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Here we are, new year, and with the Kwancrhismukkah (my multi-inclusive term) holiday season behind us and the Northern Hemisphere doldrum season ahead, you’re likely dreaming of vacations ahead (I certainly am!), even if you’ve just returned from one.
Since you’re on this site, I can only assume that cruising is in your thoughts, so here are my top 10 cruise ideas for you to shake it up in 2013!
1. Sail on a new-to-you cruise line. On my personal dream list are:
• Disney. Everyone I’ve talked to who’s sailed this line, with or without kids, has loved it. But I haven’t had a substantial report from anyone who’s sailed extremely “out.”
• Silversea. Supposed to be ultra-sumptuous. I could handle that.
• Queen Mary 2. I feel like the only princess who still hasn’t been crowned queen by sailing one of this line’s reportedly-lovely ships.
• Norwegian Cruise Lines. I hear good thing after good thing about this line, and want to go see for myself!
2. Shake up your cabin type:
Never sailed in an outside cabin? You’ll be amazed at how different a cruise feels when the sun comes up!
Never tried a verandah? Save up and give it a try—fresh sea air in your cabin and the sound of the waves can be intoxicating (and making out with your lover on the balcony is plenty romantic…just don’t do anything inappropriate like those guys on the Atlantis Cruise last year.
3. Think cruising is only for warm weather spots? Try Alaska. We didn’t think we’d like it, and gave it a try. Now we can’t wait to return for another dose of this amazing wilderness.
There are also an increasing number of amazing cruises in the Arctic. While the ship I sailed there on several years ago is now out of service, others have taken her place on a variety of stunning itineraries.
4. Scared of all-gay cruises? Afraid they’re just “floating bath houses” or a “circuit party at sea”? Give one a try—you might be surprised how diverse and fun they can be.
5. Organize your own group cruise, and you could cruise “free.”
6. Take a longer-than-usual cruise. If you’ve previously taken only 7-night cruises, try a 10- or 14-night itinerary. I always find the longer cruises make me feel like I’ve really been on vacation.
7. Get into fresh water. Consider a River Cruise like Mark did last year. He’s still raving about all the fun he had in Europe. A fellow cruiser wrote this report.
8. Try a theme cruise. Try an itinerary focused on Broadway, cooking, wine, golf—whatever floats your boat! The right travel agent can help you find them.
9. Give the gift of cruising. Always wondering what birthday or holiday gifts to get for your friends or family who “have everything”? How about a cruise line gift certificate that will encourage them to join you on an upcoming itinerary.
10. Tell every gay cruise traveler you meet about MeetMeOnBoard.com! Ok, shameless plug here. But the site gets more and more meaningful and powerful with more and more members! Every new member increases your chances of meeting new friends for future sailings!
Will is discussing. Toggle Comments
With so many wonderful opportunities today, it was not an easy choice to pick what to do or what to see. With the ‘Sound of Music’ firmly implanted in our brains, many of the guys went prancing around the hills of Salzburg, Austria which was the location of the movie. More on those singing and prancing “Maria-wanna-be’s” later.
I decided to stay on the boat since this was some of the most stunning scenery on our river cruise. As we entered Bavaria in Germany, we were surround by stunning natural beauty. Thick green forests with jagged mountain cliffs were everywhere. This part of the world was just how I envisioned it.
My afternoon was spent in Passau, Germany. This small baroque town is celebrating it’s 350th year and is known world wide for having the largest cathedral organ in the world. My stroll to St. Stephan’s Cathedral took me down charming narrow walkways where you would come to a small square with people enjoying an ice cold beer. Yes, this must be Germany.
The organ is played everyday at noon so I didn’t think I would be able to hear it since I was there in the afternoon. As I entered this magnificent baroque cathedral, the stops of the organ opened up and the church was filled with magnificent music. Fortunately the organist was there preparing for a concert so it was my lucky day.
Music also filled the lounge on the ship. Well…I don’t know if I would call all of it music but Source Events sponsored a talent show and it was great which you will see in the video. What I really appreciated about the event is that Avalon Waterways allowed their crew to be a part of it. I don’t believe during any of my previous cruises that I have seen crew members showcase their real hidden talents adding to the fun. These crew members work for months with no time off so my hats off to Avalon Waterways for allowing them to ‘kick up their heels’ for the evening.
