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Most of the gay and lesbian community regards the Cayman Islands as gay-hostile as opposed to gay-friendly. None of the islands in the Caribbean are completely gay-friendly, even more liberal destinations like Puerto Rico and St. Croix. But the government of the Cayman Islands has been particularly vocal and unapologetic in expressing its anti-gay attitudes.

In 1998 the Cayman Islands government notoriously turned away Norwegian Cruise Lines Leeward, which was carrying 900 gay passengers. The tourism directors at George Town stated at the time: "We cannot count on this group to uphold the standards of appropriate behavior expected of visitors to the Cayman Islands." The decision drew massive protest in America, with many groups, even travel agents, discouraging travel to the Cayman Islands or calling for a complete boycott of the Cayman Islands.

Although the government officially sanctioned the ban of the Leeward, such intolerance is often not endorsed by individual hotel owners, who have told us privately that they welcome gay and lesbian patronage. Nonetheless, the official attitude doesn't make for a happy vacation, and displays of same-sex affection are severely frowned upon in Cayman Islands society. There are no gay bars or clubs and the local gay and lesbian community congregates privately, within individual homes. As a gay or lesbian traveler, you have to make a personal choice whether you want to spend your vacation dollars in the Cayman Islands, or whether you would prefer to vacation in a friendlier and more tolerant climate.

The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) (tel. 800/448-8550 or 954/630-1637; www.iglta.org) is the trade association for the gay and lesbian travel industry and offers an online directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses; go to their website and click on "Members."

Many agencies offer tours and travel itineraries specifically for gay and lesbian travelers. Among them are Now, Voyager (tel. 800/255-6951; www.nowvoyager.com) and Olivia Cruises & Resorts (tel. 800/631-6277; www.olivia.com).

The Canadian website GayTraveler (www.travelgaycanada.com) offers ideas and advice for gay travel all over the world.

The following travel guides are available at many bookstores, or you can order them from any online bookseller: Spartacus International Gay Guide, 36th Edition (Bruno Gmünder Verlag; www.spartacusworld.com/gayguide) and the Damron guides (www.damron.com), with separate, annual books for gay men and lesbians.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.