Friday, May 6, 2011

Meeting gay and gay-friendly people on the Carnival Victory Caribbean cruise, April 17 - 24, 2011

View from our Carnival Victory balcony,
late Sunday, April 17, 2011, just before
commencing voyage from San Juan, PR
By Rev. Steve Parelli,
May 6, 2011
Bronx, NY
Photos by Steve Parelli

Part I - A positive experience with all on-baord the Carnival Victory Caribbean cruise

Our six-day, seven-night Carnival Victory Caribbean cruise (April 2011), originating out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was a gay-friendly, over-all straight, family-focused cruise.  Daily programs were run for children and teens alike.  For the adults, there was an adult-only deck area with fantastic views (from port and starboard sides), two whirl pools, open air showers, lounging chairs and hammocks. 

In port at Bridgetown, Barbados, April 20, 2011
Our interaction with other people included speaking with a couple teens and children (generally when they were with their guardians), but mostly with other adults as well as a few crew members (who were always friendly, polite, and service-focused). 

evening meal
We took in two evening shows (live entertainment), arriving late and leaving early. That was all.  I preferred using my late evening hours by being on deck, hitting the exercise area, visiting with others, and retiring early in order to see the rising sun and our arrival into the next port.  Early mornings you had the ship to yourself.  People tended to party late into the night.  I've always preferred my mornings!

Jose Ortiz on Carnival Victory Caribbean
Cruise, late Monday, April 18, 2011
Part II - "Friends of Dorothy" and Our meeting with a real fine and interesting gay man

Carnival publishes, in its daily newsletter (delivered to each room), a "friends of Dorothy" evening time and designated place where LGBT people on the cruise can meet if they choose to.  Twice, Jose and I went to the "friends of Dorothy" meeting area.  On one occasion no one else showed. 

Jose Ortiz
On the other occasion we met a wonderful, retired, professional/corporate leader, world-travelled, gay gentlemen who joined us on two separate evenings for diner.  He was a wealth of information and a great conversationalist.  We exchanged contact information and planed to keep in touch.  We discussed many things, including Other Sheep. He was interested in the book The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships (now available on Kindle for half the price of the paperback)  and upon returning home to the Bronx I mailed him a complimentary copy.

Left to right:  Jose Ortiz, Jonathan
Chavez  and Steve Parelli
Part III - Other gay men we met on the cruise

But that was just the beginning of meeting gays.  Our built in "gay-dar" (for "radar') was our most resourceful means for finding other LGBT people. (Not to overlook the fact that as an obvious gay couple we are a magnet for those who are LGBT interested.)

Let me see what I can remember for gay encounters:  We met an inter-racial, inter-generational American gay couple on deck 9 (the older spouse was confined to a wheelchair).  Several gay men we met were from Puerto Rico and Jose was, with his Spanish (and good looks), an immediate tie-in.
We met Jonathan Chavez and his gay friend (both Puerto Rican) on our St. Lucia/Pitons cruise; we met a Puerto Rican gay couple travelling with a gay friend in the sauna in the men's locker room who introduced us to another Puerto Rican couple (travelling with their family) who are both active in their welcoming and affirming Presbyterian church in Puerto Rican. 

Jose Ortiz and Steve Parelli, Brighton Beach, Barbados,
April 20, 2011.
On Brighton Beach (Barbados) we met an elderly gay Mexican from the cruise who had with him on the beach his adopted son, his daughter-in-law (the son's wife) and grandson (or son of the couple).  On the lobby deck, while viewing the distant island of Martinique, I met another gay couple, and later that afternoon on the same deck Jose and I met yet another single gay Puerto Rican. 

View of the Pitons, St. Lucia
from our stateroom on
Carnival Victory, early
morning, April 21, 2011
Often we exchanged room numbers to keep in touch and on at least three occasions we had other gay couples or individuals join us on our balcony.  It was a great time. 

Part IV - Gay-friednly people we met -- including some nurses from Jamaica who enthusiastically tagged their country as LGBT affirming (we polited offered our commentary)

Jose Ortiz on the
excursion to the
Pitons, St. Luica,
April 21, 2011
As for gay-friendly people . . . well, as far as we could tell, the whole ship of  fellow-tourists was gay-friendly.  We didn't find a single person on the cruise who appeared to be uncomfortable with our presence.  And with whomever we spoke, they were always polite and often became engaged in conversation with us, some telling us of their pro-LGBT views, their long-standing gay friends and gay family members, or their religious backgrounds which either turned them on with inclusion and affirmation of LGBT people or turned them off with judgmental, condemning attitudes towards LGBT people.

We met a very friendly group of about five or more women from Jamaica traveling together.  Most of them, if not all, were nurses.  You could tell they were all friends.  In the course of our conversation we asked them what the tone was in Jamaica regarding homosexuals (expecting them to report sadly the anti-gay sentiment there).  "Very friendly," they assured us.  "Very accepting."  It was hard to let their comment slide and we gently offered them a different perspective from our point of view as a gay couple and the news, as we've heard it coming out of Jamaica, that Jamaica is a very, very homophobic country with a lot of hostility towards LGBT people. "We're changing," they assured us.  And we continued talking about other things, making light-hearted conversation.