Our cruise Director Barbara is the envy of every gay man on board as you will see later in future videos specifically showcasing her fabulous shoes. Her wardrobe is highly fashionable not even to be over shadowed on the runways in Paris.
Having never cruised on a riverboat, boarding the Avalon Waterways Vista was quite an experience. After a five minute taxi ride going the wrong way down a one way street we were dropped off within 50 feet of the boat where our luggage was taken directly into our stateroom with no waiting. This was the easiest boarding experience I have ever had. It takes me longer to pull into my garage and wait for Dale to make my evening cocktail.
Leaving Budapest we had 24 hours of cruising until we reached our next destination of Vienna. This time gave a nice opportunity to mix and mingle with our new cruise mates. I have found a riverboat to be more intimate as compared to a large cruise ship so it lends itself to mixing and mingling much more easily.
Soon after our departure from Budapest it was time for our first meal. One word. Delicious! The food was cooked to perfection and the presentation was fit for a ‘queen’. The dining experience was as good as in ay high-end restaurant.
What would a gay cruise be without an event where you could wear a costume? Since we were sailing into Vienna the next day, the upstairs lounge became a Masked Ball. Music, glitter and glamor was a great way to start the nighttime festivities.
It is evident that Source Events has a dedicated following of gay cruisers since so many of the people that I met have been on numerous past cruises.
After a much anticipated dinner this evening, we will stroll into Vienna to take in the nighttime scene. At this point we do not know what that involves so stay tuned.
Joseph is discussing. Toggle Comments
Organizers of an all-gay cruise on Saturday blamed Moroccan officials for the cancellation of what would have been the first visit of its kind to a Muslim country, but the tourism minister denied the ship was banned and said its passengers were welcome.
Cruise liner Holland America Line and trip organiser RSVP Vacations told the 2,100 holiday-makers aboard the MS Nieuw Amsterdam ship that the July 1 visit to Casablanca had been cancelled.Read the entire Reuters article here >>>Will Kohler, owner and creator of Back2Stonewall.com is one of the country’s leading experts on LGBT History, Media and Popular Culture. Read his opinion here >>>Click the comment link below and let us know your thoughts.
Some of us are old enough to remember the “Point/Counterpoint” segment on “60 MINUTES” where opposing viewpoints were presented on current issues. Of course later there was Siskel and Ebert, but now here are Mark and Dale!
We each reached different conclusions concerning the gay male couple who were recently arrested on an Atlantis Events cruise while docked in Dominica due to having sex on their balcony while being visible to people on shore.
DALE: My thought is that a good traveler needs to conform as much as possible to the culture in which he is a guest. “Guest” is a key word here.
MARK: I totally agree with that and I have seen the ‘Ugly American’ on most of my international trips. I believe what the two men did was highly inappropriate. Atlantis isn’t to blame, only the individuals involved.
Their actions would have been looked upon negatively in every part of the world. This was an example of where cruisers didn’t behave with the respect that a guest should display.
DALE: So do you think LGBT people should avoid Dominica because of this incident?
MARK: I don’t want to spend my hard-earned dollars in a country which is blatantly anti-gay. Likewise, I also choose not to support certain corporations due to their discrimination or employment policies. I frankly don’t see the difference.
DALE: But LGBT travelers visiting these less-than-gay-friendly cultures can be a positive thing. We can show by example that we as gay people are not a threat. America’s tolerance has increased due to the fact that so many gays are now out. With so many people knowing a gay family member, friend, or co-worker, we have made allies of many who were once intolerant. This would not have happened if we remained ‘invisible’.
MARK: So would you go to Dominica?
DALE: Yes. I believe we could make a difference by being there and acting appropriately for that region of the world. Would you go there Mark?
MARK: No. With all of the options out there, I would choose not to visit a place that I view as extremely homophobic. You’re right, we can make this world a better place by showing a good example. However, I can’t condone supporting anti-gay countries or institutions.
We’d love to know your feeling on this. Please add your comments. Here’s a list of countries where it’s illegal to be gay.
Michael Schmidt, Roger, Ron and 21 others are discussing. Toggle Comments
Survey Results: Part 2
By: Michael Bradbury, MMOB Director of Marketing
For a lot of LGBT travelers, being trapped on a ship far from land with members of their own family strikes fear into their hearts. For others, sailing on a cruise ship is a way to get closer to blood relatives and spend time together away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. As gay people we have the added bonus of being able to choose our second family—each other. And according to all the members at MeetMeOnBoard, we love to do it together.
