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Carnival Cruise lines seems to finally be realizing they’ve got to do something about their repeated shipboard problems. While I personally have never sailed them, the problems they’ve encountered in recent memory have made me less and less inclined to ever consider a vacation on one of their ships. This April 17, 2013, press release, exceperpted below, does give me more hope for their future. What do you think? Comment below!
CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES ANNOUNCES FLEETWIDE $300 MILLION PROGRAM TO ENHANCE OPERATING RELIABILITY AND GUEST COMFORT
Carnival Cruise Lines, a unit of Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE/LSE: CCL; NYSE: CUK), today announced that it has implemented a program to significantly enhance emergency power capabilities, introduce new fire safety technology, and improve the level of operating redundancies across its entire 24-ship fleet. This enhancement program will cost more than $300 million, and rapid upgrades have already begun.
The actions by Carnival Cruise Lines will expand the availability of hotel services for the comfort of its guests in the rare instance of a shipboard event that involves the loss of main power. In addition, the plan will reinforce key shipboard operating systems to further prevent a potential loss of primary power. The improvement plan is the result of a comprehensive operational review, overseen by parent company Carnival Corporation & plc, initiated immediately after the Carnival Triumph fire in February 2013.
Read the full press release on Carnival’s website, here.
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By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’ TM
The pristine island of Bermuda, with two beautiful ports, has come a long way since Rosie O’Donnell’s R Family Vacations gay cruise was picketed by religious zealots in 2007.
The pink-sand dust has long since settled because the government put a highly publicized end to anti-gay demonstrations at the docks of King’s Wharf and Hamilton. Rosie’s R Vacations, Pied Piper Travel of New York, and other LGBT groups now dock without incident in picturesque Bermuda.
Celebrity Cruises hired a company to conduct a poll of Bermudians and discovered that 53 percent supported gay visitors.
Pied Piper Travel of New York, specializing in gay cruises, has been visiting duty-free Bermuda since 1990, without a discernable problem. One of their groups arriving on the Celebrity Summit was invited by Island Restaurant Group president Philip Barnett to a special show at the Latin Club (now the Victoria Grill). http://www.irg.bm. At the time, he said, “I thought it was important to show the positive side of Bermuda. We have a lot of people in our company from diverse backgrounds, races, creeds and sexual orientation.”
Bermuda Pastor Sylvia Hayward-Harris in a letter to the editor of the “Bermuda Sun Times,” said “Same-sex oriented people are not looking for special rights, only the same rights and protections that should be afforded to all human beings …” The pastor, a former government minister and member of Parliament, was quoted by the “Royal Gazette Online” as saying, “As a heterosexual, I don’t remember ever choosing to be heterosexual. I don’t think any heterosexual remembers making that choice.”
After all this reaffirming news, we drove to Port Liberty in New Jersey to avoid the increasing stress of airports and sailed to Bermuda on Celebrity’s Summit. From the time we docked at King’s Wharf, we chatted with a lot of locals – gay and straight, including tourism officials. It soon became clear that this sparkling gem of paradise is swiftly evolving into a major gay-friendly destination.
The other good news is that a 7-day vacation on a luxury cruise ship, which is also your luxury hotel in port, can be less expensive than round-trip airfare from many east coast airports.
The Summit leaves every Sunday afternoon and returns the following Sunday morning. It’s just what the doctor should have ordered – four relaxing and fun days at sea and three more dockside on King’s Wharf at Bermuda’s historic Royal Naval Dockyard. http://www.celebritycruises.com.
A few steps from the ship is a Visitor Information Center (VIC). Here you’ll be given the detailed Bermuda Handy Reference Map, and a chance to purchase a 1, 2, or 3 day transportation pass ($28.) for unlimited travel on the colorful and clean public buses and ferries. And for a fun treat, wait in front of the Summit’s entrance awning for the complimentary little white and blue choo-choo train that will take you to the central ferry/bus plaza within the Royal Naval Dockyard.
Here, you’ll find The Gazebo Gift Shop that also sells transportation passes as well as hand-crafted Bermuda souvenirs. Look for guides in orange tee shirts if you have questions. They helped us sort out our timetables, maps, and put us on the right ferries and buses to our daily destinations. All the guides are well-trained, knowledgeable and genuinely friendly, as are most Bermudians.
