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My Big Gay Cruise (part one)

Originally published at digitalshawn. You can comment here or there.

This will be my pseudo live blog aboard the MSC Divina through the RSVP Charter sailing.  It was my seventh cruise in total and my first RSVP and my first big gay cruise.  These posts will not be a comprehensive review of the ship or activities; merely a recap of my cruise and my experiences.

A little over a year ago I was sailing on a Carnival ship with a friend and another couple that has done RSVP sailings for as long as I could remember.  Every year they kept bugging me to join them on the next sailing and every year I had an excuse.  My primary excuse for not going on the charter was that it was just too expensive for a single person (and admittedly I have no interest in doing the roommate share).  This year RSVP went with a slightly unknown company in the US and the prices were drastically lower.

My friend and I booked the cruise in a balcony aboard the Divina and paid for it throughout most of 2013 (a balcony this year was cheaper than me doing a single interior cabin alone through Holland America). Once we booked we begin finding a lot of Columbusites, Columbusians, Ohioans that were booked on the ship and the excitement began to build.

The other primary reason I wasn’t interested in doing an RSVP charter…

How do I put this delicately?

… it was going to be a ship with 3,500 queens and I didn’t want to be judged or accosted for wearing a certain outfit or my lack of abs.  Friends that have sailed with them before tried to alleviate my fears and assure me the advertisements RSVP has wasn’t conducive of the entire ship population.  Of course, as I’m stubborn, I didn’t believe them or their assurances.

How could a ship full of gay men lack any sort of the main judgmental factors we see on land? Would I feel comfortable in my slightly chubby, bald build; when all I saw were tall, greek muscled bodies that  permeated their website?

I wanted and did call shenanigans.

Of course, a day into the cruise I had to admit that I was wrong and I was swept up in the gay exuberance of acceptance and the thumpa thumpa.

I’m not going to talk a lot about MSC and their service or lack there of; there are lots of people that weren’t happy and you could google to find their rantings and ravings.  MSC did improve throughout the week; it seemed like on Tuesday the crew turned on a happy switch, began talking and interacting with the passengers and genuinely began enjoying our company.

I will briefly talk about an area of service that I was directly impacted and that is with my special dietary restrictions.  A few years ago I found out that I had celiac’s disease, which if you don’t know is an inability to process gluten (wheat, etc) and their ability for food service to provide adequate information was disappointing.

First of all; to be completely gluten free I had to eat in the dining room every day for every meal.  For a regular MSC sailing that might be acceptable but for an RSVP charter where there was something going on every hour of every day you couldn’t spend two or three hours in the dining room being served.  When I did eat the buffet (at my own peril) I couldn’t find one person to assist and tell me if anything was gluten free throughout deck.  Because of their lack of knowledge I ended up eating a lot of fruit and salads and I tried to stick with foods I knew were safe on land.

The dining room experience wasn’t that fantastic either; while they did have a special kitchen and I had a special waiter to serve me my gluten free foods the speed at which I was served was drastically different than the speed of my dinner companions.  Often times I would be on my last course while they were just eating their salad.

Lastly; when I tried to make a specialty restaurant reservation for six, I was told that none of their specialty restaurants could accompany my dietary restrictions and thusly they lost out on six queens living it up in the steakhouse.

I hope with another year of being home ported in the US the kinks will be ironed out and if RSVP chooses to sail with them next year (and I hope they do) a lot of the service issues will be nonexistent.

The next entry will talk about Friday night in Fort Lauderdale before we boarded the ship for our week long sailing.