Word on the street – well, actually on the ship – has it that the gays will be taking over the entire Mariner of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s opulent sailing vessels, from October 18 – 24th. I found this out while having a conversation with one of the wine tenders at the champagne bar during a recent cruise on The Mariner to the Mexican Riviera.
Lately my husband and I have found that our conversation frequently turns to gays after a couple of glasses of Domaine Chandon at the champagne bar, our favorite hangout spot on Royal Caribbean’s luxury cruise liners.
“The gays have booked the entire ship,” bartender Ronny says of the upcoming cruise.
“What?!” I shriek.
“It’s called dee Atlantis cruise,” he says in his thick Indian accent.
My husband’s and my penchant for the bubbly has led us to seeking out the cruise ship’s champagne bar whenever we sail. After some research we were horrified to discover that not every ship has a champagne bar. Therefore there are some sailings we will never partake in — unless the ship is remodeled and a champagne bar is installed.
Because our interest is mainly in tasting and comparing the numerous varietals of champagne when we belly up to the bar at precisely 4 p.m. each day, we tend not to be interested in the sexuality of those around us. Not even our own. But fate forced our hand last fall when we sailed to the Caribbean Islands on The Liberty of the Seas when, at some point during the cruise, the champagne bar became the gay bar. From the first day that Ralph sashayed into the bar to meet up with his mother, Lillian, (with whom we had struck up a conversation at the bar) after his facial, every day a few more gays showed up until by the final night of the cruise there was hardly a hetero to be found save for me, my husband and Lillian.
On our most recent cruise to Mexico, my husband recognized our bartender Ronny from our Caribbean cruise in May of ’08 on the Mariner. While catching up we told him we had sailed on the Liberty of the Seas last October. I still had photos of our trip on my camera and showed him pictures of the champagne bar bartenders, Allen and Jemma, — they stood smiling behind the bar surrounded by “the gays,” as we had come to refer to them. Or as Ronny pronounces it, “Da gase.” In the photo Allen, who was also from India, was smiling and being a good sport even though he once remarked to us privately — “We do not have this in India.”
“We had so much fun,” I reminisced to Ronny. On and on I waxed nostalgic about the gay couple from Cincinnati, and Ralph who brought nine bathing suits with him and packed so heavy he was forced to leave behind a bunch of clothing at the airport. And how he had left his gay partner back home and secreted away with his mother and how one night another gay guy showed up at the bar who happened to know Ralph’s boyfriend and Ralph’s ensuing dramatic and intoxicated meltdown because he was convinced the guy was going to spill the secret to his live-in sugar daddy. We became such good chums with Ralph and Lillian that on the last night of the cruise my husband and I walked Lillian back to her cabin to help her put her suitcases outside the door. Ralph was enmeshed in some drama back at the bar. He had confided in us early on in the trip that he was worried about his 80-year-old mother because she seemed to be getting forgetful. That explained why she turned to Glenn and I at least twice each and every night and asked us if this was our first cruise. The last day of our trip Ralph gave me a necklace he had purchased on the ship and, smiling, he implored coyly, “When this you see, think of me.”
I found myself missing our fun-loving gay friends as we reminisced over our fourth, (or fifth? Whose counting?) glass of Veuve Clicquot. I looked around the near-empty bar, raised my glass and bellowed, “We need more gays!”
Somehow I hadn’t noticed the two men sitting on the far side of the bar. Or if I had, I had mentally discounted them as plain old boring heterosexuals. Ronny shot me a glance and my husband whispered, “Shhhh.”
A few minutes later the men got up and left
“Were they ghhhaaaaaaaaay?” I slurred to Ronny holding my glass out for a refill.
He nodded discreetly.
I beamed. Thatwas more like it! There’s nothing like the promise of a bar full of gays on the first day at sea. I’d give my last bottle of Dom Perignon to be there on the 18th.