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Bahamas Apologizes to Gay Passengers

April 19, 1998|TIMES STAFF AND WIRES

NASSAU, Bahamas — The government's tourism minister last week apologized to passengers on a lesbian-chartered cruise ship that was met with more than 100 protesters, chanting and waving signs reading "No Gay Ships."

In January, the Cayman Islands sparked outrage among gay and civil rights groups when it denied another gay-chartered ship's request to land, citing concerns that the passengers wouldn't display "appropriate behavior." The Bahamian government later welcomed the ship, unleashing a torrent of protest from religious groups.

The demonstrators in Nassau last week picketed the port as 750 passengers walked off the Seabreeze I and boarded smaller boats headed for a nearby private island. The ship, operated by Premier Cruise Lines and sailing from Miami, was chartered by Oakland-based Olivia Cruises and Resorts.

At one point, protesters broke through police lines and briefly charged the ship, after some crew had disembarked, according to Judy Werle, Olivia marketing director. "It was kind of frightening," she said.

Nevertheless, she added: "I can't imagine this one incident changing any one of our plans. This [region] is one of our most popular itineraries." Werle said that Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, boarded the ship to personally apologize to passengers.

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