I’ve always looked at those pictures from the all-gay cruises and thought, “I wish they had these when I was younger.” The ads are all filled with guys with perfect bodies, perfect abs, perfect pecs, and perfect, unlined faces and, let’s just say I’m not any of those.
Now, I know that advertisements always feature young and good looking people and that there would likely be some older, average-looking guys like me on those trips, but I didn’t want to invest that much time and money to find out I was in the middle of a floating circuit party.
However, a number of friends went on the Pied Piper post-Thanksgiving cruise and had a wonderful time, and not one of them would be considered young (except maybe at Tropics on Friday night.) I liked the fact that Pied Piper doesn’t take over an entire ship, but, rather, creates a group tour with specialized entertainment and excursions. Its tours also tend to be a bit more reasonably priced than all-gay ships, so I decided to take a chance. The fact that I had a number of friends on the same cruise and there were early sign-up incentives clinched the deal.
A shared room with a veranda was only $750. We could have saved another hundred if we didn’t mind an inside cabin, but I wanted the ability to sit outside with my morning coffee, so the veranda cabin it was. We were told that by booking early we could pick three out of four incentives; a $300 on-board credit, all gratuities included, unlimited drink package or unlimited Internet access. The drink package was a no-brainer, the only thing I didn’t care about was Internet access - I wanted to unplug during my get-away.
By the time the cruise came around, somehow it ended up that we were only entitled to two of the four options, and the $300 credit was shared by the cabin, so we took that and the drink package. Pied Piper was good about communicating and giving updates and I was invited to join a Facebook page devoted to the group and got to know the personality of some of my fellow travelers that way.
We sailed out of Miami on the Celebrity Reflection on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. No sooner were we underway than there was a get acquainted party for the Pied Piper group. I discovered that many groups of friends make that tour an annual event, so there were a lot of returnees. The party was held on the pool deck from 7:30-8:30, with an open bar and a couple of very sexy dancing boys. I felt sorry for the lads, no one was tipping them, and so I dropped a few bills in their waistbands to “prime the pump” so to speak. They danced their little sailor suits off, but still no tips. The dancers, Adam Perry and Charlie Williams, both Broadway performers, would be involved in a number of events on the ship. As we later chatted over cocktails in the aft bar they informed me that they didn’t expect tips, because no one carries cash on the ship. They appreciated my gesture and introduced me to four of their friends in the bar, all incredibly good looking. It turns out the other four friends were the members of the classical string quartet, Well Strung, the featured entertainment for their Pied Piper group. My first night on deck I was under the stars surrounded by stars. I hoped it was a good omen.
Our first day at sea was spent lounging around the pool and sipping tropical cocktails (again, thankful for that drink package), interrupted only by a brief break for lunch. By the way, you hear a great deal about how wonderful the food is on a cruise ship. Those comments are made by people who mistake quantity for quality. The food in the buffet/café was certainly adequate and the dishes in the main dining room were occasionally wonderful (best duck pate I’ve ever had). They tried for elegance, but just missed, the dining room chairs were threadbare and the tablecloth filled with snags. I suspect the people who rave about the food and ambiance are those for whom a night at Olive Garden is a big deal. There were also a number of upscale dining opportunities (at an additional cost), but I wasn’t there for the food.
Even though I’m happily married, I attended the Pied Piper singles mixer, just in the interest of reporting the story. One of the ice-breakers involved dividing into groups for a scavenger hunt, with the targets of the hunt being the members of the group. One of the “objects” we had to find was a member of our group with at least three piercings! You get to know folks quickly when you have to find out who’s wearing briefs, who opted for boxers and who went commando!
There was a separate mixer for women, but I was busy hanging out with my new besties, Edmund, Christopher, Daniel and Trevor, aka Well Strung. And yes, I am shamelessly name-dropping. After a late dinner with my Fort Lauderdale friends, we all went up to the pool deck for an outdoor dance party.
Not even halfway through the cruise I knew that my concerns about being too old or not attractive enough proved to be baseless. Everyone was there to have a good time.
The men ranged in age from late twenties to nineties and from jaw-dropping handsome to average guys, to, well let’s just say they had nice personalities. There were also a few dozen lesbian couples on the ship, all of whom were personable and ready to party with the boys, as well as on their own. I was also pleasantly surprised to find a number of straight folks in the Pied Piper group. Some were straight women friends of guys on the cruise; one came with his mother, another with his sister. There was even a married couple who have been on the Pied Piper post-Thanksgiving cruise for six years in a row with their gay neighbors/best friends.