Drag Stars At Sea Cruise Will Go On, As Planned, For Most

Themed cruise vacations gather like-minded travelers who share a passion for a variety of interests. For the most part, these select sailings cruise off into the sunset with no big problems on a variety of cruise lines. One such cruise that has yet to sail already has its share of headaches.

Drag Stars At Sea: Caribbean Adventure – Revenge of the Wench, is the December 2, 2012, sailing on Carnival Cruise Lines’ newly-refurbished Carnival Glory, which just re-entered service after adding a number of the line’s new Funship 2.0 upgrade initiatives.

As Carnival Cruise Lines tries to ensure fun for all, for both those in the group and those not, a number of those booked on Drag Stars At Sea are not happy. Planning on complete immersion that might include their own costumes, passengers in the group were warned by the cruise line this week in an email that “engaging in inappropriate conduct in public areas” or that dressing “in drag for the performances or in public areas at any time during the cruise” could result in guests being “disembarked at their own expense and no refund will be given.”

That has performers and fans booked on the special sailing upset with participant Phi Phi O’Hara, one of the featured entertainers sounding off on Facebook.

“I saw this today and it really saddens me….I am going on the RuPaul’s Drag Race Cruise next week….yet we are being told how to act, what to wear, and who to be….I do drag as an art and a gateway to express myself, to be apart of something that is telling my guests and I that we aren’t able to be ourselves is absolutely ridiculous.”

On any given theme cruise, fans of classic movies, jazz, rock, motorcycles and more sail along with the stars that made their theme popular. It’s up close and personal time for all throughout the voyage that typically commands a higher price, just for that reason. Travelers into the group cruise scene have the time of their lives. Others booked on the same sailing, not part of the group, may not even notice the theme group – normally.

Where the problem on Drag Stars At Sea comes from might have to do with how organizers, Al and Chuck Travel, who promote themselves as America’s #1 Gay Travel Specialist on their website, went about booking the ship, which could have gone one of two ways.A full-ship charter allows the organization booking to do pretty much whatever they want to do on board, sail to where they want to sail and charge whatever they want for accommodations. This sailing is not sold to the general public through online booking or general travel agents.

A partial charter or large group, generally less than 50% of the ship, is basically a bunch of cabins reserved for the organization on any given sailing and a common way to go for groups that are doing a theme cruise for the first time. This sailing is sold to anyone who might want to go on that particular ship and sailing date, generally without knowledge that there is a large group on board.

Specializing in this type of sailing is Atlantis Events who typically does full-ship charters like 2011’s World’s Largest Gay Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.

Not without their share of problems, too – that one was busted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection when the ship docked in St Thomas. Agents arrested an on-board drug dealer and found more than 142 ecstasy pills, nearly 3 grams of methamphetamine, a small quantity of ketamine and about $51,000 in cash.

On this Carnival Glory cruise, the cruise line walks a very tricky, fine line trying to present a version of the typical cruise vacation that will appeal to all. Miscommunication, somewhere along the line, seems to be the source of their concern

In a letter today to all passengers booked, not just group members, Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO Gerry Cahill notes:

“The group, ‘Drag Stars at Sea,’ includes several performances by stars from Logo TV as part of a series of private events onboard. When the group was presented to us we were advised that only the performers would be dressed in drag during the private events. 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. Please keep in mind that our safety and security procedures require guests to present government-issued ID, and to be recognizably that person.”

Surely, there will be homophobic passengers on board, irate about the event being on the ship without their knowledge. Cruise lines typically do not advise booked passengers of groups aboard their sailing. On this one though, Cahill’s letter addresses the issue directly with what we believe to be an unprecedented move:

“Given this misunderstanding, anyone on this cruise who wishes 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.”

Just as surely there will be event members still upset that at one point they could not dress or do what they thought they might be doing too. They may have sailed on a past gay-oriented cruise and had no problem whatsoever.

Or maybe there will be a great number of passengers on board that are there to have a good time and will be a lot like a client I once had as a travel agent.

Coming back off a seven-day sailing, that client told me everything was wonderful. The ship, crew, itinerary and price added up to a great travel value.

“But one of the best parts of the whole thing were the people on board sailing with us. There was this great bunch of guys on the ship and everyone was having a great time,” he explained. “I didn’t find out until the last day that the t-shirts they all wore that said ‘Bears’ on them were not supporting their favorite football team. It was a bunch of gay guys and boy did they know how to have a good time”

We can only hope.

[Photo Credit- Chris Owen]