My partner (now husband) and I have not taken many vacations during our lives we simply cannot afford the luxury and grandeur most of our braggart friends enjoy. Generally for us a trip away is an extended weekend and when we can afford a very rare and real vacation something negative always seems to happen, bad weather, unfriendly people, flat tires, etc. Maybe these things happen to us when we do our weekends too but they don’t seem as bad, actually now that I sit here and think about it, all of those things have happened during our extended weekends. I guess there are just more of those and make the average of bad things seem like there were less occurrences when compared to the real vacations…
Our very first real vacation we had been together 3-4 years already and went to Disney World and Epcot in 1984 and during this trip we encountered both bad weather and bad people. Our second vacation every in the year 1995 we went to Key West and we dealt with bad people (or mostly one bad person the first time we went and a bad group the second time we went in 1998). In 2001 we decided to simply drive through several states and make a road trip of it only because we had watched people doing similar trips on PBS and it looked fun, it wasn’t fun and it rained the entire week. We ended up driving through areas blocked by flash floods making us take numerous detours and every single day we were drenched except for the last day during our drive home, it was a sunny and beautiful blue sky day. Then around 2004 when we tried a family thing with relatives traveling in an RV to visit my brother for a week in South Carolina we had a flat tire on the way and then the entire family started bickering to the point that we couldn’t stand each other by the time we got home. So, in all the years that I have been with my partner those were the biggest trips we had ever taken and there were issues in each of them.
Instead of real vacation generally we go to a LGBT campgrounds in Allentown, Pennsylvania called The Woods Campgrounds for around 10 years now. Prior to that we used to go to a gay campgrounds in New York call Oneida Campground. I really liked Oneida and still do but its a 4 hour drive for us compared to the 2.5 hour drive to Allentown and when you are only going for a weekend that drive time makes a huge difference, especially coming home when you are just sick of it all. But as much as I like Oneida, I like the Woods Campgrounds even better, but to be fair I’ve heard that Oneida is under new management and they’ve made huge changes and improvements, its not as trashy as it was but I will say that trashy had its fun to. The more mainstream The Woods Campground become, the less trashy it is (actually I wouldn’t say its trashy at all except for the campy drag shows (enough already gay people!).
We would like to get a permanent site at the Woods and have been on the waiting list for a permanent at since our first weekend visiting, we knew immediately that we liked the place and our only regret was that we didn’t start attending the first year they opened, we kept going to Oneida hoping to give the Woods a chance to get some footing and to become known. Boy did it become known!. When we signed up to become perms that very first weekend we were told that we were something like number 45 on the list and I’ve heard that since then the number of people or couples on the list is now in the hundreds, many of those people have dropped off for one reason or another (tired of camping, breaking up, moved away, etc). I would hope that a number of the people below us (from 1 to 44) have dropped off putting us closer to the top. A couple of years ago we are given a lease on a Semi-Permanent site which is great but the difference between a “Semi-Perm” and a “Perm” is that when we leave on the weekends we have to close up our camper and put everything away. The Perms can not only leave things out but they can add-on, enhancing their site with such things as decks and hot-tubs and the like. However this rule does only seem to apply based on ones popularity, there are several semi-perms that are allowed to leave their stuff out all the time and nothing is said while we live in fear of that knock on the door that we left one thing out of place and therefore have lost our privilege.
Another feature of The Woods Campgrounds is the clothing optional thing. When I first started going years ago there was no way you were going to get me to take my clothes off public, I was very ashamed of my body. I’m still ashamed of my body but now I won’t think twice about going naked. Its just a matter of getting used to it and believe me, there are a lot worse than me “PROUDLY” strutting their stuff. Another thing just because this is a “Gay” campgrounds don’t expect some “Posh” out of this world “Luxury” experience (while they do have some nice rental cabins and campers now) it’s still camping!! The bathrooms can still stink because someone is shitting next to you, there are rocks on the ground so your bare feet may hurt, the weather can go from sun to rain in a minute so you might get wet, and animals may trek onto your site so something might knock over your cooler (although more likely its some drunk gay person stumbling back to their site at 3:00 AM. This is why despite the common misconception that when camping in a trailer you are not really camping, you are “fake” camping, you ARE really camping, you still have to deal with nature and the elements. I have taken many friends to these campgrounds over the years and for the most part everyone has enjoyed it, I had never heard a complaint, but there are those few people who are just not made to camp and no matter what you try to do to make them enjoy it, once there they will be miserable. (See “Worst Experience Ever – It Goes Both Ways!!“) and of course then complain to everyone else, so I have yet to hear 1st hand how horrible their experience was only through stories they have told others. Don’t let the “clothing optional” thing fool you. Most people (not all) at the Woods are looking for that “naturist” feeling, they are not there for sex. (I said not all, there are those that are looking for sex) They are not there to look at your body and 9 times out of 10 even if you are looking for sex you probably won’t want to look at their body either (mine included with my 50-year-old gut). After 15 minutes at the campgrounds you will see enough naked people you don’t even notice that there can be (not necessarily “are” because a lot of people stayed dressed) naked people around them.
