My friends who actually used their cameras on the cruise are finally sorting through and sharing the thousands of pictures they took. Here is a handful from our friend Jim, who requests photo credit for his hard work. (Happy now?)
The Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas is purportedly one of the largest cruise ships in the world. It holds 3,634 passengers with 16 elevators serving 13 floors. And that's just for the paying customers. It also houses a skating rink, a rock-climbing wall, a surf park, and enough hot tubs and pools to create a lunar gravitational pull. At 1,112 feet, it's longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall. And during an Atlantis cruise, it holds more shoes and body glitter and visible ab muscles than the cumulative history of the Miss America pageant.
The fifth floor features a grand promenade running almost the entire length of the ship. It's filled with shops and restaurants and pubs and plenty of chairs where you can just sit and watch the boys go by. The windows on the sides of the promenade are actually stateroom windows. And on a ship, stateroom means bedroom. I don't know how the windows on these rooms function on straight cruises, but on gay cruises, you look up into them at your own peril; our people hang enough Princess Sparklepony decorations in their windows to blind an entire generation of kindergarteners.
Bon voyage! Here's a big chunk of our group assembled on one of the pool bridges as 3,634 homos slowly boarded the ship with their steamer trunks full of shoes. Our friend Jim—the same one who supplied all these pictures—flew in actual flower leis for us from Hawaii, which in addition to being festive and beautiful also garnered us plenty of attention as the passengers were starting to get to know each other. Which is never a bad thing. Getting 20+ gay men to sit still for one picture in the midst of all that attention is about as easy as herding kittens, though, so I don't think a single photo exists of our entire group.
Here we are with our friend Jeremy as the ship is slowly pulling out of Miami. The sunset is giving us a saintly glow in ironic juxtaposition to the wholly unintentional suggestiveness of our matching C-Men shirts.
Here's the upper pool deck packed with revelers in our first outdoor party: the dog tag tea dance. "Tea dance"—a throwback to more genteel times when I presume actual tea was served at such events—just indicates an afternoon dance in the gay-people-who-like-to-dance world. And even "dance" is a bit of a misnomer at the daytime parties because most people just seem to stand around and yell to each other over the music. But still: loud music + shirtless men + being on a ship in the Caribbean still = fun. (Since there's a military theme to this party, many people are wearing camouflage. Which is why you probably can't see them.)
Here I am with the fiancé after one of many fabulous dinners in the magnificent three-story dining room. There is a jeweled chandelier as big as a Humvee suspended from the ceiling behind us. It's hidden by our bellies, which are distended beyond recognition after we gobbled up probably four desserts each. We were hoping this picture would be our favorite keepsake of the whole trip; it looked great on the little screen on Jim's camera, but now that it's blown up a bit we think our faces look kind of goofy.
Me, Justin, Jim and Jeff. Again: the same Jim of photo and lei fame. The same Jim who requested photographer credits if I posted his pictures on my blog. (Happy now?) Also the same Jim who consistently has the best smile in every picture he takes even when the rest of us around him look like we're passing gallstones.
Here's Royal Caribbean's private beach on Labadee, Haiti, as seen from the ship. The white triangles floating in the water near the shore are giant inflatable icebergs you can climb up and slide down. Which is way harder than it looks. But still fun. The blue and yellow thing just above them in the picture is a three-story inflatable water slide. The day we were there, a bunch of gay boys stood at the bottom with homemade signs to rate people Olympic-judge-style as we screamed like wet schoolgirls all the way down the slide. All of which was so much fun it should be illegal.
Here's Justin and me on the pool deck with Miss Richfield 1981, a darling girl who is still on tour after winning her Minnesota county fair pageant title almost three decades ago. Such a dedicated titleholder she is.
Come back soon for even more pictures. With costumes!