Imagine this: Your significant other tells you they have a big surprise for you. Your heart skips a beat, your pulse quickens. You feel their hot breath as they lean into your ear and whisper: "We're going on a cruise".
What??!! Aren't cruises just for straight people? My gosh, have you ever seen the Love Boat? Would you want to be stuck with those people for a week or more? Get with the times, Wilbur, or Wilma: Cruising has evolved. There are more gay and lesbian men and women cruising than ever before, and more "alternative cruising" options for them to choose from.
You can choose to cruise by yourselves; or as part of a gay group; or even on an all-gay cruise. Whatever your preferences, there's a cruise for you -- from relaxing to raucous, mild to wild! From Alaska to the Caribbean, from Europe to South America, you'll find a variety of all-gay and gay-group cruises, and one of them is likely to suit your mood, lifestyle and budget.
One of the best known names in gay cruising is Atlantis Events (www.AtlantisEvents.com). In 2003, Atlantis will be hosting a group aboard the brand-new Norwegian Dawn of Norwegian Cruise Line from January 25 to February 1. It's the world's largest gay cruise, offering seven days of sun, fun and flesh. Participants will cruise to Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico, Key West, and NCL's private island in the Bahamas.
Atlantis's prices can seem a little steep compared to other cruises, but the company pulls out all the stops, providing its own on-board entertainment, DJs, T-dances and deck parties. In the past, Atlantis group cruises have featured headline entertainers like Rosie O'Donnell, Patti LuPone, Chaka Kahn and Cybil Shepard. And if past cruises are any example of the level of fun you can expect, consider that NCL has had to re-stock the ships with liquor, sundries and snack foods halfway through previous voyages. Ultimately, the best proof is the large number of repeat guests who come back for another Atlantis Events cruise.
Atlantis will also offer a southern Caribbean itinerary aboard NCL's Norwegian Sky, sailing from San Juan March 9-16.
Another well-known name in gay cruising is RSVP (www.RSVPVacations.com). In 2003, the company will offer a "Que Rico" cruise (Spanish for How Rich, How Tasty, How HOT!) aboard Holland America's brand-new Zuiderdam. It sails from Ft. Lauderdale February 22-March 1 and calls at San Juan, St John and St Bart's. While Atlantis tends to draw an all-male crowd, RSVP attracts a mix of men and women. While men are definitely in the majority, RSVP is becoming better known and more popular in the lesbian community. You might also have a few straight passengers "along for the ride" with their friends or family as well.
For those seeking a more exotic or perhaps more laid-back and intimate experience, RSVP will also offer a Thailand cruise aboard Star Clipper's Star Flyer March 15-23, and a river cruise between Prague and Budapest September 12-22. RSVP has also scheduled four Mediterranean voyages aboard the Royal Clipper to France, Italy, Greece and Spain during July and August. Besides providing a more intimate, exotic and even educational experience, these cruises offer you the opportunity to visit many of the globe's gay Meccas in comfort and convenience.
But my personal pick for something different and perhaps a bit naughty is the "Pillage and Plunder" cruise (http://PillageandPlunder.org) benefiting Tampa Bay Pride. Set aboard the venerable Regal Empress November 3-7, it's a far cry from the Atlantis or RSVP cruises on their sparkling new mega-ships. But what the Regal Empress lacks in size and features is made up for by the "cast and crew." This voyage is a virtual fantasy-fest featuring well-known gay porn stars such as Chris Steele, Colton Ford, Will Clark, Kyle Kennedy, Matt Summers and other famous names in the Chi Chi La Rue stable. You'll also find some of the more popular RentBoy.com "models" aboard as Go-Go Boys. And yes, you can look AND touch!
You'll sail from Port Manatee, just outside Tampa, to Key West and Cozumel. The cruise will feature activities like a Toga Party; "Dinner with the Stars" (i.e., porn stars); the Roman Deca-Dance Trash Disco Party; cabaret and drag shows; the "Black Out" dinner (wear your best leather), Boxer & Briefs Dinner; the "Mr. Pillage & Plunder" contest by the pool, featuring Naked Twister; and a contest dealing with, um, "size." Some other activities are just too naughty to mention here!
For a little more variety or if you want to sail with a smaller group, there are plenty of cruise and travel agencies specializing in gay cruises.
Pied Piper Travel (www.PiedPiperTravel.com) is offering, among others, a Hawaii cruise aboard Celebrity's Infinity April 3-13, 2003, and a Carnival in Rio cruise aboard Cunard's new Queen Mary 2 March 6-16, 2004. As this QM2 cruise is extremely popular, space may already be close to sold out!
Ocean Voyager Travel (www.OceanVoyager.com) is another agency offering a variety of hosted gay groups, including a Panama Canal cruise aboard Celebrity's Infinity March 9-23, 2003, or something more rustic like Alaska aboard Holland America's Zaandam August 2-9, 2003.
Washington, D.C.-based Personalized Travel (www.PersonalizedTravel.net) is a perennial favorite of many gay travelers. You can "Travel with Mike and Dave" to the Baltic aboard Holland America's brand new Oosterdam from Copenhagen to London August 15-29, 2003, or spend Thanksgiving with them cruising to Mexico aboard Holland America's Ryndam November 23-30.
These listings only scratch the surface of gay cruising and travel in general. One invaluable resource is the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) website (www.IGLTA.com). It's overflowing with information on travel agents, airlines, cruises, hotels, guesthouses, destination information, attractions, entertainment, private homes/villas and much, much more!
Whatever your tastes, there's a cruise out there to suit your lifestyle, choice of destination and budget. And best of all, you'll not be just another guest, you'll be cruising with family!