Cruise Travel

Things I’ve Learned: I Have Travel Morals

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I suppose Jamaica was the first truly poor country I’d ever visited.  And while I wasn’t disgusted by the poverty, I was disgusted. I was disgusted by myself and I was disgusted by those traveling with me. I was disgusted by everyone I’ve ever know that’s ever visited a Caribbean country either via cruise ship or while visiting an all-inclusive resort.

The best thing I got out of my very first cruise ship excursion was the eye-opening experience of driving (well, being driven on) the road from Falmouth to Runaway Bay, where upon turning a corner the view changes from metal and plywood shacks to a view of a giant red-roofed, white-walled palace of a resort.  You know, the kind of resort that everyone tells you to visit in Jamaica while also warning you to never leave the property. Because gods forbid resort-goers experience any part of actual Jamaica.

And as I observed, these red-roofed, white-walled palaces are surrounded by the homes of the people who likely work in said resorts, but live in cement block structures with hand pump wells. I will never understand how this sort of disparity is ok with the world as a whole.  I’m not ok with it—and I’m part of it. I can’t be the first or only person to have had this thought while being cozily shuttled from port to ship-sponsored-excursion. Can I?

Oh and speaking of the cruise port–the entire thing was a completely fake structure.  The ‘Port of Falmouth’ looks absolutely nothing like the actual island.  And many, many people on that ship simply got off, walked around the port area, and got back on the ship.  That is not how I ever intend to travel.  It makes me crazy.  Clearly.

I love Disney World.  And I’m ok with things being Disney-like when I’m in actual Disney World.  But when Disney leaks out into the rest of the world, it’s a scary thing.  And that’s how so many people see the world—fake Jamaica.  Resort Jamaica.  Built-by-Royal-Caribbean Jamaica.  The entire port area in ‘historic’ Falmouth is less than six months old—in fact, it’s not even entirely finished yet, but there are Bulova outlet stores and fifteen different gemstone shops and red green and gold painted shacks so new that if you stand too closely, you too might end up freshly painted in red, green, and gold.

And worse, these same people complain about how pushy the locals are.  How they are so desperately trying to sell them beads, braid their hair, get them high.  Have you seen where they live?  You’d try to make a living for your family, too. I promise.

I don’t know what the answer to this is, and I’m positive I’m not the first person to come to this realization.  I’m also positive that I’m not the only person to be torn about what to do.  On the one hand, visiting countries like this brings in much-needed money–in theory.  However, I did not see local people living any better as a result of the money I paid to Royal Caribbean.  So where’s the money going?  And where should my money go?  And how can I get it there in a socially responsible manner?  

What are your thoughts on cruise–or any sort of ‘luxury’–travel to less-than-developed countries. How can one be a responsible traveler? Or is that an impossible task? I’m open to any and all suggestions!

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