As was clear from our recent membership survey, we LGBTs love to be together. Over a third of our nearly 4,000 members have had the pleasure of traveling on an all-gay charter cruise like Atlantis, RSVP or Olivia. Another 25% have traveled on a mainstream cruise line but as part of a larger gay group, like Aquafest, Pied Piper, Chumley’s or Sweet.
But the vast majority—85%—tend to stick to the mainstream cruises and make their own gay fun.
- We discovered that price is the number one reason members opt for mainstream cruises over all-gay cruises.
- Several members say that it’s fun to do an all-gay cruise just to have the experience but you pay more and give up the choice of going where you want to go.
- Since destination was clearly the biggest factor for members when choosing a cruise, it stands to reason that there are many more options when traveling singly or as a couple on a mainstream departure.
John Tolliver, an avid cruise ship traveler from Wappinger Falls, New York has sailed on all-gay, gay group and mainstream cruises. And he says each style of cruising has its pluses and minuses.
He says, “The advantage of the gay charters I think is you feel you’re in a whole new world, and the blinders come off.”
Most all-gay cruises book out the newest, biggest ships and bring their own top-notch entertainment on board. That’s a huge advantage for some, turning a more traditional cruise ship into a floating party.
Several members specifically commented that on an all-gay charters the crew is allowed to let their hair down a little bit more than they would otherwise. One recounted a story of a hotel manager ending up in a hot tub at the end of a raucous night.
For some removing those blinders can be too much. Call it sensory overload. The late-night parties, excessive drinking, wild costumes and theme nights can be too much for some, making an all-gay charter overwhelming. With so much going on all the time, it’s hard not to get exhausted.
- One man says, “The all-gay ones are just so much fun, almost too much. And we don’t dance all night or drink too much or have sex in the sauna. The passengers are just all so nice and attitude is seldom in view. The entertainment, including the hilarious versions of BINGO and the Newlywed game, is so wonderful. So much better than any ordinary cruise I have ever been on.”
- Another says, “Shockingly most times I find straight NCL cruises more fun than gay cruises… with the exception of how awesome the deck parties can be with Atlantis (lasers, lights, sound mostly).” He also says, “Atlantis has priced itself out and I think it’s catching up with itself. Booking bigger newer ships gets people but the same stale itineraries for sometimes double what you’d pay for the same cabin otherwise is just silly.”
- Several members say that to go on an all-gay cruise you are really paying a gay tax. Supply and demand dictate those high costs. And the all-gay charters are selling out so they must be doing something right.
- One cruiser put it very succinctly. “No children, everyone is on the same vacation (unlike your typical cruise where there are reunions and family gatherings, etc…) the other cruisers are very friendly and there is little complaining.”
A lot of you would much rather choose a vacation destination and develop a cruise around that, selecting cruise line and then ship. And it appears that no one has trouble spotting one another once the ship sets sail.
Many members say they thought they were booked on a straight cruise—until the gays showed up.
This story is oh so common and makes the MeetMeOnBoard staff quite giddy. That’s the purpose of this site—to connect LGBT cruise travelers.
Tolliver says, “Straight cruises are a whole different game. So much it seems is up to the Hotel Director/Cruise Director onboard.” He says they can either embrace the gays or ignore them.
And, many members have stories of both. It appears that many Princess ships are no longer actively hosting their Friends of Dorothy cocktail gatherings (or the members aren’t seeing those parties listed anywhere). But just by walking around the ship’s deck, many gay singles and couples are finding each other.
And, then there is the hybrid between an all-gay charter and a mainstream cruise—the gay group cruise.
This relatively new way to travel has been expanded in the last few years. Travel agents who aren’t able to fill a whole ship just reserve a handful (20-500) of spaces on ships that hold 2,000-4,000 passengers. The gay group is a great way to feel the comfort of the gay vibe without being immersed in it during an entire vacation.
- Karen, a single lesbian from Lawrence, Kansas says she travels with a group of 8-10 gay friends. She began with a cruise to Alaska in 2008 followed quickly by trips to Columbia, and Central America that same year. Then after a summer in Spain and Sweden, she formed a new family of friends which they turned into Fika Tours. Now she says, “We are our own gay-group in a mainstream cruise.”
