitors to Labadee may enjoy the beaches, private cabanas, watersports, water oriented playground, an Alpine coaster (the Dragon’s Tail) and the longest zip line over water (The Dragon’s Breath). Of these, which do you think were the ones I looked forward to experiencing? 

If you guessed the zip line and alpine coaster, you would be 100% correct!

In planning this trip, at first, Mark Nowery was a bit hesitant about being a daredevil with me, but soon enough he agreed to step out of his comfort zone and live life on the edge. 

We arrived at the dock in Labadee at 8:30 a.m. and went straightaway to the zip line headquarters. Our reservations were intact, but we were disappointed to learn that the Alpine Coaster was down for repairs. 

While we were excited to have fun on both thrill rides, we were just as happy to go on the one that I anticipated being the more exciting of the two. 

We did have a little time to spare before our zip flight line time, which allowed us time to walk along the beach and check out some of the park.

At our appointed time we were brought in and harnessed up with the gear needed for a safe ZIP down the cable. Our young guide/instructor was from Brazil and took time to explain what to expect with instructions on how this would all proceed. His English was excellent and his youthful exuberance was contagious. If he were that enthusiastic and full of energy about his job, I knew this would be an unforgettable experience. 






























In part to help overcome last minute jitters and misgivings about hanging from a cable, speeding down over water at over 40-50 mph, we first braved the “Little Dragon”, a much shorter training flight line. Here we learned the proper techniques to use and when to employ them so that our flight down from Labadee Mountain would (hopefully) be a breeze. 


We were driven up 500 feet to the launch where our guide reviewed the procedures as we were looking down, far below, at the docked Azamara Journey, other little people down on the beach, and out over the sea beyond. 

Oh boy, this is really up there! Take a deep breath. 

At the top / beginning of Dragon’s Breath Zip Line. 

The end was at that little spit of land at the end of the peninsula.

OK, back to reality. 

With hardly any hesitation, I stepped up first, walked out on the catwalk and got attached, in the harness, to one of several cable flight lines. Once attached to the cable, it was a matter of just dangling from the wire, swaying a bit to and fro high above the beach and water with feet and legs extended and crossed. Several yellow globes and an red one were attached to a center line between the actual flight lines. Once we passed by the orange globe, my position was to change from crossed legs ahead of me to opening my legs and changing hand position to prepare for the sudden stop at the end of the line. I hoped there would be no whiplash.

With my iPhone attached to a special chest harness, and suspended freely, I leaned back and was unleashed for the thrilling flight downward to the beach. 

In the first seconds, it felt as though I was barely moving. Like I said, that was just in the first seconds. Dragon’s breath may be what I was feeling as my flight zoomed faster and faster downward, the warm breeze blasting against my face. Changing position as directed, the end of the line very quickly loomed ahead. And then, wham, it was all over. The stop was sudden, but not brutal, causing a bit of swinging quickly forward and then just as quickly settling down as a crew member steadied me and rapidly unfastened me from the flight line. 

YA HOOO! 

That was AWESOME.! 




















Mark was mere milliseconds behind me, and, at the conclusion I could see he was just as excited to have had the experience. 

Adrenaline pumping adventures can really perk a person up! 

To view my video of this zip line flight, tune in to my YouTube link: https://youtu.be/H1jL3F2C7Lo

Although the thrills were over, the day at Labadee was not.

All of the cruise ships bring their own food onshore from the ships to feed their passengers, which then is prepared and served under pavilions near the beach. In this case, we enjoyed a BBQ of hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken and all the fixin’s. Beer and soft drinks were also served. For the remainder of the time, we poked around in the market and bought a few mementos created by the Haitians.

By 4 p.m., the Journey was pulling away from the Labadee dock, setting course back to Miami, Florida and the final leg of our cruise.

                                       







Monday, January 14, 2019

At sea.













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An uneventful day as we cruised back to Miami. Early to rise, with a short walk on the track one deck above and around the pool deck, a light breakfast, gazing out at the ocean, and lunch together on the Pool Deck, Patio Bar.

The captain announced procedures for disembarking the next morning with instructions to pack luggage and be prepared when we arrived. Luggage was set outside cabin doors and picked up by our stewards.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Awaking before dawn and looking out the window, I saw that we were already sailing into Miami harbor. Quickly getting dressed, I stepped out on deck, only to be shocked by the cold air. It was chilly when we left Miami 10 days before, but this morning was even colder. Still, braving the chill, I was fascinated as the Journey maneuvered up to the dock. 

The lights of Miami glowed in the early morning dawn while activity on the dock was hectic as the ship was secured. Lower gangways were opened and the unloading began in earnest. Garbage trucks were in position to take the ship’s refuse as luggage was also being transported off the ship. 

After breakfast, there was little time left to leave the Journey but once back on land and finding our luggage, we made one final pass through customs and security, then outdoors to pick up a Uber ride.

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Still too early to check in at our hotel, we were allowed to store our luggage until a room was readied for us. 

Walking to the beach and along Ocean Blvd, the temperature was uncooperative. Although sunny, the air temp was hovering in the upper 40’s, a far cry from what one would expect for South Florida.

Both of us decided to take a city tour on a double decker bus, sitting on the open upper deck. This was probably not the best decision, partly because the tour was pretty lame and the chilly weather did not make for a very enjoyable experience. 


That evening, Mark and I enjoyed a delicious dinner at the former home of fashion designer Gianni Versace. 

It was interesting how the weather in Cuba and Haiti had been so agreeably warm while 90 miles north of Cuba it had taken a nose dive. 

It was good to finally arrive back in (warmer) Phoenix the following day.

Our cruise offered us the opportunities to see more of Cuba and different aspects of that culture and history. It is good that travel restrictions to our Caribbean neighbor have been lessened. The island’s people are very appreciative of our visits which further enables friendly relations between our countries. There is a long history with our nations and I am glad that I have been privileged to visit there. If readers get the chance, I would highly recommend you include a vacation to Cuba. I hope to visit there again some day.

Do I have a summer trip planned?

Yes, guided tours to Washington State's Olympic Peninsula AND Vancouver/Victoria, British Columbia, Jasper, Banff and Calgary, Canada. 

Until the next time, Happy Trails to you.



kdonald940@cox.net © Donald E. Kline 2012