Carnival Apologizes For No-Drag Order On Cruise, Reverses Decision

An email sent to passengers signed up for Carnival’s December “Drag Stars at Sea” cruise, notified guests they wouldn’t be allowed to wear drag, even though the performers—stars from past seasons of RuPaul‘s Drag Race—would be.

While some grumbled the cruise line was worried about families and children that would also be aboard the USS Glory, tour operator Al & Chuck Travel insisted it was standard safety protocol in a post-9/11 world.

Now Carnival Cruise Line president Gerry Cahill has released a statement  clarifying the current situation:

Within the last 24 hours, we became aware of a miscommunication between Carnival Cruise Lines and, who have booked a large special interest group on the upcoming Carnival Glory cruise departing December 2, 2012.

The group, “Drag Stars at Sea,” includes several performances by stars from Logo TV as part of a series of private events onboard. When the group was presented to us we were advised that only the performers would be dressed in drag during the private events. However, we are now aware that this was not clearly communicated to members of the group and therefore anyone who wishes to dress in drag may do so. Please keep in mind that our safety and security procedures require guests to present government-issued ID, and to be recognizably that person.

At Carnival, we are proud to carry more than 4.5 million guests every year and we welcome them all aboard. We do not practice any form of discrimination against the LGBT or any other community. We sincerely apologize for the miscommunication and for any unintended offense we have caused.

Given this misunderstanding, anyone on this cruise who wishes to cancel for any reason may do so and will receive a full refund of their cruise fare, as well as reimbursement for any non-refundable travel related expenses.We constantly strive to provide our guests with a fun and memorable vacation. We look forward to welcoming everyone onboard Carnival Glory and again want to apologize for the misunderstanding and for any offense we have caused.”

Given the situation, it’s clearly the right call—probably the only call they could make. But will it be enough to avoid a PR iceberg for the popular cruise line? Send a ship-to-shore transmission in the comments section below.

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  • jsancheznv

    “We do not practice any form of discrimination against the LGBT or any other community.”

    I, for starters, would like to see if their non-discrimination policy is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identify and if their employee benefits are inclusive as well. Unfortunately, it appears Carnival did not respond to the HRC’s workplace equality index survey and my Google searches have not yielded any results, so I am unable to ascertain Carnival’s policies.

  • alterego1980

    Given the apology letter, and the fact that Al and Chuck travel was repeating the security policy,I’d say it does seem like a plausible misunderstanding. And I’m glad they did right by the customers. I think time will tell though if they try this kind of thing again. Let’s hope that they don’t use being kid friendly as a reason against being gay friendly. Carnival has received a lot of bad press lately with broken ships and such (i.e. Cost Cruise Lines). I think they should be trying to play nice.

  • Shannon1981

    @jsancheznv: If it were explicitly included, they’d have responded to the HRC index survey. They’re bigots.

  • jsancheznv

    @Shannon1981 I just emailed Mr. Cahill and copied HRC. See my email below.

    Dear Mr. Cahill:

    I have read much about the dress code controversy regarding your upcoming cruise featuring female impersonators from LOGO TV and just read the statements you made wherein you stated, “we do not practice any form of discrimination against the LGBT or any other community.”

    While I laud your recent statements, I would like to know if Carnival has a written policy prohibiting discrimination in its employment practices on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and whether Carnival provides domestic partner benefits for its LGBT employees who are in committed relationships but unable to legally marry. And while we are on this topic, I would also like to know if Carnival honors same-sex marriages from jurisdictions where said marriages are legal. In the interest of saving you time, I did try to ascertain this information on my own by consulting the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) workplace equality index to see where Carnival rates with regard to LGBT equality, but it appears Carnival did not respond to HRC’s inquiry as HRC (apparently) has no data, or that Carnival did respond and has a 0 out of 100 rating. (See: I also performed basic Google searches on this topic but did not receive any results indicative of Carnival’s policies.

    If Carnival in indeed an inclusive organization that puts its money where its mouth is, I would like to commend you for your work. If the contrary is true, I would like to suggest that you consider making Carnival an iconic brand with regard to LGBT inclusion in the same way American Airlines did many years ago when it led the way for the Airline industry to make LGBT inclusion in regards to policy and benefits standard in the airline industry.

    On a personal note, I would like to tell you that I have cruised on Carnival along with my family on prior occasions and had a fabulous and enjoyable time thanks, in part, to your vision, leadership, and the fine employees representing your company.

    Best regards,

    Jorge Sanchez

    cc: Human Rights Campaign

  • yaoming

    I don’t understand the part about the refunds. If they weren’t allowing drag and some passengers wanted and expected to be able to dress that way, then I could understand it, but they’re saying drag IS allowed, so who need a refund? Straight folks who want to protect their children?

  • jsancheznv


    I think the refund is a gesture of good-faith on Carnival’s part for folks that feel offended as a matter of principle with Carnival’s original policy.

  • ncman

    @yaoming: Read this part very closely

    “Please keep in mind that our safety and security procedures require guests to present government-issued ID, and to be recognizably that person.”

    How many persons who want to dress in drag do you think have a government-issued ID that looks like them dressed in drag? They don’t just check your ID at boarding time. You can be asked to show it at anytime and it must look like you.

  • jsancheznv

    @ncman In all fairness, it is standard practice for cruise lines to ask guest for identification (usually your cruise ID/charge card which has your photograph as captured during the initial embarkment process) upon re-embarkment at each port. It is not customary for staff to ask for ID while you are on-board, although your cruise ID card serves as a photo ID each time you make an on-board purchase.

  • curan

    I had a fling on a Carnival ship with a staff member I met. Outside of the intimacy, it was enlightening.

    These cruise lines treat the employees like dirt; they subsist mostly on tips. The wages are pitifully low. They also have unreasonably strict rules on fraternization with the guests.

    I realize that cruise lines fighting for the lowest fares by definition can’t pay well, but there is no reason not to treat your staff like human beings rather than cogs. It’s a turn-off.

  • ncman

    @jsancheznv: well, in all other fairness, their statement certainly doesn’t make it clear whether they do or do not expect your ID to look like your drag persona or not.

  • jsancheznv

    @ncman What their statement does make clear is that dressing up in drag is no longer prohibited or a basis for being expelled from the ship. With regards to the ID requirement, this issue is nothing new or novel to Carnival or to people that are actually transgender (as opposed to people who choose to dress up in drag for fun). I think it is fair to assume Carnival expects your ID to look like your actual visual identity for purposes of boarding the ship. What you do or wear once you are on board–that is your business and only yours; Carnival made that abundantly clear in its last communique.

  • Jed2012

    Another “miscommunication” ?

    Pasco County Civil Court issues the order on case # 51-2012-CA-005756-XXXX-ES
    and “Grants the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss” on Plaintiffs’ request for a “Forensic Accounting”
    and refund of donations.

    Adrian L. Ferguson Jr. & Charles Scott – aka Al and Chuck – Plaintiffs
    Sawmill Charities Inc. – Defendant

    This action was originally filed in Sarasota Courts on 04/05/2012 and transferred to Pasco.

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