Seven Things You Should Know About Gay Cruises

October 27, 2011

In 1992, I co-founded OUT&ABOUT, a gay travel newsletter that chronicled and catalyzed the mainstreaming of gay travel, while opening up a world of travel opportunities for gay men. It’s almost hard to imagine it now, but back then, no mainstream travel companies were marketing to gays, and two men frequently had trouble getting hotel rooms with one bed. Gay cruises then offered a unique opportunity to really be yourself and revel in the strangely wondrous sensation of not being a sexual minority.

Even though gays are now openly welcomed in so much of the world, the appeal of gay cruising hasn’t changed. If the Atlantis ads running here on DaddyHunt have made you curious about taking your first gay cruise, here are seven things you should know:

1.You won’t ever feel “trapped on a boat.” These ships are larger than the largest resort you’ve ever been to. In addition to the days spent in port, you can always find parts of the ship that are completely deserted.

2. It’s not a floating bathhouse. With thousands of gay men, you can find sex 24/7 if that's what you're looking for. But you’ll also find non-stop entertainment, dining and resort activities.

3. Almost everyone has a better time than they imagined they would.

4. The only people who should think twice about going are single guys who never initiate a conversation but then complain that no one talks to them, and couples struggling with fidelity issues.

5. The all-inclusive pricing is a great value. But note: most guests spend a few hundred dollars more on drinks, shore excursions, spa treatments and other extras. And some spend thousands. But you can easily go the whole week without spending an extra dime.

6. If you don’t regularly get motion sick in cars or on airplanes, you shouldn’t have any trouble on a modern cruise ship. A lot of the time, you wouldn’t even know it’s even moving.

7. There’s no feeling quite like dancing under the stars, in the middle of the sea. It’s one of my very favorite experiences, and I’ve traveled all over the world on all kinds of trips.

Find more of my travel advice on BillyKnowsBest.com. And if you’re a daddy or hunter who’s been on a gay cruise, please share some of your favorite cruising experiences or tips below!

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Post written by Billy Kolber (View Author Profile)
About this author: Billy Kolber is a writer, consultant and entrepreneur, living and loving in New York City. Billy blogs about Shopping, Sex, Food and Travel at BillyKnowsBest.com.
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Comments

It's the only way to travel ... I'm proud to share that I've sailed a half dozen times with Atlantis and whoa do they do a great job! I will say that on the very first trip I felt a little bit like a deer in the headlights - so many men, so little time! But after a day or too, I realized that it's just like vacationing anywhere else but way better with lots of dads and sons to check out, meet, do things with.

One quick anecdote … on one Caribbean cruise the Captain shared with those gathered around him in the late afternoon that the night before he had been hailed by a nearby cruise ship inquiring if things on board were ok. The other cruise ship Captain remarked something to the effect "are you in need of assistance, it appears that your ship is on fire in the night and that there are many people on deck". It was 2 or 3 am in the Caribbean and all good cruise ship passengers should have been tucked safely in bed - yeah right! The Captain responded that he believed he had things under control and no assistance was needed. Laser lights and music had been shooting into the night sky. It was a night that even I will never forget.

Who else but us gays would travel with our own headliners (Rosie, Patti, just to drop a few names), super hot DJs with great music, incredible laser lights, comedians, drag queens, and more and more and more. Layer what Atlantis beings with them on top of what the ship already has to offer and you're definitely in for a wild ride!!!

"... it appears that your ship is on fire..." ROFL Proof, if ever it was needed, about just what crowd really knows how to throw a great party! (And one of the rare occasions that flaming queens jokes might just be appropriate.)

I've only been on one cruise, with a partner, decades ago! But I like them and would do more BUT FOR....when you're single it's very difficult to make a cruise work. First, as in most trips and accomodations, it's "double occupancy" so you either pay outrageously for the single listing, or possibly get "assigned" with some other unkinown person.

I find being in a group of unknown people a challenge, so that and the unknown "suite partner" make for a very anxious trip. Hence I"ve avoided cruises since being single.

If there were ways to pair up guys with simliar interests AHEAD OF TIME, I'd be more likely to take the chance with suitemate. But in the cases I've checked you're basically committed to the trip before you can even find out about a match.

I know that us older guys more likely are in relationships if they cruise, but I'm sure there's many active, interesting single dads that would love to cruise if they found a solid companion...and not in the "sugar daddy" context.

