NEW YORK -- Officials
on the Caribbean island of Nevis scrambled to dismiss charges of
homophobia a week after a gay nudist cruise was denied docking
rights by port police.
Island officials and
cruise organizers differ as to specific details of the incident but
agree the Polynesia, a Windjammer Barefoot Cruises ship chartered
for Gay Naturists International, diverted to nearby St. Barts on
March 23 after port officials from Nevis boarded the approaching
ship, took the captain ashore for talks and then ordered him from
Malcolm Guishard said that Nevis government has no problems with
gays and lesbians and that the ship was turned away to comply with
local laws against public nudity.
Were a friendly
society that doesnt discriminate and, unfortunately, word has gone
out that we banned a group from coming ashore simply because they
were gay, he said. But we have had gay cruises before, and well
have them again.
Guishard said port
officials told him that the ships captain said he could not
guarantee passengers would obey anti-nudity laws once on land. He
also said islanders had complained of public lovemaking by gay
nudist visitors in the past.
But Craig Smith,
president of Source Events, the Miami company that chartered the
ship on behalf of the group, claimed the captain was told
explicitly by port officials that homosexuality was illegal and
considered immoral on the island.
Smith, one of the 110
passengers aboard the cruise, said the captain had assured
officials that all passengers would remain clothed while
Whats upsetting is
that there was no violation of Nevis law, he said. My sense is that
this wasnt a strict nudism or gay issue, but the two together. It
seems officials had made their decision before we
Helen Kidd, CEO of
the Nevis Tourism Authority, said overzealous port officials may
have allowed personal, anti-gay beliefs to influence how Nevis law
[official] may have expressed his own opinion [about gays] in
public without giving any thought to the implications, she said.
But it in no way reflects what we feel on the island, where we have
an open policy regarding all tourists.
Guishard, who met
with the Windjammer captain on March 30, said he regretted the
incident and was devising a plan with tourism and port officials to
ensure this type of thing doesnt happen again.
reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].