(USATODAY.com) - In advance of a "Drag Stars at Sea" cruise on the Carnival Glory next week, passengers received notification drag costumes will not be allowed in public areas of the ship.
This has sparked a controversy that has drag queens and supporters crying foul on websites including America Blog, although the gay-owned travel agency that arranged the cruise is defending the cruise line.
The week-long eastern Caribbean cruise, set to embark Miami on Dec. 2, has been billed by organizer Al and Chuck Travel as the largest gathering of drag queens at sea, with more than 30 drag stars fromRuPaul's Drag Race set to perform.
Participants have been promised exclusive cocktail parties and shows, question-and-answer sessions and other activities not open to other passengers on the cruise.
The controversy began with a letter from Vicky Ray, Carnival's vice president of guest services, advising passengers that they will not be allowed to dress in drag on the sailing.
"Carnival attracts a number of families with children and for this reason; we strive to present a family friendly atmosphere," the letter reads. "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."
She continues, "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."
Guests who violate the policy, Ray continues, "will be disembarked at their own expense and no refund will be given."
Al Ferguson, president of Al and Chuck Travel, took to the agency's Facebook page to defend the cruise line's move, saying it has to do with security, not 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," Ferguson writes.
He says the rule about no costumes in public applies to both gay and straight people and "is meant to protect passengers and guests - NOT to marginalize a few."
Ferguson adds that Carnival's rule will not apply to transgender individuals. "Your right to live your identity is always supported," he writes.
"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," Ferguson urges.
Carnival is preparing an official statement on the matter, according to a spokesman.
This item was written by Fran Golden, a cruise expert and Trip Coach for Budget Travelmagazine. Golden is serving as Guest Editor of The Cruise Log while USA TODAY Cruise Editor Gene Sloan is away.