Never Start a Voyage on a Friday. It Will Have a Bad Ending
An earring is said to give a sailor good eyesight and an old sea dog's tattoo of a cross, an anchor and a heart protects against dangers at sea and at port. There was many an earring and tattoo evident on the Concierge Travel sponsored Star Clippers Royal Clipper cruise out of Bridgetown, Barbados on a 7 day excursion to the Western Caribbean in early March. Concierge is generally known for booking bigger party boats but this was a chance for my husband and I to check off one of those proverbial bucket list items, ditch the tuxes and experience some warm Caribbean waters on a smaller, more intimate 5-Master. Fueled by its romantic barefoot and sun-kissed visions of gliding into a sun-setting, undiscovered bay, sails up, dropping anchor and listening to the gentle lapping of the Caribbean against the hull of the ship, we quickly signed up a contingent of Canadians and booked our passage.
In 1902, the Preussen became the worlds first five-masted full-rigger and 'Those who saw it were rendered speechless". Almost 100 years would sail by before another five-master was built- the Royal Clipper, the worlds second five-masted full-rigger. The Preussen inspired Swedish-born Mikael Krafft, owner of Star Clippers, to have the Royal Clipper built. She carries 5,050 metres (aprox 54,300 square feet) of sail and I happily admit this sun-setting, daily hoisting of the sails, set to the dramatic strains of Vangellis' '1492' , brought a tear to my eye each and every sunset. My father's salty stories as a Merchant Marine, manning the telegraph in the choppy North Atlantic and the warm South Pacific have always resonated with me. I must have had a prior life as a seaman or a pirate as I have a romantic vision of sailing the seven seas, clipping along with a full wind, titling and rolling with the pitch, the whining wind whipping and flapping the hoisted sails, the wires whistling and calling their siren song of the sea to me.
Bucket List, Checked Off!
And indeed, that bucket list is now 'checked-off'! During our 7 day sea-bourne adventures, we tendered into some of the smaller islands and cays: Isla Margarita: Venezuela, Grenada-Tobago Cays, Bequia-St.Lucia (Marigo Bay and Soufriere ), enjoyed beach days with a full-on BBQ lunch, diving, sailing, kayaking and other water sports. We were feted with great food, multi-themed tea dances, a Rocky Horror Picture night and of course, the Captain's (oddly Russian in this case) Drag Dinner. After-hours activities like line dancing, leather and underwear parties, morning yoga and costume contests make this a typical Gay old time, but allow you the more intimate opportunity to strike up new friendships and reacquaint yourself with old ones. On-board entertainment was provided by the multi-talented Amy Armstrong and her BFF and musical cohort in arms Freddy Allen, welcome regulars in the LGBT community. An obviously proud crew is sailing the Royal Clipper as I spend many a star-lit, sea sprayed evening talking ships navigation and the position of the stars with the very knowledgeable and passionate Andrew from Poland, all part of the ships international and like-able crew. Concierge has, in the past, booked two of the smaller Royal Clipper ships for their Greece and Costa Rica cruises. This is the first time the bigger, more lux Royal Clipper has welcomed the LGBT community on board and judging by the positive response, it won't be the last!
Loosing it's Allure?
So, what is the longevity of The Big Gay Cruise? Talking with fellow passengers, the big party boats normally booked by RSVP and Atlantis seem to be loosing their allure as a cruise vacation option for the older LGBT community. Many of us now prefer less party, less bacchanal, choosing smaller, more connected cruises like the Star Clippers fleet. There is still room for the big, Party-Boat market, but the increasingly popular River-boat tours of the Baltic and Europe, on the Danube and Rhine rivers offered by both Concierge and Brand g, are becoming a real option for the Gay Community enjoying excellent cuisine, fine wine and superior service while still involving ourselves in 'Community'. Much has changed since 1985 when RSVP first set sail and have welcomed over 100,000+ guests from around the world and companies like Concierge and Brand g are branching out and grabbing the other end of the Gay Cruise spectrum. Concierge and Brand g has smartly begun to tap into the 'Friends of Dorothy' crowd: Kevin and Lynn are one of two straight 'ally' couples on board and they are on their honeymoon. For years, Lynn has been a personal supporter of the LGBT community through very good friends and has done a couple of The Big Gay Cruises before. In fact, they have logged 4 cruises and 2 gay cruises between the two of them! Brian and Shannon work for Brand g and quickly fit into the low-key spirit of the cruise. Shannon was seen several times line dancing with the Bears!
Cruise and #TravelWell, my friends!
'Black Bags or suitcases: Taboo'. No need for checked luggage of any colour on this cruise. Unless you are planning on full Drag 5 of the 6 nights, consider packing lightly and casually for the entire week.
'Never start a voyage on a Friday. It will have a bad ending'. Air Canada has 2 daily direct flights to Barbados and beginning every March, add wide bodied jets to their fleet for this ever-popular spring break destination. WestJet offers limited, connecting flights to Bridgetown out of Toronto Island Airport. If you are flying via the US, there are connecting flights to Barbados via Miami with American Airlines, US Air and British Airways.
Star Clippers Information:
Phone: (800) 442-0551
Phone: Toll free 877-775-9616 |
Brand g Travel
Tel: 1 800 433 4303
Int'l: +1 952 405 9309