The membership survey showed that MeetMeOnBoard is a diverse community of people who share an important common thread — an insatiable desire to travel by cruise ship. We have avid fans of all-gay charters, where the price is higher, destination is out of your control but the party goes all the time.
We also have regular vacationers who go where they want, how they want (by cruise ship) and leave meeting other gay people up to fate. With so many LGBT couples and singles traveling by cruise ship, it’s nearly impossible to be the only gay people on a ship these days.
MeetMeOnBoard is also comprised of a growing number of members who love the best of both worlds. The gay-group allows the freedom to be yourself, hold hands or kiss your partner without feeling like you are making a political statement. It allows passengers to opt in or opt out of gay-specific activities. And many of our members really enjoy the idea that they can go on a cruise, be themselves and show straight people that being gay is really no big deal.
- Bill, from North Carolina (not a member) and his wife were traveling on a Princess cruise a few years ago and there was a gay-group on board. One night he and his wife were in the top deck lounge watching the gay group dance and have a great time. He says another straight couple came into the lounge and sat down, not seeing the obvious group of gay men dancing. The wife decided she wanted to dance and Bill says when she returned to her seat, “We could hear the woman say ‘There aren’t any women on the dance floor!’ My wife and I just about died laughing.”
Tolliver says, “I think it’s kind of cool on the straight or gay group cruises because just about everyone you meet, straight couples learn that there is nothing to fear from gay men and women.” He adds, “Like that whole philosophy of showing how alike we are by example rather than how different.”
How You Use MeetMeOnBoard
It’s clear from our survey that you are connecting with each other before, during and after your cruises. We set up MeetMeOnBoard.com to do just that. We offer many different ways to engage with each other. But we are always listening to your kind suggestions and trying to improve the site and our services to better serve your cruise-connecting needs. We’ll explore that in our next installment of our 2011 Survey Results, Ask and You Shall Receive.
Survey Results: Part 1
By: Michael Bradbury, MMOB Director of Marketing
The very first question we asked you on your 2011 MeetMeOnBoard membership survey was about how often you travel by cruise ship. The data was clear. All MeetMeOnBoard members love to cruise. That didn’t surprise us but the numbers did.
Almost three quarters of our 4,000 members love going on cruises so much that that feel compelled to travel by ship at least once a year.
This begs the question why.
Only one member mentioned the ocean even though logically cruising involves water. For most of you, traveling by cruise ship is more about price, convenience, amenities, entertainment and quick travel.
Rick Dallin from San Diego captures the sentiment of many of you. He says, “Cruises are a good value. You have entertainment, lodging, all the delicious food you can eat, and ports of call.”
He’s right. Seasoned cruise ship passengers seem to like the whole lifestyle of cruising—with all the creature comforts of home mixed with all the finest elements of hotel living combined with non-stop entertainment.
While a whopping 74% of MeetMeOnBoard members travel by cruise ship at least one time every year, 17% of our members travel when they can—not every year but every couple of years.
One man who asked to remain nameless says he goes on a cruise only when his family coerces him. Another member keeps running into hurricane cancellations in the Caribbean and that has broken his annual cruise record—twice.
Jen Rainin loves traveling by cruise ship because she wants to see many different places. A cruise ship gives her family (wife plus kids) a taste of places they might want to travel to in the future. And the best part for her is that she doesn’t have to keep packing up and switching hotels.
Many of you like the convenience of cruises for that reason. You lug your luggage aboard, get settled and then the logistics of the trip melt away as you wave bon voyage to your departure port and plan for fun in the sun and midnight buffets.
At MeetMeOnBoard we are proud to gather such seasoned cruisers in one spot, to create community and lifelong friendships, bonded by the love of cruise ship travel.
And some of you—nearly half—really love to go on cruise. 40% of members indicate they travel by cruise ship at least two or more times per year. We know from seeing profiles and comments gathered in this survey that quite a few of you go on cruises about 4 times a year. And some of you sound like you practically live on ships, traveling on multiple 60-day cruises pretty regularly.
On man says he tries to go on 7-10 cruises every year.
For those cruise die-hards there is obviously something very appealing about traveling this way.
