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Home > Virtual Cruises > Gay Charter Cruise Onboard Freedom of the Seas
Gay Charter Cruise Onboard Freedom of the Seas
Day 1: Embarkation in Miami
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: San Juan
Day 4: St. Maarten
Day 5: At sea
Day 6: Labadee
Day 7: At Sea/Wrap Up
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Day 3: Wednesday, San Juan
San JuanAn obvious advantage of a charter cruise for gay travelers (versus, say, a cruise for the usual more diverse group) is that a the charter company (in this case, Atlantis) custom designs the itinerary and all of the on board and on shore activities and social programs to suit the group's interests and schedule. After the very hectic parties during yesterday's sea day (capped off by the quite late-into-the-morning Mardi Gras Party), today's arrival at our port of call (San Juan) was logically not scheduled until 3 p.m. today.

At breakfast, Doug and I went through the array of activities listed on the Cruise Compass today. Some of the, umm, more unique choices were "Drag Karaoke", "Women of Atlantis" (mixer for the thirty or so lesbian guests on board), and even a party for fans of the leather scene. You won't find any of these listed next to the bingo or Friends of Bill W. meetings on your typical Caribbean cruise.

Those weren't for us, though. Our choice was even tougher. After anguished debate, we decided to forego the temptation to settle deeply into the deck chairs and instead walked to the back of deck 13 and checked out the fabled Flow Rider surf park. It's amazing that you can surf to your heart's content while floating high above the sea. The friendly (and patient) Surf Rider attendants were helping guests with the basics of balancing on the board and standing up in the middle of the fast-flowing wave. We didn't chicken out, I swear -- but being that we were attired in casual shorts and polos, and that neither of us were wearing bathing suits, well, it wasn't going to happen. Today. But we'll be back, that I promise.

Hitting the ShipShape Fitness Center, I was surprised at just how crowded this expansive facility can get with the many body-conscious members of the community who just couldn't forego their regular workout routines this week! Almost every weight machine was occupied, as were the cardio machines. And this being a gay cruise, there was plenty of chatting up of strangers and flirting going on in between exercise sets.

While Freedom hugged the verdant coast of Puerto Rico, preparing for its very first port visit to the capital city of San Juan, I noticed that many guests lounging by the pool, enjoying the house music on the sound system, didn't look like they had any intention of getting off. I went over to Chris, a friend from L.A. who I know had never been to the Caribbean before and asked him if he was going to explore San Juan. "I'm having too much fun now to leave," Chris said, in between sips of a blue cocktail creation and between introductions to new, flirty pool friends. Doug and I on the other hand, were more than ready to get off the Freedom after two days of fun. Land stops are always welcome, no matter how magnificent the ship! As a cruise port, San Juan is so entrancing that we're always telling each other "let's come back for a longer stay!". The ship docks pretty much in the heart of Old San Juan, the old city, and it's undergone a marvelous renaissance that blends the refurbishment of significant monuments, such as El Morro, with a truly trendy restaurant and club scene (the beaches, high rise hotels and big casinos, not to mention the El Yunque rain forest, are well outside of the old town's boundaries).

Since we'd visited the historic city before -- and had already duly plodded through all the key forts and such -- we decided today that we'd just take it easy and poke around, doing some shopping (boutiques ranged from a decent Ralph Lauren outlet to genuinely unique art galleries). Hundreds of our out-and-proud fellow passengers not on shore excursions had the same idea, which gave the Old Town a very gay vibe that would've created discomfort among locals in many of the more homophobic spots in the Caribbean -- such as Jamaica or Grand Cayman (both of which are known for being extremely intolerant). Thankfully that's not the case in this slice of America's Caribbean.

Mixed in with fabulously Latin-inspired boutiques (frankly Old San Juan really does evoke the Euro-centric image of intriguing port towns on Spain's southern coast) are tourist stores selling the usual mix of T-shirts, jewelry, and trinkets. Though they didn't particularly appeal to us, we did get a laugh when we noticed that many shop owners had dusted off their old Gay Pride flags to display them (proudly?) in their windows. Gay dollars welcome!

Since all aboard was an early 9:30 p.m., Doug and I decided to forego any post sun-down exploration of the ample bars and clubs in Old San Juan and head back to the ship at dinner time. At the Venetian Feast-themed dinner in the main dining room, our companions were buzzing about the "Surprise Guest Star" who was on tap for tonight's big show. Apparently, Atlantis' staff gave out some key clues to the guest star's identity via email before we left, but in the last few hectic weeks, I'd missed them. Much to our delight, the surprise turned out to be the raucously funny Joan Rivers. Her comedic riffs on her plastic surgery mishaps and celebrity-bashings were eaten up by the very enthusiastic audience. Think "Can we talk about Britney?" (and she did) or "Is there anyone who thinks Tom Cruise was really present at his baby's conception?" (er, not too many).

We skipped the hypnotist Bruce McDonald's show immediately following to check out another all-night outdoor dance party (Fuego Tropical Party). It was warmer than last night, and just as jam-packed. Lots of hunky boys in barely-there swimsuits and sexy sarongs danced with total abandon to the hot Latin dance mixes, while the many more laid-back guests were on hand, enjoying themselves, too, as they soaked up the sensational sound and laser spectacle. It was such a vibrant, joyful scene that you wanted to try to make this night last forever.

Alas tomorrow's wake-up call is early. We dock in the beach paradise of St. Maarten, where we have a full day and almost a full night as the ship stays in port until 1 a.m! At this most unique port of call -- two nations, the Netherlands and France with St. Maarten and St. Martin respectively -- occupy the same land mass, possibilities abound. The naturist beach at Orient Bay? Fabulous French restaurants in St. Martin's Marigot? Gambling in the casinos in Phillipsburg, St. Maarten? Check back tomorrow and we'll let you know.

--by Stan Wu, Cruise Critic contributor

Day 2: At Sea red arrow Day 4: St. Maarten

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