Last edited: March 25, 2005

Miami Cruise Ship Carrying Gay, Nude Passengers Barred from St. Kitts

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, March 23, 2005

By Frank Griffiths, Associated Press

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—Authorities in Nevis barred a gay and nudist cruise organized by a Miami company from entering the tiny Caribbean island Wednesday, saying it was offensive to local customs.

A police patrol boat stopped a Windjammer Barefoot Cruises ship carrying 110 passengers on a six-day cruise as it was approaching Charlestown, Nevis, the ship’s captain Cornelius Plantefaber said.

Plantefaber said three officers boarded the ship and demanded he accompany them to a meeting onshore. The meeting lasted about an hour and port authority, police, customs and immigration officials were present, he said. Port authority officials confirmed that a meeting took place and the cruise ship was barred from entering.

“We do not want to allow people on the island who from what I’ve heard could be naked and carry a certain lifestyle and practices,” said Oral Brandy, acting general manager of the Nevis port authority. “We don’t want it to be a part of our culture ... It’s not a practice society likes here.”

Sodomy is illegal in St. Kitts and Nevis, as it is in several other Caribbean nations, and it can lead to a jail term, government spokesman Erasmus Williams said.

But Williams said gay cruises have been to the former British colony in the past and there have been no problems. The country has a federal government and the capital is in St. Kitts, but the smaller island of Nevis is semiautonomous and has jurisdiction over local affairs including entry to its ports.

“We welcome all visitors,” Williams said, speaking for the federal government. “We’ve had gay ships in St. Kitts in the past and the visits have gone off without problems. I’m surprised that Nevis officials didn’t let them in.”

Plantefaber said that the cruise would leave Nevis and head for St. Barthelemy. “I’m disgusted,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the ship. “I’ve been sailing for 24 years and have captained gay cruises before and I’ve never encountered anything like this.”

The cruise began its journey in St. Maarten on Sunday and later visited Anguilla before heading to Nevis, said Sharon Kersten, a publicist for Miami-based event production company Source Events, which organized the cruise. There were no problems in St. Maarten or Anguilla, she said.

“The passengers can be nude while the ship is at sea but once they come to shore they obviously have to be clothed,” Kersten said.

She denied Brandy’s claim that Nevis officials had intelligence that the passengers would be nude when disembarking from the ship. “It’s absolutely not true,” Kersten said. “Every one of the passengers has been told to be totally respectful.”

The ship, named S.V. Polynesia, is a 248-foot schooner and most of the passengers aboard are Americans, she said. The cruise ends Saturday in St. Maarten, a Dutch Caribbean territory. Windjammer Barefoot Cruises is based in Miami Beach, Fla.

St. Kitts and Nevis has a population of about 40,000.

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