Off we go: Pride gay film festival at sea on Norwegian Cruise Line

This is the magic of the Pride of the Ocean: We are 110 festival-goers tucked together on one cruise ship. Everyone can find each other and discuss the films, provide feedback to the filmmakers, and be a part of a very engaging LGBT event.

Greg Louganis and Randall Shirley chat at the Pride of the Ocean Gay Film Festival launch party.

Greg Louganis and Randall Shirley chat at the Pride of the Ocean Gay Film Festival launch party.

At 53 years of age, Greg Louganis is still hot as ever—he certainly turns heads and draws a crowd. A new bio-pic about his life is the centerpiece of the 4th annual “Pride of the Ocean” LGBT film festival, which takes place each year on a cruise ship. The film, still in rough-cut form, was shown in the main show theatre of the Norwegian Pearl, as the ship rocked and rolled through moderately rough North Pacific seas enroute to Alaska. Greg was at a night-before-sailing cocktail party at the Seattle Sheraton for a meet and greet the night before sailing (see photo) and was on the ship for a brief bon voyage before we left Seattle on Sunday afternoon.

Cheryl Furjanic introduces the rough cut of "Breaking the Surface" in the Norwegian Pearl's Stardust theatre. Photo: ©Pride of the Ocean/Richard Davis

Cheryl Furjanic introduces the rough cut of “Breaking the Surface” in the Norwegian Pearl’s Stardust theatre. Photo: ©Pride of the Ocean/Richard Davis

Getting a gay icon to be a part of the Pride of the Ocean festival is a clever idea—it certainly piqued my experience and helped encourage me to clear the calendar when festival organizer John Scagliotti invited MeetMeOnBoard.com to join the cruise as observers this year.

So, a couple of days into the festival, here’s what I can tell you. If you have any interest in viewing LGBT films this is a good experience. But if you’ve got the slightest curiosity about how LGBT film makers go about producing, directing, casting, and generally making films that are an integral part of our community, this festival gives you the outstanding chance hear about those aspects, and to join in the conversation.

Approaching Juneau Alaska by Cruise Ship. Photo: Randall Shirley

Approaching Juneau Alaska by Cruise Ship. Photo: Randall Shirley

Festival organizers wisely choose cruise itineraries that have ample shipboard time (this wouldn’t work on a “port-a-day” Caribbean or Mediterranean itinerary). For the 2013 festival the first day was fully at-sea, and the Norwegian Pearl doesn’t arrive in Juneau until 2:00 p.m. on the second day, so we essentially have 1.5 days of film festival using the ships conference rooms and mainstage theatre.

In the case of the Louganis film, titled “Back on Board,” we were treated to use of the mainstage “Stardust” theatre and its big screen. Greg’s incredibly fit body certainly looked great on that big screen, and filmmaker Cheryl Furjanic’s bio-pic was a resounding success with festival goers—despite the fact that it was a rough cut that won’t be released for a while yet.

Wristbands make it easy to find each other on board.

Wristbands make it easy to find each other on board the Norwegian Pearl.

The great thing, though, is she can now get feeback from the 20-or-so other filmmaker types on board, as well as interested audience members like us. And where will she do this? Hm….how about over coffee in the ship atrium, or during the Pearl’s Garden Buffet, or on deck 13 as we watch the Canadian shoreline glide by in the distance, whales frolic in the ocean, and Alaska’s port cities come into view.

This is the magic of the Pride of the Ocean. We are 110 festival-goers tucked together one cruise ship. Everyone can find each other and discuss the films, provide feedback to the filmmakers, and be a part of a very engaging LGBT event. The festival is roughly 50/50 gay men and lesbians, with a few straight folks, too. It’s friendly and welcoming. It’s easy to spot other festival goers among the 2,000 “mainstream” passengers on the ship as we all wear unobtrusive rubber wrist bands.

The majority of folks on the ship have no idea a gay film fest is taking place in the middle of their mainstream vacation!

Check back in the next couple of days for my update on how the festival’s many workshops and “CineSLAM” events work, and what we’re enjoying about them.

Here’s a quick video of gorgeous Seattle and us bidding bon voyage!