Church leaders discuss gay cruise with parliamentary committee

POSTED: 03/7/11 12:02 PM

Repeat of 2007 protest looms over arrival of serenade of the Seas

St. Maarten – The United Ministerial Foundation is up in arms about the arrival of Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas cruise liner on April 1 in St. Maarten. The vessel is on a tour that will take its 2,500 passengers from Puerto Rico, via Curacao, Aruba and St. Lucia to St. Maarten. The religious foundation has one problem: these passengers are gay. The foundation meets with the permanent parliamentary committee for tourism tomorrow to discuss the issue.

Royal Caribbean advertised the cruise as the Exotic Southern Caribbean Cruise. “Our San Juan departure takes you to more of the Caribbean, where some of the world’s best beaches and unforgettable adventures make each day magical. From gay-friendly San Juan, we’ll sail to St. Martin, with a full day to enjoy the beaches, and cosmopolitan charm of this two-country island. Dramatic St. Lucia offers incomparable natural beauty, from dazzling waterfalls to lush rainforests, beautiful beaches, and Sulfur Springs — the world’s only drive-through volcano,” the web site states.

“After a relaxing day at sea, we arrive in gay-friendly Curacao, one of our favorite ports of all time,” the cruise-description continues. “In addition to the charming Dutch-influenced town of Willemstad, you’ll find a beautiful rugged coastline, excellent snorkeling, and spectacular cliffs. Finally, discover the sun-drenched white sand beaches of Aruba, the playground of the Caribbean, for a full day and night adventure. There’s plenty of time to truly experience every port, and two wonderful relaxing days at sea to enjoy our magnificent ship.”

The United Ministerial Foundation has found an audience with the permanent committee for tourism, Economic affairs, transport and telecommunications tomorrow morning. Committee members Jules James, Petrus de Weever, Patrick Illidge and Frans Richardson will most likely have to deal with a request to stop the cruise from docking in St. Maarten.

In 2007, the Foundation protested in vain against the arrival of a gay Halloween cruise organized by Texas based travel organization Aquafest.

But the protest backfired and drew a torrent of negative reactions directed at the churchleaders’ intolerant attitude. They argued in 2007 that allowing the ship to dock in St. Maarten “is unhealthy, sends a negative message to our youth, is immoral and encourages violence.”

Angry readers called the church position “hypocritical”, because their leaders “never uttered a word of protest when exotic dance clubs, casinos or the Adult Toys Store in Simpson Bay opened their doors. “


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