Picture it: 1986…Chicago…Boystown. Two young men with perfectly coiffed 80s hair meet at a party as “Papa Don’t Preach” plays in the background. We fell in love at first sight. Six months later, we realized we’d been lucky enough to find “the real thing.” We decided to take a vacation together, to celebrate — and to escape the bitter midwest winter. Just by chance, we opted for a cruise, a first for both of us.
We flew to Tampa, Florida to board Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam for a Caribbean itinerary. I still remember the first sight of the ship. I was in awe! I couldn’t believe the size of this vessel and that I would be sailing on her within hours. In today’s world, this ship would more resemble the size of a tug boat.
We had a magical time together aboard that ship Unfortunately, in that era, we didn’t feel comfortable being fully “out” onboard. Since we didn’t feel we could hold hands, we sometimes received unwanted flirtations from hetero women seeking a Love Boat connection in the wrong port, so to speak.
Thirty years and dozens of trips later, travel — especially cruising — remains our passion. We love to share our experiences with the LGBTQ community. We will always be authentic and real to our readers. Although we have our preferences in cruise travel, one size does not fit all. The cruise industry is incredibly diverse and there’s a ship for everyone.
We’ve cruised on ships large and small. We’ve sailed aboard beautifully designed ships and others that didn’t live up to our queer expectations . We’ve enjoyed amazing meals and great times singing show tunes at the martini bar. Of all our cruise travel memories, what we value most are the friends made on board.
LGBT Community Onboard and Online
Back in the old days – yes, we can say that as mature gay men – it was more difficult to meet other gay couples on ships. One reason is gay people were not as visible as they are today. Second, in the era before smartphones and apps, once you were on the ship their was virtually no way of meeting. We met a gay couple from Chicago at dinner on the last night of one cruise back in the early 90s. We clicked instantly and had a fun evening drinking and sharing cruise stories. Where were they at the beginning of the trip? Sadly we didn’t exchange contact information and never saw them again.
We created MeetMeOnboard to help foster and maintain connections between LGBTQ cruisers. The impetus that led us to create the site was our first European cruise in 2009. We said “Now that the internet has made connecting so easy, there has to be a way for us to get in touch with other LGBT people on the ship.” Well, Blanche, there wasn’t! The need for LGBTQ people to connect is a part of our fabric. It felt imperative to us that there could be a way where we could connect prior to the cruise to start building friendships.
Creating this site
A few days later I had a rudimentary site online and had registered the trademark. We delivered our internet baby and named it MeetMeOnBoard.com. In the years since then, we have been going full steam ahead. We have heard countless stories of true friendships formed on the high seas, facilitated by pre-cruise connections made on this website. As of April 2017, we have close to 15,000 members and see no slowdown in the growth.
Yes, there are several days we wake up and wonder why we took on the responsibility of this site. Dale and I lead very busy lives. I still work full-time as a self-employed graphic designer. Some days I feel like jumping overboard, but please, don’t send the lifeboats quite yet.
Why don’t I jump ship? Simple answer: the power of this community. Besides helping folks connect and friendships begin, the passion for cruise travel spreads in our community. More and more LGBTQ people are discovering for themselves the delights of cruising. I also know we have awakened much of the cruise industry to the power (value) of the gay dollar. Building a community of LGBTQ cruise lovers is just way too much fun. We’re not going anywhere.
Who wants to meet in the Martini bar?