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Have you ever dreamed about floating beneath a canopy of stars as waves gently rock you to sleep? If you answered ‘yes’, GaySail will help you make that dream come true.
Mark van den Eshof, owner of GaySail, started organizing sailing trip since the early 90′s. Mark is a fully licensed skipper and sailing instructor with over 15 years of experience with gay tour groups.
His sailing trips will take you to such wonderful destinations as Greece, the magnificent surroundings of Croatia, the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean and many others. Mark loves to share his passion for sailing with other gay men.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Mark a few questions about GaySail.
1. Why did you start GaySail?
I started GaySail because I am addicted to sailing. I like to show other guys what a great way to relax this is. I also love to teach sailing and navigation to guys who are interested in learning.
2. What are the benefits to sailing as opposed to motor ships?
First of all, the noise! No motor all day, just wind and waves. Motor cruises are boring, you just sit and watch. Every day is different for sailing, depending on the wind, weaves and weather. You can relax on the front deck or be an active crew member, just the way you like.
On the yacht we mostly have a drink after dinner. For people who like to party there are plenty of bars and clubs in the local villages. If we don’t stay overnight in a bay, we will gaze at the stars and have a midnight swim.
4. We’re not nautical at all. What is the difference between a windward and leeward cruise?
Windward is the direction upwind from the point of reference. Leeward is the direction downwind from the point of reference. The side of a ship that is towards the leeward is its lee side. If the vessel is heeling under the pressure of the wind, this will be the “lower side”. For the Island you normally stay overnight on the Leeward side – no waves. You don’t need any nautical experience if you want to join one of our sailing adventures.
It’s 50-50 depending on the cruise. The Caribbean usually attracts more Americans and Canadians. For Greece, Turkey and Croatia, they tend to be more European. Americans love to cruise in Greece and make a combination to visit the ancient sights and the gay Island of Mykonos. Our trips are also 50-50 couples and singles which include men of all ages.
6. We loved Croatia, tell me about your sailings there.
Croatia is special because there are so many Islands and private bays. The landscape is so much greener than Greece. The historical cities like Dubrovnik and Trogir are absolutely amazing.
7. I see that you do customized trips. Can you describe one and the kind of event it was for?
We had a gay wedding cruise of Australians in Greece. The yachts were mostly full of gay friends of the couple. The whole trip was just like the Mama Mia movie with Meryl Streep.
We all had a great time!
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.
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After you read this article, please see our blog that we posted only a week ago. Your comments are encouraged. Should we as gay and lesbian people travel where we are not welcomed?
ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) — Two California men on a gay cruise of the Caribbean were arrested Wednesday in Dominica, where sex between two men is illegal.
Police Constable John George said police boarded the cruise ship and arrested the two men on suspicion of indecent exposure and “buggery,” a term equivalent to sodomy on the island. He identified the men as John Robert Hart, 41, and Dennis Jay Mayer, 43, but did not provide their hometowns.
George said the men were seen having sex on the Celebrity Summit cruise ship by someone on the dock.
The two were later charged with indecent exposure and are scheduled to appear before a magistrate Thursday morning. If found guilty, they could be fined $370 each and face up to six months in jail.
The ship carrying about 2,000 passengers departed Puerto Rico on Saturday and arrived in Dominica on Wednesday. It departed for St. Barts without the men, who are being held in a cell at police headquarters in the capital of Roseau.
The cruise was organized by Atlantis Events, a Southern California company that specializes in gay travel.
President Rich Campbell, who is aboard the cruise, said in a phone interview earlier that he thought the two men would be released. He later said in an email that the company has organized many trips to Dominica and would “happily return.”
“Many countries and municipalities that gay men visit and live in have antiquated laws on their books,” he said. “These statutes don’t pose a concern to us in planning a tourist visit.”
Campbell said he expects the two men to be released on Thursday and that they only face misdemeanor charges.
“The guests’ actions were unfortunate but minor in this case and have no bearing on our overall guest experience,” he said via email.
The pastor of Dominica’s Trinity Baptist Church, Randy Rodney, praised the police for their intervention.
“I am very pleased that the police were called in and have arrested the people in question. I have warned about gay tourism and its implications for Dominica,” said Rodney, who is a vocal critic of homosexuality and lesbianism.
The presence of gay cruises in the Caribbean has riled several conservative islands including Jamaica and Grenada, where anti-sodomy laws are enforced with strong backing from religious groups.
