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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 4: Thursday, St. Maarten
St. MaartenOur early morning arrival on the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin yielded clear, sunny skies and a ship full of passengers buzzing about their upcoming shore excursions (though Atlantis does alter a lot of cruise features to suit their passengers, the shore excursions are untouched and as such the same that are offered for every Royal Caribbean ship that stops here).

This morning at the Windjammer Cafe there was quite a bit of grumbling about long lines at the omelet station (even as the other buffet areas were moving right along). This is because many of the passengers are onboard fit into the, well, high-maintenance category -- and there were lots of special requests, such as "no butter in the pan," "half as much ham," and so on. The higher-than-normal fussiness quotient is really rather funny.

Still, there are the occasional service lapses that have nothing to do with being picky. One guest complained to me that the main dining room had only handful of diners for early breakfast, yet he had to get up to refill his own coffee cup. And dinnertime service in the main dining room has been spotty at times, with long, unexplained breaks between courses and poor timing (one party of four next to us had to ask repeatedly for their celebratory bottle of wine to be served, and it only came when they were almost done with their entrees).

And the complaint and crankiness levels have risen even higher as the state of the ship's Internet facility has become, frankly, ridiculous; it's been a constant hassle to stay connected all week but today was the worst: The Internet, both wired and wireless, was down for the entire day, with no expected time or day of repair. Numerous guests (this writer included) depend on reliable Internet connections every day onboard to conduct business, and these technical difficulties (satellite or server problems? Who knew, as the ship staff gave us different reasons) have been terribly frustrating. To some guests the frustration has been almost vacation-spoiling.

Onshore, though, all is well in paradise. Known as "The Friendly Isle," St. Maarten/St. Martin comprises 37 square miles of territory split between the Dutch and the French. The island is well known for its excellent beaches, snorkeling, and of course, world-class duty free shopping in our port stop of Philipsburg (and frankly fabulous Frenchy boutiques in the French side's city of Marigot). Five other large cruise ships were in port today, yet Atlantis guests received an especially warm welcome everywhere we went (a few "Welcome Atlantis" banners in shops as well as friendly port and taxi staff). Not surprisingly, there were some stares from other ships' passengers as our very large and generally "out and proud" fellow passengers walked through the port; some were holding hands or showing affection by kissing.

After a scenic 20-minute taxicab ride to the west side of island (passing "through" the invisible line separating St. Maarten from St. Martin), Doug and I decamped at Orient Beach, the isle's most happening spit of sand (and home to the Caribbean's most famous nude beach). Several restaurants, water sports operators and shops were located along the crowded beachfront. We headed straight for the nude area (right next to the "regular" beach) -- hey, we're in French territory after all. Atlantis guests were sprinkled throughout the beach chairs in both beaches, drinking, chatting and just kicking back.

Doug and I paid $8 each and snagged two prime beach chairs/umbrella in front of a Mexican eatery (hey, we got two strong margaritas included). We spent the lazy afternoon sunning, splashing in the water and napping -- occasionally chatting with gossipy friends about the last night's festivities ("Did you meet the guys from Argentina?" "Did you hear D.J. Junior Vasquez's second set?"). We noticed one young Atlantis couple kissing and embracing in the water, right in the middle of the beach where most everyone could see them. The mostly French restaurant staff didn't bat an eyelash; the only ones who seemed a bit nonplussed were some of the passengers from other cruise ships who were sharing the beach with us today. Some whispered and snapped discreet photos of the smooching couple. I wondered aloud to Doug if we'd ever get to the day when America would have the same European, "live and let live," nonjudgmental attitude towards same-sex affection and love.

After this relaxing beach day, Doug and I returned to Freedom to pick up our laptops, and then went back to the port to try to get online at an Internet cafe (with success). While the ship didn't depart until 1 a.m. in order to allow guests to enjoy the nightlife in downtown Philipsburg (a short taxi ride away from the port), the vast majority of guests stayed onboard to enjoy some of the jam-packed evening activities put on by Atlantis (what else is new?). We thoroughly enjoyed the production show -- not an Atlantis show, mind you, this one is performed on all Freedom of the Seas' trips -- entitled "Once Upon a Time," which featured hip, modern takes on classic fairy tales, with big song-and-dance numbers. The show ended, ironically enough, with the sight of two beautiful "fairies" floating high above the stage.

The hilarious drag queen Ms. Ritchfield 1981 (the "winner" of the Ritchfield, Minnesota beauty pageant title -- who hailed from a town who's claim to fame is that it's the place "where butter is a spice and gravy is a vegetable") hosted a passenger karaoke evening in the On-Air Club next to the Arcadia Theatre. Unsurprisingly, the singing skills on display ran the gamut, and the choice of songs veered towards gay favorites like "I Will Survive" and "Dancing Queen."

After midnight, we saw many guests headed upstairs to dance the night away at the "Masterbeat Party" Poolside (featuring additional hot house and techno tunes). Doug and I peeked into the thumping "Under the Sea"-themed party (mermaid outfits and bathing suits were de rigueur) in Studio B, before hitting the sack. There was pounding spillover music outside our door emanating from this party, so we felt like we were virtually there.

Tomorrow we're going to recuperate from our fabulous day on St. Maarten and enjoy the sea.

--by Stan Wu, Cruise Critic contributor

Day 3: San Juan red arrow Day 5: At sea

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