I am quite certain that for many people, a gay cruise (or even a "generic" cruise) is an ideal vacation. For many others, it isn't, To say "The only people who should think twice about going are single guys who never initiate a conversation but then complain that no one talks to them, and couples struggling with fidelity issues" overlooks a lot of folks. Such as:

People who simply don't like taking vacations with a few thousand other people (even if you can find a corner of the ship that is "completely deserted").

People who like traveling to urban areas with cultural centers - with a range of museums, galleries, concerts and the like to attend.

People who like going to a natural area - be it mountains, desert, forest - and not having to be on a five-hour deadline to see whatever it is and get back to the bus to get back to the boat before you're abandoned on dock.

People who like the freedom to change plans on a whim and go somewhere different that you happen to encounter along the way - whether it's a roadside attraction you've never heard of, or a historic site you didn't realize would be nearby.

People who don't like the concept so prevalent on cruise ships that everything comes with a tip expected.

People who don't feel the need to pay $10 for a mixed drink they can create themselves back in a hotel room for $2 (with change left over).

I realize that lots of people like cruises, and hey - I'm all for that, if that's what they want. I'm sure that the same demographic which likes the Black/White/Red/Blue/Chartreuse/Lavender/Indigo Party circuit probably love cruises. It lets the desk clerk at the day spa go pretend he's a Vanderbilt or whatever on a "crossing" even if his cabin hasn't even got a porthole and the entire bathroom space doubles as the shower stall. But please stop with the "everybody except a few warped individuals with issues will just LOVE this" crap. There's plenty of people out here who are happy to leave cruising to the rest of you.

Agree in every regard, cowboyinbrla. I add the further point that with gay men and women so widely accepted, particularly in mainstream society, the need for these types of "gay-only" activities should be on the decline. I find them to be socially claustrophic, unreal, and excessively hedonistic. Perhaps they are best suited to those first seeing and experiencing the broad wonderful world for the first time. Frequent port stops may provide a slight but helpful sample of life abroad.

But as a steady, annual vacation diet? Don't think so. Too limiting. Too isolating.

(As a former naval officer, I remember well my first onboard cruise ship experience - a relative's wedding. I was used to battleship gray and stark accommodations. The frilly and commercial cruise ship was like being onboard a painted tart.)

Cowboyinbria, settle down. Its just an opinion. To each his own. For me, I've never taken a cruise but have always wanted to. Scheduling for me was a prolem and when my partenr was alive it was even doubly difficult to arrange. On a vruise you can do everything available or NOTHING and relax totally without packing and unpacking. You can simply sit in the sun and relax or dance and have sex till dawn from what I understand.

As in life I would imagine it is what you make of it and thats what you'll get out of it...Now tha tI wil investigate a gay cruise I believe I would probably fall somewhere in the middle and have a thoroughly wonderful time. Salt air, the sea, 3000 gay men all there in "vacation mode" - how bad could it be? Seriously... :-)

He's entitled to his opinion that gay cruises are the greatest invention since self-rising flour and dermabrasion. What I took exception to was his statement that only people who are pathologically shy and couples with fidelity issues should think twice about going. I'm neither, and believe me, I should not only think twice (or twenty times), but if I ever submit to being locked in a floating mall-hotel with 3,000 other people, I hope my friends have me committed as a danger to myself and others.

It's the condescending, smug attitude that irritates me - the idea that anyone -shock! - might think differently. I know me better than he (or anyone else) is likely to know me, and I know I would despise it. And I know a shitload of gay men who feel as I do - and to suggest we must either have a psychological disorder or jealousy issues is rude and offensive.

Condescending... smug attitude... each time you post a comment to this blog you remind us that you are the king of that. Don't worry, I doubt you will ever lose your throne.

Do you EVER have anything positive to say?

Cowboybrla added to the dialogue and opted out of the prevailing opinion regarding cruise ships. He disagreed. Disagreement does not equate to "having nothing positive to say." The heart of intellectual robustness is to be able to articulate an opinion, and then support it with excellent reasoning and prose. I like Coboybrla's willingness to share his opinion via an exceptionally well-written piece. The lack of critical reasoning skills is on display in the posts of those who confuse contrary opinion with "having nothing positive to say." If you want 24/7 consensus, hang out with Pollyanna.

I appreciate all of the positive things he said. I have been on a gay cruise and I had a lot of fun and, while there were some very pleasant surprises about the experience, it's nature was pretty much what I expected. I might have done it sooner if I'd had an accurate picture, and I will go again some day, though I don't think I quite have the "cruise bug".

All but one of his bullet points explain or echo some of the things that I found pleasantly surprising that I wouldn't have thought about before I was actually on one.

