The America Blog published an article ("Carnival Cruises Bans 'Drag' on Drag Cruise") this evening about Carnival's bizarre decision to threaten to kick any of their guests who dress in drag off of the December 2nd cruise aboard the Carnival Glory cruise ship.
The particularly strange part of the story is that the sailing is a “Drag Stars at Sea” cruise!
The travel agency organizing the event promises "Drag Stars at Sea: The Largest Gathering in HISTORY! . . . This is the first event of its kind in the world."
Well, if Carnival goes through with its plan to manhandle drag queens down the gangway in their high heels into Caribbean ports of call, the cruise may well be the first and last event of its kind in the world.
The threats came in the form of a letter dated today sent by Carnival to the guests looking to board the Glory in Miami this weekend. Now, this seems like a rather rude thing for Carnival to do. Aren't the guests receiving the materially-altered conditions for the cruise a little bit late? After all, the prospective passengers have already packed their dresses and make-up for the trip, not to mention that they booked their now non-refundable cruise tickets months ago.
The letter was signed by Carnival representative Vicki Ray who our law firm knows as the smiling face of the cruise industry at Congressional crime hearings over the last many years. Her letter starts out upbeat: "Greetings Fun Seekers!" (exclamation in original) but four paragraphs later the real purpose of the letter is revealed:
"These functions will be private and only the performers are permitted to dress in drag in the theater. Guests are not allowed to dress in drag for the performances or in public area at any time during the cruise."
Then comes the threat. Anyone violating the edict . . . "will be disembarked at their own expense and no refunds given."
Wow, that's some serious chutzpah! Take money from your guests for a drag queen cruise and tell them that, uh, they can't dress like a drag queen.
Can Carnival really enforce this ban as a practical matter? There are 35 drag queen performers listed for the cruise, like Delta Work, Venus D Lite, and Phi Phi O'Hara (photos). If someone in drag walks from his cabin to the theater will Carnival security really try to detain him? How can ship security distinguish the audience members in drag from the performers or, for that matter, attractive buxom women dressed up for the night?
How can the dozen or so Carnival security guards think they can possibly handle several hundred men (anyone remember the Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York City?) if they try and arrest everyone in drag who is on the cruise?
The duplicitous aspect of Carnival's conduct is that this cruise line has one of the worst reputations for permitting kids to run wild and drunks to disrupt the cruising experience of guests, all the while looking the other way when fights or sexual violence occurs. Consider this video about a drunken brawl erupting during a Carnival cruise.
For years, Carnival and their subsidiary cruise lines have hosted "cougar cruises," "swinger cruises" and "nude cruises" where men and women dress in provocative clothing or no clothing for that matter and engage in sexually promiscuous behavior in and around the cruise ship. What's the beef against drag queens walking around the cruise ship? Just take a look at the sexually charged and semi-nude advertising for straight "swinger cruises" offered by other cruise lines.
Is Carnival's intent really to protect children from seeing men dressed in women's clothing? My kids laughed throughout Robin Williams' performance in Ms. Doubtfire and they somehow managed to survive The Birdcage with Nathan Lane.
America Blog has offered opinions about the basis for a lawsuit against Carnival if the cruise line proceeds with its threats. Although a lawyer, I offer no opinions here about that, except to say that there must be something unlawful about kicking a guest who has paid his full fare off a cruise for dressing in drag on a drag queen cruise.
Let's hope that Carnival comes to its senses. If not, I'm afraid that next week I will be watching the ugly spectacle on a YouTube video which is eventually shown to a jury in a court of law.
November 27 2012 Update: Under pressure, Carnival claims that there was just a "mistake" in communication, changes course and withdraws ban on dressing in drag. According to Cruise Critic, the president of Carnival issued the following statement:
"When the group was presented to us we were advised that only the performers would be dressed in drag during the private events," Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, said in an e-mail to passengers booked on the December 2 sailing. "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."
Smart move by Carnival, otherwise it would have faced a riot on the high seas.
The Carnival statement continues:
"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."
Cahill further stated that anyone booked on the cruise who wants 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."
Who's covering this story?
Daily Kos: Carnival Cruise Line Bans Drag On Their "Drag Stars At Sea" Cruise
Think Progress: Drag Cruise Refuses To Let Passengers Dress In Drag
America Blog (story # 1): Carnival Cruises Bans “Drag” on Drag Cruise
America Blog (story # 2): Carnival Ban on “Drag” During “Drag Cruise” is not Anti-Gay, it’s Cuz of 9/11
Huffington Post: AlandChuck.Travel: No Drag for Passengers on Drag at Sea Cruise?!
Queerty: Carnival Cruise Line Bans Drag On Upcoming Drag Cruise
Village Voice: Carnival Bans Drag Patrons From Drag Cruise!
Miami New Times: Carnival Bans Drag Costumes from RuPaul's Drag Race Themed Cruise
USA Today: Carnival's Ban On Drag Costumes Sparks Controversy
Crushable (WTF Blog): Carnival Forbids People From Dressing In Drag On ‘Drag Stars At Sea’ Cruise
SFist: Carnival Cruises Forbids Drag Queens During Drag Cruise
NYMag: Carnival Bans Guests in Drag on RuPaul’s Cruise
Passport Magazine: Carnival Cruise Lines in Hot Water Over Drag Ban on a Drag Cruise!
Advocate: Drag Ban Creates Rough Sailing for Drag Star Cruise
Miami Herald: Carnival Apologizes and Says Cruise Passengers May Dress in Drag
Story credit: John Aravosis / America Blog
Photos: Al and Chuck Travel
Carnival letter: America Blog ("Gay - A Great Nation Deserves A Great Debate")