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Carnival Cruise Lines said Thursday it is pulling the last of its ships out of San Diego, and other cruise operators are departing Southern California because of economic woes and tourists’ fears over traveling to Mexico.
My definition of ‘being gay’ has to do with how comfortable my partner of 23 years and myself can be on a mainstream cruise. We don’t need to be flamboyant but we do need to feel comfortable as gay men who have been in a long-term relationship. This was our first sailing with Carnival and our feelings were generally very positive.
First, the positive:
The Carnival Spirit employees were superb! The staff on the Spirit were some of the kindest we have ever had. When we asked our steward to join our twin beds, he never blinked an eye. The waiters in the main restaurant were all first-class no matter if they were serving Dale and I or a table of six to ten gay men. We felt comfortable embracing on the deck watching the sunset and also dancing with our friends in the disco. Never did the staff or the passengers on board make us feel uncomfortable.
Now, the negative:
The friendliness of the staff did not carry over to the hospitality of Carnival. Even though they held a nightly Friends of Dorothy gathering, Carnival did nothing to make it unique. Since this was a Halloween cruise, there were a large number of gays and lesbians on this sailing. They held
the first FOD meeting in the Deco Lounge which was next to the entrance of the main dining room. Due to this, the lounge was full of people having a pre-dinner cocktails which left no room for our group. Stu, the Cruise Director walked by and a few of us stopped him to explain the situation. He specifically mentioned that there were was a large group of G&L cruisers on this sailing and he was going to change the time of the FOD meeting so it wound not interfere with the dinner crowd and we would have more space to socialize. This was kind of him to make the time change but he never went out of his way to welcome us on board and didn’t take a few minutes to introduce himself to the group. I don’t believe this would have happened on many other cruise lines especially with this large of a group. A little hospitality from the Cruise Director goes a long way and says a lot about the cruise line and ship.
The ship’s amenities were fine, the wait staff and cabin staff superb, and the food excellent without exception. We just feel that Carnival could have been more welcoming to the large G&L contingent on board. Would I sail Carnival again? Absolutely. When do we leave?
As Mark writes throughout his blog the experience on Carnival exceeded our expectations. The food was fine dinning quality at every meal and though I prefer open seating, it was nice to have the same wait staff nightly remembering our lemons for our water and decaf cappuccino for Bob and regular for me. My partner of 23 years and I did also enjoy the ports visited but were glad we didn’t spend too much time in each one. Our favorite, (it seems everyone’s favorite) was Zihuatanejo being a quaint fishing village and reasonable shopping outside of the docking area. It’s always best to walk a few blocks out of mainstream tourism to get the best values and authentic local meals. Acapulco was a bit of a personal disappointment. I had been there years ago and even the area of the renown “El Presidente” was extremely run down. We had taken a local bus to the Condessa Beach area enjoying the “local” experience (having studying in Mexico years ago I particularly enjoy “blending in” with the locals), red hair and all! We did appreciate the bus drivers and all of the vendors accepting our American dollars so we did not have to exchange our money. As far as Acapulco went, I feel the best experience was seeing the bay magically lit up at night from our deck.
Manzanillo was also not the town I remembered years ago having stayed near Las Hadas earlier. So docking near the actual town of Manzanillo wasn’t quite the experience we had all hoped for, but again, we did enjoy the local mingling and commented how courteous the drivers were. All of them!! I was also able to purchase Mark’s final touch to his Hooter Girls costume, a pair of knee-high stockings in a local grocery store. Manzanillo is Mexico’s largest Pacific port so the port was not the tropical setting as others.
Back on board we never felt uncomfortable being a gay couple however I do feel one of the best costumes on board was overlooked possibly due to the Carnival staff being too conservative. Actually, other straight guests approached us saying they felt we were discriminated against (talking about the retired Hooter Girls) and should have made the top five finalists.
Our extended deck stateroom was terrific! The size and layout was the same as other outside rooms on other levels but the extended deck off the back of the ship allowed us to see well overhead and almost both left and right horizons. The back of the ship was sloped allowing us an over head view while still being private. There was plenty of storage room and space in the closets for our empty suitcases. Even the bathroom had plenty of space of all our lotions, potions and hair gel.