On the other hand, the one bullet point that tries to provide just a little bit of "maybe this isn't for everyone" balance wasn't written as positively as the rest. Take "single guys who never initiate a conversation but then complain that no one talks to them". That gives me pause. Why? Well, 2 reasons.

First, I've been on and witnessed second hand both sides of that coin (i.e. been the person who didn't fit in and/or the person who is with his element in the presence of someone who didn't fit in - and witnessed those situations second hand as well). It says more about the speaker than the person they are describing. One thing to consider - it takes 2 to initiate a conversation. Even someone who never initiates any conversation whatsoever will talk to about half as many people as those who do - it's basic math. If they really do end up talking to "no one" then nobody wanted to talk to them and that isn't really a problem with them - they're just in the wrong crowd. And, if that "wrong crowd" starts looking at them as a creep - a social outcast that they themselves created - then that can really put a wall up that serves no purpose other than to hurt. Some might complain about that, but most quickly learn to just find another crowd. And, if you ever see that happening - consider talking with the person. If nothing else, you might know of something else going on that they might enjoy more and they won't hang around and throw gloom on your fun (win-win).

In the end, when I hear words like that I'm more likely to think "so, it's basically a bunch of self-centered people with no sense of hospitality" than "wow, that guy sounds like a real downer".

But the good news is that there are plenty of "other crowds" and "other activities" on board a cruise ship.

And that brings me to my second point which is that the comment is counter-productive because anyone who might have come across that way to you probably did eventually find ways to have fun on the cruise - they probably just did so outside of your sight and your few glimpses of them not having fun in your circles isn't a complete assessment of whether they'd enjoy going on a cruise. So, you are probably scaring some people off with that comment that might really enjoy a cruise - counter to the point of this blog. Worse yet, you are scaring them away for the wrong reasons - by making the experience seem like it would only appeal to the shallow A-list crowd rather than actually having them think "Oh, wow, I'm shy so that's a good point, thank you".

Personally, I might have worded that bullet point this way:

4. As a word of warning, the cruise provides a huge number of social opportunities and a large crowd of men to share them with. They provide opportunities, but they don't hold your hand. If you are shy, look at the brochure for activities you think you would feel at home doing or you may get lost in the crowds. If you have trouble choosing from a dense social calendar - go with a friend who loves to plan things. The brochures are often heavy on describing the dance parties - which are great - but they aren't the only thing going on so don't feel like you have to focus on them to get your money's worth if they aren't your thing.

4a. A corollary to #4 - couples will find yourselves awash in a ton of eye candy, no matter what your tastes may run to (bears, cubs, daddies, muscle men, twinks or geeks). Do some work at home before you go to make sure you are ready for those influences.

I liked #4, couples struggling with fidelity issues. I read a gay travel board this afternoon where partners went on a cruise and one of them saw some eye candy and went to the other guys room for the entire cruise and left partner sitting there alone.....yes 4 could be a really big issue lol.

My big problem with gay cruises is the way they are marketed. If you look at Atlantis' brochures, ALL of the pics are of men with ripped muscles and six-pack abs. There is not one single, fat, chubby, bear, twink, or other non-stereotypical man on any of the pics I have seen.

As a single Bear Daddy type, I would feel out of place on a cruise like that, and that's why I would not book one. Until they can show me that these cruises are inclusive of all types, I'm not willing to pay my hard-earned money to be locked on a boat for all those days with men who, (from the pics) only seem to be interested in their own body type.

For my first cruise, I think I would opt for a traditional one of Alaska, or maybe the Med, or Europe, where I can get more than just eye candy that's out of reach.

I had the same misconception and it turned out to be misplaced - due to the way they market the cruises. On the other hand, I did go on a cruise that was targeted by the bears (one of the Lazy Bear Out To Sea excursions). It was not an exclusively bear cruise so the crowd had quite a mix, but not all of the bears on the cruise were with the Lazy Bear group - they had been going on the cruises regardless.

If you would feel more at home with a less exclusively gay cruise - there is also the Chumley Bear Cruise which targets bears and goes on a regular cruise trip (i.e. they don't partner with RSVP or Atlantis so the ship is not exclusively gay). I have friends who swear by the Chumley cruises as being more friendly and accessible. (full disclosure - I have no affiliation with Chumley and haven't even been on one of their cruises - yet - myself). They do manage to get parts of the ship closed off for private parties, so there is a sense of "safe space" even if the cruise is mixed.