According to Cruisemates.com, no gay cruise lines sail to Jamaica or Barbados for fear of homophobia and possible violence. It said other places like the U.S. Virgin Islands welcome gay cruises.
In 2010, the Cayman Islands rejected the arrival of an Atlantis gay cruise amid protests from religious groups even though homosexuality is legal on the archipelago.
Don Weiner, a spokesman for Atlantic Events, referred all questions to Campbell, including why the company organized a trip to Dominica and whether it knew about the island’s anti-sodomy laws.
Elizabeth Jakeway, a spokeswoman for Celebrity Cruises, referred all questions to Atlantis.
The last time authorities in the Caribbean intervened on a gay cruise was in February 2011, when agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested a California man aboard the Allure of the Seas, which had docked in St. Thomas. The man, Steven Barry Krumholz of West Hollywood, pleaded guilty to selling ecstasy, methamphetamine and ketamine to fellow passengers.
Associated Press writers Danica Coto and Ben Fox in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed
Is the Caribbean is losing its appeal as a cruise destination? Four major cruise lines recently announced that they are pulling ALL ships out of the Florida-Caribbean market in the Spring/Summer 2011 Season. The lines are Norwegian, Princess, Celebrity and Holland America. All are moving their ships to Europe and other areas.
Royal Caribbean and Carnival are keeping a handful of big ships and older ships in the Florida-Caribbean area during the summer months.
Famed travel writer Arthur Frommer wrote a big piece on this for Canada’s Toronto Star newspaper, where he lays out possibilities for the change:
“It is entirely possible…[Americans have tired] of Caribbean ports (like Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas) that have been converted into giant shopping malls. They have wearied of being dumped on artificial private beaches in which the only local residents are employees of the cruise line; there’s consumer fatigue with fake villages.” Arthur Frommer in the Toronto Star.
Frommer further asserts that cruise company executives “have removed cruising from the experience of travel [by replacing] authentic foreign countries with fake replicas of foreign countries.”
Personally I think it’s simply that these destinations were never really sexy to start with. With few exceptions, the islands all seem very similar, and few of them has done a good job of making me believe there’s much to do if I even get off the ship there. I’ll never forget RSVP’s legendary comedian and host Danny Williams joke in the bingo hall as our ship sailed away from Guadaloupe; he called it Gaudapoop. 1,500 gays had not been terribly impressed with the place. (In all fairness, I realize that we are talking about 3rd world islands, and that few are equipped to actually provide thevacation experience most Americans want).
Since my first Caribbean cruise in 1988, island cruising for me has never been much about the destinations (notable exceptions being Puerto Rico and Curacao…I do also quite like the Caribbean’s mainland destinations including Mexico, Costa Rica, and Venezuela). It has been more about the ships themselves, and my experience with my partner or whomever else I travel with. If the Caribbean islands want American cruisers to keep coming, I think they need to do a better job of differentiating their cultures, highlighting their natural resources, and dropping the shopping altogether.
What do you think?
In our first ship review by cruise expert Tom Baker, we go onboard Royal Caribbean’s new Oasis of the Seas. –Ed.
Size Queens: Oasis of the Seas is five times larger than the Titanic, and the original Love Boat Pacific Princess could fit comfortably in the Oasis’ Opus Dining Room–amazing!
Overall I rate the ship a 10 for innovative features. I would choose to vacation on this ship.
- Atlantis Events has a sold-out full ship charter in February of 2011 on identical twin ship Allure of the Seas, you might wait-list with rates starting at $1249pp.
- Aquafest Events has a Labor Day-Getaway Summer group September 4, 2011 on Allure of the Seas with rates starting at $759pp.
- This is a great ship for families, both multi-generational and families traveling together.
- It’s great for couples, honeymooners, and singles!
- While it has features for handicapped guests, it is a bit big and accessibility could be challenging although there were a large number of disabled guests on my cruise and they all seemed to be getting along just fine.
- I would not recommend this to seniors or for folks looking for a more traditional cruise experience. There is nothing traditional about this ship whatsoever…
- If you want to be part of something really special-cruise on this ship. You will pay a premium to do it but it is different than anything else out there.
- Bargain hunters-shop elsewhere. There are lots of great deals on cruises but this is an experience that is unique and promises to be for years to come!!!!
