The LGBT travel community is in an uproar over the announcement that two gay men were arrested for having sex in while on board an Atlantis cruise ship docked in Dominica. While initial reports indicated that the couple was inside their cabin at the time, Rich Campbell from Atlantis Events later revealed that they "were seen engaging in a sexual act outdoors on their balcony in full public view of the port and town. Not only did many of the residents witness the act, several of our guests saw this incident as well." These new facts certainly mitigate the shock of the arrest, as it is illegal for any couple gay or straight to have public sex in Dominica. It is the responsibility of every traveler to both learn and obey the laws of any country they choose to visit.
However, one question remains – why are so many gays and lesbians drawn to a region that is historically known to be not only unwelcoming, but in many cases outright dangerous to LGBT travelers? The most recent CMI Survey revealed that "65% of gay men and 72% of lesbians indicated that safety was an important factor in choosing their vacation travel destination." In the past few years, we’ve seen a protest greet an R Family Cruise in the Bahamas and gays attacked by a machete-wielding mob in Jamaica.
Yet page visits to the Caribbean section of the gaytravel site indicate that there remains a strong interest from the LGBT community in travelling there. The Caribbean is currently the third most visited destination on our site after Europe and North America. Traffic to the pages is up 15% from 2010. Most of the gay cruise operators continue to offer cruises to the Caribbean and they are consistently among the most popular cruise pages on our site.
What’s the missing link here? Sure the Caribbean is gorgeous and relatively close to the East Coast. Hawaii is gorgeous and relatively close to the West Coast, but there are far fewer all gay and gay group cruises to Hawaii. Is it time for the LGBT community to rethink the Caribbean? Should we just focus on the less-homophobic islands like St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and Curacao?
Have you been to the Caribbean? What was your experience like? Would you go back or recommend the destination to a friend? What do you think the reaction of the public would have been to a straight couple in the same situation?