The Woods are a blast and definitely a “party” campgrounds. You can enjoy nice quiet times and socialize with many wonderful people but if you are there for a weekend, especially a Holiday weekend then don’t expect to get much sleep (unless you do it during the day). Also, in between the parties and socializing it can be quite boring just hanging at a tent so spending the day sleeping, or lying at the pool, or walking the lake can help pass the time, so you can expect relax time probably just not in the middle of the night (depends how far you are from the Dance Club (of the Baltimore Boys who play a game at night called “Drinko” its like “Plinko” on “The Price Is Right”). You can also go visit one of the nearby towns that have everything from shopping for antiques and gifts to white water rafting or taking a ride on an old-fashioned train so there are a MILLION (not literally) things to do.
So camping aside one of the things I want to do before I die is go on a Gay cruise. Why a Gay cruise over a regular cruise? Well I’m sure I would enjoy a straight cruise (if all the children were tethered to leashes and thrown overboard, whenever I read reviews on cruises a majority of the complaints seem to be about irresponsible parents and grand-parents that use the ship as a gigantic day care…giving their little cretins only one rule “HAVE FUN” and “See you tonight”). There’s also something about being with people of a like mind, not having to worry about hugging or kissing your partner (I’m talking about a damn “peck on the cheek” darn-it, not a mouth to mouth search for tonsils – most gay people can tell you the slightest bit of affection between two “legally wedded people” of the same-sex can incite not only stares but comments such as “get a room” while we have to endure the sight of heterosexuals holding hands or each other in prolonged embraces, and even slobbering tongue to tongue entwined in obnoxious kisses in which a male and female seem to be trying to devour each other) so yes…a gay cruise. (Of course simply being gay does not mean that such a person won’t be a prude towards other gay people… See “Sober… Maybe?” about a prude of a lesbian I know.)
So this year I was lying by the pool at the Woods with my husband and a few friends when we started discussing a flyer that was in the camp office announcing an “all gay (and lesbian) cruise” through RSVP Travel Group (a LGBT organization that specializes in travel for gay people) on a new cruise ship called the “Divina” part of the Mediterranean Sea Cruise ship lines or MSC. Never did it occur to me that my “wishful” thinking would actually lead to our booking a room on the cruise. Our conversation went from “wouldn’t it be nice” to “let’s do it” and two of our friends in the conversation had both experienced gay cruises in the past and were letting us know that based on their experiences we would thoroughly enjoy such a vacation. At first we were going to get the cheapest rooms at $899 each. Everyone was saying that on a cruise you don’t spend much time in your room anyway so we might as well go for the most cost effective rooms but then we discovered a third fare would cost only $599 regardless of whether we crammed into the small lower deck rooms or booked the slightly higher $1250 rooms with a deck. So one of our friends said he would definitely go. We agreed to split the fair three ways and go for the deck room. bringing all our fairs to slightly over $1000 with taxes and stuff. Of course we didn’t know about all the extra fees at the time … or that alcohol and excursions would be so costly. When we did learn how much more it was going to cost at first we hesitated and thought of canceling but then realizing this was the trip all three of us had always wanted we figured “What the heck…” we had months before the trip would occur on February 15 out of Miami so there was plenty of time to accumulate (save) additional funds.
So we booked the trip… then… nothing! Of course, the excitement is there but all we can do is “wait” and “wait” and “wait”. Who would have thought that a few months would seem to take so long to pass? I mean we talk about it and get all worked up but the one thing I keep telling my friend that is going with us is the months are dragging as if we were children waiting for each sleepless hour to pass on Christmas Eve. The sad thing is before we know it its going to be February 28 and we will have been home for a week and the memories of that trip will be already fading (along with our tans) at least we have May to look forward to and the opening day of the Woods Campgrounds.
