Finding the gays — and the welcoming straights — on generic cruises


David Webb sailed through the Panama Canal aboard Holland America’s Zuiderdam over the 2016 Christmas holiday. (Photo courtesy David Webb)


David Webb  |  The Rare Reporter

Sitting in the Ocean View bar of Holland America’s Zuiderdam somewhere in the Caribbean over the 2016 Christmas holidays, I engaged in one of my favorite pastimes — eavesdropping on the conversations around me.

I sat alone at a table behind two middle-aged couples who chatted aimlessly. I gathered they had just met, given the frequent topic-switching.

DW-Travel-1The two men began discussing the variety of bars on the ship, and what an assortment of people they observed traveling on the ship on its way through the Panama Canal. “Well, you know what the Crow’s Nest is, don’t you?” one of the men said to the other. “That’s where all the gays go.”

Of course, my ears perked up as I waited for his next comment or a response from the other man. That never happened though, because the speaker’s wife and I exchanged knowing glances and she launched an interception. “Shut up,” she said to her husband as I quietly chuckled.

“What’s the matter?” he said. “It says on the activity list that there is a nightly LGBT gathering in the Captain’s Corner of the Crow’s Nest. Doesn’t that mean gay?

She again told him to shut up, and he did — even though he obviously didn’t understand why he should.

I locked eyes with the woman and mouthed the words, “It’s OK,” and I smiled.

Finishing my drink, I decided it would be a good time go find the Crow’s Nest. I resisted the impulse to say, “See you all in the Crow’s Nest.”

Looking at the activity guide, I saw that the LGBT gathering indeed took place in the Crow’s Nest, and I would be just in time for happy hour. So off I went to the top and front of the ship.

During previous cruises I was disappointed not to find many LGBT people in the designated cocktail lounges. I saw lots of gay men and lesbians and even one drag queen on previous cruises, but they never seemed to be where the ship’s cruise director tried to send them.

But this time, I got a surprise. I did indeed find not just one or two gay men and lesbians in the bar, but a whole bevy. This is more like it, I thought.

Among the group sitting at the bar was an older, wealthy couple from California traveling with their personal assistant.

(I knew they had to be wealthy because they had a personal assistant. Also, they occupied a suite in the sky and paid for the personal assistant to enjoy himself in a balcony room alone. I got along quite well with the personal assistant, but that’s another story.)

DW-Travel-3Traveling alone, I enjoyed 10 splendid nights of dining, drinking, gambling, dancing and dating. It was a wonderfully fulfilling cruise that surprised me in many ways. I met gay and lesbian people traveling alone, with their parents or with partners.

To say the ship’s personnel proved to be gay-friendly would be an understatement. Many of them were gay. In fact, I saw several ship officers of the same sex dancing together in the late-night bar near the casino.

I also really enjoyed the dinners and drinks I shared with the straight people I met.

One night when I went into the dining room, I saw the man and wife I had overheard in the cocktail lounge sitting alone at a table. They beckoned to me, and I went over and sat with them. The husband could not have been more gracious.

I saw his wife in the casino alone one night, and we had a good laugh about the whole thing. “He’s clueless,” she said.

I went on a gay-only cruise in the Mediterranean several years ago, and I enjoyed it. But I can’t say that I had more fun on it than I have any of the several generic cruises I’ve taken since then.

The truth is I found the gay-only cruises to be a lot more expensive than the other cruises I’ve taken. So if your budget is tight like mine, don’t be afraid to take advantage of the less expensive cruises.

You will not be the only queer on board