updated 12/4/2009 2:16:57 PM ET 2009-12-04T19:16:57

The world's largest cruise ship has made the Western Hemisphere's poorest country its first port of call.

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Royal Caribbean's 16-deck, 225,000-ton Oasis of the Seas was steaming back from the company's private Labadee port in northern Haiti on its maiden voyage Friday.

The massive craft and some 4,000 passengers were met by Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and other officials Thursday and treated to folk dances, music and art.

The ship took advantage of a new pier at the guarded compound in a secluded turquoise bay a short drive from Haiti's second-largest city.

Haiti hopes a $100 million, 25-year effort by Royal Caribbean to improve the cruise port will help rebuild tourism and bring investment to the impoverished country's north.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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