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?