As recommended by the tourism folks, we sat on the right-hand side of pink bus # 7, for a Technicolor ride with unobstructed views of the emerald bays, pink-sand beaches, charming settlements and beautiful homes in pastel colors with terraced white limestone roofs to catch precious rainwater. The scenic ride ended an hour later on upscale Front Street in Hamilton, the capitol city. We strolled Hamilton before taking a wonderfully scenic 30-minute ferry ride back to King’s Wharf.
One of Bermuda’s top attractions on King’s Wharf is the restored 19th-century Royal Naval Dockyard. It includes the National Museum of Bermuda, a huge stone fortification, called The Keep, with ramparts and cannon; it also houses a hands-on dolphin display – Dolphin Quest Bermuda. http://www.bmm.bm . Nearby is a three-story exhibition in the commissioner’s grand mansion, the Queen’s Exhibition Hall, and naval barracks.
The adjacent Bermuda Craft Market is celebrating its 26th year of showcasing dozens of outstanding local craftspeople. It was founded and is managed by Audrey Brackstone, who doubles as cashier, historian and is a witty raconteur.
Artisan Lyn Morrell makes the molds for her sophisticated silver pieces and she crafts colorful textiles and paper Mache bowls. Perfumer Sheila Gomez hand-blends her fragrances for both women and men using only the finest oils in the world. Try a drop of her Black Knight scent for men. Nearby is the Clocktower Shopping Mall with 24 fine shops. When shopping, the Bermuda dollar is equal to the US dollar, but change is always given in Bermuda currency.
On the second day we cued up under a shade tree for another scenic ferry ride through Hamilton harbor to picturesque Front Street. This small colonial city is filled with good restaurants, bars, and upscale shopping along Front, Queen and Reid Streets. We wandered through the renowned Irish Linen Shop with it exceptional bedding, place mats and napkins; the English Sports Shop (fine clothing and accessories), Goslings Wine and Spirits ($13 bottles of Bermudian Rum) and Lusso, a stylish (Prada, et al.) boutique.
Inside the Lusso shop is a staircase which is ‘secret entrance’ to the popular English department store, Marks and Spencer (aka Marks and Sparks). Its classic colonial-style main entrance is actually on the parallel Reid Street.
Approaching a jolly-looking gentleman, wearing a store ID, in the tantalizing food, wine and spirits department, we asked if we could take a photo of something that stopped us in our tracks – sealed single-serve plastic-stemmed glasses of red and white wine. The gentleman said “I think you’ll have to clear that with the manager, sir.” Asking where we could find the head of the firm, he replied, in his crisp and witty British English “You’re looking at him.”
Manager Paul David Dean turned out to be a wealth of information regarding the current state of Bermudian tourism, and must-do things in town and where to have a snack (the nearby Friends-like Café Continental). He got back to the business at hand and told us the take-away wines are popular “for picnics or the beach.” A passer-by chimed in, “Or breakfast.” We exclaimed in unison, “You drink wine for breakfast?” To which he casually, as you please, said “it depends on who spent the night with me.” Apparently, that’s what balmy Bermudian nights can do for you. Stop by and chat him up about the newest hot spots.
Highly recommended is the 45-minute ‘orange route’ ferry from the Dockyard to the Town of St. George. This yachting center on St. George’s Harbor is home to The Bermuda Perfumery (Lili Fragrances), Somers Garden, King’s Square, the Bermuda National Trust Museum, and the World Heritage Center. Visit the shops on the Duke of York and Water Streets, follow the signs to hidden shops and arts and crafts studios, or have a drink at Griffin’s Bistro, high above the harbor at the St. George’s Club.
Just before cruising back to Port Liberty, we squeezed in a walk around the fortress of the Dockyard. As we climbed to visit the impressive 1824 commissioner’s mansion we saw a flock of tame goats roaming the grounds nibbling on the thick green grass. Their casual grazing seemed to put Bermuda into perspective – an unhurried, friendly and balmy destination far removed from the hustle and bustle of the work-a-day world. http://www.gotobermuda.com.
