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Ahoy, mateys. There comes in a time in every American's life when you have to ask yourself: Can I endure a cruise?

Having never really been on a boat before (except for all the times I told people that I was born on a plantain boat during a monsoon), it was a vacation that I never really considered. I'm not sure if it’s fear of a Gilligan’s Island-esque shipwreck in the middle of nowhere or spending a week on a norovirus-filled tube with a bunch of people I can't stand.

And yet, I found myself (at my boyfriend's prompting) embarking on my first voyage on the Celebrity Summit for an Atlantis Cruise. Atlantis provides both cruises and resort packages catered to gay male clientele—it's like a Carnival Cruise except no kids, more bars and less clothing. This isn’t the type of cruise that you take with your parents. What I learned is that like most gay events, on a gay cruise, the clothes (or lack thereof) make the man. My best advice for anyone going on their first gay cruise: Hurry up and get your costumes coordinated.

1. Learn about the theme nights.

Passengers get a cruise itinerary in advance so you’ll know what type of events to expect. While there are some old standbys— a white party, a classics tea dance, a dog tag tea dance—there are always a few new party themes that allow cruisers to flex their creative (and literal) muscles. My cruise got in on the Star Wars craze and had a party titled Star Gaze: The Fierce Awakens. The puns are strong with these ones.

2. Check your inhibitions at the docks.

When people tell you everyone dresses up for the party, they really mean everyone. About 98 percent of people at the parties were dressed in some form of costume. Your creativity can make for a great conversation starter. I lost count of how many complimented me on my floral bloomers during the white party.

3. Be practical.

Unless you’re leaving from Galveston, chances are you’re going to have to fly somewhere to get on the boat. That means you have to pack accordingly. Make sure you save room for all your day clothes, swim trunks, shoes, costumes and accessories. If you’re trying to avoid checking a bag or paying for extras, be frugal in your accoutrements—no one wants to pay a baggage fee because your harnesses are too heavy. But if simply must have your ginormous fairy wings, you can always have them shipped to port.

4. Plan group costumes accordingly.

One of the best parts of dressing up for a cruise is getting a group of your besties to plan a coordinated set of costumes. Think of the photo opportunities! What would make a better souvenir or Facebook banner image than a group shot of gay Storm Troopers or a softball team comprised of all catchers? Make sure to coordinate well because you don't want a group with two Blanche Devereauxes. Or make sure to agree on a theme in advance so you don't spend five hours gluing white flowers to a pair of women's running shorts when no one else is doing that.

5. Dress down for dinner.

As in Houston, it's perfectly acceptable to show up to the main dining room in shorts, a tank top, and flip-flops. Unlike straight cruises, dinners tend to be more casual so you can dress down for an evening meal. What's the point of putting on your Sunday best when you’re gonna have to take it all off to apply body paint and glitter in a few hours anyway?

6. When in doubt, channel Mean Girls' Karen Smith.

No matter your age, physique, or body hair situation, you always make a party-appropriate outfit out of only underwear, sneakers, and appropriate accessories (harness and/or head piece) in a pinch.  Camo undies and combat boots = dog tag tea dance. White undies and wings = white party. Neon undies and glow sticks = light themed party. Plus if anyone asks why you're wearing undies with a hood and fur ears, you get to say "I'm an Ewok. Duh."

7. Wear shoes.

Because you're at party around a pool, you'll think it's safe to wear flip-flops or go barefoot. But you'll be surrounded by hundreds of dudes (and approximately 28 women) in various states of inebriation and assorted footwear—including heels. Follow the advice I got from my parents when I told them I was going on a gay cruise: "In most cases—use protection."

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