A gay cruise has been diverted from Moroccan city of Casablanca with organisers saying they were turned away from the port.

The cruise would reportedly have been the first of its kind to visit Morocco, where homosexuality is illegal.

2,100 gay holidaymakers aboard the cruise liner MS Nieuw Amsterdam were told the stop in western Morocco had unexpectedly been cancelled.

Holland America Line and RSVP Vacations diverted the ship from the west African port on 1 July.

According to Reuters, passengers on the ship received a letter saying: “Our port agent in Casablanca has advised us that authorities in Morocco have – despite previous confirmations – now denied our scheduled visit.”

“For all of us, this is a very disappointing development. It was ultimately the decision by local authorities in Morocco that has necessitated us to adjust our plans.”

However, the Moroccan Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad told Reuters: “We don’t ban cruise ships here and we never ask our visitors about their sexual preferences.”

He insisted additionally that the ship was free to return if the organisers so wished.

Article 489 of the Penal Code of Morocco criminalises “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex”.

Homosexuality is punishable by six months to 3 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 120 to 1200 dirhams (£9 to £90).