Gay travel sometimes means unfriendly destinations, agents say

Gay or straight, it’s not hard for a traveler to get lost in the moment on vacation when surrounded by balmy breezes, pulsating island rhythms and rum-soaked cocktails.

But getting caught in a compromising position in public can sometimes be costly.

That’s what two American gay men found out Wednesday when they were arrested in Dominica after someone on the dock claimed they were having sex on the balcony of their room aboard Celebrity Summit.

The two, who were on a gay cruise organized by California-based Atlantis Events, pleaded guilty to indecent exposure Thursday and paid fines of nearly $900 each, according Dominica media reports.

Travel specialists say gay cruisers can often find destinations less welcoming and tolerant of their sexual orientation, particularly in the Caribbean and other countries worldwide where laws prohibit or discourage same-sex couples.

That can sometimes raise safety concerns for these travelers in destinations where anti-gay sentiment is high and cases of physical abuse against gays have been reported.

“We caution customers about this,” said Charles Dubinsky, owner of Rainbow Travel in Oakland Park.

“If someone was looking at it [Dominica] I’d inform them of how careful they’d need to be,” said Dubinsky, referring to the existence of local laws that are not accepting of gays.

Another potential trouble spot is Jamaica, where several local reggae artistes including Buju Banton, and Beenie Man have in the past been accused of using anti-gay lyrics in their songs.

“I try to steer my clients away from Jamaica” and other Caribbean islands where homophobic sentiment has been historically high, Paul Stalbaum, president of Cruise Designs Travel in Wilton Manors, said Friday.

“I’m not comfortable sending clients there,” said Stalbaum, who recounted an unpleasant encounter a few years ago with anti-gay hecklers in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Stalbaum said travelers bound for problematic destinations should try not to stand out.

“Don’t dress flashy, don’t be flamboyant, don’t be overly affectionate,” are words of advice Stalbaum typically offers.

Although some travel agents shy away from Jamaica because of its anti-gay reputation, others like Dubinsky say there haven’t been any reported incidents recently.

While some islands may raise concerns for gays, others such as San Juan, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Aruba and Curacao are more tolerant, specialists say.

These destinations and others “embrace gay travelers and make it comfortable to be there,” Stalbaum said.

Given that gay and lesbian travelers are big business for cruise lines, destinations that promote intolerance, shouldn’t benefit from gay tourists’ dollars, Dubinsky said.

“Just because their sexual preference is different, doesn’t mean (the preference) is wrong and it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.

asatchell@tribune.com, 954-356-4209 or Twitter @TheSatchreport.

Article source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-gay-cruise-dominica-20120323,0,1340732.story

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