Gay Cruise Ship Charter Unwelcome in Morocco?

July 2, 2012

(4:00 p.m. EDT) -- In a case of he said/he said, the organizers of an all-gay cruise that was scheduled to visit Morocco on Sunday are alleging the Moroccan government denied them permission to dock. The country's tourism minister, however, says that's simply not true.

The RSVP Vacations charter of
Holland America
Nieuw Amsterdam
would have been the largest all-gay cruise to visit a predominantly Muslim country, had it gone as scheduled. The ship is on a seven-night cruise sailing roundtrip from
, visiting Cadiz (Seville), Ibiza and Valencia in Spain. Morocco would have been the only non-Spanish port of call, but, according to both RSVP and Holland America, they were informed on Saturday by a port agent in Casablanca that the permission to call had been revoked. (The ship sailed to Malaga, Spain, instead.)

As reported by Reuters, in a letter to passengers on the ship, the cruise line and trip organizer wrote, "Our port agent in Casablanca has advised us that authorities in Morocco have -- despite previous confirmations -- now denied our scheduled visit."

A spokesman for Holland America told Cruise Critic that "The management teams of RSVP and Holland America Line have been working diligently together to obtain guidance and support through diplomatic means. Unfortunately, it was ultimately the decision by local authorities that necessitated the itinerary change."

Cruise Critic reached out by e-mail to RSVP Vacations and its owner Atlantis Events for comment, but no one was available at either company to comment at press time.

Morocco's tourism minister Lahcen Haddad denied that the country made any such official declaration. "We don't ban cruise ships here and we never ask our visitors about their sexual preferences," he told Reuters.

The ship and its passengers would be welcome to visit Morocco if they wanted to, he added.

If Morocco did deny the ship admittance, it would not be the first time an all-gay cruise has been sent away without docking. In 1998 and 2010, charters by Atlantis Events (owner of RSVP Vacations) were not allowed to come ashore in the Cayman Islands' Grand Cayman.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor