Why We Shouldn’t Boycott Atlantis or Dominica Over This Week’s Arrest

Why We Shouldn’t Boycott Atlantis or Dominica Over This Week’s Arrest

BuggeryGay travel, especially the broadly visible gay travel of gay cruises has no parallel in its ability to foster the interpersonal interactions and broader discussions that advance the cause of gay human rights. Two men on an Atlantis Events cruise this week were arrested on suspicion of buggery and plead guilty to indecent exposure during the ship’s call in Dominica. The incident raised all kinds of familiar commentary: Why does Atlantis Events go to a place with sodomy laws on their books? Why don’t we boycott these places?

Antiquated laws about gay sex still exist on the books in many countries, including our own.  Sometimes non-discriminatory laws are applied in a homophobic manner. It happens all over the globe, often unpredictably, at the whim of whatever official is in charge that day.  Boycotts are most appropriate when a government actively and aggressively discriminates.  And they are usually less effective than active engagement. The Caribbean hotbed of homophobia has been in the spotlight for years now, but it’s progressively weakening, and gay cruises are in part to thank for the positive changes.  These islands are deeply reliant on tourism for their economic survival.  And tourism is uniquely positioned to change the hearts and minds of those who would condemn us without knowing us.  The arrival of a gay cruise — whose very visible clientele is typically more generous and polite than their straight counterparts — goes a long way to open dialog and build support for our rights.

Atlantis Events has been running vacations for 20 years.  Who would it benefit if they sailed a small circle around the U.S. Virgin Islands? I feel bad for the guys who were arrested. Should Atlantis have anticipated the risk better? Could they have better warned those guests? Maybe so.  Atlantis Events and the vacation industry as a whole tend to gloss over the risks of travel. If they didn’t, we’d all probably stay home.  But this risk was small — it’s not as if hundreds or even dozens of passengers were arrested on discriminatory charges. We can’t always predict what will happen when we travel to a new destination.  Travel can be dangerous. The world is at once full of beauty and fury, of new possibilities, ancient mysteries, and unanticipated dangers.  But the rewards of travel are great.

Our desires for discovery and adventure can’t be fulfilled on our iPads.  We need to get out there to experience new sights, smells and tastes.  Our exposure to different cultures and people teaches us about them, and about ourselves.  It doesn’t always go smoothly. In my three decades of traveling the globe, I’ve yet to take a trip where I didn’t come home knowing something I wish I knew before hand.  In my two decades of travel journalism, I’ve tried to share that knowledge with others to improve the risk/reward ratio of their travels. Nota Bene:  Save the balcony buggery for days at sea.

BTW, if you’re interested in gay travel, sign up here for a free copy of my new gay travel magazine, debuting this summer!


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  1. 1
    Teddy Foyle


    Have you been on an Atlantis cruise? The Atlantis staff, especially cruise Director Malcom does his VERY BEST to ask people not to engage in sex acts in public (hot tubs, pools, steam rooms, on deck, on balconies). The problem is some people are just so stupid that they lack the common sense not to go screw in public, usually after drinking too much or snorting something. I don;t feel sorry for the 2 men arrested. They brought it on themselves and have nobody else to blame.

  2. 3

    @teddy I’ve been on a dozen or so Atlantis vacations, and you are right about the staff efforts to curtail inappropriate behavior, though it’s easy to go on a cruise and miss those announcements. I feel sorry for anyone who has their vacation ruined over a lustful indiscretion that would have gone unnoticed had they been on the water-facing side of the ship!

  3. 4
    Tom in Lazybrook

    Its a shame that people tend to gloss over and belittle the REAL cases of discrimination. Atlantis lost me when they discounted the effects of criminalization statutes. Atlantis CAN choose not to funnel dollars to homophobic nations. But the choose not to. They claim to be part of the community, but they certainly aren’t acting like a responsible member.
    Atlantis will be going to Russia this summer. The LGBT community there has asked them to stay away. The Russian government has passed a new law that makes wearing a rainbow colored shirt or even wearing a “Legalize Gay” shirt illegal. The Canadian Government last week issued a public travel warning telling Gay citizens to avoid travelling to St Petersburg. And Atlantis…..apparently doesn’t care about the wishes of the LGBT locals in St Petersburg and may be putting their passengers in danger (the law was changed this year).
    Atlantis comments show a staggering lack of respect for the plight of LGBT locals who have to live under these laws. And they ARE enforced. In Grenada (where this ship stopped) two Gay locals were arrested this year for the crime of consensual sex in private between two non-related consenting adults. And so its not some antiquated (I’m reading irrelevant) law, even though it might not be enforced harshly against rich Western tourists.
    By the way, a Caribbean cruise could go to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the USVI, the BVI, the Yucatan, Roatan, Colombia, Venezuela, the Dutch West Indies, the French West Indies, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao without touching a country that criminalizes Gay persons.

    Atlantis and others should stop minimizing the impact of these SIGNIFICANT Gay criminalization statutes. Its offensive to the LGBT locals in those communities and shows a staggering level of arrogance (it doesn’t apply to me..cause I’m rich and Western…).

  4. 5

    @Tom – A very compelling perspective and argument – thank you for sharing it and contributing to the dialog. St. Petersburg is presenting an enormous conundrum — this cruise was planned long in advance of the recently passed statute — Atlantis and Madonna are caught up in it now, and it will be interesting, particularly in light of the fallout that continues to come from the Dominica incident, to see how both handle it. (So far, Madonna is still going!)