A lasting impression is that there’s a lot more ‘pink’ going here than just its colorful beaches and famous Bermuda shorts. Although the locals – gay and straight – are well-known for their conservative British reserve, there are enough gay-friendly bars, clubs and restaurants to amuse and delight LGBT visitors.
Try these well-known, long-established places for a night on the town: Casey’s Lounge, 25 Queen St., Hamilton. Best on Wednesday and Friday nights. Try a “Dark and Stormy” – the official drink of Bermuda – black rum and ginger beer. Square One, behind the Tuscany Restaurant, 95 Front St., Hamilton, has inside and outside seating. Little Venice, 32 Bermudian Rd., has more than 1000 wines. Try the delicious tapas and cheese menu. Swizzle Inn, 3 Blue Hole Hill, Bailey’s Bay, Hamilton Parish. Great rum swizzles and dark and stormys. Flanagan’s, Emporium Building, 69 Front St., Hamilton. It’s a gay-friendly atmosphere. Local bands play here all summer with music ranging from rock to reggae. Rock Island Coffee Café, 48 Reid St., Hamilton, Casual and great people watching. And, any of the Island Restaurant Group venues mentioned earlier will be gay welcoming.
Here’s a LGBT-friendly 2013 cruise guide to King’s Wharf in Bermuda from east coast ports:
From Cape Liberty, Bayonne, New Jersey: Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas and the Celebrity Summit. The port has a close-up view of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan. Departures from April to November. http://www.celebritycruises.com, http://www.royalcaribbean.com.
From NYC: the Norwegian Breakaway has sailings from May to October. 2013 departures: May 12, 19, 26; June 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; July 7, 14, 21, 28; August 4, 11, 18, 25; September 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; October 6 http://www.ncl.com
From Boston: Norwegian Dawn sails from April to September. http://www.ncl.com
From Baltimore: Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas cruises from April through October. These are 5-, 6- and 8-day trips. http://www.royalcaribbean.com
To have fun in Bermuda, remember to paraphrase the old adage – “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” It worked wonders for us.
Copyright © Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’ TM 2013 All Rights Reserved.
The MeetMeOnBoard crew will be on the inaugural of the Norwegian Breakaway May 10 – 12. Watch for our blog postings and tweets to get our perspective on this new ship.
On cruises, there are few topics we gay travelers seem more interested in than the quality of the food on board. But during a 7 night cruise, I like to bring home more culinary memories than those created on the ship—I like to sample good eats on shore.
And if you’re a seafood lover, there is arguably no better place to eat ashore than the ports of Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska, both of which are included on almost every Alaska cruise itinerary. Both of the options below are solid for lunch.
Alaska Fish House, Ketchikan. Tiny Ketchikan delivered one of the best, most-memorable meals of my life. The Alaska Fish House appears to be mostly a fish ‘n chips joint. But by planning ahead, and with a minimum group of four persons, you can be guided down a hallway into a back room, which happens to be a small dining room with postcard-perfect window views of Ketchikan’s harbor. The meal is $99/person, and worth every dime. It’s a multi-course, all seafood extravaganza, and the best part is that all the seafood you’re eating was pulled out of the water nearby, with the exception of the King Crab which comes from farther north. The meal is accompanied by a local fisherman (the restaurant owner, when we were there) who shares loads of interesting information about the fish you’re eating, where it’s caught, why it’s important to the local economy, etc. Meanwhile, the chef comes in with each dish and explains the preparation. The highlight during our visit was the luxuriously delicious black cod. Truly a special experience, and an excellent shore activity especially with a group of friends. It must be pre-booked, and you’ll need a minimum of 90 minutes in the restaurant, ideally a couple of hours. More information at Alaska Fish House.
Tracy’s King Crab Shack, Juneau. This joint is exactly what the name says: a shack (trailer, actually) near the pier that sells the most amazing crab I’ve ever tasted. Tracy herself will likely be there, and she’s a character…one of those people who told the corporate world to kiss off, and used her connections to fishermen to snag the best King Crab on earth. Beyond the King, she also serves up a kick-ass bisque, amazing crab cakes, and a handful of other items. Since you’re likely not starving (what cruise passenger is, really?), my recommendation here is to share one of her combo plates between two people, which will allow you to sample a variety of items. All of the items mentioned above, plus rolls and butter, come on Combo #1 for about $35. Tracy has spread her crab business beyond the shack, but the shack in Juneau is the original. More at the shack’s website.
