Now Reading
Gay cruises: The best kept secret for girls

Gay cruises: The best kept secret for girls

This is not my first time at the gay cruise rodeo, but there’s so much to do before I leave, and so little time.

I need luggage that will work on cobblestone streets, an adapter, I should purchase a texting plan, pick my outfits for the themed parties, finish projects at work so that I can rest on the cruise… I am exhausted and I have not even packed.

I might be worrying more than the boys on what to bring and who to wear, so I had my brother help with choosing outfits for me. Using my phone I took photos of the ensembles he selected (jewelry and shoes included). Just because I’m going to be surrounded by tons of gay men does not mean I shouldn’t dress to impress.

My mom drove me to the airport where I met my three best friends I oh so love travelling with. As I board the flight for Philadelphia from Rochester, I wonder what 10 days, 6 countries, 8 ports of gay cruise has in store for me.

I can tell it’s going to be a bumpy start as we board a prop plane with wires and tape hanging from it. Shortly after take-off, I discover a leak over my head. The flight attendant explained that it is probably the air conditioning. I was not so assured by her use of the word ‘probably’. I settle into a beginning less grand than I imagined.

After a very long flight from New York to Italy I thought I had prepared for (note to self: next time bring a bigger travel pillow and go business class to have some leg room) we spend 45 hunger-filled minutes on a water taxi. Somewhere in my head, I hear my mother’s voice saying: ‘This is why I told you to buy snacks at the airport!’ Note that plane food is wretched.

I soon decide jet lag is a myth, since after a quick two-hour nap, I am ready to dine and explore Venice. While Rochester has some amazing Italian restaurants on account of the huge influx of Italian immigrants, pasta carbonara is so much better at an outdoor restaurant in Venice. The city of canals is so extraordinary I begin to wish we had frontloaded our vacation. I am not sure I want to leave but I am quite sure I want to return.

Once on board our cruise liner, as expected, Atlantis Events delivers.

The Celebrity Silhouette is beautiful and the crew is nice and helpful. Our big gay cruise is departing. I am one of 11 many women on board. One of the reasons I come on this cruise is to be surrounded by gorgeous gay men and with so few women on board, I always feel special. I send my last text message as we leave port, diving straight into icy, gorgeous blue waters.

Our first destination is the gorgeous Dubrovnik, Croatia. This walled city is like stepping back in time into a medieval world with stunning views. The amazing architecture includes castles, town squares with lovely marble work, all easy to navigate in terms of directions but impossible for stilettos!

And then it hits me, the excitement of experiencing a different culture, and sharing my first trip to Europe with my friends who I consider family. After taking off the heels and going barefoot for a few steps, I pause a moment, close my eyes and take a deep breath. I’ve known this before but gay cruises aren’t just about the bodies and the parties. These quiet moments, scary and thrilling, are what joining thousands of friends on a boat are all about.

Kotor, Montenegro is the next stop and a first for both me and Atlantis. The picturesque city teems with the age and history of Europe.

The architecture and the buildings are well preserved despite their age. The beautiful marble streets are such a sight, but again I’ve chosen the wrong shoes. Since it’s raining, the marble streets, while attractive, make my choice of wearing flip flops hazardous. Despite the rain, I feel the warmth and sea breezes. I wonder if it can get any better, and then I check the schedule and see the next stop is the Greek Isles.

Everyone said Mykonos would be my favorite, but initially I was not convinced. The island was unbearably hot, which didn’t help the transportation system of literally fighting off people to get a seat on a bus to go to a beach.

After hitting the beach and returning to the ship, I was at the point of choosing the pool over the trek of making it to the beach again. But meeting up with the fourth member of our crew, Christopher who had gone off on his own, made it his mission to change our minds about Mykonos.

He convinced us to change and go out for what became the most unforgettable night of the trip. We ate food from an intimate café littered with locals, walked barefoot in the streets and danced to music we heard in the distance. Now when I think of Mykonos I will always picture of the smooth white structures bathed in bluish moonlight reflecting from the rooftops.