  5. 6
    Howard M Fites

    Atlantis is free to go where ever they like. I’m free not to book with them if I find their choices repugnant. There was no reason to book Dominca, it’s not worth the visit, and yes I’ve been.

    The guilty plea in this case was for “indecent exposure”, nudity as we know it. I think we all know the plea was reached to get the hell out of the place and no other reason.

    You state “…it’s (homophobia) progressively weakening, and gay cruises are in part to thank for the positive changes. These islands are deeply reliant on tourism for their economic survival.” I’m not sure how this would be effective if they pay no economic price for their failings. They need to feel some heat.

    As for Atlantis. They are very tight with a penny after years of overcharging. I’d hope they would make some effort to make this up to the couple involved in spite of their extensive “we aren’t responsible for anything, any where at any time clause”.

  6. 7
    A Facebook User

    Unless there has been a substantial update to the provisions regarding “Gross Indecency” and “Buggery”, the simple act of anal sex or gay sex is a severe crime in Dominica. I have linked the Sexual Offences Act of Dominica. Consider for your review Section #14, and Section #16.


    Note that this act NEED NOT be PUBLIC in order for the law to apply. ANY and EVERY gay man aboard this docked cruise ship was at risk of indictment under the law of the Commonwealth of Dominica, of Gross Indecency and/or Buggery…

    Section #14 defines “gross indency” as “an act other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural) by a person involving the use of the genital organs for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire”; and Subsection 14(2) only provides a defense in the case of acts in private between persons of [opposite gender]: “…committed in private between an adult male person and an adult female person…”. In other words, common gay sexual activity, including mutual masturbation, appears to me (not an attorney), to be definitely in violation of the law, EVEN if conducted in private.

    [As an aside, observe that Section 3 (Rape) does not consider non-consensual intercourse by husband to be rape as long as they are not divorced, separated, or under an official order for the husband to to molest or have sex with the wife. In other words, “rape” by a husband in most circumstances of marriage is NOT even considered rape.]

  7. 8
    John Martine

    I’ve also been on a few cruises, and had a great, safe time. But after seeing (through their television interviews) what those two men went through, it’s hard not to feel somewhat empathetic for them if indeed what they say is true. Plus, they have the benefit of getting their story out to the media first – Rich was stuck at sea this week. But it has been a complete PR nightmare – it has been handled incorrectly every step of the way. Instead of Atlantis posting some half-cocked “poll” on their Facebook page – which has been quickly discredited – they should be talking about passenger safety and asking/proposing new ways in which to disseminate safety information both before and during the itinerary. They should re-stating what responsibility is ours (we should be aware, on our own, of discriminatory laws) and what they will do to help us understand the implications of our actions. Malcolm’s announcements are a joke, and – while technically they are correct – they are taken jokingly, as is Malcolm. While not having to endorse the actions of the two men, Rich still could have been a leader here in how to do things the right way, and instead he seems to be following and reacting in ways that are in no way customer friendly. I’m sure he is greatly limited by Celebrity and others in what he can actually say, but his quotes have left most of this clients that I’ve spoken to feel like he has no idea how to deal with this and, to make things worse, it seems to have made customers if they make one dumb move then he, Atlantis, and Celebrity will completely abandon them and do all they can to prove the validity of their itinerary choices. Come on, Rich, have the guts to use this situation to find new ways to educate and create an even better environment. Your status quo stance simply will not do.

  8. 9

    I’m sorry, is this a terrible episode of Twilight Zone?

    Should we as gays and lesbians stop traveling because a place MIGHT be dangerous? Time to grow up kids, the world is a dangerous place. Gays are hated throughout the world. Women are still being beaten and thrown acid on in the middle east, the are more children sex trafficking incidents per day than gay hate crimes in the US in ONE YEAR

    Are we really infighting because two guys decided to F**K ON A BALCONY IN FULL VIEW OF THE PUBLIC. How many times does that have to be said?? Why are people defending them?

    It sounds like insecurity with your own sexuality and your own uncomfortable feelings that the world isn’t all warm and fuzzy waiting for you to go and spend your gay dollars..

    Guess what, the world doesn’t like you, you still can’t get employee rights in most US states let alone marry…

    So yeah.. that makes sense, lets caniballize the one gay travel company because you’re scared of what ifs.. Let’s stop traveling and just stay home and move the gay rights movement back in the closet.

    Sounds to me like everyone just wants to be a second class citizen.

    Get the f**k over it. Stop destroying each other and our community, our business and our culture.


  9. 10
    Jay Sams

    Don’t be stupid! Ignoring discrimination in hopes it will get better is NOT how we got the rights we have today! Furthermore, the behavior on an Atlantis cruise line, particularly the low budget Carribean cruises would never win anyone over to the gay cause. Hell, it’s enough to make me and my partner turn straight! You seriously think docking in the few random places with sodomy laws will somehow further our cause? What ridiculous BS. Boycotting those countries is a far more effective tactic, and this is exactly what Atlantis should be doing. Unfortunately, Atlantis cares more about their bottom line than about gay rights. So, we will definitely be boycotting Atlantis until they take a public stance against supporting corrupt, backwards governments and adopt a policy of not docking in ports with sodomy laws. Join us in boycotting Atlantis until they take a stand for gay rights!

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