(1:00 p.m. EDT) Last week, Cruise Critic reported that the Moroccan government may have refused entry to an RSVP Vacations charter of Holland America Line's Nieuw Amsterdam. But RSVP is now telling Cruise Critic the decision was made in-house in response to considerable worry over the safety of the ship's all-gay clientele.
Holland America and RSVP Vacations had originally stated that a "decision by local authorities ... necessitated the itinerary change."
But, according to Jeff Gundvaldson, president of RSVP Vacations, LLC, that's not quite how it happened. Holland America Line contacted him on June 29, the day before the ship was scheduled to leave, to say some of their ground staff in Casablanca were reporting uneasiness about the ship's arrival in Casablanca. They were unsure they'd be able to provide adequate security for passengers and were saying some excursions might need to be cancelled.
Gundvaldson immediately got in contact with the U.S. Embassy in Rabat. The ambassador there had heard the same reports of uneasiness. The ambassador then contacted several high-level ministers, including the Minister of Tourism and Minister of the Interior, looking for assurances.
"At 11:15 Friday night the Ambassador contacted me to say he wasn't comfortable and it would be better if we didn't dock in Casablanca," Gundvaldson told Cruise Critic.
Though the upper ministers promised extra security, they just couldn't give Gundvaldson the answers he needed in order to feel his clients would be safe.
"There was just enough doubt and it was a risk we weren't willing to take. If we're ever in doubt it's better to pull a port than risk something happening," he said.
Gundvaldson told Cruise Critic he might considering including Morocco in a future itinerary if, and only if, someone high up in Morocco were to reach out with high-level offers of safety and promises that shore excursions would go as planned.
"We are open to visiting any port in the world as long as our guests want to go and we feel we have the support from the country or port."
--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor