The church lobby will need more than 'divine intervention' to stop gays coming to the island.

Today we can reveal another 'gay cruise' is on the way.

Earlier this week a cruise run by TV's Rosie O'Donnell pulled out of a scheduled visit here after fundamentalist Christians suggested they might bus passengers off to church.

Now we have learnt a gay travel group based in New York is organizing a trip to Bermuda next month on the Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.

The company, Pied Piper, has been organizing gay groups on luxury ships since 1990 and has been to Bermuda many times over the years without incident.

Yesterday, the company's president, Derek Bergl, said he'd read the stories about the Rosie O'Donnell cruise, but he said it wouldn't make any difference to the trip.

He told us: "We're escorting a small gay group in May of about 30 passengers. It's not an all-gay cruise, like Rosie's.

"We're still going ahead with the cruise, which makes a stop in Bermuda."

Despite objections by the church group United By Faith, Mr. Bergl said: "We've escorted many gay groups to Bermuda on cruises before and have not had any problems. We've always found the Bermudian people to be very friendly."

More than 200 publications picked up the Rosie O'Donnell story, but according to the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), it only confirmed what many gay people already know about Bermuda.

John Tanzella, the group's executive director, told us: "I personally have been to Bermuda about ten times in my life, but it has been many years since my last trip.

"Bermuda is a very lovely island with wonderful people, but it does have the reputation for being anti-gay and hence gay travellers avoid spending their vacation money there.

"IGLTA has no member hotel properties or businesses on the island and that is certainly visible on our website for gay travellers."

The cruise leaves New Jersey on May 25 and arrives at Dockyard on May 27. It is only expected to be here one day, between 8am and 5pm. It then sails on to St. Maarten, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

What do you think? E-mail your comments on this issue to the editor; tmcwilliam@

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