Thursday, July 12, 2012

Morocco bans all-gay cruise; let's boycott them in return

By now everyone has probably heard that the RSVP Vacations' all-LGBT passenger cruise that glided out of Barcelona June 29 on a Holland America Line ship en route to Morocco got turned away by the Islamic nation's officials before we even got half-way across the Mediterranean Sea.

We left port with great fanfare, dancing around the pool at the back of the ship with some revelers yelling "Morocco here we come." Dance music blared in the background, expensive cocktails flowed and all of the smiling faces reflected the joy and unity we felt about the journey. Many us of stayed up quite late partying on all eleven floors of the ship way into the wee hours of June 30.

I was, in fact, still in my luxurious bed contemplating the day and thinking about what all I wanted added to an omelet in the Lido Deck Restaurant when I heard the captain begin making an announcement over the ship's intercom system. His tone was grave as he announced that Moroccan officials had canceled permission for our visit, saying they could not guarantee the safety of the passengers because of a growing controversy about our planned stop in Casablanca.

The captain then turned the microphone over to RSVP's president Jeff Gundvaldson who confirmed that we would not get to visit Morocco, even though many of us had planned and paid for the trip last year and had already arranged for tours of the North African port made famous in the movies. Gundvaldson said he had spent much time the previous evening on the phone talking to Moroccan officials and had even involved U.S. diplomats in the discussions to no avail.

Letters were placed in the mailboxes of all staterooms from both the captain and Gundvaldson later in the day confirming that we would not be allowed to visit Morocco on July 1 and would instead be diverted to Malaga, Spain. The letters explained that the crisis had arose because of news stories announcing our imminent arrival. "This is due to the fact that Morocco is an Islamic country where laws regarding homosexuality exist, despite the country's long history of tolerance and welcoming of gay tourists."

Reaction was mixed among the passengers. Some arrived at the pool in handmade fezzes with the message, "Fuck Morocco, others wore their life vests over their swimsuits with the words "Morocco or Bust" written on them and others grumbled a little bit but got over it. None of us were willing to let the official snub ruin our trip, especially me in light of it being my first cruise ever.

Everyone was assured they would receive refunds for the land tours they had scheduled.

For the most part all of the passengers understood the dilemma the captain of the Nieuw Amsterdam and Gundvaldson faced. It wasn't totally unexpected by me because of the controversy last March when two passengers from an Atlantis Events' all-gay cruise were arrested by Island of Dominica police because they allegedly were observed in a sex act on the balcony of their stateroom while the ship rested in the port.

It's possible that widely-reported incident influenced what happened in the case of our cruise. At the time of the Dominica incident many LGBT activists began calling for Atlantis Events and RSVP Vacations to avoid ports of call where homosexuality is still considered illegal.

All of us aboard ship went on to have a wonderful trip, and I saw sights that I will remember for the rest of my life. Passing by the enormous Rock of Gibraltar with its twinkling lights at dusk is a sight I will never forget. The beauty of the sun-splashed Island of Ibiza is another beautiful image burned in by brain forever. In every port I saw not only beauty, but a cleanliness in Spain that American cities would do well to try and imitate.

The only think irking me now is the comments Moroccan officials made to reporters covering the story. The officials were quoted as saying they hadn't denied the ship's entry. Clearly, the government officials don't want dollar-rich LGBT tourists avoiding the country in the future because they are so dependent on tourism. In other words, it's OK for us to visit. Just don't come into port with more than 2,000 homosexuals at a time.

Now, that's the only thing about the trip that makes me mad, and that's why I'm urging everyone to boycott Morocco in the future. There are plenty of fabulous sites in the world to visit where they are more than happy to see us show up in large numbers spending our heard-earned money.

1 comment:

  1. I'm always suspect of Atlantis. I have been on 6 or so cruises of theirs. I believe that they knew full well that the itinerary would be an issue.

    Same happened to my trip to Turkey. It was funny on our trip that the pre-printed programs had already been adjusted.

    I think someone at Atlantis is trying to score political points.