|by Fay Jacobs|
|Anchors Aweigh, It's Gay
I do not work for Olivia Cruises (the all-women travel company) and this article is not being written at the behest of Olivia Cruises. In fact, it's an article I would have bet my Schnauzers I'd never write.
And that's because I was stupid.
All these years I wrongly thought that an all-gay cruise was great for red state closeted gals and others without the freedom to live like we do here in Gayberry RFD. Fun, yes, but Olivia cruises cost more than "regular" cruises to the same ports, since Olivia is the middle-womyn. I mega-stupidly dismissed it as a luxury I didn't need.
Wrong, The Earth is flat wrong. You can't put a man on the moon wrong. George Bush wrong. That wrong.
So why did I go? Fifty-two Rehoboth-area women were already signed up and we got a last-minute half-price deal, plus a discount for an obstructed view stateroom. "Do you mind a life boat blocking your view?" asked the sales rep. Um, let's see, the ocean this way, and 1800 women are the other way. I can see the ocean at home."
So from the minute I walked up the gangplank onto the gigunda ship docked in Ft. Lauderdale, I started learning just how criminally insane I had been.
With Men's Room signs covered with temporary letters marked Ladies, and the loudspeaker booming "Attention Women of Olivia," the party commenced: mandatory life boat drill, Mai Tai cocktails, unpacking. Half the ship dined early and saw k.d. lang in the theatre, while the other half of us saw Margaret Cho first and dined afterward. Margaret Cho was hilarious but over-the-edge filthy. I don't know whether she would have been better before or after dinner. Both headliners dazzled and outshone the one entertainment I remember from a "regular" cruisea man playing Oklahoma on a saw. No kidding.
On that first night, we celebrated Olivia's 35th Anniversary with a deck party. My eyes just drank it inyoung hotties, older hotties, black, white, brown, abled, disabled, thin, not thin, singles, couples, drinkers, non-drinkers, and a whole lotta Rehobos. I loved the music, laughing and sightstwo women dancing in wheelchairs, lovers looking out to sea, partners rocking the dance-floor, singles meeting and greeting, waaay gay waiters delivering Pina Coladas, inked and pierced dyklets holding hands, and middle-aged mamas stealing Anne Murray kisses in the moonlight.
I don't know what hit me, but it was like walking into a 70s gay bar for the first time or seeing a hundred thousand revelers at my first pride march. Steeped in community, feeling freer than ever, I finally experienced what it must feel like to be straight in a straight world. On the Holland American Zuiderdam, radar was gaydar and the whole damn world was the L Word.
The next morning, a day at sea, sealed the deal. Comics Kate Clinton and Karen Williams hosted a film about the 35 years of Olivianot coincidentally, the history of the entire women's movement. We laughed, cheered, met the staff, heard from entertainers Chris Williamson and Holly Near, and applauded for Capt. Margarethe Cammermeyer who took on the military after they asked and she told.
Bonnie, also a long-time skeptic, hopefully clutched her door prize ticket for the two-for-one cruises they would be giving away.
There were art auctions, spa treatments, hot tubs, casino madness, singles parties, couples massage, the requisite newly-wed, oldy-wed games, rainbow trivia in the lounge, barbecues on the deck and food, food, food, drink, drink, drink.
We spent some quality time with Rehoboth gals we often just clinked glasses with at Cloud 9. Sometimes we dined with our posse, sometimes with folks who started out as strangers.
Every elevator ride, cluster of women in a shop or folks in rows in front or behind us at the theatre, provided, "Where are you from? What do you do?" opportunities. Everybody smiled. Everybody had restless mouth syndrome.
While most of the fun took place on board, there were Caribbean ports.
Grand Turk is a small island with a lot of jewelry stores for tourists. But Bonnie convinced me to ride in a dune buggy. I've been out of the closet over thirty years but that day I actually earned my dyke card. Bonnie (driving) and I (in my helmet and visor) took off speeding in the open frame buggy. Did I mention rain? We rode through puddles and ruts, getting splattered and speckled with clots of mud the size of chicken fingers. After two hours I looked like a Jackson Pollack canvas.
In Tortola we took a ferry to another island, Virgin Gorda, where we went swimming amid glorious boulders, caves and rock formations. The surf was so rough (how rough was it?) that on my first foray into the ocean I got sucked up and surfed back onto the beach at 50 mph, flat on my ass. Of course, being a lesbian group, girls came shouting. "I'm a nurse! I'm a nurse, I'm a nurse!"
None needed. Even the injured pride was fun. And the water was a blue I thought could only come from paint.
We sampled legendary Pain Killer shots at Pusser's saloon with a couple of young gals we met, for an evening of splendid cross-generational story-swapping. Luckily, the ships' crew lined the way back to the boat, so we didn't stagger off the pier.
What would a gay cruise be without a theme night? Prior to launch our Rehoboth contingent learned of the Mad Hatter Party. Okay, we'd all need matching hats with a Rehoboth-like theme and which packed easily. Hats off, pun intended, to Barbara Brewer for finding perfectly silly, flat-packable fish hats. Geri Dibiase handled the matching T-shirts announcing Women of Rehoboth on the front and "What happens on the cruise, stays on the cruise" on the back. While I am telling tales here, my lips are sealed with the really juicy stuff.
Suffice it to say, that the 1,746 other women on the boat took notice of the women of Rehoboth and they all now know of the fantastic gay resort on the Delaware coast. We posed for a group photo out on deck one evening and did a 54-woman strong fish-hatted conga line in the disco on Mad Hatter Night.
I hated to dock back in Florida. We had a wonderful, wonderful time. We would have gotten our money's worth at more than twice the price. Olivia is in the hospitality business and they do it well. So there. I was so very wrong.And if you call Olivia and book a cruise, be sure to bring Visine. There's only so much eye-candy you can take without back-up.
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Fryinga Rehoboth Beach Memoir and Fried & TrueTales from Rehoboth Beach. Contact her at www.fayjacobs.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 02 March 07, 2007