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The New Millennial Gay Experience

Being gay in our emerging new world


Cruising! (On a "Straight" Ship)

Posted on February 28, 2014 at 1:25 AM

By John

It was with some trepidation that I received the news that my mother had booked a Caribbean cruise for my brother and me as a Christmas present. I know, how ungrateful was I, balking at the idea of spending close to two weeks in the tropics during the dead of winter? But I was worried that there wouldn't be enough to do on the ship to keep me from being bored, and I was particularly worried about being trapped on a ship with 1,200 passengers, most of them older and almost all of them assuredly straight.

I needn't have worried. While the overwhelming majority of my fellow passengers were undoubtedly heterosexual, not a day passed on-board without at least one queer moment. Some silly, some not, one or two almost profound. We were scheduled to fly out to Miami on Wednesday, February 12. Plans change.

Day 0

We get a call at 8:00 AM advising us that we have to fly out on Tuesday instead of Wednesday because the entire southern United States will be taking Wednesday as a snow day. I contemplate snatching a wig and cruising under my brand-new drag persona, Amy Poehler-Vortex. Sadly, despite being in Miami a day earlier than expected, there is no time to visit the Maria La Guerta Memorial Bench.

Day 1

We board the ship, and at the welcome brunch I spy my first object of shipboard lust, Andrew the South African busboy. Around 30, dark eyes, dark hair slightly receded to a widow's peak. Accent to die for. The wind on deck molds his uniform shirt to his body, and he leaves the bottom button undone so when he faces into the wind a strip of belly and a glimpse of treasure trail are exposed.

My brother informs me that he did not buy us the unlimited alcohol package since he doubts we could drink $600 of booze apiece in 11 days. I beg to differ.

That evening there is a reception for those of us booked through an alumni association. We meet two couples, George & Martha and Doug & Darla. Darla's a lush. Martha suggests we exchange names and stateroom numbers. We all check pockets for pens. No one comes up with one, but Doug produces a lipstick. He quickly protests that it's not his but I assure him, “It's OK Doug, you're among friends. This is a safe space.” He just meant that it's not his shade.

Day 2

There is a daily team trivia contest, and I fall in with a team of nice elderly ladies who cost us the game when they overrule one of my answers, insisting that Celine Dion sang the theme song to Goldeneye. Girl, when I say the answer is Tina Turner, the answer is Tinta Turnter!

Tonight's entertainment: "Up In Flames," featuring the music of Elton John and Billy Joel. The audience is ridiculously rude, walking through the performers' spotlights and incessantly talking over the numbers. I wonder which of the chorus boys is the gay one. Oh right, they're chorus boys on a cruise ship, they're all the gay one.

Day 3

Valentine's Day. Heteromance everywhere. Romantic Name That Tune contest and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' “Same Love” is not even an answer. Two vow renewal ceremonies. I can't even.

Tonight's entertainment: Greg the comedy magician. He pulls a volunteer on-stage to teach him to swallow a sword. “But not from the top down...” he says, gesturing vaguely at the man's behind as the crowd reacts with shocked amusement. Greg calls the audience out: “You people are sick! This is not Brokeback Magic!” The crowd loses its mind laughing.

Day 4

Touring the island of Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Our tour guide explains how the island Virgin Gorda (“Fat Virgin”) got its name. Christopher Columbus was so sex-starved after months at sea without women that anything would look like a woman. Because there's certainly no sexual outlet possible with just men on a boat!

Tonight's entertainment: "Now & Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber."  'Nuff said.

How have I made it to Day 4 without knowing there is no place on this ship to get a drink after midnight? Jesus!

Day 5

Touring the island of Antigua. One of the girls from the ship's performance troupe is in our group. Turns out that one of the chorus boys isn't gay after all. He has a girlfriend. You wouldn't know her; she lives in Canada.

Lust object number two: Prassad, the waiter from India. Gorgeous mahogany-colored shin, beautiful smile. Goes well out of his way to make sure to provide some vegetarian options for me for dinner. I speak to the maitre d' and to Prassad directly to express my appreciation. I invite him for a drink later but he, very politely of course, turns me down.

Tonght's entertainment: Linda Gentille, the “Piano Princess” and protegé of Liberace. She makes a "Behind the Candelabra" joke in under a minute.

Day 6

Barbados. Toured the oldest rum distillery in the world. It’s name? Mount Gay.

Jodie Foster turns up as an answer in today's trivia contest, along with gay President James Buchanan and Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray."

Tonight's entertainment: Noodles the comedian. Seriously. Noodles. Noodles is from Washington state. “Pot is legal there and so is gay marriage, so you can smoke all the joints you want.”

Day 7

Lesbians on the elevator!

Lust object number three: Chua, another waiter, hailing from Thailand. Just gorgeous and equally solicitous about bringing me a variety of vegetarian dishes not on the menu, including an amazing ladyfinger and coconut cream cake. I again express my gratitude to his maitre d' and to Chua personally. He runs his hand up and down my arm as he thanks me and I consider asking him for a drink, but my heart is still freshly broken from Prassad...

Day 8

Andrew Cunanan appears as an answer in the daily trivia question. Our team is the only one to get his full name and the year he assassinated Versace correct for bonus points.

At the evening's Name That Tune trivia contest I put down Yip Harburg as the composer of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” instead of Harold Arlen. Harburg was the lyricist! I'm so ashamed.

Day 9

While slicing me off a hunk of brie the Filipino cheese lady randomly sings “It's raining men!” Me: “Hallelujah!”

The on-board troupe performs its last show, and at the end are joined on stage by members of the crew who are leaving the ship after this voyage. Crew and audience sing and dance to “YMCA”. Is “YMCA” even gay anymore?

Day 10

I learn some card tricks at a class with Greg the comedy magician. After class I grab him for a moment to discuss the “Brokeback Magic” joke. I explain that I wasn't offended by the joke, I'm not a “clutch the pearls” kind of gay, but it did take me out of the show and give me a “me vs. them” vibe. He is very understanding of my concern and tells me that he's been considering dropping the joke anyway, since it doesn't get that big a response, and he doesn't want to alienate any segment of his audience.

Day 11

As we wait to be called for disembarkation, my brother and I spot some dolphins frolicking in the wakes of passing motorboats. Did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?

In addition to these instances, the ship's daily newsletter included a surprising proportion of gay news stories, including the Virginia marriage decision, Ellen Page and Chelsea Clinton at the Human Rights Campaign convention and openly gay football player Michael Sam's getting a standing ovation at a sporting event he attended. While there were no events specifically geared to the LGBT community, these moments added up to make my cruising experience totally gay.

Categories: Other Voices