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Ship to shore:
Mediterranean cruise blog

Ship to shore:
Mediterranean cruise blog


"Attention Ship's Company ... Would Captain Stubing please report to the Spartan Leather Party on the Lido Deck Aft...and don't bring Vicki..." Dennis Hensley takes to the high seas with sister-company RSVP's 10-day Mediterranean Odyssey cruise.

Day 1: "A penis a day"

Thursday, August 9, Rome

Greetings, readers, from the Mediterranean Sea, somewhere between Rome and Naples, Italy. My boyfriend John Michael and I joined Holland American's Westerdam cruise ship today in Civitevecchia, a port city near Rome, for RSVP's 10-day Med Odyssey cruise. I've had like four hours of sleep in the last 48 hours and I'm loopy and exhausted like Paula Abdul in virtually every episode of Hey Paula. So forgive my lapses into incoherency.

Though I used to work as a cruise ship chorine in the early 90's, this is only my second full-on gay cruise. I did another RSVP cruise in the Caribbean in 1999. Cher's "Believe" was all the rage. I wonder what the song of this cruise will be. Hopefully, nothing by Nelly Furtado. I've had it with her.

A few cabins down from ours, someone has decorated their door with 12 cut-out pictures of Colt type models with little pieces of paper taped over their privates that passersby are invited to lift up and take in an eyeful. We've decided to ration ourselves to one penis a day--like one of those Christmas calendars where you one flap a day till Christmas. There's a name for those calendars but I'm too Paula-ed out to think of what it is.

Speaking of Christmas gifts, the Italian guy who stamped our passports at customs was unreal, like a bronze god with muscles practically bursting from his uniform shirt. I thought he might be plant from RSVP, positioned there to get our trip off to a sexy start. He was literally like the hot cop who shows up at the office and strips for secretary's day.

While waiting for our luggage, we met two of our fellow passengers, both a bit older than us, who had done countless gay cruises. One was very, very flirty. He winked and said, "What happens on the RSVP cruise stays on the RSVP cruise." So I guess that means if we end up accidentally killing an underage hooker, we have a good chance of getting away with it.

Tomorrow, we're in Naples where we plan to visit the ancient ruins of Pompeii, where Joan Collins reportedly attended middle school. There are organized tours but we've decided to make our own way with two new friends we met while waiting to embark, John and Angel from Ft. Lauderdale. This is a risky strategy, I know, but when it comes to travelling, I tend to have more fun in a small group than when I'm part of a big bus tour. Luckily, a journalist friend of mine from Rome, Christian, is also on board and he's going to get us to the train station. I hope we don't end up lost like some dumbass team from The Amazing Race and leave Phil the host waiting at the Pit Stop well into the night. That would be bad.

I'll let you know how it goes. Tomorrow is another adventure...and another penis revealed.

Day 4: "Sign of the times"

Sunday, August 12, On the way to Dubrovnik

There are stone penises carved into the sidewalks in the ancient city of Pompeii. This, our guide tells us, is so that the horndogs of yore could find the brothels no matter what language they spoke.

My BF John Michael and our two new friends from Florida, John and Angel, made it to Pompeii on our own by taking a train from the Naples train station. This gave us a great feeling of accomplishment. No stuffy tour busses for us. We're too resourceful and bad-ass for such things. There was a tour leaving the train station right after we got there so we caught a bit of that action.

Our guide, Maria, insisted on wearing heels through the rubble of Pompeii because she "hates gymnastic shoes." You have to admire that. Maria told us that the ancient Pompeii people used to wash their clothes in urine then she showed us paintings on the walls of a brothel featuring couples in various acts of intimacy. Apparently, you could just point to what you want, like a menu at Denny's.

In my last entry, I wrote about our neighbors who have nude Colt models on their door with Post-It's over their genitals. We lift one each morning to tell us what day we're going to have. As predicted, Messina, our second port, was a bit flaccid although we did enjoy the cannelloni siciliani, a specialty of the region.

There's another door sign down the hall from us that basically says 'top man seeks bottoms.' There's some of clever wordplay involved but that's the gist of it. Then at the bottom of the sheet, there are tabs with the guy's phone number on it that you can tear off--like he's trying to sell a futon or something. He started the cruise with fifteen tabs and there are 6 left as this writing and this is like day 4. It pays to advertise.

