Carnival Cruise Drag QueenThe 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:

Carnival Cruise Drag Queen"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.  

Carnival Drag CruiseFor 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.

Carnival President Gerry CahillNovember 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."

Carnival Letter - Vicki Rey

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")

  • Kat

    I applaud you for your unbiased opinion! Thank you for standing up for the injustice many in the LGTBQ experience everyday. I am not going on this cruise, but I have plenty of beautiful Queens in my life (of the drag and non-drag variety).

  • Scary Russian Heather.

    First of all, my money’s on Raja and Sharon to be kicked off. Raja routinely wears women’s clothing even when dressed as a boy.

    Shame on Al & Chuck’s travel, too.

    The dopes don’t even understand that it takes HOURS to get in drag and the performers are not going to hide in the venue doing that before the show.

    Also the fans want to see them IN DRAG on the ship (if they want) not just on a stage.

    Furthermore there is definitely a cause of action. Several actually, contract law being the first. But also Carnival has no litmus test for trans women and they claim that they are protecting trans status women.

    Good luck proving who is or isn’t gender variant. PLENTY of trans women have male gender on their passports.

    While it may not be a federal protected class, no jury is going to rule that a bunch of drag queens and gender variant fans should be prohibited from expressing themselves in drag on a DRAG CRUISE advertised as such and this little tidbit withheld until the last minute.

  • Ella

    I am in disbelief. This is absolutely ridiculous. How can they actually enforce that?

    P.S. Stonewall was in New York, not San Fran.

  • Completely ridiculous! The cruise is a Drag Mecca of sorts, giving fans the chance to meet their favourite queens; it’s only natural that some male fans will don a dress and heels for the occasion! At the end of the day, what someone wears should never be used to judge someone, throwing a passenger off the ship for wearing a piece of fabric that isnt normally associated with their gender is so trivial. I thought the world had progressed a little more than this!

  • Robert C.

    Carnival just nailed my wallet shut to them. I have 0 intentions of ever vacationing with them. They clearly have no idea how bad of idea it is to fool around with boys who dress in female clothing for a profession.

    Best of luck, Carnival! And may the best, cruise line, win!

  • Holly Dolly
  • Dani

    Isn’t it a violation of a person’s rights to dictate to them what sex they may portray themselves as? If a person identifies more with being a female than male, or vice versa, what right does a cruise line have to take that away from someone on a DRAG CRUISE?! I find this incredibly offensive.

  • Kirk

    I’m simply incredulous. Offer a drag cruise with only closeted and selective drag? What’s the point?

    I’ve seen Al and Chuck try and explain this off, but frankly seems a little weak. Would you not define and present the terms far in advance of the event and any cancellation date?

    Disclaimer? Not going, not gay, but engage in drag on occasion. I’d be really PO’d if I paid for this and got this bit of news today.

  • AnonyGrl

    Where is it illegal to dress in drag? Because that in itself seems to me to be the sticking point. As long as nothing illegal is done (i.e. lewd behavior where actionable) it seems to me that there is absolutely no basis for anyone to be discriminated against in this manner, and anyone thrown off the boat for wearing the “wrong” clothes might well find herself owning a cruise line when all was said and done in court!

    At least I hope so!

  • Phil

    Hope the ladies will ride into this battle with their high heels on. As a German gay man I really wonder what’s going on in parts of your society abroad reading a crazy stories like this. When I was young I though the US were the states where everybody can live the way he/she/other wants to but I waved goodbye to this “dream”. The fight for equality goes on. Please Jim keep on informing us about this case. Thank you!

  • John

    I’m going on the cruise, and I want to point out a glaring difference. While I’m not on the side of Carnival here, Al & Chuck put together this LARGE group of homo’s, they did not charter the boat, which is what I noticed is being sold on the link of cruises above (Swingers) and what we’ve come to see from Atlantis and RSVP.

    I understand that Carnival asks us to be on our best behavior, and to represent our community right, but to disembark us for merely expressing ourselves through clothing that is only defined by someone’s gender perception? Too far.

  • Richard Cox
  • I have emailed the cruise line a complaint! Please encourage others to submit to this link and let Carnival know that they will not discriminate against anyone!

  • Eva Amore

    I’m a drag queen! I wear my drag everyday and that is who I am. No I am NOT a transsexual. I ripped up my ticket and threw it in the trash as soon as I got that letter in the mail. They can take me or leave me because I choose to be my self.

  • Louise Horton

    Surprise surprise! No JUSTICE from the Cruise Industry. I hope ALL guests and crew will ignore the edict and dress in drag for the whole cruise!

  • Oh my GOD have just emailed her to complain. This is RIDICULOUS and shocking. Wow. So discriminatory I can’t even… Just, wow.

  • Rogi Riverstone

    5 minutes ago
    Dear Drag Stars At Sea Guest:

    We want to continue to update you on the important discussions going on today relating to the letter sent to our Drag Stars guest from Carnival Cruise Line and our initial response. First we want to say we hear the feedback and take it very seriously. As we said, Al & Chuck are 25 year partners and have experienced first hand many of the issues that have been disc
    ussed today. They have been involved in every facet of the GLBT community. This year alone they participated with the President in the GLBT re-election summit, were table captains for the HRC National Dinner in Washington and financially support many of our communities most important charities. Even your Pillage & Plunder party in Ft Lauderdale is a fund raiser to support South Florida Summer Pride. Issues of equality are very important to them and our company. We are a unique company for our community and our staff include men & woman including gay, lesbian, and straight employees. We are proud to stand on our record for issues of community with any travel company in America.

    Today, we have spent extensive time with Carnival to discuss our unique needs and we expect you will hear from them shortly. We continue to do our best and we are sure you can appreciate the unique challenges we are facing. We are confident these issues can be resolved to the satisfaction of all our guests.

    Again, we apologize for any inconvenience or dismay this situation may have caused you or any of our guests. We hope you will stand by and give us a little more time to finish dotting all the “I’s” and crossing all the “T’s” with our travel partner. This cruise is going to be unique in all the world and a wonderful experience. Thank you in advance for your patience.


    The Staff at

  • Dragzilla

    Interesting that the insulting letter writer, VP Vicky Rey(-Palin ?) is seen on online photos wearing a ‘manly’ jacket, looking suspiciously like part of a probable pants-suit. So it’s ok for her to wear drag as she chooses, but taboo for her paying guests !? … Plus I wonder if the non-GLBT guests were sent equal letters advising of ‘inappropriate conduct’ ? – Of course they were not !

    The massive amounts of damage control ‘back-peddling’ now ensuing from Carnival (no doubt only to save the pink-dollar) is surely enough to alone propel the cruise ship at turbo, engines off. 😀

  • Kris in Arizona

    Can I say something? I honestly don’t believe Carnival was trying to be “intolerant”. Plenty of gays go on cruises, I believe Carnival when they stated a concern regarding “inappropriate conduct” especially considering that they want to have a “family friendly” atmosphere. The drag queen gala has some very questionable type of bawdiness about it, the jokes, the implications, and the sexual innuendoes. I have SEEN them. I myself would not be offended, but I certainly would not have children present during the event, nor would I bully anyone ELSE’S children to be forced to witness it. Because a few have no objections to what they consider a “dirty joke” does not give them carte blanche to insist that others partake. I strongly urge the drag gala promoters to make a non-edited video of previous events to give people an HONEST opportunity to show what really goes on at these events. Thank you.