Next on our trip was Corfu, which I remember most for its scrumptious food. A little bit of a foregone conclusion, but the Greek salad with it’s feta and olives and dressing was the best I’ve ever eaten. The area was also really easy to get around. Santorini also had amazing food and the views were beyond compare. It was difficult to imagine each stop continued to get more beautiful than the previous one. Not to mention, it’s also where I got my best tan.

I found Naples to be interesting, a mixture of beautiful marble malls mixed in with scuffed concrete walls. Docking here put us within short distance to Capri, Sorrento, and Pompeii, the last of which we chose when presented with guides waiting for us right on the docks. Between cathedrals, piazzas, statues, fountains and gelato, I didn’t want to head back to the ship.

By the time my friends and I got to Rome, our adventure had turned into a miracle: A miracle the four of us were still friends after the car rental and drive.

Atlantis dropped us off a few hours outside the city so we decided to drive. Four adults, 11 pieces of luggage and three-digit degree weather didn’t mix well at all in a stick-shift vehicle smaller than my Toyota Celica. The navigation system we paid extra for kept telling us it was recalculating our route. The mechanical voice would tell us to turn left, but not in how much time, or would direct us onto one-way streets as oncoming traffic screeched at the obvious of-of-towners.

Two meltdowns, one gelato, and a meal later, we were all feeling a little better and decided to roam Rome on foot. My friend Johann and I walked for miles, astounding ourselves with the stunning vistas that kept coming after every corner. I threw coins in a fountain, ate wonderful meals and saw the Vatican from outside. We paid to get in without realizing the tours were closed, so we opted instead for a tour of the Spanish Steps, the Coliseum and St Peter’s Basilica.

After the ports and the road trips, the cruise really got into full swing with its nights of mixing, mingling and partying. Of all the surprise views, meals and mishaps, the most welcome was comedienne Kathy Griffin, who turned out to be our surprise celebrity guest on the cruise. It was one of the best ways to spend a dinner, with the diva of divas herself. She was so approachable, she even chatted with my friend Christopher in the middle of her set. What an amazing woman (who calls herself a gay man).

The last Atlantis cruise we were on had so many parties compared to this one, I actually like the idea of less parties on the ship because it means less costumes to pack! The 70’s party held in a breezy 87 degrees was perfection. Everyone was on the pool deck with vintage tracks on playing on the pool. People of all ages were dancing, drinking, and having a great time at what was the quintessential summer party.

The Wet and Wild party was true to its name: There were literally buckets of water soaking everyone—there was probably more water on the ship than under it! I was impressed because all staff participated. The Military Party, much like the 70s party is classic Atlantis fan-fare and always a popular choice for costumes. Upon arrival you receive your dog tags and dots. A green dot means you are open and free to mingle, a red dot means you’re taken or unavailable, and a yellow dot means take your best shot and try your luck, because you never know.

The Masquerade Ball was a fun way to break the summer attire party routine with some fancy dress, while staying true to the drinking and dancing on all floors.

The White Party was the last party and marked with over-the-top celebrating. If you felt like going until the early morning, the ship came equipped with the Quasar, the new all white indoor nightclub.

One of my personal highlights was the new ice covered martini bar on the ship. After my friend Johann carved my name into it, I begged my friends to add it to 140 Alexander (our gay bar home away from home in Rochester). They both pointed out it would be hard to clean, but have clearly never heard of an ice scraper.

Once you need a break from the party, and the drink and (dare I say it) the boys, complete tranquility can be had at the Aquaspa. The prospect of having a facial and a massage was all the excuse a needed for a little me-time away from the boys. What might have made this even better was not having an aggressive sales pitch about products during services or the painfully high prices. Take note competitors!

Apart from that, Atlantis truly does make one feel at home on the sea. From start to finish, from sun-up to dinner, Atlantis had me wowed. I’ve never seen a room full of food until I walked into the Atlantis Silhouette dining room. The myriad of options a Tuscan grille, and Oceanview Bar, and healthy options at the Aquaspa Café. All tastes covered for all palettes.

Atlantis events provided an amazing experience, a fun and unique way of meeting a diverse group of people at different events (some traditional like the military party, and some new like the ball). I now have international friends that keep in touch and plan to book future cruises together. My European adventure is over, but the memories and friends I made will last a lifetime.