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    Cruising Beyond the Castro

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    Now that we are heading into Valentine’s Day, my husband Dan and I believe that it is the perfect time to share our personal reflections concerning our recent romance on the high seas. We celebrated a number of things all at once: anniversary, birthday and early Valentine’s. But first, a little set-up.

    The downward psychological slide for most of us started with the election of November, 2016. It was rough in those first days. We thought the related concerns would surely abate soon. We thought things couldn’t get worse. This shows you what we knew. Having no viable options for changing the course in the short term, we just kept going. Since then, we have been searching for coping mechanisms. We found some diversions such as music, family and disengaging from news and social media.

    Then there were activities to take our minds off of the 2016 election results. In January 2017, for example, Dan and I took a Caribbean cruise to ponder the state of the world! While on the cruise, we thought, “This is a great way to detox (mentally). Let’s reserve another one in two years on the layaway plan.” Boy, was that fortuitous. We needed this second cruise, at this time, more than we could have ever imagined.

    So, off we went this year on Sunday, January 6, leaving from Fort Lauderdale. It was a Celebrity Cruise. I actually took my first cruise on Celebrity in 2000, and have been a loyal fan ever since. It is known for upscale, amazing food and catering to adults. Not a water slide or Disney character to be found. We love it.

    Now, cruising (on a boat) is not everyone’s cup of tea—or piña colada. For us, it is the perfect vacation experience. It has everything we enjoy—all in one—and very few of the things that are “not our very favorite,” as my late mother taught me to say!

    I’ll get to the “Travel Agent Tim” spiel in a bit. First, I want to share the personal view of what the cruise meant to Dan and me specifically. Well, it provided months (in this case, 2 years) of anticipation, planning, dreaming and building up stress so we could let it all go! The planning and research are part of the fun—for Dan!

    I am a planner in my career, so I’m more than happy to arrive with a small bag with a Speedo, sunscreen and a book. The truth is, I filled two entire suitcases with island wear—no Speedo or thong to be found! The week leading up to the cruise was very exciting, counting down the hours. Then there was the flight. Then we finally got to board a stunningly beautiful, floating city. The first day was one of simply figuring out what is forward, aft, berth, disembark, leeward and gangplank. Even with a map, we still got lost for several days.

    We got to our stateroom, and our bags had been delivered. We completely unpacked by 3 pm. At that point, it seemed as though every single person on board came to gathering places for the “Muster.” This is an incredibly boring presentation to learn what to do in case of an iceberg in the Caribbean! It leaves you knowing nothing about how to save yourself while the string quartet plays “Nearer My God to Thee.” Once that was over, we made our way to the upper deck, got a drink and toasted as the ship left the port, gliding past Miami against a stunning sunset.

    At that moment, the magic of cruising hit home. We had absolutely nothing—nothing—to do for the next seven days. Did I say there was nothing we had to do?!

    Taking a cruise means many things to us. Most of all, it is a time away from the stress of our jobs. It is a time when we can connect with each other and disconnect from everything else. It is a time just for us. Yes, in addition to the unlimited drink package, we purchased the unlimited internet package. We both love our work and agreed to spend one hour a day just to check in back home.

    This time around, the cruise had very special meaning. Our daughter, Corianna, loved water from the day it broke and she popped out! She spent most of her life near water or getting to it one way or the other. Being surrounded by water for seven days helped with the knowledge that we already had—she is everywhere. She was especially present as we began to unwind, relax and enjoy all of the things she loved so dearly. It was amazingly cathartic in that way.

    Best of all, it was seven days with very few decisions. And, if you play your cards right, someone will even make those few for you! One of the difficult decisions was, “Where should we eat?” We were on the brand-new Celebrity Edge that proports to have redefined cruising. And, for the most part, they have. One reason is that there is no longer a huge dining room the size of a football field. There are no longer two dinner seatings with the possibility of being seated by Ralph and Wanda from Pfulgerville, Texas, who are on their first cruise. In their mind, the cruise was paid for by 45’s tax cuts, and they just love him. They even wear their MAGA hats on formal night! That does not happen anymore. Choices abound.

    For Dan, there was a fabulous gym with one of his new loves, Pelleton. For me, there was a Solarium. It is a huge room with a pool that is covered with glass and has views of the ocean all around. It is air-conditioned and plays soft, soothing music. Oh, did I mention the servers who bring fruity frozen drinks all day, beverages that are paid for by the unlimited drinks package? The Solarium was my place to read, sleep, sit in the hot tub and collect umbrellas from the refreshments. Heaven.

    The other difficult choices concerned what to do when you actually wanted to get up from the chaise lounge (if you did). Everyone gets to do their own thing, from lazy to zealous! Dan and I did a mix. I promised to do at least one “physical activity” in return for going to every show, cabaret, disco and karaoke event. The physical event ranged from snorkeling, touching sting rays in the ocean, kayaking and sitting on a beautiful beach collecting more umbrellas from the beverages. Oh, and there was shopping at each port, of course.

    There is a difference in peoples’ ideas about vacation. Many like touring lots of countries, cities, museums, churches, etc. This is fabulous, of course. In my experience, I tend to return home from those touring vacations more exhausted than when I left. Then there is cruising. There is no excuse to return home tired. If you do, you just did it wrong!

    For Dan and me, cruising (the ocean) always results in romance on the high seas. We came home refreshed, connected to each other and still disgusted with 45! We’ll be done with him by the time we take our next cruise in 2 years!

    Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. It is the perfect time to focus on the ones you love. Of course, it is a silly holiday made up by the chocolate, flower and greeting card industry. This matters not. Let them make their money. At the end of the day, it reminds us that love is really all that counts.

    The wonderful song by the Flirtations, “Everything Possible,” ends with, “the only measure of your words and your deeds will be the love you leave behind when you’re gone.” Amen.

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.