Jose Ortiz at the Pitons, St. Luica, April 21, 2011

Part V - The pro-LGBT attorney from Western New York

Steve Parelli on our
stateroom balcony at sunset,
Carnival Victory Caribbean
cruise, April 2011
A couple people spoke to us about their specific activism  for gay rights and/or awareness.  There was, for example, a female attorney from western New York who worked for gay awareness within her residential community by asking the community board members to involve themselves in an awareness activity about LGBT people.  I think the idea was for board members to gain sympathy or empathy for LGBT people in their community.  At least one member of the board refused to take part because of his or her religious convictions.  The attorney was taken back but viewed it as a learning moment for her on the reality of the strong, divergent views in America on LGBT human rights and equality.

Part VI - A pro-LGBT family from Sacramento:  His dad's gay and so is his wife's brother!

Left to right:  David, Kimberly and Breana (photo
and story used by permission).  Carnival
Victory Caribbean cruise, Pacific Restaurant,
Friday morning, April 22, 2011

Another very interesting meeting occurred Friday morning at breakfast in the Pacific Restaurant on the Carnival ship.  Here we met David and Kimberly (life partners now for five years) and Kimberly's teenage daughter Breana (all pictured here in this blog by permission).  David's father, now deceased, was gay.  Kimberly's brother is gay.

View from Pacific Restaurant, Carnival
Victory ship, in port at St. Kitts.  The
morning we met David, Kimberly
and Breana, April 22, 2011
And Breana, knowing and loving her gay uncle, appreciates her gay friends and is a pro-LGBT activist in her public school.  Upon hearing that Jose and I were married in Sacramento, California,  Kimberly, the wife and mother, told us about her activism against Prop. 8 in Sacramental,California, where they reside.  They had a lot of wonderful stories to share.  It was a remarkable meeting. 

At one point I was close to tears with the overwhelming sense of their like-experiences and their heart-flet support as I explained how my immediately family - parents, three of my four children, one sibling, ex-wife - have totally ostracised me and Jose in the name of religion, i.e., "personal separation  from the unrepented sinner." 

Standing left to right: David, Jose Ortiz, and
Steve Parelli.  Seated: Kimberly (left) and
Breana (photo and story used
by permission). Carnival Victory
Caribbean cruise, Pacific Restaurant,
Friday morning, April 22, 2011
Kimberly told me about her happy involvement in a Bible church for, I think, as many as five years, until an unfortunate conversation occurred between her and her pastor.  Kimberly became distressed after one of her pastor's messages on homosexuality.  She arranged a personal meeting with him in which she told him about her gay brother and how she totally accepts him.  The pastor told her that homosexuals were going to hell and that if she supported them - with ideas of equality, human rights, affirmation - that she, too, would go to hell along with them.  It's not easy to image how that meeting ended.  Kimberly and her daughter left the church. 

We exchanged contact information; have already connected on Facebook; and will at some point introduce them to Jose's cousin and wife  who, like them, live in Sacramento, California, and who stood up for us when Jose and I were married there in city hall in Sacramento in August of 2008.

(In an email following the publishing of this blog, Kimberly Hardie wrote "That's [i.e., the content of the blog] completely fine.  You might want to add that along with my brother, I have three gay nephews and several gay cousins.")
Part VII - How religion turned one straight sibling aginst her gay brother

Carnival ship at end of street,
St. Kitts, April 22, 2011
One individual we met shared how a straight family member, formerly very laissez-faire and very supportive of her gay sibbling had a personal conservative religous conversion experience and subsequentltly, to all the family members, openly declared her change of attitude from affirming LGBT people to condeming them. In particual, she felt she needed to make it known that she could no longer accept her own gay brother, something she felt strongly about in light of her new-found faith.  What a sad story.  The sister's stance redefined, to some degree, the relational dynamics of the family.

In Conclusion  - A trip to remember
Sunset in the
Caribbean Sea
Victory is the perfect name for this Carnival ship.  For us as a gay couple and the wonderful people we met, it was victory plus:  love over hate, inclusion over exclusion, understanding over bias, acceptance over rejection.

A few LGBT people have told us that there is nothing like an all-gay cruise and that, from what they've experienced, there's no gay-attitude on the cruise which is hard to imagine (you know, the attitude that says looks is all that matters so that if you aren't beautiful you're not noticed - it exists in the heterosexual world, too).  That being the case, we might try an all-gay cruise some time.  But, if you're thinking about a straight cruise with gay-friendly people, then for us, as far as we experienced it, Carnival can be a good choice.


Gay Cruises said...

Hello friends,

Really, Carnival is a nice place for gay-friendly people. Carnival has set the table for a first-class dining experience in Pacific dining room. Every Carnival guest is assured of spacious and comfortable accommodations. Every effort has been made and no expense has been spared to ensure every night feels like opening night in the Caribbean Lounge. Thanks a lot.....

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say Thank you for your Blog Post. My partner and I are going on the Carnival Valor this week, and I was a tad reluctant due to reviews I read in search engines. Most were older posts and yours was more recent. I am excited to go now. I hope to just enjoy some peace and love with my partner. I have never been publicly open on a cruise before and was a little fearful.. I am at ease a bit more from reading your post. Thank you for sharing your experience.. you make a difference