Monday, October 24, 2011

If Gay Men Went To Summer Camp

If you've ever been curious what a gay cruise is all about, I can sum it up for you: it's summer camp for gay men. But I'll get back to that in a moment.

This being the year of gay travel for us (P-Town, Southern Decadence, Vegas... It's close enough), we picked a gay cruise as our final big gay trip for 2011. Like many of our vacations, we went in to this event a bit blind, but relying on the information we had gathered from friends and the ever-trusty interwebs, we decided to book a room with Atlantis Events for their Mexico cruise.

We truly had no idea what to expect.  Originally, I assumed that this trip would be a lot like our vacation to Riviera Maya. We stayed at an all-inclusive there and really enjoyed our time on the resort. I just assumed that the cruise would be more of the same kind of thing as the resort, only with a throng of gays. But that turned out to be very, very incorrect. At the resort, we barely met anyone, we spent the majority of the day lounging about the pool or beach, and the entertainment, while not horrible, was just OK. In comparrison, on the boat we met several great people, we spent our time between lounging, partying, and socializing, and the entertainment options were all top notch.
I have to admit though that I was a bit mortified to be going on the cruise. The idea of it sounded great, but the realization that I'll be on a boat floating over the ridiculously vast ocean while millions of unknown and unseen critters swim beneath us just waiting for one of us to fall off and become the next sharktopus snack… well, that spooked me a bit. So my husband wisely drug me to a bar shortly before we were scheduled to board and ordered a pitcher of beer that we just had to drink in 40 minutes, which went a long way in relaxing me enough to be able to get on the ship.

Once we were on the floating kraken feeder boat, I was fine. The room was nice, if a tiny bit small, the layout of the ship was pretty intuitive, and there was plenty enough room for everyone to be able to kick back and relax. And this is where the summer camp feel started to kick in.

Every day we were greeted with a little pamphlet listing all the various activities going on that day, when and where. For someone like me who is a habitual planner and someone who if given a schedule must follow it, these little booklets of "fun" soon became an ordeal. Luckily, I have an understanding husband who quickly learned to hide the packet from me and only allow me to choose one activity throughout the day that we could plan for. Everything else would just be happenstance as we lollygagged through the boat or lazed about the pool.

Really though, there was just a ton of stuff going on every day, so there was no need to plan unless there was something in particular you wanted to do. Shows, shopping, game show things, bingo, comedians, string quartets, cabaret acts, Broadway stars, singles and couples meet-and-greets, movies, gambling, and that doesn't even cover everything. Through it all, these abundantly nice crew and staff members were around to help direct you to events or provide you with whatever you needed. Oh, and then the requisite camp boat announcements from the camp cruise directors.

What really amazed me though was that with a boat packed full of 1900 gay men, I believe we only encountered one genuine act of bitchiness, and even that was rather mild. Everyone was just nice. And there was a pretty solid mix of people on the boat too, although the demographic certainly skewed well in to the mid-30's or later for average age range, but even the age and other differences didn't stop everyone from just kicking back and having a great time together.

I was also surprised by how many people on the boat that were interested in sparking up friendships. The boat was fairly big (the veteran cruisers said it was average, but for us newbies it was huge), and there were plenty of people on the boat, but we did manage to meet quite a few people that we enjoyed hanging around. By the second day of the cruise we had made quite a few new acquaintances, most of whom we talked with and hung around with throughout the rest of the trip.

True to the summer camp feel, the cruise directors threw a huge going away party on Thursday night and one last t-dance on Friday, which allowed us all to say farewell to the trip and to get the contact information for everyone we met that we wanted to stay in touch with. Of course, keeping in touch is vastly easier these days with Facebook and all, but we still heard quite a few people saying "keep in touch, ok?" Atlantis even offers an alumni website to help facilitate these connections, which is pretty nifty.

When Saturday morning rolled around, everyone's face shared the same somber yet wonderfully tanned look. Except mine. Because I somehow failed to inherit the tanning gene that allows the rest of my family to so perfectly tan. Anyway… we all knew we were heading home, but we all had a great time on board. Certainly, there will be quite a few memories from the trip. Especially for that one couple that decided that 4 a.m. Wednesday morning was the perfect time to go through a nasty breakup. In the hallway. While drunk. I'm sure they'll remember the trip quite fondly.

So you can see how this Atlantis cruise really was like summer camp for gay men. With alcohol. LOTS of alcohol. The husband and I really enjoyed the experience and will likely do it again. We've reserved a cabin for the same cruise next year, basically just in case we do want to go. From talking to the people on the cruise, it seems like cruises are much like tattoos: once you do one, you want more. And even though I'm certain the next time I get on that boat Cthulu will rise up out of ocean and devour us whole, I think it's a fair trade off for a great week with some like minded travelers!