Note: the author was a guest of both food establishments mentioned. The opinions expressed are his own, and have not been approved or reviewed in advance by the eateries or their representatives.
I have discovered a new European river cruise product that I’m excited to tell you about. A-ROSA, a company that has been around since 2005 and has 10 boats in service on the European rivers, is generally targeted at upscale German travelers, and last year expanded to the English[speaking market with 13 exclusive sailing for English speaking guests who can take advantage of some very special summer offers sailing the Rhine, Rhone, and Danube Rivers.
River cruising has taken off as one of the fastest growing segments in travel. The wonderful thing about this type of travel is that you can pack and unpack once while your floating boutique hotel takes you to amazing European cities. Most boats dock right in the heart of these Old World destinations. River cruising has become so popular that most cruises sell-out nearly a year in advance of departure. This is due to the amazing popularity, great value, and very limited capacity of these boats compared to large ocean going vessels. River cruise boats have anywhere from 150-200 guest capacity vs. large ocean going vessels with thousands of beds to fill.
What excites me most about A-ROSA is their offering of 7-day Rhine cruises in June 2013 with cruise-only rates starting at $2492pp (single supplements are waived on select departures), if you book by April 15th. It is an excellent all-inclusive river cruise offers!
Some of the A-ROSA “All Inclusive” differences are:
- Open bar (all day and all venues)
- All gratuities
- Airfare & transfers (optional)
- A-ROSA offers an air program offered from 10 major gateways)
- Complimentary shore cxcursions
- Exquisite cuisine that many have called the best in the industry
- Modern & stylish ships built 2005-2012 with chic staterooms averaging 156 sq. feet; 80% with French Balcony
- Room Service
- Complimentary use of bicycles
From many industry experts, I have heard the food is among the best–if not the best– on the rivers; this is a huge plus. There has been a huge plus for most new boats to add balconies, but honestly I think it is a bit silly. First, most boats spend little time actually cruising along the river for one to enjoy this privacy, the view is only dedicated to whatever side of the boat your cabin resides on, and most guests will go “up top” to the panorama deck for the best views during cruising time. Second, when the boats are docked, most tie up sided by side completely obscuring one’s view and privacy. A French balcony allows guests to open their sliding patio door and still enjoy fresh air weather permitting. A-ROSA also has a screen that can be pulled down to keep insects out–a nice touch for those wanting fresh air in their cabin.
A few other features about this type of cruise that are unique are as follows:
- Room Service is offered- almost all boats do not have this!
- A Rosa uses high-end German based Babor bath products for its guests
- The ship offers lively entertainment and creates a very social atmosphere
- A Rosa offers a walk in buffet kitchen for breakfast and lunch
- An exclusive gourmet wine-pairing dinner is offered for $75pp–it is over the top with wines based on the river, country and destination
- A Rosa offers family cabins on the lower river level deck (there is no dedicated kids program but children are not left out)
If you have not tried a river cruise, now is the time. If you want to experience something really special, A-ROSA has an exceptional product and offering, especially this summer on the Rhine!
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By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out & Travelin’™
There’s no news like positive gay news, especially when it’s from one of the most picturesque and gay-friendly destinations in the world – Stockholm, Sweden, in the land of the midnight sun- and then some. .
The Stockholm Visitors Board, owned and operated by the city, has just rolled out a wider red carpet with the launch of a Gay & Lesbian Facebook page, and a new blog. It highlights the hundreds of attractions and activities that await visitors to the capitol of Scandinavia. The city, built on 14 islands connected by bridges, including the mainland, spreads along the shores of Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, preserving the incomparable old-world charm of its legendary Viking past.
For general information and another link to the gay and lesbian pages, visit the new and improved http://www.visitstockholm.com. It highlights the hundreds of attractions and activities that await visitors to the capitol of Scandinavia. The city, built on 14 islands connected by bridges, including the mainland, spreads along the shores of Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, preserving the incomparable old-world charm of its legendary Viking past.
If you take a Baltic Sea cruise from the port of Stockholm, fly in a few days before to not only explore the stunning city, but to get two holidays for the price of one airline ticket. Three of the finest, gay-friendly cruise ships that embark from the city are Azamara Club Cruises’ Journey, Royal Caribbean International’s Vision of the Seas and Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Voyager. If the city is just a port of call for a day or over-night, many of the docks are in town or close enough to the compact center to use buses, ferries, and the tram network to enjoy the many local pleasures of Stockholm, day and night.
Stockholm attracts 10 million visitors a year so it pays to book a room early in an openly gay-friendly hotel that suits you. Here are hotels that are active members of the Stockholm Gay & Lesbian Network, centrally located and close to all the action. Highly recommended:
Clarion Hotel Sign, is the city’s largest hotel adjacent to the Central Station and Arlanda Express, a sleek, non-stop train for airport connections. It’s a first-class hotel that combines the best of Scandinavian architecture and design.
Lydmar Hotel, is a five-star hotel that provides outstanding personal attention and its staff has extensive local knowledge about what’s happening in the town.
Berns Hotel, is a glorious art deco hotel has a lot to offer and attracts celebrities like Bill Gates, Rihanna and Dalai Lama – so how far behind could Richard Gere be? We saw the Mr. Gay Sweden championship in its grand ballroom.
Try the Nobis Hotel, the city’s latest contemporary luxury hotel that was created from two 19th century buildings.
The Rival Hotel, a first-ever boutique property that was reborn from a 1930s Art Deco cinema by ABBA’s Benny Andersson. Guests love it for its creative vibe and in-room ABBA CDs. Perfect for those dancing queens. Hotel
Skeppsholmen, has 81 rooms and a popular restaurant.
Hilton Stockholm Slussen, near the Medieval Old Town. The rooms facing north have a spectacular view of the gateway to Stockholm’s archipelago. You must try their own honey for breakfast; relax in the hotel’s Jacuzzi and workout in the gym.
The comfortable Hotel Hellsten, has individually decorated rooms with specially designed beds that will improve your sleep. A jazz night in the bar and breakfast in the exquisite conservatory will recharge your batteries.
Look for the Nordic Light Hotel, a gem of contemporary Swedish architecture and décor. The fine accommodations offer a multitude of light-themed perks, including Mood rooms with light beds than can be adjusted to fit your disposition (red for energy, blue for rest, or green for refreshing). The restaurant, bar and guest business center are all first-cabin in this port city. Need a concierge who can do almost anything?
The Sheraton Hotel Stockholm, has an OMG vibe – when a guest asked to have 19 white bear pelts delivered to his room, it was, of course, arranged. The guest? The famous artist once-again-known as Prince. That’s service. The hotel’s 465 rooms have distinctive clean and simple Scandinavian decor. To keep buffed, the Sheraton has a fitness center, gym, sauna and rejuvenating massages.
Once settled in a hotel, it’s time to explore friendly Stockholm, which has become a favorite spot for gays and lesbians who want more than just one neighborhood with gay-friendly bars and clubs. They are scattered throughout the city and rainbow flags fly high in many of Stockholm’s central districts. But the greatest concentration of gay bars and clubs is to be found in two areas: the trendy Södermalm district and Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town.
Nightlife in any city is ever changing, but not to worry; just before leaving for Stockholm, go online to “QX” – the most popular gay magazine in Sweden. It can be counted on to have updated information on clubs and the party scene, the week-long Stockholm Pride, which has the city’s unprecedented help in securing a whole park for concerts, special events, and securing the parade route. QX’s Gay Map is widely available around town, including the Stockholm Tourist Center. For more details, go to http://www.qx.se/search.php?search=English.
Here are a handful of great gay/lesbian- and gay-friendly places to dine and party through the night and into dawn’s early light…and beyond.
Patricia (a former British royal yacht) is at Stadsgårdskajen Quay, there are seven bars, a restaurant, and a nightclub. The music varies from party, pop, and disco to rock hits and covers. The Sunday club has been incredibly popular with the gay community for more than sixteen years. It’s everyones’ favorite place to cruise in a port city famous for its cruises.
