Cruising RSVP Style

By: P.L. Howard

One would be hard pressed to find a more magical and gay friendly city than Barcelona as the embarkation point for a cruise of the Spanish Mediterranean.

For this year’s RSVP Vacations journey of the Mediterranean, Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam ship set sail on June 29 not far from the outstretching arms of Christopher Columbus pointing the way to the “new land.”

In this case, the “new land” for most of the gay 1,800 men (and ten women) on board meant the Southern coast of Spain, a nation that, while in the midst of a financial crises, has been home to LGBT marriage and equal rights for nearly a decade.

For those that have never “cruised” RSVP style, the adventure is an experience like none other. The best way to describe it is an exotic “pu-pu platter” of the best a vacation can offer.  While the folks at Holland America still run the ship and get you where you need to be, it’s the RSVP masters that take over from there, making the most of every hour of the day with gay friendly programming and events

The ever so sexy Scott Nevins was RSVP’s host for the week, with daily TV briefings of things to come. Of course he was on hand for the festive pool side sail away party, as liquor flowed fast and furious for the men from around the globe.

The first night started off with a bang as American Idol (season two) Kimberly Locke took to the massive stage of the two story theater.  She of course delivered on her vocal skills, but surprisingly played to her gay fan’s with banter that had the audience in stitches.

The best part about “cruising” RSVP style is the myriad activities taking place in this “gay village” created during the seven day adventure.

From the festive decorations placed on the doors of many a rooms, (one of my favorites was a collage of Andrew Christian models with the message (“PLEASE KNOCK IF YOU LOOK LIKE THIS!”) to national flags– passengers realized from the onset - this is NOT your momma’s cruise.

Theme parties follow you through the week, from the sail away tea dance where name tags help break the ice to singles and couples dinner night in the main dinning room (which is but one of over a half-dozen dining experiences onboard).

The first two stops were the seaside towns of Malaga and Cadiz (with an optional day train ride to Seville). Malaga turned out to be a Mediterranean jewel – with modern glass seaside beach structures juxtaposed against the 2,000-year- old roman amphitheater, and the 1,000-year-old Moorish hillside castle and fort.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating moments of the weeks was passing by the Rock of Gibraltar though   the three mile wide strait as we left the Mediterranean and headed overnight to Cadiz on the Atlantic coast.

The boys of the ship quickly left their dining room seats to gather on deck, as the sun set over Europe on one side and the lights of Africa on the other.

As we sailed by we all recognized that irony that to the north side (Spain) we could all legally marry – yet to the south (African / Islamic) side we were not as welcometo say the least.

Those thoughts however became a distant memory after a night of stage entertainment from the sexy Holland America singers and dancers (clad in very little for OUR cruise) and a toga party that produced great outfits from home alongside those who just grabbed the sheets off their beds.

The challenge on a cruise and even more so on an RSVP Vacations cruise is to master the daily schedule of activities – or not.  There are those cruisers who never leave the ship and make excursion a restful week of reading, pool deck sunning and spa experiences.

Then you have the type “A” personalities that are on deck at the T-Dances, night time theme parties: in the ship’s movie theater: at the showroom for a night of laughter with Ant; rising early for the gym or art auction; attending lectures; shopping for jewelry; enjoying the piano bar or catching up on work at the internet cafĂ©; and gaming at the ship’s casino. 

The bottom line: this cruise offers something for everyone!

But the attraction of Ibiza, where we arrived at 9pm and stayed overnight for 21 hours was enough to clear most of the ship for the Island’s alluring history and Midnight to Sunrise wild & crazy ‘anything goes” club night life.

A virtual party goers paradise, from the small clubs and bars near the port (like Mona Lisa & Soap) to the mega supersize clubs like Space or Amnesia, billed as the “largest disco in the world.”

For those that slept in and didn’t make it to the beach the following day we didn’t depart until 6pm affording all on board a chance to peruse the endless shops at the base of the castle’s walls that towers over the port.

That night, after sail away and being treated to performances by the witty master of comedic story-telling, Leslie Jordan, the night concluded back on the Aft (back pool deck) with a night of leather, (and I DON’T mean shoes and belt).

The final stop in Spain was Valencia (yes, home to those sweet oranges). And, as the seven day RSVP adventure wound to it final hours, one could feel a bit melancholy that such a memorable week, of people, places, and things, (and of course a week of 24/7 food & fun was coming to a close. 

But the next adventure RSVP is only a “click” away  See you there!