The entertainment so far has been fantastic. Ant, comic and Celebrity Fit Club host, cracked me up with tales of his flight attendant days and Kristine W "brought the room down a little bit" with a mellow set of jazz-tinged tunes that showed off her powerhouse voice. My fave act, though, is Chicago's own Amy Armstrong and her partner in crime Freddy on the keyboards. Amy's a wonderful interpreter of songs but she's also outrageously funny. If there were any justice in the world, she'd have Sandra Bernhard's career. And she's warm and lovely offstage as well. I'm going to be whatever her version of a Claymate is.

One of her signature songs is "Old Friend," about two old friends who get together periodically, get drunk and "talk till two." When she started into it, this gay in the row in front of us leapt to his feet, threw his arms out and yelled, "Oh my God, this is my favorite song in the world!" I don't think he was trying to make a scene, although he did. I think he was just overcome. It was a hilarious five-alarm queen out. The next show, that might be me.

After Amy's show, we lost at Bingo but got a big kick out of the evening's holier-than-everyone hostess, Sister Helen (AKA comedian Paul J. Williams) The crowd almost got violent, though, when the night's big winner turned out to be the partner of the doctor who had just won the previous game. Doctors and their hot partners don't need to win Bingo once, let alone twice in a row...

Yesterday was our only Greek port, Corfu, where we swam in the sea and tried to order humus from a local restaurant but they didn't carry it. What? Still, it was a raging day, as predicted by the Colt door earlier that morning. Next is Dubrovnick. I don't know if there are going to be penis tiles on the ground, but if we get lost, maybe we can just ask the top guy down the hall for directions. He seems friendly enough. In fact, I think I'll go tear of a tab from his door sign so I'll have his number.

Day 6: "Ciao from Italia"

Tuesday, August 14 -- Venice, Italian

Ciao, amici! We just arrived in Venice, Italy and it's jigsaw puzzle pretty everywhere you look. We're here till tomorrow so I'll write more about it in my next installment.

Yesterday, the ship was in Dubrovnik, Croatia, one of the most magical places I've ever visited. The words that come to mind are enchanting, storybook and pizza. I only say pizza because I'm in Venice and it's almost time for lunch. I had visited Dubrovnik around 1990 when I used to dance on cruise ships and fell in love with it then. Whenever, I would hear news stories about the war and unrest in the country during the 1990's, I would wonder what fate was befalling the enchanting, storybook old town in Dubrovnik. Well, I'm happy to report that it's lost little of its charm. Our fearsome foursome--myself, my boyfriend John-Michael and our new friends John and Angel--walked around the massive walls surrounding the old town and though there are some sections that appear to have suffered something (bombs maybe or perhaps they're halfway through an episode of Extreme Make-over: Home Edition), it's still very much as I remember it.

The biggest laugh of the day came when we followed the sign that said "Cold Drinks and Beautiful View" and grabbed a soda at a cliff-side cafe that overlooked the Adriatic Sea. Angel, it seems, is some kind of cat whisperer. He'd pick up every animal we'd come upon. He spotted a cute black and white cat at the cafe, leaned over to a neighboring diner who he had never met and said, "Can you pass me that cat, please?" Like he was asking for the sugar or something. Maybe you had to be there.

We returned to the ship with plenty of time to get ready for the Spartan Leather Party on the aft end. It was quite a scene, with cod-pieces and arm bands and muscle-bound CPA's getting to live out their 300 fantasies for a night. I'm always curious to see what the regular ship's crew makes of gay crowd. They seemed to be loving it and I totally get it. Believe me, I've worked on ship's and most times the passengers are in their early hundreds so to have some lively leathermen onboard buying drinks and copping the odd feel is like a breath of fresh air. A breath of fresh air that smells like poppers.

In my first blog, I referred to a couple we met at the airport on day one; the "what happens on the ship stays on the ship" couple. They're two of my fave people now and one of them, Thom, showed up to the Spartan party in full drag, with a feather hat and dark glasses. "I thought they said feather party, not leather party!" he explained, adding that they learned the hard way that leather's too heavy to schlep from home. Feathers are much more manageable. The things you learn.

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Dennis Hensley