After the recent tragedy on a gay cruise this week, where 36-year-old Joel Taylor, star of Discovery’s Storm Chasers, died of an overdose onboard, I thought I would share my own gay cruise experience.
Sadly, the fact someone died of an overdose onboard doesn’t totally surprise me.
I don’t mean to say any gay cruise encourages drug use; they all have strict policies which prohibit illegal drug use. But, while the organizers’ intentions are good, many decide to break the law and sneak drugs onto the ship to ‘enhance’ their onboard experience.
As soon as you board, you’ll find a huge array of activities to choose from. But, where a gay cruise differs from others is by the sheer amount of men on board, of course.
Being on a gay cruise makes you the majority, not minority
You are no longer a minority as a gay man – in fact, being gay is now mainstream.
This freedom of self-expression is one of the many reasons that people choose to attend a gay cruise. However, with such a large array of gay men from around the world in attendance, stereotypes begin to emerge and the ‘freedom’ is taken too far.
One of the highlights of a gay cruise are the nightly themed parties. Just like the infamous circuit parties of gay hotspots around the world, drugs, alcohol and sex play a large part.
On the cruise, self-expression allows passengers to explore themselves through themes; from drag to leather and beyond.
But, while the men on board are playing with their ‘usual’ appearance, what goes on behind closed doors can often be business as usual in some cases.
Whatever the reason, coming together with gay men around the world to party is fun.
However, the enhancement, through drug use, is apparent shipwide.
I’ve probably seen just about every party drug being taken at some point, and in some cases, this can even come out of the cabins and onto the dance floor or other public areas.
Gay cruises are a hot bed of drug taking, but not ship wide
Ecstasy, MDMA, GHB, cocaine, mephedrone, ketamine – they were all present on the ship and while some guests are discrete, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see people taking drugs and having sex in plain sight; only for the ship’s staff to clean up after them.
But, like any gay hotspot the world over, you can find your enjoyment in many places and avoid what you’d prefer not to be involved in; gay cruises don’t force you to indulge.
One of the things I do appreciate about a gay cruise is that there is truly something for everyone.
If you want to party all night long, take drugs and hookup with a different guy every night, there’s no shortage of opportunities.
But, if you prefer to visit the ports during the day, enjoy fine dining in the evening followed by relaxing entertainment at night, then you can easily avoid the party scene and follow your personal passion.
What to expect on any gay cruise
Our most recent gay cruises I attended with my husband was this past summer. We traveled from Lisbon to the Canary Islands.
The parties were a lot of fun and they definitely pulled out all the stops with some amazing international DJ’s, great sound and lighting systems and a friendly and relatively unpretentious crowd.
Though, the fact they had a 24-hour darkroom gives you an indication of what some gay cruises expect of their guests; although the nudist deck was great for challenging your confidence and was very welcoming to all, whatever their body type.
Somewhere else on the ship, rumour of an ‘orgy suite’, where one of the guests invited people to come into his room at all hours of the day, was flooding the decks.
All you needed was to be given the cabin number by someone who’d been before, knock on the door (no secret knocking sequences) and you’d likely be let in.
Our honeymoon was on a gay cruise to the Mexican Riviera
A month after me and my husband married, when I was 24, we went on a gay cruise for our honeymoon along the Mexican Riviera, departing from Los Angeles to Cabo, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta.
At the time, I think the insecurities of my youth prevented me from being comfortable.
I was in decent shape back then, and was generally happy with my appearance, but I did have the feeling I’d somehow ‘missed the mark’ on what it was to be sexually attractive – here, at least.
It seemed like half the boat had spend the entire year in the gym preparing for these two weeks.
The diversity on gay cruises needs to be vastly improved
On both cruises I saw a range of ages aboard, from early twenties up to 70’s or even 80’s.
In terms of diversity, taking into account gay men dominate the passenger list, people of color and trans people are found in lower numbers than white cis males.
I do recall seeing a few trans people onboard our latest cruise. While, quite possibly, they felt more accepted than in their lives at home, I couldn’t help but wonder if they really felt a part, and understood, by the crowd completely.
I hope these cruise companies will market more openly to the wider LGBTI and BAME communities in future.
While it’s true a wide sector of gay men thrive in these situations, I’m sure others feel left out and if attending alone, as many do, probably feel a sense of depression from the pressure.
More should be done to include anyone and everyone.
People who’ve never been on a gay cruise give them the worst reviews
We’ve talked to a lot of people over the years about attending a gay cruise and we always find a mix of opinions and responses: Some people absolutely love them and go every year, while others wouldn’t ever consider going because they think it’s all about sex, drugs and parties.
I find it amusing some go as far as describing a gay cruise as an excuse to have sex in a ‘floating sauna’ or they’re a breeding ground for sexually transmitted diseases.
Most comments of these comments, in my experience, have come from people who’ve never been on a gay cruise.
I think, overall, a gay cruise is a great holiday option for the LGBTI community with an array of activities and people, from all walks of life, to meet; but I recognize that it’s not for everyone.
Can you spend an entire week onboard partying, having sex and never stepping foot off the ship? Yes.
But, I think most guests simply enjoy the freedom to be themselves, enjoying new destinations, fine dining, soaking up the sun at the pool and even dancing the night away to great music.
I just think some of the guests need to realise these ‘freedoms’ can be taken too far – and come at a price.
This article was written by Auston from Two Bad Tourists, a blog and online resource for LGBT travelers focusing on international gay friendly destinations, festivals and events. You can follow Two Bad Tourists online for the latest LGBT travel info, advice and tips and even sign up to win a free $200 travel credit from misterb&b to use in one of more than 135 countries.