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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 5: Friday, At sea
At seaWhen Doug and I went up to Freedom's pool deck to check out the view on this second sea day, we were slightly surprised when Freedom apparently "floated" gently in the Caribbean for a good half hour or more, taking its sweet time to reach the short distance between St. Maarten and nearby Hispaniola (the more mellifluous name for Haiti). To our absolute non-amazement, we ran into a smiling couple we hadn't seen in at least five years (we'd lost touch after they moved from L.A. and were stationed in the Philippines in the U.S. Foreign Service). The mini-reunions with old friends like these and the positive, "we're one big family" vibe on this cruise continues day after day.

After an early brunch in the main dining room, Doug and I heard a rumor that the Internet was back up after three days of struggle. We high-tailed it up to the Internet center, only to find a long line of guests waiting. When we finally were able to log on, Web pages and emails came up with glacially slow speed due to everyone trying to catch up at the same time.

I remembered some comments, a few days ago, by Steve Roth, one of the key members of Team Atlantis. He said that our group of 3,650 passengers, which is particularly energetic, would test and stretch the ship's capabilities -- in a good way. He went on to use the analogy of state-of-the-art ships like Freedom of the Seas being like Ferraris that rarely move at slow speeds. "We take her out at full speed ... more like 120". Just like the people on board, I'd say. Totally full public spaces, special sound and lighting systems, unique entertainment choices, all-night dance parties, etc. attested to our group's taking the ship out at full throttle all through the week.

At last! We dared challenge the FlowRider. Well, let's be honest here -- Doug decided to take the plunge for both of us. His Freedom surfing moment in the sun lasted all of two seconds, as he learned that standing up in the fast-flowing 30,000 gallons of water was deceptively hard. No shame in this attempt to emulate Kelly Slater's smooth moves.

This sea day afternoon had a dizzying array of choices, including a "Survivor" competition (an Atlantis favorite) with various tasks for teams to complete, the art auction, and bingo with the drag queen Dixie Longate. We took this open time to check out the comings and goings around Freedom. Walking up and down the decks, we saw many cabin doors were decorated by passengers with sexy photos, campy slogans, and colorful boas and beads. Door decorating is a beloved tradition on Atlantis cruises, and some guests take it very seriously. We noticed Atlantis set up some retail tables on the pool deck and in the Promenade selling company logo T-shirts, hats, etc., which were snapped up.

The Atlantis guests we talked to ran the gamut; one of the most interesting characters we met an 87-year-old World War II veteran with a cane, who enthused about the friends he'd met over the course of many past cruises. Doug shared sports talk with a 20-year-old college student who was taking a one-week vacation from his education studies in order to unwind with some friends (how come we never went on gay vacations when we were in college?!). We also caught the tail end of the "Ask Atlantis Anything" question-and-answer session with Atlantis President Rich Campbell and his staff. Rich revealed that Atlantis had already booked Royal Caribbean's new ship Liberty of the Seas (launching later this year and basically a twin of Freedom) for a similar all-gay Caribbean charter in January 2008. This news was greeted with applause by the many loyal Atlantis alumni in attendance (Atlantis already sold out a July 2007 Baltic cruise in a matter of weeks when it was announced last year).

The "magical hours" between 4 and 6 p.m. meant it was time for another outdoor T-dance. Think: 1970's. The worst fashion fads of the decade were resurrected by this creative and campy crowd -- bell bottoms, loud prints, Afro hair, big glasses, etc. Doug and I marveled not only at the fun-loving groups that managed to put together matching outfits, but also at the size and number of suitcases that many of these guys brought onboard to hold so many costume changes! Not everyone "dresses up" during this week (we saw plenty of guys garbed in casual shorts and T-shirts at almost every party).

After a pleasant "Venetian Feast" themed dinner in the main dining room, Doug and I checked out the "surprise" musical headliner of the week, ABC (the popular dance band of the 80's and 90's who had hits like "The Look of Love" and "Poison Arrow"). They performed on the covered-up ice rink in Studio B, which was the setting for many of the late night dance parties as well. I heard that Atlantis was the first group on Freedom ever to transform the ice rink into a versatile performance and dance venue. Another example of the fine-tuned Ferrari that is Freedom of the Seas reaching top speeds with this special charter group!

Comedian Alec Mapa, seen regularly on "Desperate Housewives," capped off our evening with side-splitting stories about finally getting married to his partner and the perils of being a gay Asian-American ("Make some effort to tell us apart, guys!"). Other Freedom guests were busy relaxing to cabaret songs, rekindling old (or creating new) romances in the piano bar in Schooner, or prepping for yet another blowout dance party Poolside (with a 90's diva theme). Will this group ever run out of fun party ideas?

Tomorrow will be one of the highlights of the cruise: a full day in Royal Caribbean's private tropical paradise, Labadee, Hispaniola (then, next up, our final sea day!).

--by Stan Wu, Cruise Critic contributor

Day 4: St. Maarten red arrow Day 6: Labadee

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