Roxy is a fun and intimate meeting place with a restaurant and bar in the chic-bohemian Nytorget Square on Södermalm. Run by three female restaurateurs, it attracts especially – but by no means exclusively – a female crowd. We can swear to that statement because a group of us guys had terrific foods, drinks and service with these fabulous women.
Mälarpaviljongen is an open-air crowded and fun local restaurant and high-spirited bar on a landscaped barge. Docked on the Norr Mälarstrand waterfront in a leafy setting with stunning views across the water, you order and pickup your own dinner and drinks from the bustling bar.
Chokladkoppen is a cozy little café at idyllic Stortorget Square, not far from the Royal Palace in the medieval Old Town. Serving exquisite sandwiches, hot chocolate and pastries, and in summer has a popular alfresco section.
Naglo Vodkabar is very popular small hole-in-the-wall place bar with great atmosphere and about 70 brands of vodka. It has a mixed clientele and a particular favorite with the gay community. No e-mail. Street address: Regeringsgaten 4, Norrmalm, Stockholm.
The Göken Restaurang & Bar is aglow in shades of pink – how gay is that – and is inexpensive, imaginative and has wonderful food, good drinks, and a party atmosphere.
Side Track bar has long been a gay watering hole on Södermalm. Many people see the place as an old, reliable friend because of its intimate atmosphere, pleasant staff, and good, inexpensive food. The DJ plays a mix of pop and old hits.
At Copacabana Café you’ll find a charming, bohemian atmosphere and a good breakfast available all day.
Most great world capitols have one-of-a-kind attractions that have everyone talking and Stockholm has it share starting with The Vasa Museum, a virtual time-travel experience back to one of the glories of the 17th century. It’s a ship of unequaled magnificence that had an extremely short maiden voyage in in1628. And the bigger-than-life salvage operation from the deep muddy bottom of the harbor in 1961 is a great story. This is an attraction not to be missed as are so many others in Stockholm.
As this is an ancient sea-faring town, there are many sightseeing boats of all types to explore the city’s islands. We took the M/S Prins Carl Phillip to Drottningholm, the royal family’s 16th-century summer palace and its small, opulent opera house, on a leafy secluded island. We stayed the whole day because there was so much to see, including a long walk on the palace grounds and a visit to the palace’s own opera house.
Another favorite experience is the spectacular Stockholm Pride week. It is one of the city’s as well as Scandinavia’s largest annual festivals that is celebrated by gays and straights. The government helps by setting aside an entire park for the many venues, including a concert area that hold more than 15,000 to enjoy great bands and Scandanavia’s biggest stars. This year it’s happening July 29 – August 4, 2013.
In addition to a fun year-round calendar of LGB T events, there are some that hold a surprise that thrill the community and its visitors. At this year’s QX gay magazine’s 15th annual “Gay of Year Award,” as the winner was announced, and without prior notice, Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria walked on stage to honor Swedish gay author Jonas Gardell. He won for his book and TV series “Never Dry Tears Without Gloves” about the treatment of gay men during the onset of the AIDS crisis of the early 1980s. The orchestra immediately welcomed her by playing ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” What a civilized country, and it has been for a long time: Sweden sanctioned gay marriage in 2009.
To add value to your getaway in Stockholm, here’s a way to save money and your precious vacation time by not having to stand in line to buy tickets for admission to attractions, public transportation, and to get discounts of all kinds – be sure to buy a Stockholm Card. It gives you free admission to 80 museums and attractions in Stockholm and the surrounding region. It’ll save you capital in the ‘Capitol of Scandinavia.’
Copyright © 2013. Out&Travelin’™. All rights reserved.
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With so many things going wrong for Carnival Cruise Lines recently (engine problems, passengers robbed at gunpoint during a shore excursion, and that pesky Costa Concordia, owned by Carnival Corp.), it only seemed appropriate to visit a museum-style exhibit dedicated on the ultimate passenger ship tragedy: Titanic.
