Cruising for a Bruisin’ When Cruise Lines Dock at Anti-Gay Ports
You may fly into Miami, ready to forget your troubles with a week-long cruise in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, even in this day and age, LGBT citizens need to practice caution when planning a trip out of the country. Many ports of call here are homophobic. It is imperative that you educate yourself to the laws of your travel destinations -- your freedom could depend on it.
This year, two gay American men traveling on a cruise were accused of having sexual intercourse on the ship while it was docked at Dominica. Police boarded the ship and arrested the men on suspicion of indecent exposure and "buggery," the local equivalent to sodomy on the island.
In an interview with Fridae Magazine, one of the men, Dennis Jay Mayer, said that the local authorities wanted to have the men medically examined to determine if they had participated in any sexual activity. Mayer also said that he and his partner were held in a cell for 19 hours with no light, water or toilet and they were taunted all night long.
After enduring humiliation and inhumane treatment, they were ordered to pay a fine of $4,000.
According to Cruisemates.com, popular tropical travel destinations Jamaica and Barbados have anti-sodomy laws in effect and as a result, no gay cruise lines will sail to either island for fear of homophobia or violence toward their patrons.
In 1998, the Cayman Islands government turned away a Norwegian Cruise Line because it was carrying 900 gay travelers. Then again in 2010, they refused entry to an Atlantis gay cruise due to local religious protestors who didn't want LGBT citizens on their islands.
The Dallas Voice lists some of the most potentially dangerous tropical islands to LGBT travelers, given current anti-gay laws.
Same-sex sexual activity is not only illegal on the following islands, there are also penalties of imprisonment of at least ten years.
Barbados: (Life sentence)
Antigua and Barbuda: (15 years in prison)
Dominica: (10 years in prison)
Grenada: (Male: illegal and 10 year prison sentence. Female: legal)
Jamaica: (Male: illegal and 10 year sentence to hard labor. Female: legal)
Saint Kitts and Nevis: (Male: illegal and 10 year sentence. Female: legal)
Saint Lucia: (Male: illegal and a fine and/or 10 year sentence. Female: legal)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: (Fine and/or 10 years)
Trinidad and Tobago: (25 years prison sentence)
The barbaric laws of yesteryear still apply to some islands and LGBT travelers need to be wary of the ever-present threat of homophobia abroad. Foreign laws apply not just to locals but also to travelers and if you are arrested or detained don’t count on your cruise ship to wait for you. Many travelers have been left behind because they didn’t return to the ship before boarding time.
Even if you are able to avoid serious jail time, you may still find yourself alone on an unfriendly island and you will have the additional expense of booking a flight in order to leave.
Pick a Gay-Friendly Destination
But there are other beautiful tropical destinations ready to accept travelers of all shapes, sizes and sexual orientations!
"The most gay-friendly Caribbean islands are the U.S. possessions, most notably San Juan, which is hailed as the ’Gay Capital of the Caribbean’ and offers gay guesthouses, nightclubs, bars and dance clubs," said Frommers.com, one of the largest travel information venues.
The Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao became the first Caribbean island to announce that it was embracing the gay and lesbian community in 1995. On their website, they advertise "Gay Curacao: We Live and Let Live!" as their philosophy and say there are many tourism partners on the island that are members of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.
Most recently, Oasis Sens in Cancun announced that they were aiming at becoming the region’s premier four-star, adult-only, gay-friendly resort destination.
"To make this the perfect setting, we created a steering committee from industry leaders from various airlines, wholesale operators and travel agencies," Teri Minor, the director of Sales and the exclusive representative of Oasis Hotels and Resorts told EDGE. "It was determined by these well-seasoned travelers that Oasis Sens was already perfect for the LGBT community."
Over 7,000 employees of Oasis Hotels and Resorts were notified of the change of concept and invited to apply for a position within the property.
"All the staff at Oasis Sens have volunteered and want to support this concept and the lifestyle," added Minor. "They have undergone training by Carma Productions and are ready to greet all guests with equality and special attention."
Oasis Sens resort is an all-inclusive, adult-only LGBT friendly resort offering an upscale gourmet experience. They offer dining, entertainment and activities throughout guests’ stay. According to Minor, they soon will also offer beachfront or sunset weddings for same-sex couples.
There is an old proverb that reads, "A danger foreseen is half avoided." To ensure that your voyage is not only enjoyable but also safe, remember to always research your vacation destination before you make any reservations.
One option for LGBT travel research is to check out The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) website at www.iglta.org. The IGLTA is the world’s leading global travel network and they are dedicated to connecting and educating LGBT travelers and the businesses that welcome and support them.