Metro Weekly

Carnival links drag to inappropriate behavior

UPDATE: Carnival apologizes for ‘miscommunication’ surrounding drag cruise

An eight-day cruise with nearly 40 stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race seems like it should be a fun event. However, Carnival Cruise Lines has turned it into a public relations nightmare that hints at homophobia.

A letter from Carnival sent yesterday to passengers booked on the special cruise was shared with Elsewhere. The company tells passengers that it expects “all guests to recognize that minors are onboard and, refrain from engaging in inappropriate conduct in public areas.” It also tells passengers that “guests are not allowed to dress in drag for the performances or in public areas at any time during the cruise.” Passengers are also informed that “any guest who violates our policies and/or whose behavior affects the comfort and enjoyment of other guests, will be disembarked at their own expense and no refund will be given.”

RuPaul’s Drag Race season 4 participant Phi Phi O’hara posted this message about the letter on her Facebook fan page:

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. I am sorry for anyone who received this letter, we shouldn’t have to be subjected to feeling like outcasts on our own cruise. Everything that has happened with this cruise is sadly out of any of the Drag Race girls hands and we deeply apologize! Carnival Cruise Lines has basically tried to mask who we are and it shouldn’t be allowed. You shouldn’t be told how to express yourself and to hide who you are….EVER!
Here is the entire text of Carnival’s letter:
November 26, 2012

Greetings Fun Seekers!

We know you are looking forward to your cruise next month. We’re certainly looking forward to welcoming you and your group aboard the beautiful Carnival Glory.

There are lots of special activities planned for your group so we are confident you are going to have a great cruise. However, in order to ensure a fun and memorable time for everyone, we want to take a few moments to make you aware of certain policies and conduct expectations so as to avoid any potential disappointment during your cruise.

Carnival attracts a number of families with children and for this reason; we strive to present a family friendly atmosphere. It is important to us that all guests are comfortable with every aspect of the cruise. Although we realize this group consists solely of adults, we nonetheless expect all guests to recognize that minors are onboard and, refrain from engaging in inappropriate conduct in public areas.

Arrangements have been made for drag performances in the main theater featuring stars from LOGO TV. These functions will be private and only the performers are permitted to dress in drag while in the theater. Guests are not allowed to dress in drag for the performances or in public areas at any time during the cruise.

We’re sorry to say that any guest who violates our policies and/or whose behavior affects the comfort and enjoyment of other guests, will be disembarked at their own expense and no refund will be given.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Now that we’ve taken care of business…let the FUN begin!

See you soon!

Vicky Rey, CTC
Vice President – Guest Services

Al & Chuck Travel, organizers of the drag cruise, posted the following statement on its Facebook page in an attempted to clarify (i.e. damage control) Carnival’s letter:

Dear Valued Guests and Friends,

We hope that this brief note finds you well.

By now, we are sure that most of you traveling with us on the upcoming Drag Stars At Sea: Caribbean Adventure – Revenge of the Wench have received Carnival’s letter regarding their regulations concerning costumes and masks (under which traditional “DRAG” falls under).

We are sympathetic to your sentiments that you have expressed via email and social media. As a gay man who has been partnered for 25 years, I have suffered many forms of discriminations because I am part of the GLBT community. But please take note, Carnival’s regulation is NOT an example of discrimination.

Carnival is an ally of the GLBT community. Please understand that this cruise could not even be happening on the GLORY if Carnival was not an ally of our segment of society. When they say they are a “family friendly” cruise line they mean it in both the traditional and metaphorical sense of the phrase.

Carnival’s “no costumes rule” is NOT meant to be an insult to the gay community. As a gay business, we would not have organized this cruise if they were prejudiced against gay people. This rule goes for both GAY and STRAIGHT passengers that travel on all Carnival cruises. It is in response to the post-911 world we live in. It is meant to protect passengers and guests – NOT to marginalize a few.

Additionally, we know that transgendered members of our community will be aboard with us during this event. Please do not worry, Carnivals rule is not meant towards you. Your right to live your identity is always supported.

Finally, Drag Stars At Sea is a cruise venue for you to meet the stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL. Just as you would not go in costume (other than on Halloween) to a club to see them perform, neither should you on the GLORY. Again, our desire was always to bring this incredible talent together in one place for you to enjoy along with all the other benefits of the VALUE of a mixed guest cruise. We pointed out to you that a private charter (and they are excellent cruises) can be DOUBLE what you are paying for this experience. This is an opportunity for your favorite entertainers to shine for YOU! We will of course, still have our parties and events aboard (the rules of which are outlined in your travel package) for you to join in on the fun.

Ultimately, let’s use this opportunity to set an example so that all the world can see that the GLBT community can follow rules and regulations just like everyone else. Finally, I want to say from the bottom of my heart, we have done our absolute best in creating this event. We have tried to communicate effectively and bring you the best possible experience, which we believe would not be available to you any other way. At the end of the cruise, I hope you will agree with my sentiment humbly expressed here.

Chuck and I look forward to meeting you on board….we promise you the best time of your lives!

Al Ferguson

The majority of the comments to Al & Chuck Travel’s statement have also been highly negative:

“Shame on chuck and al for letting them get away with this I don’t care what you say it is out right discrimination.”

“Al and Chuck not once mentioned that we could not dress up on this cruise. I do drag… And have spent a lot of money preparing clothing and everything drag takes. It’s misleading! Are they going to reimburse me for my expenses on this?”

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Troy Petenbrink is Metro Weekly's contributing writer for food and travel. He can be reached at

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