Cruising on the High Seas

Traditionally afraid of gay cruises, one man takes his chances with a gay cruise company aboard an otherwise straight ship and lives to tell about it.




We were to share the dining room for the next 10 days, and in that time I witnessed a fascinating evolution, as two very different groups of minorities, literally separated by a wide aisle and separate entrances, observed the other. In that time, Hedda Lettuce proved to be a kind of glitter-gilded dove of peace. A fearless diva, she alone was unintimidated by what anyone thought of her; she waved to the other side, blew kisses to the dour-faced rabbi, and ordered kosher foods.

After a few nights of this, two very wrinkled, hunched, older women slowly, sheepishly made their way through our "gay section" and stood, transfixed -- staring at Hedda with nervous smiles. Hedda stopped flirting with the wait staff and glided over to the two women, who were half the size of Hedda. They listened as she greeted and cooed at them without understanding a word, their grins so big you'd think they were children seeing Santa.

That was all it took. The wall between the groups was less distinct after that. For the rest of the cruise, yarmulke-capped men of various generations would encourage each other to pose for pictures with Hedda, and the hollers and whoops that Hedda would elicit from us gays were matched by joyous Hebrew songs. Oh sure, there was still some kaynahorah sent our way -- not everyone was pleased we were there -- but there was a childlike curiosity, a desire to play, that pervaded the two divided groups. In this way, I saw the true value of Aquafest's choice to be integrated.

Unfortunately, none of the aforementioned warm-cuddlies could help the food. For that, I'd require a thesaurus, book-marked at the word inedible . Looking around, you could see diners pushing their food around with forks, their faces confused, trying to recall what it was they ordered, uncertain whether that was what was on their plate.

"A doggie bag will not be necessary."

The breakfast buffet turned out to be loosely based on the British breakfast, minus the delicious meats. My options were sweet runny beans, pale yellow scrambled eggs (resembling loofah sponges soaked in oil), stewed tomatoes, gray sausage links, and what I assume was bacon but may well have been the scarred remains of a dead crew member.

I opted to skip breakfast in lieu of coffee, but was astonished to find that the only cups provided were about the size of a newborn baby's fist. By the time I filled my cup and found a place to sit, it would be time to get a refill. So I got three cups of coffee and sat down, self-conscious, certain that I had just proved to the overwhelmingly European passengers that Americans really are gluttonous creatures.

Tags: Travel