Same-Sex Marriage Issue is Prompting a Boycott of the The World’s Biggest Cruise Ship Operator
Jamison Firestone cancelled a cruise in protest over Cunard's refusal to stop flying the flag of Bermuda, which recently became the first jurisdiction in the world to repeal same-sex marriage. The world’s largest leisure travel company is facing a boycott for refusing to pull its fleets out of Bermuda, after it became the first jurisdiction in the world to repeal same-sex marriage, GayTies can reveal.
The criticism began when Cunard Line, which runs the Queen Mary 2 (pictured on left), the world’s largest ocean liner, told a gay couple who had cancelled their trip in protest that they would not receive a refund on their deposit – and ignored calls to register the ship elsewhere and change its flag.
The Queen Mary 2, a totem of maritime grandeur, is the flagship vessel in Cunard’s luxury fleet. The British-American cruise line has, since 2011, registered its ships in Bermuda.
Companies registered in this British overseas territory do not have to pay corporation tax. But registering a ship to any jurisdiction or country means abiding by its laws, flying its flag, and paying a fee to its authorities. Cunard did not respond when asked by GayTies whether it is registered in Bermuda for tax purposes.
Since Bermuda introduced same-sex marriages in May 2017, the Queen Mary 2 has hosted gay weddings on board and, according to a company representative, Cunard employees are “proud to be strong supporters of the LGBT community.”
But following the revocation of same-sex marriage last week, customer Jamison Firestone – who had booked a transatlantic crossing on the liner for him and his husband – emailed Cunard calling on it to register elsewhere and asking for his £600 deposit back.
“I simply do not feel comfortable taking a cruise on a ship registered in a jurisdiction that does not accept my marriage,” he wrote. But the company ignored his plea to re-flag and re-register the vessel in solidarity with the LGBT community and refused to give his money back.
A Cunard employee told him via email that the company was unable to refund him “due solely to any personal opinion of the independent laws of Bermuda” and because “a cancellation for this particular reason would not constitute a significant alteration to the package as booked.”
Firestone, a human rights lawyer from London, told GayTies that in fact this did represent a significant alteration of what he booked. “When I made the booking I thought, ‘It’s Cunard, the boat is named after a queen of England, it’s a quintessentially British experience.’ It is supposed to buy into British values or basic values of human rights,” he said, adding that he was unaware at the time of booking where the fleet was legally registered. It did not used to fly the Bermudan flag and was, said Firestone, “a symbol of Britishness for a long time.”
“Then I read in the newspaper that Bermuda had revoked same-sex marriage and that all ships flying its flag would no longer be able to provide weddings, including the Cunard ships. I thought, ‘That’s not what I signed up for. My romantic experience isn’t supposed to be sailing on some ship registered to a jurisdiction that has just decided that people like me shouldn’t be married.’”
The trip was, he said, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for him and his new husband, sailing from New York back to Britain after his husband’s daughter’s graduation in the States. The total cost of the tickets was just under £4,000, but as well as cancelling the trip, he thought Cunard would understand the predicament facing him and his husband and also return the deposit.
“Back in the days of the civil rights movement, people stopped paying for public transport because they didn’t want their money going to segregation. And I don’t want to pay for this,” he said. “What if they had banned interracial marriages? Would I stay on a ship from a country flying that flag? No.”
In his correspondence with the company, seen by BuzzFeed News, Firestone also asked Cunard to oppose change to the same-sex marriage law by removing its fleet from Bermuda – and the flag with it. As well as the Queen Mary 2, Cunard owns the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria cruise ships. Its headquarters are in Southampton, England.
Cunard is in turn owned by the multibillion-dollar Carnival Corporation & plc – the largest leisure travel company in the world. It has 10 cruise line brands including P&O, which has eight ships registered to Bermuda, and Princess, which has 13 ships registered in the jurisdiction. Bermuda is heavily dependent on tourism, and earns tens of thousands of dollars annually for each ship registered there.
But a Cunard representative did not ... CLICK BELOW TO READ FULL STORY Read this full article now
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