Gay Etiquette at Sea

As a gay person, I behave according on my comfort level in my surroundings and the person I'm with. Translation: is the environment gay friendly? For example, I'm more apt to hold my boyfriend's hand In the middle of a Pride parade, than at the super market in Pocatello, Idaho. The theory is safety in numbers. Aboard a cruise ship, public behavior also depends on how comfortable you feel in that environment. Keep in mind that cruising attracts a huge number of gays and lesbians who can be found aboard ships ranging from budget to the most exclusive afloat.

"Gay Identified" people have become more a part of main stream American consciousness -- the general public knows we exist. We can credit much of this to television, e.g. "Ellen" and "Will and Grace." (I think the only real Gay Identified character in this case is not gay, but is a fag hag�why cant Grace find a straight guy anyway?).


Aboard a cruise ship, you probably don't have to worry about getting punched out when holding hands in a public area. Everyone is on vacation, in a good mood and international maritime laws do not cite holding hands a crime, punishable by being thrown overboard. In fact someone may approach you and query "aren't you Will's funny gay side kick on the "Will & Grace" show?

Seriously though, I have been on a number of cruises and without fail, have met at least one or two other couples or gay friends traveling together. It also seems to me (could be wishful thinking on my part) half the staff is gay or gay friendly, common in most hospitality industries. However, If being demonstrative and showing affection in public is important to you, your best choice may be a full gay/lesbian.

Bob Allen, President of Ocean Voyager Cruise Consultants, Inc. in Miami, who specializes in small gay cruise groups, passes along his observations on proper -- and improper -- etiquette aboard cruise ships.

  • Photography: Gay couples always seem ready for a 'close-up' onboard when the ever- present ship's photographer wants to snap their picture. Posing affectionately comes quite naturally for welcome aboard pictures and shipboard photos.
  • Special Celebrations: It is quite common to request a cake, fancy wine or champagne to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. The festivites take place at the end of the meal in the dining room, and waiters will always join in for a song of congratulations.
  • Holding hands: this is becoming more common by the pool or on deck during the day and during moonlight strolls in the evening.
  • Hugging, Kissing: acceptable during greetings or celebrations and as a goodnight gesture. Heterosexual couples have been seen passionately making out on deck or in the pool. Gay or Lesbian couples do not do this, except on a full gay charter.
  • Dancing: Same sex disco dancing is quite common. Very few gay couples slow dance, although it does occasionally occur. Just be ready for a lot of straight stares. If you are ok with it than do it -- you will not be thrown in the ships brig!
  • Drag: Leave your wigs and leather at home. Costa Cruise Lines has a "Toga Party" one night during every cruise. W certainly gave that ship a fashion show, walking into the dining room awash in white sheets and pillow cases, potted plants lifted from the cabin atop our heads.
  • Cruising the Crew: Hands off the staff unless you like to flirt with big problems. Ship staff member caught in a passenger cabin (unless they are cleaning it) is immediately fired. However, there are no rules against meeting them during a port visit.

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