Rainin loves the home-base feel of a cruise ship. She is going on a Holland America Cruise to Alaska in August and looks forward to this safe way to travel with her children. She says, “They have such autonomy onboard and there are tons of opportunities for learning.”
Many of our new members sign up at MeetMeOnBoard before embarking on their first cruise. It’s always heartening to see a new cruiser’s enthusiasm and excitement. And it’s equally exciting to see our veteran sailors helping out the new folks by answering questions, sharing wisdom and just being so welcoming.
Our survey results show that for those who are new to cruising, you tend to return from your maiden voyage energized and ready to go on another cruise as soon as you can. For most of our members, once they get a taste of the cruise life, it becomes very important to them.
Rainin says, “It’s a wonderful way to travel, to experience the world, to meet and make new friends and to make a difference.”
Pasadena David says, “It doesn’t even have to be a cruise ship.” He’ll go on a barge or freighter. “I just love the ocean,” he says. “Cruise ships have the added appeal of lots to do, people to meet and some of my closest friends are people I have met on cruises.”
MeetMeOnBoard founder Mark den Hartog says, “MeetMeOnBoard is very proud that we have a high percentage of frequent cruisers but we also invite the first-timers and infrequent cruisers to join our growing MMOB family. No matter how many times one has cruised, our site will offer a wealth of information to other LGBT cruise enthusiasts.”
Gay v. Mainstream
The vast majority of members—85%—have traveled on a mainstream cruise line. But many of you prefer a gay group cruise within the mainstream sailing. We’ll explore that in our next installment of our 2011 Survey Results, Cruising with Family.
Today, a question: What current cruise trend(s) interest you the most?
I ask because I find myself waffling on some upcoming cruise options. We’ll be in Europe this fall, and want to do a Mediterranean sailing. Cruises in Europe are, in fact, a burgeoning trend.
But beyond that, we’re looking at different types of cruises we could take within our date range. I’ve found luxury options, all-gay options, gay groups, big mainstream ships, small mainstream ships, lines that cater mostly to Europeans, Broadway’s Playbill group (expensive!), other special interest groups…and more.
I know what I’m leaning toward, but I’m curious what you’re leaning toward in your cruise planning. What trends catch your eye?
If you’ve been to Argentina, you know Buenos Aires has become one helluva gay-friendly town. (And was it just me…or were an unusually high proportion of the men there very, very easy on the eyes?)
I digress. Just as we’ve recently seen happen in Europe, we now see gay South Americans organizing their own gay cruise. Their cruise is called EGO, and it will sail from Buenos Aires to only 2 points in Uruguay (gay-popular Punta del Este and the capital city, Montevideo). I personally think this is a great way for them to test the waters, and frankly a longer South America cruise might be financially out of reach for some Argentinians (their economy has never really come back from its collapse in 2000).
I’ve been able to find one English language website selling this cruise, and rates start around US $1,150, which is VERY steep for a five-night cruise, even an all-gay one, especially since they’re not really promoting it with any additional gay entertainment. The organizers have a Spanish language Facebook page here.
If you have not traveled in South America, it’s worth noting that the most Argentinos do not speak much English (nor should they be expected to). Traveling there will require every bit of Spanish you’ve ever learned, and the dialect spoken in Buenos Aires is nothing like the Mexican Spanish most North Americans are familiar with (they call it Castillano). But you get used to it.
The ship is the MSC Opera, an Italian company little-known to most North American cruisers. (If you’ve sailed them, I’d love to hear about the experience). The ship looks gorgeous.
The ship sails December 12, 2011. Booking available via this link.
Scott Smith is discussing. Toggle Comments
Variety Cruises, a cruise line based in Athens, Greece, has announced a gay cruise from August 20-27, 2010. The
sailing will include Greece and the Greek islands–Mykonos, Santorini and other islands on their small sailing ship, the Panorama. Cruise-only rates start at $2,290 per person per week–certainly hefty compared to the fares RSVP and Atlantis are offering, but it’s an apples to oranges comparison when you consider the difference in ship style. But it also seems very steep considering the price only includes some of your meals.
I personally don’t know how Variety will do with the concept–if any of you have sailed them on a mainstream itinerary, I’d love to hear about it.
Special activities include lengthy swim stops in selected beaches such as in Mykonos, DJ-spun music, evenings off-board in specific ports of call, and “special events,” not sure what that means.
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