Throughout my adult life, I have never considered going on a gay cruise simply because of the stigma surrounding them. I always thought a gay cruise would consist of constant circuit parties, drugs, perfect people, and judgmental "queens." With that stigma, I thought to myself, " Well, you will never find me on a gay cruise because I am not perfect, and I don't want to be." Thirty-one cruises later and still the thought of an gay cruise never crossed my mind, when people asked my response was, "It's not for me."
June 2019 rolled around, and I came across a company, VACAYA. Having never heard of this organization, I decided to follow through with some research about who they are and what their product was. Soon I discovered how new VACAYA is and how they are trying to change the way the world looked at LGBTQ+ travel. The first thing that caught my attention was they were making it inclusive of the entire community, not just one portion. This is not a gay travel company it is a LGBTQ+ travel company, if you believe that Love is Love you are welcome.
A month and a half later I found myself on a bus to Bayonne, New Jersey to catch the Celebrity Summit for VACAYA's inaugural all LGBTQ+ charter cruise! So many emotions and thoughts ran through my head. What if I am alone the whole time, What if everyone is on drugs. What if I hate this? Even with all those thoughts, I was thrilled and curious to be traveling with 1,800, like-minded individuals. As my Uber turned the corner, and the Celebrity Summit came into view, my fears instantly vanished as I saw the entire ship as a rainbow flag. Almost as if the most positive energy in the world just took all the worries away.
Being VACAYA's inaugural cruise, the entertainment and activity schedule was without a gap for seven days straight! With "V-Dances" nearly every afternoon and Parties every night, each one a different theme. From an "Anything but Clothes" party to a "Slap band V-dance" and nearly everything in between, boredom was not ever an issue.
Without a doubt the most star-studded event I have experienced, VACAYA not only rose the bar, for entertainment on charters, they blew the bar out of the water. Starting with the incredibly talented Kristin Chenoweth, kicked off VACAYA's inaugural season and was named VACAYA's godmother and "Queen of the High C's." From then on every night on the ship was another incredible performance. Some of the stars, who sailed with us, included:
Katherine (McPhee) Foster and her husband, David Foster, Michael Orland, Alex Newell, Matteo Lane, Brandon Stansell, Brody Ray, Queen Lesli Margherita and finally, Leslie Jordan. Not even mentioning the talent that performed shows all night all around the ship and every single show ended with a standing ovation, I mean how could they not.
"V-Dances" every afternoon and parties every night put everyone's costume creativity to the test. After seeing incredible costumes daily, I am convinced there were about 50% more pieces of luggage onboard than a typical cruise. The best thing about all of these parties, not one person felt judged, and no one was judging others, we all truly felt free. The party themes varied and accommodated all different types of people in the LGBTQ+ community. Some party themes included: "Pop" which is everything from pop stars to anything that goes POP. "Hustle" the traditional chic Disco theme, and 90's slap band "hanky code." Of course, a leather themed party, and finally, the Anything but clothes party is where you found the most exotic and extremely creative outfits of the week. These parties didn't require you to dress up, or down, so you could go in whatever you felt comfortable.
Parties not your thing? VACAYA hears this and made sure that something else was happening while these parties were going on and made sure no one felt left out. In addition to parties and entertainment, VACAYA had a DJ almost nightly in the atrium to make sure the upbeat positivity of the week flowed throughout the ship.
Not only did I get to go on an LGBTQ+ cruise, but I got to be part of history. To start, the Celebrity Summit is the largest ship ever to call port in Provincetown, MA. Of course, with sailing to an LGBTQ+ mecca such as PTown we had to make history in more ways than one. With the assistance of VACAYA, we delivered a piece of the Gilbert Baker Rainbow 25 Sea to Sea flag, which will be displayed during PTown Carnival!
Thinking back to this trip, I keep coming back to the term "life changing" because it truly was. I have never been part of so much positivity and love that this journey held. Hands down, the best experience of my life, and I will make it a point to be part of as many VACAYA experiences as possible.
The new way to spell love and acceptance, VACAYA!
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