Gay cruises have made headlines for everything from overindulgence and arrests to tragic loss of life. But
the first a queer jaunt to a Muslim country has garnered attention for a different reason—it’s been canceled.
Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam was scheduled to stop in Casablanca on July 1 but organizers at RSVP Vacations, which organized the trip, told some 2,100 passengers that the Moroccan government had put the kibosh on the visit.
“Our port agent in Casablanca has advised us that authorities in Morocco have—despite previous confirmations—now denied our scheduled visit. For all of us, this is a very disappointing development. It was ultimately the decision by local authorities in Morocco that has necessitated us to adjust our plans.”
But Lahcen Haddad, Morocco’s Tourism Minister, said there was no official decision to deny the ship passage: “We don’t ban cruise ships here and we never ask our visitors about their sexual preferences,” he told Reuters, adding that the ship could still dock in Casablanca if RSVP wanted to. The cruise departed from Barcelona on Friday and will continue on its week-long tour through other European ports of call.
Morocco is considerably more secular than most Muslim nations, though the Justice and Development Party, which came to power in December, is “riding a regional wave of support for Islamist movements,” reports Reuters.
The JDP claims it will not impose Sharia law but the Moroccan penal code still deems same-sex relationships “unnatural” and punishable by up to three years in jail.
Vetting destinations for places with a perfect record on LGBT rights is hardly practical. But isn’t it time gay cruises—and all LGBT tourists and allies—refused to set foot in countries that declare homosexuality a crime?
NOTE: An earlier version of this story claimed the RSVP cruise was the first gay cruise to dock in a Muslim country. We regret the error.