ROSEAU, DOMINICA — On March 22, two gay California men pleaded guilty after being arrested for indecent exposure and “buggery” during a cruise stop for a gay Caribbean sailing.
John Robert Hart, 41, and Dennis Jay Mayer, 43, of Palm Springs, were arrested the previous day after police say that witnesses saw them having sex on the Celebrity Summit cruise ship as it was docked in Dominica, an island nation in the Lesser Antilles where consensual sex between men is a criminal offense.
“We humbly apologize to the people of Dominica,” both men said during their hearing, adding that they regretted their offense.
The couple’s lawyer, Bernadette Lambert, painted a picture of innocent abandon during the 30-minute hearing.
“They were struck by the beautiful mountains, the clean and clear fresh air, and were having a few cocktails, and so threw caution to the wind,” she told the judge. Hart and Mayer were ordered to pay about $900 in fines by Chief Magistrate Evaline Baptiste, who called them “rogues and vagabonds.”
Police boarded the Celebrity Summit on March 21 after an eyewitness in Rouseau, the capital of Dominica, reported seeing the men from the dock having sex onboard the ship. They were arrested on suspicion of “buggery,” the local equivalent of sodomy in the island, which has one of the lowest per capita gross domestic product (GDP) rates of Eastern Caribbean states, and is sometimes confused with the Dominican Republic.
The Celebrity Summit departed Puerto Rico on March 17 carrying about 2,000 passengers. The cruise was organized by California-based Atlantis Events, a company that specializes in gay travel. The ship departed Dominica for St. Barts, leaving the men behind, held in a jail cell at police headquarters.
Ian Douglas, the country’s Minster of Tourism, cautioned tourists to abide by local regulations, and reproved cruise and tour officials for not making passengers aware of local laws.
“It cannot be the responsibility of Dominica to screen guests and tourists before they come into the country,” said Douglas. “It is expected that any time people come to a country, they will respect the laws of the country.”
Gay cruises to the Caribbean have become popular in spite of hostility to homosexuality on several islands, including Barbados, the Cayman Islands, and Jamaica. Cruisemates.com reports that no gay cruise lines sail to Barbados or Jamaica because of local homophobia and fear of violence. Other Caribbean states are more welcoming of LGBT tourists.
Authorities in the Caribbean last intervened on a gay cruise n February 2011, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrested a California man aboard the vessel Allure of the Seas, which was docked in St. Thomas.
Steven Krumholz pleaded guilty to dealing ecstasy, methamphetamine, and ketamine (which goes by the street name “Special K”) to other passengers.