Gay Couple Arrested on Cruise Ship Speaks

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com March 26 2012 9:25 AM ET

Denis Mayer and John Hart, the gay couple from Palm Springs, Calif., arrested last week aboard an Atlantis Cruise in Dominica, talked about their ordeal upon escaping from the country.

The men told Los Angeles TV station KTLA that the trouble began when their ship arrived in Dominica and they walked onto their balcony naked. They received a phone call asking them to come see the captain in guest relations, where they were told that if convicted under an antisodomy law in the country, they could spend up to 14 years in prison. All told, the men spent 19 hours in a cement jail cell that Mayer, a retired police officer, described as inhumane with “no light, no water, no toilet,” while being paraded around like they were “some oddity.”

"We sat on the cardboard because there were cockroaches and bugs and ants in there, and I don't know why, but we thought maybe if we sat on those, the bugs wouldn't crawl on us, but eventually they did and we got bit by the bugs," he said. "We plead to that indecent exposure charge, we apologized to the court, we paid our fine."

Mayer said the authorities asked to have them medically evaluated. “They were going to transport us to a medical facility and have us medically examined to determine if we had engaged in sexual activity,” he said.

Hart and Mayer paid a $4,000 fine before heading to Puerto Rico, where they spoke by telephone on Saturday. Rich Campbell, the president of Atlantis Events, which operated the cruise with nearly 2,000 gay men on the Celebrity Summit ship, said that they were not arrested because of their sexual orientation or the antigay law. He argued on Facebook that they “were seen engaging in a sexual act outdoors on their balcony in full public view of the port and town,” resulting in complaints to police.

In subsequent comments to KTLA, Campbell called what happened to Mayer and Hart “minor” and “unfortunate,” and he compared their experience to getting a “speeding ticket.” He said that his company has taken over 50,000 gay men on cruises to the Caribbean without incident in the past 15 years.