After sailing on some 250 cruise ships worldwide, I am in absolute amazement after disembarking the new Oasis of the Seas. For gay cruisers looking for something totally unique, Oasis of the Seas and her sister ship coming late in 2010 are here just for you…
Stats. As the largest cruise ship ever built, Oasis is 1,187 feet long, 208 feet wide, with 18 decks above the sea. There wow factor everywhere. I am overwhelmed by its architecture, array of cabins, entertainment venues, dining options, and massive size-again WOW!
Unique. Oasis and her to-come sister-ship are in a class of their own, There has never been anything like them and may not be anything to top them for many years to come. There are no plans to rival them by any other cruise line and even Royal Caribbean has no plans to top this incredible outing. It would be ten years before a ship could be drawn up, financed and built.
Pricing. These ships are so unique that they are collecting a premium price by guests willing to pay for something they cannot find on anywhere else. Deal seekers…sorry, this one isn’t for you. Prices start at a low of $1099 per-person for interior cabins. The cabins ands suites are bigger and better than any other ship in the company’s fleet. Smallest cabins start at 149 square feet; the largest suite is 1,524 square feet plus a balcony of 843 square feet.
Embarkation. The new terminal at Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) built exclusively for Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas is the best designed and flowing terminal anywhere. Check-in took less than two minutes and boarding was within 20 minutes of arrival at the pier. Cabins are not open for embarkation until 1:00 p.m. but you can enjoy a welcome aboard meal, make spa appointments, and tour the ship to get a feel for your exciting cruise!
Overview. I visited many cabins and suites, and felt all were above cruise industry standards, well decorated, and
ample for a cruise for 7-days.
Most of the cabins on this ship consist of balcony staterooms, standard at 182 square feet and balconies that range in size from 50-82 additional square feet depending on your location. Since 90% of the ships accommodations are this type of cabin, I will focus on this specifically. These are spacious rooms with twin or queen sized beds, a full sized couch, vanity, 32 inch flat screen television with internet connectivity and plenty of channels .
- Storage. There are three drawers for storage a couple of narrow cupboards, and a small refrigerator which will act as a mini-bar. The closet sits alongside the bed or next to the couch depending on the cabin configuration. There is ample storage for a couple (maybe for a third guest). There are a few shelves and a tiny safe one of the lower shelves. Cabin doors open outwards into an alcove so there seems to be more internal space.
- Bathrooms are well laid out with a long vanity but tiny, impractical sink. There is enough storage space for toiletries, although it’s awkward. The shower stall had nice space with sliding doors for total privacy.
- The phone is digital, easy to use, has a clock, alarm, and can be used for any reservations or room service. The same can be done by using your interactive cabin television.
Oasis of the Seas has more dedicated space to passengers than any other in history.
I was particularly taken with two areas.
- The Royal Promenade spans decks 5 and 6. It is a huge area that offers the ships Guest Relations desk, coffee bar, Champagne Bar, photo shops, Pubs, Bars, Dining Venues, Cupcake Shop-they are delicious, and an amazing Rising Tide Bar. An elevator wine bar that travels from deck 5 to deck 8 (Central Park). It is a unique feature that has a wonderful waterfall that works under the bar as it moves up and down into a gorgeous skylight above embarking guests on decks 5 or 8. It is something to behold!
- The 6 level high Central Park area which spans an area in length of nearly 500 feet and flanks two massive glass enclosed stairwells and elevator shafts that transverses from top to bottom of this massive luxury liner. The gorgeously landscaped Central Park is filled with tropical trees, plants, and flowers-nearly 12,000 and lined with elegant boutiques, bars, and fee-based alternative restaurants that offer gourmet international cosine. There is a really awesome dining venue that is like a bistro market called the Park Cafe which is open for breakfast and lunch and was popular.
These are only two of 7 neighborhoods–I could go on and on but you get the picture.
There are dozens of dining venues on this ship ranging from the casual Windjammer Cafe on Deck 16 to the massive and most popular Opus dining room spanning decks 3-5, Sorrento’s Italian Cafe on the Royal Promenade, and the gorgeous gourmet fee based 150 Central Park. I tried a number of venues and found the food to be above Royal Caribbean standard (impressive as I was on a travel agent/press junket as guinea pigs for this massive start up ship). The quality was good to excellent and the variety would give the most sophisticated palate a run for their money. A week onboard would not even allow one to try everything this ship has t offer unless you spent your entire time running from venue to venue…
Was friendly from stem to stern. While the ship is ramping up and half the staff has never worked on a ship before, a pleasant hello was always in order from the staff met throughout the ship. I think this will be a very friendly ship. All staff that I spoke with was very proud and happy to be a part of this one-of-a-kind exciting cruise ship.
