Not only have I worked on two cruise ships (as an entertainer, ‘cause duh), but I also happen to have an extensive knowledge on how gay cruises are operated from the inside out. Since summer is fast approaching, I figured I’d share my two cents.
Cruising at sea is not the same as cruising on land. First of all, you don’t have to “cruise” while on a gay cruise like Atlantis Events (the best). Everyone is pretty much guaranteed to be looking for a good time, regardless of who they came with.
Look, you’re on a romantic getaway. Whether you’re traveling with your man or planning to party with friends, you will find whatever it is you’re looking for. But first, you have to know what you want. First things first …
1. Itinerary is everything.
Don’t worry about finding cute guys to party with. Trust me, you WILL. That’s guaranteed. If you’re spending $1000 for a nine-day trip overseas, you better make it worthwhile in other ways. Be sure to choose the best itinerary for what you and your party want to do.
Whether it’s beaches in the Caribbean or exploring castles in Europe, let it be a vacation first, and a party second. You don’t want to stay on the ship the whole time — I mean, you can, but the party is always going to be there when you get back. Besides, most of the fun will be at night anyway.
2. Understand the theme nights and think outside the box.
After you buy your tickets, you will get an itinerary letting you know what type of events there’ll be, along with dress code. Most cruises will have different themes based on the type of clientele they have (yes, cruise directors get the skinny on who’s coming weeks in advance and plan accordingly).
You might have disco nights, white parties, even random themes with puns galore: “Jungle Fever,” “Star Wars,” etc. Make sure to bring costumes, otherwise you’ll be the only one in “normal” clothes. Almost, everyone is either dressed to impress or dressed to disrobe.
A disco night isn’t just platforms; it’s Cher in platforms. “Jungle Fever” isn’t just a wife beater and short brown shorts; it’s shirtless Tarzan.
3. Pack one of everything.
Packing accordingly is the one thing many gay cruisers forget: Day clothes, swimwear, shoes, costumes, accessories, night attire, button ups, dress slacks, suit jacket, ties, many kinds of underwear, etc. Be sure to bring everything you can, even if you tell yourself you’re not going to “dress up.”
4. It’s a ship. Not a boat.
Don’t call your ship a “boat.” That’s the first rule they taught us while working on a cruise. Boats are those things on the side of the ship that might save your life, but she’s more luxurious than that; She’s a SHIP. Practice, practice, practice ….
5. Plan group costumes accordingly.
We all want to have awesome photos of our adventure when we get back to the real world, which is why group costumes are crucial, but you need to plan in advance. It sounds weird, but it’s true.
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You need to coordinate because the last thing you want is your best friend to bring his “Cher” too. Why risk it being weird? You want the energy to be up, up, up, all week long. Discuss your plans and make it fun.
6. Don’t worry about not fitting in.
Every group you can think of will be aboard: Sexy 30-somethings, older men in their 70s, white, black, Asian, bears, twinks, otters, jocks, party boys, Broadway divas — everyone and anyone you mesh with will be there.
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Don’t be afraid to mingle and find your group, chances are you’ll find them in the first couple days because with so many events happening at once, you tend to find your “people” faster.
7. The performances aren’t as good as the casino.
Don’t believe the hype of everyone bringing Broadway performers to gay cruises. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching Patti LuPone or Lilias White or any other diva perform as much as the next theatre fan, but theatre performance is theatre performance. Stop in and enjoy, but don’t plan your whole night around it when there are so many other events onboard that will inspire you to MEET other gay guys.
The casino, in my opinion, is the best way to make new friends. There is also bingo, trivia, pools, hot tubs, and everything else that will get you talking to strangers — that’s what you want. You want to meet new travelers.
8. Your diet is over. EAT.
You went to the gym weeks in advance to get your body slim enough for twink size, but now it’s over. Cruises are known for fine dining, and for the most part the ships that play “host” are full of the best chefs out there. Some LGBT events hire them off the books. You’re going to be sweating it off anyway, indulge in the food whatever country you’re in has to offer as well.
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Also, if your ship has fine restaurants other than the main one (all of them do), be sure to MAKE A RESERVATION the second you check in to your room. Literally, even if you have to carry your suitcase to the restaurant, decide which night you and your party want to dine, and do it right then and there. They book fast.
9. Say yes to everything.
You need to go with the flow in these situations. The last thing you want to be is frigid. Make a decision to enter with an open mind, and not anything like you are on land. This is an escape, a chance to be someone else and unleash your wildest fantasies for a short amount of time. There will be people from all over the world — who cares! Let it go.
10. Visit the excursion desk after you check in.
See what excursions they have throughout the week. There will excursion specialists to answer your questions, but more importantly, look at the brochure. See how much these trips are — most of them give detailed descriptions of what they include. Sometimes, you can do your own research and plan it yourself without paying $150 to ride a bus up a volcano with twenty other gay guys, although you’ll be much lonelier.
Grab as many brochures as you can and decide with your party what excursions you want to go on (it’s ok if you separate). Don’t feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to do because you want to “stick together.” Who cares, set a time and place to meet afterwards, i.e. 4 o’clock at the pool bar, and you’re good.