We need to fly from Maryland to Florida so we booked our flights to Fort Lauderdale as well as a Shuttle from the airport to the Port of Miami. Glad we did this early because the air fare alone is close to 25% higher now and one of the flights we were thinking about taking has sold out since. Oh the additional expenses just seem to keep creeping up on us… there is, of course, the kennel fee for our dogs… YIKES… another $500-$600! Thank goodness for we have some local friends who live around the corner from us and they are going to care for my 2 cats while we’re gone. I will have to buy them a “My Gay Neighbors went on a Gay Cruise and came back with this lousy T-shirt” shirt.
Another thing we needed to do (me and my partner – I still feel funny saying “husband”) was get our passports and we figured this would be fairly routine however we did face a couple of slight glitches with this process. First, I could not find my “American” birth certificate. All I could find were my “German” papers (See “Losing My Identity“) so I ended up submitting my passport application with my Geburtsurkunde (German Birth Certificate) and a military report issued at my birth called “Report of an American Citizen Born Abroad” it seemed likely that it should be considered acceptable as it is an official document with a raised seal and notarization, but it is nearly 50 years old and I didn’t know what would happen I mean if the populace won’t accept our President’s Hawaiian “American” birth certificate then I was probably being foolish to assume some old military paperwork would be accepted. Then there was the Government Shutdown thing that was looming over our head. All we heard on the news was that if the Government were to shut down one of the offices to be impacted would be the one that issues passports. The worries were all for “naught” as they say; we got our passports, both of them, with no issues. The Government had (thankfully) accepted the “military” document as well as my German birth record and we beat the shutdown which occurred two days after we received them.
So we “wait” and “wait” and “wait”… Finally the other day I got a call from the travel guy that arranged this cruise with the Woods Campground…”YAY” I thought bit it turned out is was not for a good reason, another “minor” glitch, when the 2nd half of my deposit was charged to my credit card it was declined. What was this? Why? There was no way! I totally had forgotten about my bank contacting me sometime after I had booked the cruise; the bank felt that one of the vendors where I had used my card had been compromised so they canceled my card and issued a new one, I just forgot to update RSVP with the new information… Crisis averted.
So now 5 weeks away and we “wait” and “wait” and “wait”… Last week we received by email some information on the drink packages and some of the parties that are being planned. The parties scheduled are as follows: a “Hart-On” party to celebrate “Valentines Day” since the cruise leaves one day after Valentines on the 15th. There is going to be a “Gold” party to celebrate the “Gay Rainbow”, the tag line stated that “Every rainbow has a pot of Gold” so we are looking for “anything” gold to wear but so far all we have are beads. There is also going to be a Pirate Party…we have been scouring the party stores for costumes to fit this theme. And finally there is going to be a “mystery” party… they put out a survey asking everyone to vote on one of several ideas so we won’t be notified until the cruise gets closer. Now for the drink packages… originally we thought we would pay by the drink but I’m told that the prices are HIGH so if we are looking at $6 for a beer and $8 to $10 for a drink the way I drink we are easily talking $50 to $100 per day (if I start early) so there are two packages we are considering, one is $44 per day and covers cokes, beer, common cocktails and (of all things) ice cream. The other is $58 per day (and this is the one my friend is favoring) it covers all the stuff in the $44 dollar package plus all “Fruity and Icy/Frozen” drinks (fancy cocktails) as well as all you can eat from the Italian Bistro. All this money… ARGGHH… but $58 per day sounds like the plan which means an additional $406 from each of us (or $1,218). Also as a side note I am dealing with my recent realization that I have what I am currently calling a drinking problem (see “Bottom” and “Sober… Maybe?“) so I am struggling with the whole drinking notion at the moment. All the people in the room have to buy the same package (I guess to ensure there will be no “trade-zees”) and I will need to pay for one or the other package regardless of what I decide to do as a result of this “realization”, I can’t keep my friend and husband from drinking because of my issues.
Anyway with it being 5 weeks until the cruise my friend and I have been working out regularly (although my EXTREMELY MASSIVE belly still exists) I’m feeling pretty good about how my body is looking shirtless, shoulders are tight and triceps are looking good, if it weren’t for this DAMNED GUT! And we plan to start tanning this weekend so as I said the only thing we can do beyond planning is “wait” and “wait” and “wait”… but you know it is true, the “anticipation is half the fun!”