It’s on display in Las Vegas, which is hardly a place you’d associate with ships and ocean travel, other than the boats in the the Treasure Island lake (then again, the cruise industry likely wouldn’t want the long-running exhibit in Miami or New Orleans).
But Vegas being the planet’s quintessential destination for warped reality, it doesn’t surprise me that Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is now a few years into it’s stint under slanted roof of the Luxor Hotel pyramid. My husband and I bought tickets ($22 on discount from tickets4tonight, Vegas’ same day cheap ticket service) and spent 30 minutes wandering the exhibits, which include may items hauled up from 2.5 miles below the North Atlantic.
My gay sensibilities were, of course, intrigued by seeing the china patterns used by the various classes and the magnificent recreation of the famed grand stairway. They’ve also just opened a small room featuring several pieces of jewelry lifted from the ocean floor, including a gorgeous diamond ring and an exquisite filigree pendant from the era.
The highlights, however, were the rooms dedicated to what went wrong—including one room with a huge mock iceberg made of real ice, and the reminders of what corners were cut in getting Titanic to sea in the first place. Shockingly, the watchmen charged with scanning for icebergs didn’t even have binoculars. The exhibit ends with a large actual panel from one of Titanic’s sides, several feet high and wide, followed by a listing of all passengers’ names, by class, and by survival or not. Each visitor to the is given the name of an actual Titanic passenger at the beginning of the exhibit, and at this final display you can learn if your person survived or not. Mine did; Denni’s did not.
Overall, it’s an interesting Vegas diversion for those of us who love cruise travel, as well as a great reminder of the importance of being prepared for shipboard safety. And I’m thinking it wouldn’t hurt Carnival’s senior management—or any cruise line for that matter— to check it as a reminder of how important it is to build and maintain ships that are safe.
UPDATE to this case is at the bottom of this story.
Well here’s something new in my personal email inbox: an email from Holland America Line, which was sent to me and the other 1,500+ passengers who sailed the Oosterdam a couple of years ago on the Mexican Riviera. There was quite a large gay contingency on that ship, with very fun gay socials hosted by the inimitable Randall Powell (the ship’s piano bar entertainer, at the time).
Anyhoo…seems someone on the ship got injured and has sued the cruise line, and her s lawyers have now forced Holland America to provide them a list of every passenger on the sailing, which included me and my husband. The email reads:
Dear Valued Guest,
First and foremost, we want to thank you for sailing with us.
We are writing in relation to your sailing aboard the ms Oosterdam in early March 2011. A guest on that cruise has commenced a lawsuit against Holland America Line in regard to an accident she had on board. As part of that lawsuit, her attorneys requested contact information for certain persons thought to be witnesses. Holland America Line provided that contact information. The guest’s attorneys then requested contact information for every passenger on the cruise.
Holland America Line values its guests’ privacy and argued against providing private contact information for every guest on the cruise. Nonetheless, a local judge has ordered Holland America Line to provide the information. We must comply with the court’s order, and so will be providing the name, address and phone number of all guests on the cruise. No other personal information will be provided.
As such, you may receive a phone call or letter from attorneys representing the guest [name blocked here for privacy], to discuss her injury claim against Holland America Line. It is entirely your choice whether to communicate with the guest’s attorneys.
We would like to thank you once again for joining us aboard the ms Oosterdam. We greatly appreciate all of our guests and hope that we may welcome you aboard another sailing soon.
Holland America Line
I’ve never seen anything quite like this, and god knows the cruise industry hates this sort of thing.
Have you ever been injured on a cruise and blamed the cruise line? How did it turn out? To you lawyers out there, how do you predict this passenger’s suit will go?
UPDATE. This note came from Holland America just one day after the original. IMO sounds like some serious miscommunication between their legal and customer relations departments that allowed the letter to go out in the first place. Nonetheless, I’m interested in your thoughts on injuries and such at sea.
Dear Valued Guest,
We are writing to follow up on an advisory you received from us recently regarding your ms Oosterdam sailing in March of 2011.
We previously advised that Holland America Line had been ordered to produce contact information for every guest on this sailing in response to an ongoing lawsuit. We are pleased to report that the suit was settled only a few days before our deadline to produce the guest contact information. As such, your contact information was not released and you should not expect to be contacted by any attorneys in relation to this matter.
