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Going on a cruise? Here’s some advice for having a great time on the ship

Derek Hartley is co-host of the DNR Show, a digital radio talk show where he joins Romaine Patterson (both in photo above) five evenings each week to discuss gay and trans politics, sex, relationships, and whatever else comes to mind while they are live. They also organize charter cruises, DNR Cruises, to meet their show’s loyal listeners as they explore destinations like Bermuda, Hawaii, and The Caribbean. As an expert traveler, Hartley compiled a few bits of advice for anyone going on one of his cruises, or any of the exciting “gay cruise” experiences at sea.

So you’re finally going on a cruise. It’s about time. Cruises have changed a lot since the days before air travel, when ships were the only option to travel across the Atlantic Ocean, or even since The Love Boat dominated TV screens every Saturday night. Today’s cruise ships are like sailing cities, filled with technology that would make the Titanic look like a (very leaky) bathtub toy. If this is your first cruise, you might be surprised at how luxurious these ships are, and it is all there for you to enjoy.

Before you set sail, here are some helpful tips to make your cruise experience even better.

Sex On A Gay Cruise

On an all-gay cruise, sex may be waiting around every corner. Literally. Be prepared to get followed out of elevators, checked out below deck and cornered in the buffet. If you are in a monogamous relationship, talk with your partner about the temptations that await, and get on the same page before you embark. When a hot guy in a thong is standing between the two of you in front of your cabin door, it’s already too late to talk about opening things up.

If you are open to hookups, try to restraint yourself from hooking up in the first two days. A cruise ship is like a gay bar, but one where everyone you see out at night is also waiting in the restaurant for breakfast the next morning, and then also at lunch and again at dinner.

The last thing you want is to make a bad choice on day one, and then spend six days dodging a clingy mess who is constantly cockblocking you because he thought you two were already married. Take a day or two to get the lay of the land, see who has a bad reputation, and then make your choices.

Always take the stairs

This was advice given to me by Ross Mathews on a cruise a few years back. A lot of eating goes on during these cruises and you do a lot less walking than you would in normal life. It is not hard to pack on 5-10 pounds in a week during a cruise. The best way to maintain your weight is to skip the elevators and take the stairs.

Some of the megaships now have as many as twenty stories so getting from Deck 5 to Deck 19 using only stairs may be too much but just do as much as you can and always take them going down. And if the ship is moving and you’re drunk, hold onto those handrails.

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Hartley posing, as ‘mandated by the laws of tourism,’ in Pisa, Italy on a stop during a DNR Cruise

Pack light

It’s easy to overpack for a cruise, because when you don’t know what you’ll need, you just bring everything. In warm weather climates, shorts, tee shirts and tank tops don’t take up a ton of space in your luggage, and it’s most of what you will need.

Make sure you have a sweatshirt or sweater in case it is chilly at night, and pants and a button-down shirt is about as dressy as most people need to get on a cruise. For costume parties, unless you want to really shine and go all out, a hat or one or two simple items that suggest a costume will get you far. In a crowd up on deck, no one will see anything more than your head and shoulders. A sailor hat and a smile at a military-theme party might be all you need. A popped collar on your polo shirt and some hair gel and you’re back in the 80s. Don’t overthink it. If all else fails, packing cubes for your luggage are a great way to get more into your bag and to keep you organized.

…but bring more than the essentials

You know to pack the things you use every day, like your toothbrush. But don’t forget to pack some other essentials you don’t use every day but you will notice are missing when you need them. A mini first aid kit can really help. Bring some aspirin or other pain relievers for headaches and hangovers, a few Band-Aids for unexpected cuts and scrapes, tabs of NyQuil if you get a cold (there are lots of germs out there).

Destinations like Hawaii and Key West have passed laws requiring sunscreen to be coral reef-safe, and it is a great idea for visiting any beach, so pack some if you plan on spending time in the sun (creams work better than sprays). Also, don’t forget aloe or other sunburn treatments, should you miss a spot. If you see a hottie with some burned shoulders, offering him some aloe back at your cabin is a great icebreaker. If you forget to bring a standard sunburn treatment, you can use plain yogurt or even black tea bags from the buffet, soaked in cold water. Ten minutes on the skin will go a long way.

Explore the ship

Before you arrive for your cruise, take a few minutes learning about what the ship has to offer. Most cruise lines have comprehensive websites with recommendations of what to pack (and what is restricted). Check out what is included in the price and what is a premium offering. For most people, alcohol and other premium beverages or casino gaming are the two biggest on-board spends, but newer fancier ships also have laser tag, racetracks, relaxing spas and escape rooms that can keep you entertained, at a price.

Then when you are on the ship, take a look around for underused sun deck space, and expected spaces to hang out or eat. And read the daily newsletter the ship provides for activities and events you might otherwise have missed.

Make the most of your cabin

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Cabin in the Norwegian Encore, a ship used during a DNR Cruise

Cruise ship cabins are notoriously small, with the space used very efficiently. To maximize your cabin, bring along a few extra items to make it better.

Packing cubes used to get more into your luggage are also a great way to keep your clothes and other items together neatly in your cabin and can help prevent you forgetting things when you leave. Most cabins have very few outlets, so a small power cube with extra outlets and USB ports for charging will be essential, especially if there are two or more people in the cabin.

If your sinuses are sensitive to recycled air environments, consider a travel humidifier for your room. And if you are in an inside cabin and become disoriented about the time of day, leave your TV on the ship bow channel (a 24/7 broadcast from the front of the ship) on mute. The channel will be dark at night while you sleep and will brighten in the morning as the sun rises just like if you had a window.

For more information about DNR Live or DNR Cruises, visit

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