CASABLANCA, MOROCCO – Organizers of an all-gay cruise blame Moroccan officials for cancelling what would have been the first visit of its kind to a Muslim nation. On Saturday, June 30, officials from the Holland America Line and representatives from RSVP Vacations informed the 2,100 passengers on board the MS Nieuw Amsterdam that a planned visit to Casablanca the following day was cancelled.
In a statement, the cruise line and RSVP said, “Our port agent in Casablanca has advised us that authorities in Morocco have—despite previous confirmations—now denied our scheduled visit. For all of us, this is a very disappointing development.” The joint statement noted that “It was ultimately the decision by local authorities in Morocco that has necessitated us to adjust our plans.” The Nieuw Amsterdam sailed from Barcelona, Spain, on Friday, with a passenger list consisting mainly of Americans and Europeans.
Morocco – a constitutional monarchy with a population of 32 million – has a criminal code inspired by Muslim law (“Sharia”), which forbids sex outside of marriage, and which deems same-gender sexual relations “lewd” and “unnatural,” with punishment of up to three years imprisonment. None of the kingdom’s political parties currently calls for an end to homophobic laws.
Minister of Tourism Lahcen Haddad said that no official action had been taken to keep the ship from visiting Casablanca. “We don’t ban cruise ships here, and we never ask our visitors about their sexual preferences,” Haddad said.