Hey Panther -- I can appreciate your concern -- but remember -- Atlantis' marketing materials are just that -- marketing, and like most marketing in our culture, it's populated by pretty people with six-packs. You don't see many underwear ads featuring fat chubby bears either, and yet most underwear is sold to guys with a bigger than 32" waist. In my experience, you'll find guys of all shapes and sizes on an Atlantis trip, even though the crowd may skew more eye-candy than the population at large.

I was afraid the food would taste good but be bad for me, and i wouldn't be able to get into my pants when the week was over. Wrong. Plenty of great variety: i could eat as guilty or guilt-free as the mood struck. And it was all amazingly fresh and uniformly great. (Holland America to Alaska)

In all the ads I see for gay cruises, I get discouraged about ever booking myself for such a cruise. I'm not on the "A-list" of gay men in terms of physical looks, wealth, or success.

I enjoyed reading Bill Kolber's entertaining mixture of the "7 Deadly Sins" and the "7 Virtues" of going on an all gay-cruise. However, Cowboyinbrla went further and showed a significantly wider range of those VIRTUES and SINS. I related 100% to his thoughtful response. Thanks to both Bill and the Cowboy in BrLA.

Related to the subject: As an undergraduate exchange student, I crossed the Atlantic on a large ship, my first visit to the US, surrounded by students from all over Europe--a heady experience that I still remember to this day. Not too long ago, I also took a river cruise on the Danube from Germany via Austria and Slovakia to Hungary--a leisurely trip with some of the finest food ever and daily stops where lovers of medieval towns, castles, and old libraries could take in spectacular sites and meet lots of interesting people on board and in the various places where we stopped. I had a great time and connected with lots of folks, but remained single in a sea of heterosexual couples.

Maybe one day I'll try one of the gay cruises, provided I find a good man who doesn't want to party and flirt with thousands of men, but a man who would enjoy and value our togetherness, irrespective of where we are and what we do.

So, SHIP AHOY may have to wait a bit longer.

Interested?
Great. Feel free to check out my profile. Who knows, we both might click and raise our sails together one of these days--or nights. : )

BTW ... I'm shy in most public situations until ... well that's another story ... so on cruises I make it a habit to say hi to everyone I pass in the ships corridors. I'm always surprised at how taken back people are when you don't know them, say hi, but they almost always respond back with an hello or hi and I smile. I made a game out of it to say hello and had fun with it!!! I always had fun, the more I went the more fun I had!!!

For starters, I must agree with cowboyinbrla, There are lots of reasons NOT to want to spend your vacation on a floating hotel.

Having said that, I have been on a "gay cruise" myself and enjoyed it immensely. But it was NOT the Atlantis cruise or anything like it. It was on a 110 ft sailing ship with 10 staterooms and 10 passengers. The crew consisted of the captain, first mate, and cook/bartender. Only the captain was str8. Everything was included, including a 24x7 open bar, scuba, snorkeling, etc etc. We circled the BVI and stopped at ports the big cruise ships were only allowed to look at. Their 2000+ passengers were not allowed to disembark because they would overrun the tiny towns.

That kind of "gay cruise" I really enjoyed. A combination of adventure, relaxation, and sightseeing. I do not understand the appeal of the big cruise ships. If you want a gay resort, you can do better on dry land.

I'm with Beach Bum on that score. The barefoot charter might be fun... for my part, I avoid tourist traps like the plague, but also realize that most people aren't quite as adventurous. My ex, for example, thoroughly enjoyed a whirlwind 2 week tour of western Europe, whereas I'd spend that much in any one country, and likely only see the capital city during arrival from an international flight. Even Rome, with all of its history, was only good for a day or two. I enjoyed Firenze and treats like Alviado/Alviano a lot more.

So, back to cruises... iit may as well be a land-based resort. Tell me, then, what's the attraction to the floating village that controls your itinerary?

I've been on 3 RSVP cruises with my husband of 23 years and I've had great times on all three. And the diversity of men is remarkable. I've seen men from 18 to to 80+ years of age, skinny to huge guys, hairy to smooth and couples to singles and everyone seems to mix very well. I'm 63 my hubby is 53 and we've never experienced anything negative from either the staff or other travelers. On the contrary, it's some of the friendliest environments I've ever known.

I predict a great time for anyone looking to have fun whether you're gregarious or shy. There is something for everyone onboard. And I always seem to run into someone I know from somewhere.
Go for it!

Dave

So you don't have to be an "A-List" gay man to enjoy these kind of cruises?

