What Kind of Cruise?

A passenger has gone missing on an Allure of the Seas cruise, apparently a British man who was seen going over the railing of his balcony and into the water near Cozumel. Does it matter that the Allure of the Sea was being chartered by Atlantis, a tour company catering primarily to gay men?

A quick look at the mainstream press coverage shows an interesting contrast in how the gay angle is being handled: the U.S. press is generally ignoring the detail while the UK press is including it.  So which is the right call?

Here’s the initial story, from KABC in Los Angeles where a staff photojournalist was on the cruise.  The cruise was described as an Atlantis cruise, but no mention was made “what” an Atlantis cruise was.  Later coverage by the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinal–who both report heavily on the cruise industry–failed to mention that the ship was chartered by Atlantis.

In contrast, the fact that it was a “gay cruise” was prominent in the UK media. The BBC said in its last paragraph “Royal Caribbean said the liner had been chartered by Atlantis Events, a company which organises holidays for the gay and lesbian community.”  Other UK outlets took a similar approach.

Not surprisingly, you have to turn to the LGBT press and blogs to get a bigger picture.  JoeMyGod went a step further and noted that this is not the first time problems have occurred on Atlantis cruises, some attributed to potential drug use (and selling) by passengers.

In October 2009, GLAAD board member Spencer Yu died aboard an Atlantis cruise. Three months later another Atlantis passenger was found dead in his cabin. Both deaths were rumored to have been drug-related, but this was never publicly confirmed (to my knowledge.) In February of last year an Atlantis passenger (on the same ship in today’s report) was arrested for dealing drugs on board. It’s important to note that there’s no mention of drugs in today’s news report.

So here’s the journalism question: is it relevant that someone has gone overboard on a ship chartered by a company that operates gay cruises?  To me, it seems relevant and interesting.  In a small circle of friends, many knew people on the cruise.  Of course, we knew about the cruise because of the KABC naming of the tour group and the subsequent coverage in the LGBT press and blogs.  But is there broader interest in the fact that incident occurred on a “gay cruise”?  For people who don’t know that such events exist, it seems that the charter of the ship and the people participating on the cruise is newsworthy.

While I can understand the rationale of not mentioning who is chartering the boat–or not even recognizing the brand name–as not relevant to the larger story, it really only reinforces a certain invisibility.  Since there is no identification of the missing passenger, there is no real fear of “outing” anyone. That could have been the rationale at KABC, which did not want to “out” an employee, but they did it be inference by mentioning it was an Atlantis cruise.

So what do you think?  Is the fact that it is a gay cruise relevant to the story?  Why do you think the UK press is treating the fact differently than the U.S. press?


8 Responses

  1. I don’t suppose mentioning that it was a gay cruise is mandatory, but it adds information to the story. It wasn’t just a cruise, but a speciality cruise. I think if it had been a Christian cruise, a Democrats cruise, a cigar-smokers cruise or a cruise that allowed people to bring their dogs, such information likely would have found its way into the stories.

  2. I agree with Wockner. In most of the reports I’ve read about the event, the fact that this was a gay cruise was incidental to the story and not the main focus.

  3. American media hesitation to include that it was an Atlantis “Gay” cruise, surprise ?? Mention of it being a Gay cruise was probably quashed by editors due to hypersensitivity to possible libel issues. Which segues into the fact that of course over here possibly being falsely labeled “Gay” (even dead) is a cause to call a lawyer, Which then sadly devolves into the third issue, that in so many markets in the US the information that the victim could have been Gay would be cause for the readers/viewers to go tsk tsk see told ya so, or worse he deserved it.

    It is nice to see that in parts of the English speaking world, compassion for a young mans death and the tragic nature of its cause does not hinge on hiding or ignoring who he was and who he chose to celebrate with.

  4. As long as the news outlet is balanced in their reporting I think it is fine. In this case a man overboard is negative and unrelated to the fact that the passengers are gay, If something unrelated and positive happens I hope the news outlet would also mention the cruise passengers are gay.

  5. It WAS a gay cruise. A fact of the story.

  6. “generally annoying the detail”?

  7. i think it s sensationnalism.
    The G word will generate more money for the average Joe readers.

  8. I think the fact that it was a gay cruise isn’t a problem, unless of course the author starts rehashing or dredging up all the past incidents to make a “gay” cruise sound somehow nefarious. I was aboard the Atlantis and I have also taken previous cruises. If it’s any consolation to those who want to make it out to be something sinister, the Atlantis cruises are the favorite of the cruise line and the employees fight with each other to work them and will tell you it is the highlight of their 7 month tour. Talk to anyone who takes a “normal” cruise and you’ll hear of deaths (each ship has a morgue because it’s VERY common), people thrown off for fighting or other behavioral issues, falling overboard while drunk…..and, and, and. We never seem to hear of those. Of course with a gay charter the rumor mill will be wagging. It must have been drugs because that’s how every person on the planet finally goes, right? Heart attack? Probably drug induced. Stroke? Bet it was drugs. Dead in his sleep? Over dose. Slipped on the pool deck? Yep, drugs…. The woman who died the last ship out falling down the stairs? Granny was probably cracked out of her mind. Oops, nobody reported that? Must have been a straight cruise.

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