Before my first all gay cruise, I heard a lot of warnings—myths really, as you’ll see below—all from people who’d never been. Only one turned was true: gay cruises are generally more expensive than mainstream cruises. But that’s comparing apples and oranges.
Five years later, before leaving for my second gay cruise, friends blurted out all the same myths. After my second all-gay voyage, I can confirm that these are, indeed, myths. If you’re curious-but-nervous about all-gay cruises, read on. Then as one cruise line says: Get Out There.
1. It’s just a floating bathhouse. Sex sells. That’s why the brochures are loaded with hunky guys. It’s easy to assume all those guys are just wacko with lust.
Perhaps they are. But none of the major all-gay charter companies nor Olivia, (lesbian-focused charters) officially allows sex in public areas of the ships. RSVP Vacations, who pioneered the gay travel industry, is very strict about it.
On one of my RSVP cruises, the ship’s spa area did, effectively, become a bathhouse—within a short time after sailing, the lovely girl who staffed the area was replaced by a likely-gay staff person, and plenty of sex did happen in the various steam rooms. There is no guarantee of this on any itinerary.
Out in public, I did see a few dicks flash by during the “Oops, did you loose your swimsuit?” pool games. And late one night I spotted some guy getting a blowjob in a dark corner. But mostly you’ll see is flirting, some serious kissing, and a grope or two. As an RSVP staffer said, “When you want to have sex, this ship’s full of cabins with really comfy beds. Please go use them.”
Perhaps you want public sex. There’s a very good reason RSVP is so strict: most of the crew and staff are straight, and many come from very conservative countries. The fact that they’re serving our community in the first place is a huge leap for some of these people—and our respectful behaviour has won thousands of their friendship.
2. Gay cruises are only for couples. The charter companies claim about a 50/50 ratio of coupled/singles. On my recent cruise that ratio seemed accurate.
Some single guys struggle the first day because it can appear everyone is coupled. In fact, a lot of single guys are travelling with a friend or a group. There are daily mixers for single folks, and RSVP gives out green bracelets for single guys to wear if they want to be more visible. If you’re single and just looking for love and/or sex, stay home. If you’re happy to go on an amazing vacation and meet great gay guys people from all over the world—and perhaps find love and/or sex, you’ll have a grand time.
For couples—especially from smaller cities and rural areas—a gay cruise is an opportunity to be publicly affectionate with each other. There’s no worry about holding hands, kissing, touching, or even a full-on make-out session on the decks! It’s really liberating to be in a setting where two men can frolic in the pool together without worrying that they’ll offend some mother and her kids, or to watch a couple celebrate their 20th anniversary at a table-for-two—and soon everyone’s celebrating with them.
A tip: if you are considering an all-gay cruise as a couple, make sure you are solidly grounded in your relationship, and establish the rules for any flirting or outside sex beforehand. This experience is vastly different than a night out at the bar.
3. It’s just a big circuit party at sea. There’s plenty of boom-boom-boom on board. But it’s not on all the time, and it’s only audible in very small portions of the ship (if you aren’t the up-all-night type, let your agent know your cabin must not be under/over the all-night disco). Several gay-focused DJs are brought on board just for us. And every night you can find a spot on the ship with typical gay dance-mix—often around one of the outdoor pools.
I’m not a partier. But I enjoy a few minutes shaking my groove-thing. Luckily, there are plenty of non-circuit dances offered during the cruise—80s music, a country dance with line-dancing lessons, and more. I’ve waltzed, polkaed, two-stepped, and discoed, under the gorgeous Caribbean sky.
As for drugs: don’t bring them. Transporting drugs across international borders is risky, unless you fantasize about Panamanian jails.
4. I’ll be the only fattest or skinniest or oldest or youngest guy on the boat.The reality is: most of the passengers aren’t the pretty boys or muscle guys from the brochures. You’ll find every kind of gay person aboard: tall, short, hairy, smooth, super fat, really skinny, muscles, average, black, white, brown, deaf, old, and young. I’ve personally shared cocktails and laughs with every one of those, and met truly amazing people.
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5. Gay cruises are too expensive. Gay cruises do cost more than mainstream cruises. However, with advance planning, the cheapest cabins aren’t out of reach; on some itineraries they’re under $1,000. The extra cost associate with gay cruises is sometimes referred to as “the gay tax,” but that’s not entirely fair. Everybody has to win in the deal: the cruise line, the charter company, and the traveller.Judging by the number of repeat customers aboard, everyone is winning—especially the passengers. Much extra expense goes to pay for your entertainment, including gay-positive headline entertainers like Charo, Michael Feinstein–and in the day, Joan Rivers. RSVP often brings cabaret singer Amy Armstrong and her adorable pianist Freddy Allen who keep a whole room full of gay men howling with laughter for hours on end. They also bring their own emcees, and several gay staffers to make sure everything runs smoothly.
You won’t get any of that on a mainstream cruise! My partner and I have great times on mainstream cruises; all-gay is simply a different experience.
6. I don’t like to sunbathe. I’ll get bored. Let’s think: food everywhere you look, stunning views in all directions, a gym, a running/walking track, lounge chairs in the shade, art auctions, comedians, a casino and of course bars—all standard cruise ship diversions.Add in things like pool games, hilarious dating games, and very gay bingo. Best of all, there are lovely gay travelers around every corner who are delighted to discuss favorite books, play chess, share pictures of grandchildren, talk business, or just have a conversation about our common life experiences as gay people.
No, you will not be bored.
Have you been on an all-gay cruise? What are your tips and suggestions?
Note: this is a moderately updated version of the story (April 2015). The author has been on three all-gay cruises, as a guest of RSVP; twice alone, and once with a partner. If you’ve been on an all-gay cruise more recently, please share your thoughts below.