A cruise company’s “no costume rule” has raised eyebrows less than a week before a ship on which cast members of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are slated to perform is set to depart for the Caribbean.
Alexis Mateo, JuJuBee, Rebecca Glasscock, Michelle Visage and more than 30 other drag queens and performers are scheduled to take part in the Drag Stars at Sea: Caribbean Adventure – Revenge of the Wench Cruise on the Carnival Glory that is scheduled to set sail from Miami on Dec. 2. The ship will dock in the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands before returning to Florida on Dec. 9.
Passengers received an “urgent notice” signed by Vicky Rey, vice president of guest services for Carnival Cruise Lines, on Monday that reminded them of the policy.
“Carnival attracts a number of families with children and for this reason; we strive to present a family friendly atmosphere,” reads the letter. “It is important to us that all guests are comfortable with every aspect of the cruise. Although we realize this group consists solely of adults, we nonetheless expect all guests to recognize that minors are onboard and, refrain from engaging in inappropriate conduct in public areas.”
The letter further acknowledged “arrangements have been made for drag performances in the main theater” that will feature “stars from LOGO TV.”
“These functions will be private and only the performers are permitted to dress in drag while in the theater,” it reads. “Guests are not allowed to dress in drag for the performances or in public areas at any time during the cruise. We’re sorry to say that any guest who violates our policies and/or whose behavior affects the comfort and enjoyment of other guests, will be disembarked at their own expense and no refund will be given.”
Al Ferguson of Al and Chuck Travel, which organized the cruise, responded to the growing controversy on the gay-owned company’s Facebook page late on Monday.
“We are sympathetic to your sentiments that you have expressed via email and social media,” he wrote. “As a gay man who has been partnered for 25 years, I have suffered many forms of discrimination because I am part of the GLBT community. But please take note, Carnival’s regulation is not an example of discrimination. Carnival is an ally of the GLBT community. Please understand that this cruise could not even be happening on the Glory if Carnival was not an ally of our segment of society. When they say they are a ‘family friendly’ cruise line they mean it in both the traditional and metaphorical sense of the phrase.”
Ferguson further stressed in his post the “no costumes rule” is in response to post-Sept. 11 security procedures Carnival has adopted.
“As a gay business, we would not have organized this cruise if they were prejudiced against gay people,” he wrote. “This rule goes for both gay and straight passengers that travel on all Carnival cruises. It is in response to the post-911 world we live in. It is meant to protect passengers and guests – not to marginalize a few. Additionally, we know that transgendered members of our community will be aboard with us during this event. Please do not worry, Carnivals rule is not meant towards you. Your right to live your identity is always supported.”
Those who responded to Ferguson’s statement to his company’s Facebook page expressed their outrage over the policy and its decision to organize the cruise with Carnival.
“This is outrageous,” one person wrote.
“Carnival is saying that men dressing in women’s clothing is offensive,” another person added. “Their statement is what is offensive. So, they are saying that they are going to enforce oppressive sex stereotypes. This situation is not only homophobic but is sexist.”
Carnival President Gerry Cahill categorized the controversy as a miscommunication in a letter scheduled to go to passengers later today.
“The group, ‘Drag Stars at Sea,’ includes several performances by stars from Logo TV as part of a series of private events onboard,” he wrote. “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.”
Cahill further stressed Carnival “welcomes them all aboard.” The company will also offer a full refund to anyone who wishes to cancel “for any reason” and will reimburse them for any non-refundable travel-related expenses.
“We constantly strive to provide our guests with a fun and memorable vacation,” Cahill wrote. “We look forward to welcoming everyone onboard Carnival Glory and again want to apologize for the misunderstanding and for any offense we have caused.”