The conversation at our last breakfast together included talk of our next cruise all agreeing that location and on board ship time is most important.
I always dread the last day at sea. Those colored luggage tags in your cabin means the end is near. This has been a great cruise for all of us. It was a good mix of ‘at sea’ days and port cities. We’ve had a great time with our friends and also enjoyed meeting several new people. Over breakfast this morning, we were discussing where and when the next cruise will take place. Why not take advantage of these recession fares?
This was my first Carnival cruise and overall I was very impressed. My room was kept immaculate all week, the food was delicious and the staff went out of their way to make you feel at home. In fact, many of the staff would call me by my first name which has never happened on another line before. They did have ‘Friends of Dorothy’ meetings every night but to me it felt a little like an after thought. Country Western music in the lounge didn’t help with conversation and mingling. When you have a group of over 50 homos, I think a little more thought needs to be put into it. The cruise director needs to be a little more on top of this.
Dale and I never felt not welcomed on board. Several of us held hands, kissed on deck and danced the night away at the disco. It was easy to be gay on the Carnival Spirt.
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. If I do go out it’s usually to a gay bar where we all know that anything goes on that particular night. I had no idea what to expect on Carnival. Before dinner, the ship had a party in the 9 story atrium. We were all very surprised on the number of people who attended in full costume! It was incredible. Dale and I dressed as the original Hooter Girls from the 1960′s. People that might usually be offended were grabbing us so they could take our photo. I cannot begin to explain the fun that we had.
After dinner in the main show lounge, Carnival had their costume contest. This was a let down. The energy and excitment that was experienced in the atrium totally disappeared in the lounge. Maybe Carnival doesn’t understand how big this holiday has become in the States or how many people went on this cruise specifically because it was Halloween. The woman who won the contest deserved the grand prize. Considering all the time and energy people spent on their costume, a bag of candy for first place was quite ridiculous.
For all of you who have seen the classic movie ‘A Christmas Story’, the first place winner was an amputee dressed as the lamp. If I need to explain more, you need to rent the film.
Now I need to start making my costume for next year!
When Dale and I met over 22 years ago, our first trip together was to Acapulco. It’s exciting to be back! Acapulco sits in a beautiful bay surrounded by lush mountains and sandy beaches.
I’m not much interested in shopping or the commercial strips but rather seeing and experiencing the ‘real’ Acapulco. Don’t take a bus or a taxi here but rather walk the 6 blocks to experience the street life and the people. We spent most of the afternoon in the Zocalo (town square) with the natives. We find the Mexican people to be so hospitable and friendly. Yes, there is lots of poverty and quite a bit of begging but it doesn’t need to ruin your experience of the town. The market is located in this part of town. If you’re interested in buying local art or souvenirs, this is a good place. Your offer should be 1/2 of what they are asking. Of course they won’t accept it but as you walk away and refuse to turn back, they’ll change their mind. Much like the gay bars at closing time, an earlier offer looks better when there’s no other proposition in sight.
A three block walk up a steep hill is the famous Acapulco divers. The actual diving show is very short but it’s exciting to see these young guys jump from the rock cliffs. What gay man wouldn’t love to see cute young Mexican boys in tight speedos?
Now it once again back to the ship for our nightly calories. Tomorrow is Zihuatanejo / Ixtapa
Once again, beautiful sunny skies and calm seas. Day three was another day at sea which tend to be my favorite. I could be sailing for several more days but I think most people are ready for our first port of Acapulco.
The Friends of Dorothy gathering was a huge success this evening Simply by moving the time up by 2.5 hours really made a difference. There were over 35 at this evenings event. Most of the folks under 30 had no idea what Friends of Dorothy meant so maybe it’s time to rethink that name. Another reason for more at this event was that Carnival actually printed GLBT after the event name which I think helped the younger generation. The piano music was also much more appropriate than the country western. Thank you Carnival!