I just disembarked from Cruise4Bears cruise from Malaga, Spain through the Canary Islands. The cruise was not all gays and two types of gay groups combined into one group. It was most enjoyable having a group of guys to hank around with in a sea of straight people. We had our own dinner tables, entertainment (where we managed to keep the straights and off duty crew members out), excursions, etc. I'm not sure a whole boat of gay guys would be as appealing but I guess it might have its benefits? Sex is aplenty in most gay ghettos on land if not on sea. I was a single and paid for the outer balcony stateroom and am glad I did. No inner rooms or stranger roomates for me. I'd rather pick and choose my company (and I did)! Eduardo and Alex were superb hosts and even though most of the group was primarily Spanish speaking the translators help to blend us all together. It's really about the comraderie at the end of the day, not the food but the company at your table, not the excursion but your tour companions. If you want cheap anonymous sex in a steam room it's much cheaper on land. It's about the people you are with that make the trip. Leave the drama on land, enjoy the scenery and meet some nice new guys!

i'm not an a-list guy -- more of a silver bear but this will be my third cruise and i loved my first two. Day 1 it's possible to see the shy folks keep to themselves while the so-called in crowd may appear cliquish...but all that melts by Day 3. Everyone seems more relaxed and happier by the third day and the events and shows help keep people mixing so that by the end, you feel as though you've met nearly 1/2 the people on board. Those guys that I thought were shy are now the ones dancing wildly in the nightclubs and the cliquish ones have already proven me wrong by being some of the friendliest and warmest guys i've met. Granted, some guys will still prefer the sports and adventure type vacation, while others want to learn more about the local culture and see ancient ruins or sites. But whatever kind of vacation you enjoy, a cruise offers such a mix you'll find most of it. Definitely give it a try - whatever your age or body type. You will definitely find others like yourselves as well as others who are different but are friendly and respectful. This feels more like gay summer camp than high school!

-->Josh (going on the Atlantis Allure late January 2012)

Thanks for your thoughts, Josh.

Andrew

From the cruising capital, Ft. Lauderdale, my partner and I have taken a few cruises with family & friends. None of which has been all gay, but basically you're just paying more to be around a lot of gay men in a circuit party, and being from Ft. Lauderdale, that's really not that important to us. As experienced travelers we do think that it's not very fulfilling as a travel experience. Everything is created and manufactured as a product that can be reproduced over and over again very inexpensively. From the dining experience to the rip-off shops at the ports, the cruising industry has cashed in on cheap labor, and creating a product for the not so sophisticated traveling public. As someone else put it in other comments, you don't have to fit into the shy single scene or couples with fidelity issues to have some problems with cruising in general. But, I would say everyone should try it at least once, and see if that's their cup of tea. I prefer for example to sample the local food, dining, and night life at different places around the world, and not be fed the same stuff all of which comes out of the same kitchen no matter where you are on that big ship. It's kind of like the difference between visiting Epcot and eating at the different country pavilions, and actually visiting those countries first hand and enjoying the local fresh food there. Happy travels!

For what it's worth, I appreciate the feedback to my posts above, both positive and negative. For the especially critical comment from TroyM, I can only say this: what you call condescending and smug, I call confident in knowing what appeals to me and what does not. If the post had simply been a promotion for gay cruising, highlighting the benefits (or even, god forbid, being totally honest and mentioning the drawbacks), I'd have left the post untouched. But the original post was where the condescension started: the suggestion that nobody normal and in a normal relationship could possibly have any reason to dislike a cruise is about as "in your face" a snub as I can imagine.

I have nothing against *anyone* going on a cruise, gay or otherwise. I just resent the stated conclusion that I'm abnormal in some way for being one who would hate the experience. And it certainly seems that there are a number of people posting here who agree with me.

Or maybe I should just sum it up, TroyM, as: phhhhtbbbttttttttt.

Condescending, smug, confident... it is all relative and in the eye of the beholder. I have beheld nothing but finger pointing comments from you and I take it we will continue to do so as it is obviously your nature.

p.s. Thanks for the raspberry... I've always been a huge fan of bill the cat! Although yours did sound a wee bit negative.

The end.

Cowboy -- In no way did I mean to condescend, snub, or even imply that a gay cruise was an appropriate vacation for everyone -- the entire list was predicated by an if statement: "If the Atlantis ads running here on DaddyHunt have made you curious about taking your first gay cruise, here are seven things you should know:" Clearly, you're not curious about it -- you've made a clear decision it's not for you, and the advice that followed doesn't apply to travelers like you.

i rather catch a plane to Europe, i guess the cruise thing is ok but not my thing...