Entertainment If you ever thought you would be bored on a cruise ship, Oasis will prove you wrong. It has seven unique neighborhoods–each with a theme and unique style giving the ship a kaleidoscope of style and decor.
- Rock climbing, ice skating, flow-riding, or zip lining are available.
- Oasis has a huge number of entertainment venues ranging from the professional Broadway Opal Theater which will have production shows and a full rendition of the popular show Hairspray.
- Aqua-Theater offers a great aquatic and diving show.
- Excellent gym, pools, and fitness areas–perfect for the gym-bunnies!
- Royal Promenade parades with themes ranging from 70’s disco to zany cirque like costumes
- Multiple dance clubs both indoors and out.
- Jazz club, karaoke club, comedy club, strolling singers, musicians, piano bar, live music everywhere
- Beautiful ice skating rink with magnificent ice show,
- and much more…
My Top 10 Favorite Things
- The best designed user-friendly “find it” board. The ship has easy access electronic maps telling you how to find your cabin, public spaces, daily programs, and dining venue capacity offerings everywhere. It is well signed and fairly easy to find your way around.
- It has the best architecture of any cruise ship ever built-period!
- There is an incredible array of comfortable and well designed cabins suites for all budgets and tastes
- The food is above par for any other Royal Caribbean ship I have been on and the variety of dining venues is exceptional.
- The Aqua Theater and many entertainment venues will never allow for boredom as there are so many multiple options for everybody.
- The spa and gym are among the best I have seen anywhere in the World
- This ship will WOW kids and teens of all ages with the most extensive and cool programming and dedicated areas. It is amazing!!!!
- The Central Park area is romantic and high-end, filled with designer shops, wine bars, and gourmet dining venues. It is perfect for adults, honeymooners and up market travelers looking for the BEST!
- Embarkation and disembarkation was the easiest of any ship I have even been on
- This ship has the most variety of any ship I have ever been on-book a cruise on it and enjoy all that it has to offer.
10 Things I Did Not Like
- The ramp at embarkation was way to steep for almost anybody but it is being corrected.
- The shower head does not slide up and down bad for shorter guests who cannot reach it.
- The Boardwalk and Central Park cabins face each other so privacy is a real issue.
- The bathroom sinks in virtually all standard cabins is tiny and your head will hit the mirror if you stoop down to use it properly-use caution!
- The noise factor is higher than most ships due to huge cavernous spaces and hard surfaces
- The Windjammer Cafe is smaller than most other Royal Caribbean ships and although the design is excellent, the space is very crowded.
- The pool areas albeit designed well and there are many of them are small. I think when the ship is full, there will be some issues finding deck chairs in the sun and around the pool itself.
- One must have a reservation for all shows. This does not allow for flexibility for people like me who decide on the cuff. It is more like going to Las Vegas.
- The ship has some going up and around to get to certain places making transverse difficult. This isn’t bad but could have been planned better.
- The Central Park area on Deck 8 where the gorgeous plantings is very muggy and does not have enough breeze going through it.
Conclusion: The pros far outweigh the cons in the big scheme of things. A colleague asked me if I would vacation on this ship and I was very quick to say YES!!!
St. Thomas is among the most-frequent Caribbean cruise stops. Long-popular for shopping, gorgeous beaches, and its proximity to tiny St. John’s snorkeling diving, the U.S. island-territory undoubtedly has a substantial gay population, even if they’re transient. Alas, gay options on the island seem to be few.
For cruise passengers, that’s not a big deal, although it can be fun to visit a gay watering hole or beach during a shore day. And some cruise passengers using Puerto Rico as a beginning/ending spot might be keen to fly back to St. Thomas for a few days…in which case there is a B&B, The Caribbean Countess, gay-owned since 1989.
Traveler Rick Smith recently spent a week on the island, and here’s his report:
“Just got back from St. Thomas…and after checking the web for gay friends bars or places ended up finding that they had all closed. Talked to a few people at the resort we stayed at for a week, Marriott Frenchman’s Reef, and they said that there are a lot of gays on the island but they tend to all get together mostly by word of mouth. If you can find a gay person at a local resort they are more than happy to direct you in the right direction… The “locals” tend to be a bit more uptight but if you can find others that are from the main land and they seem to be much more approachable when you ask them outright about gay friendly spots.”
Nearby St. Croix is a more-gay port; we’ll look more closely at it in the future.
Posting by Randall Shirley
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