Again, we thank you for your patronage, as well as your understanding. We look forward to being given the opportunity to sail with you again soon.
Holland America Line
Note: the author traveled as a guest of Holland America Line on the above mentioned cruise. The cruise line has not reviewed this content, and the author’s opinions remain his own.
News this week of the Norwegian Epic, one of the world’s largest cruise ships, being turned away from a port in the Bahamas because the port didn’t schedule it properly was pretty darn shocking. According to Bahamas-based Tribune242.com, the 4,100 passenger mega-ship was turned away due to a “mix up in the berthing schedule.”
Holy Cow! Someone’s head should roll for that mistake, which the publication reports cost the island(s) over $100,000.
But what does a missed or skipped port mean for you and me? Have you ever been on a ship that skipped or changed a port for some reason?
I have. Many years ago, during an RSVP cruise onboard a Holland America ship, we were diverted from a stop on the Dominican Republic (if memory serves me right) due to health a health issue on the island, and instead the captain held the ship between the islands of St. Thomas and St. John, USVI, with tenders running to both those islands. We had already stopped in St. Thomas earlier in the cruise. This allowed me to visit small St. John, where the island’s business owners had zero warning the gays would be arriving en mass. The ones I talked to were certainly delighted with the bonus bucks that landed in their cash registers that day.
Meanwhile, lots of plans in the Dominican were scuttled. And while this was before it was so easy to pre-plan (and sometimes pre-pay) for non-cruise line shore excursions prior to arrival, I can only imagine how disruptive such a change must be these days when some of us do just that. Folks who booked excursions via the cruise line would be refunded, but people who planned on their own would be SOL.
It’s a good reminder that you should never pre-arrange and pre-pay for any “non-refundable” travel experience that you can’t afford to lose, and this includes the cruise itself when you arrange your own airfare–which is my method. However, I always book my flights to arrive at least a day before departure, which gives me a much stronger chance of making the ship on time (I haven’t missed one yet), plus allows me to arrive relaxed, and even enjoy the outbound port and perhaps its gay bars or shops.
I’d love to hear if you’ve ever lost money due to a last-minute change in a ship’s itinerary. And for that matter, have you ever missed the boat altogether?
Note: On one mentioned cruise, the author cruised as a guest of RSVP Vacations. The company has not reviewed this content, and the views and opinions expressed are the author’s own.
Apparently, The Force isn’t always with Carrie Fisher these days. Various reports from the blogosphere highlight Ms. Fisher’s strange performance during a surprise appearance on a recent all-gay RSVP cruise, and post-cruise reports say she was briefly admitted to the hospital for treatment. A Youtube video highlighted some of her performance–alas, Ms. Fisher forced it to be removed over “copyright.” Well ok then.
While the media and other bloggers can have their field day of chit-chat about Ms. Fisher, I’d like to point out that her very appearance on the RSVP gay cruise charter is one of the things that, for many gay cruise fans, makes an all gay cruise different, valuable, and worth the extra money companies like RSVP, Atlantis, R-Family, and Olivia generally charge for their cruises. I’ve personally been on three all-gay cruises (all as a guest of RSVP), and totally enjoyed the experience of dancing poolside to the dance beat of Deborah Cox. I’ve also enjoyed the unique blend of comedians and ship hosts that make these cruises special.
All-gay cruises are not for everyone, but they do offer some very cool experiences, from surprise entertainers such as Ms. Fisher (who I’d love to have met) to the simple fact that you are, at least on RSVP, pretty-much surrounded by thousands of gay men, and there are plenty of shenanigans to be had, if you’re so inclined.
Check out my list of gay cruise myths here.
Were you on the RSVP cruise with Carrie Fisher? We’d love to hear your perspective on this or other all-gay cruise topics.
Before my first gay cruise, I heard a lot of warnings—myth’s 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.
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 Joan Rivers, Charo, and Michael Feinstein. RSVP often brings cabaret singer Amy Armstrongand 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 travellers around every corner who are delighted to discuss favourite 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 an updated version of the story. The author has been on three all-gay cruises, as a guest of RSVP; twice alone, and once with a partner.
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