I tended to lounge around most of the day drinking my cappuccinos and mingling with guest. My favorite part of travel is meeting new people and I met several from all over the U.S. I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable – or should I say fat – with all the meals that it was time to hit the gym.
You would think Dale would get enough sun living in Phoenix but he spent plenty of time lounging around the pools. The Spirit offer an ‘adults only’ section on the upper deck which is extremely private and quiet although there sure isn’t a lot of children on this sailing.
Now it’s time to plan my day in Acapulco. There won’t be any t-shirt or jewelry shops for us. We’re more travelers than tourist so we’ll be spending most of our time in Old Acapulco and enjoying the historical part of town with the locals. I won’t be drinking the water!
I always find that on my first full day at sea, I want to explore my new ‘home’ for the next 8 days. When ever I’m on a new ship, it seems to take me 2-3 days to really get to know the layout and where I’m going. The Spirit could do a much better job on their floor plan signage. I know my eyes are getting older but the ‘You Are Here’ signs needs to be twice as large and moved up about 3 feet. Remember to take a flashlight and bifocals to read these things.
We introduced ourselves to the cruise director who was happy to switch the ‘Friends of Dorothy’ gathering to a much better time slot. We appreciated his responsiveness.
Tonight is one of the two formal nights. Our waiter and assistant are top notch – as good as they come. Most of our recent cruises have been ‘open seating’ and it’s so nice to once again go back to the old format where you sit at the same table and have the same waiter for the entire journey. Things just seem to magically appear on your table without asking since he begins to know your likes and dislikes. These are the extra touches of cruising that I love!
The dinner this evening was delicious. Caesar salad followed by the main course of lobster and shrimp done to perfection! What better way to finish the meal than with a gooey chocolate cake smothered in vanilla ice cream. Off to the gym tomorrow!
Life is good! Perfect weather. Calm seas. Great friends – both old and new.
Dale and I are on our first evening of our cruise from San Diego to Acapulco on the Carnival Spirt. We were in Acapulco 23 years ago when we first got together so it will be fun to return.
We got a good fare from Phoenix and decided to fly to San Diego. Short uneventful flight, and arrival at the unattractive San Diego cruise ship terminal, with it’s urine smell reminicent of Times Square in the old days. The San Diego Port Authority needs to work on their terminal, but Carnival has the arrival thing down, and things went smoothy.
Our Steward, Gede, didn’t bat an eye when I asked that the beds be moved together. The room is nice and well-designed. A review of our friends balcony rooms will follow later.
The departure from San Diego was great fun. We met a group of gay folks from California and Baja. Randy and his friends Linda and Gary are on board with that group, and someone happened to point out that Randy has nice arms and is going to look good in his swim suit. We don’t notice those things, having been together for 23 years. Someone had to mention it
We’re here with Conrad and Bob, our neighbors from Phoenix, and friends Alan and Bob from Chicago. More later when we’ve had time to tour the ship and see what it has to offer. At this point we thought cocktails were far more important.
The ‘Friends of Dorothy’ event took place in the already crowded Deco Bar, which is adjacent to the entry to the main dining room. The event would have been more successful in a quieter location so that we would have had an easier time mingling and meeting new folks. There are at least 50-75 gay and lesbians cruisers on this sailing. Carnival could put a little more thought into location of this event. A more private setting would of been more appropriate.
Dinner was spectacular! Terrific service and the food couldn’t have been better.
More to come!
My partner, myself and several friends will be sailing the Carnival Spirit from San Diego to Acapulco on Monday, October 26 with stops in Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa & Manzanillo. We have done several cruises in our life but this will be our first trip with Carnival. We’ve heard the positive and negative but will now experience it first-hand. Thank god we’re flying to San Diego on Southwest Airlines so our 2 bags of costumes won’t cost us $100.00.
We will be keeping you posted daily on our adventures and also our experiences on the ship. If you have sailed on the Spirt and have comments, please let us know. Suggestions about things not to miss in a particular port would also be appreciated.
Follow our cruise by bookmarking this page: http://www.meetmeonboard.com/muster_station/author/markdale
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