Island that once turned gay travelers away suggests changing sentiment toward gays in some parts of the Caribbean.
The rainbow flag in Cuba doesn’t stand for gay pride. Rather, the locals insist, it signifies the European symbol for “inclusiveness.”
The Significance of Caribbean Travel for the LGBT Community
Issues of inclusiveness in many other locales might not be a big deal – but this is the Caribbean, a place where hate crimes and harassment of homosexuals is a current issue. The British government that abolished the slave trade in 1807 decriminalized homosexuality in the Cayman Islands in 2000. Homosexuality nevertheless remains illegal on Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Jamaica, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago, according to a 2014 State-Sponsored Homophobia report from the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (click here for the report pdf). Just as the Catholic Church’s sentiment toward homosexuals seems to be changing, so is sentiment changing in some parts of the Caribbean.
While there are issues with some countries in the Caribbean, there are many amazing vacation options for the LGBT community. From all-inclusive hotels in Mexico to Cayman cruises, take part in what the Caribbean has to offer.
RSVP Vacations to celebrate its 30th anniversary Princess Cruise Lines
LGBT vacation provider RSVP Vacations plans to celebrate its 30th anniversary with a Feb. 2015 Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess cruise that pays a milestone call on Grand Cayman. Officials there drew protests and calls for a boycott in 1998, when they turned away a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship carrying 900 gay passengers. Learn more at http://www.rsvpvacations.com/rsvp-30th-anniversary-cruise/7.
LGBT Caribbean Vacation Services
It wasn’t until 2005 that a lone Caribbean island – Curaçao – publicly announced its inclusiveness. A Caribbean group known as “Generation Change” has brought together smaller LGBT organizations struggling to be heard in their calls for the same. And a new travel provider known as Transgender Vacations in December 2014 joins Royal Caribbean in hosting what’s being touted as the World’s First Transgender Oceanic Cruise. The group is encouraging travelers to embark upon shore excursions in groups.
Boutique Vacation Company for LGBT travelers
Lesbian activist and former comedian Robin Tyler launched a boutique vacation company for LGBT travelers after she went on a gay cruise and decided she wanted to experience more of the ports that ships visited. Her Robin Tyler International Tours and Cruises books tours to more distant locales than the Caribbean, but she personally vacations in Cancun and describes Mexico as “extremely gay friendly.”
Annual Gay Events in Mexico
Mexico sets the scene for at least three annual gay events, and new Hard Rock Hotel properties in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, like sister properties worldwide, host same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies. Other lodging facilities tout inclusiveness as well: Sandals Resorts “warmly welcomes all adult couples at its properties throughout the Caribbean,” according to spokesperson Cathleen Decker. The Marriott hotel chain, started by Mormon missionaries and operating Courtyards, Residence Inns and Ritz-Carltons, is also gay friendly. W Hotels in Vieques, Puerto Rico and Manhattan have teamed up to offer same sex partner ceremonies.
About RSVP Vacations
Of LGBT travel providers in the Caribbean, RSVP is one of the oldest. Roper said that his travel groups have felt welcomed among many islands since about 1986 and that company representatives meet with Ministers of Tourism and other local officials to ensure that guests have safe, enjoyable visits. “. . . we’ve had a few random protest groups that have tried to make political statements about the LGBT community . . ., but those are few and far between,” Roper said. “Just as we’ve seen discriminatory laws fall by the wayside here in the US, so too have we seen this happen in the Caribbean.”
Favorite Caribbean Islands for LGBT Vacations:
- Curacao is a favorite among RSVP travelers.
- Puerto Rico
- Dominican Republic
- St. Maarten
- St. Thomas
- St. Kitts
Puerto Rico Gay-Friendly Lodging
San Juan and its new arts and culture district, Santurce, are home to several gay-friendly lodging facilities and nightspots, and the Krash Klub in the Condado remains the area’s primary gay club, according to Out Traveler.
US Virgin Islands – St. Croix is the most gay friendly
Of the US Virgin Islands, Out Traveler describes St. Croix as the most gay friendly. Cupecoy Beach on the Dutch side of St. Maarten is a gay beach, and the gay-friendly Sand Castle on the Beach resort in Frederiksted, St. Croix features a nearby gay beach and gay-oriented nightlife, the publication notes. Islands such as Jamaica, meanwhile, remain off even the RSVP radar. There are islands that are “extremely homophobic,” Tyler said. “I would recommend that gay people not travel there, even closeted, if there’s a history of violence against gay and transgender people.”
For more information about LGBT Caribbean Vacations and Cruises
The RSVP Vacations Princess cruise departs Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 8 and returns on Feb. 15, 2015. In addition to George Town, Grand Cayman, the vessel stops at Cozumel, Mexico and the private Princess Cays in the Bahamas. The company is anticipating 3,600 passengers and plans onboard themed parties, T-dances and more. Rates start at $899 per person. For more information or to book a cabin, call RSVP Vacations at 310.432.2300. Additional LGBT travel providers include: Robin Tyler International Tours and Cruises: 818.893.4075 Olivia Travel: 800.631.6277 Atlantis Events: 800.628.5268 Concierge Travel: 877.775.9616 R Family Vacations: 917.522.0985