Each year, several hundred people living with HIV – primarily gay men – embark on the HIV Cruise Retreat (“The Poz Cruise”) for a week of fun and frolic on the high seas. The event started with a group of poz friends and has grown. All the organizing volunteers pay their own way.
The days and nights are packed with exclusive shore excursions, private parties and all the perks of being aboard a large passenger ship — but nothing can compete with the freedom of making new friends without fearing HIV disclosure or stigma.
Queerty contributor Mark S. King returned from the most recent Poz Cruise with lessons learned on board.
1. We’ll take a party over another medical seminar, thank you
Poz guys are as educated about our condition as ever before, and we’re no longer clamoring for the very latest bits of information. Gone are the medical update lectures that were once a staple of the week-long Poz Cruise, replaced with more socials (like the infamous Red Party, right) and events like the Dating Game.
2. When searching for friendship, cast a wide net
Years ago, the Poz Cruise provided separate events for the gay men and the (mostly female) heterosexuals. It just didn’t feel right to be kept apart. The gays actually loved the sense of family the women brought onboard, and the women loved our joy and uncanny ability to nail loungewear. The groups joined forces, and today some of the deepest bonding has nothing to do with sexual orientation or any of the other ways in which we often separate ourselves from potential friendships. It’s an important lesson for us all.
3. A zip line is the great equalizer
It does not matter if that hunk you have been cruising by the pool puts the mucho in macho. When you have been pushed off a wooden platform a million feet above the ground and are whizzing across a thin steel cable, everyone screams like a girl. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. (There’s some rather acrobatic zip lining happening in the cruise video, above.)
4. Long term survivors are particularly hungry for community
Growing older is never a picnic – and that goes double for a gay man – but long-term HIV survivors have additional challenges ranging from survivor’s guilt to post-traumatic stress disorder. “Long time survivors really love the idea of getting away from it all with friends who really get it,” said Paul Stalbaum, the travel agent who has organized the Poz Cruise for the last 12 years and is a longtime survivor himself. “That may be why so many ‘men of a certain age’ join the Poz Cruise each year,” Stalbaum added. “The older survivors bond over shared histories while the younger cruisers have a ready-made group of mature friends and mentors.” If everyone rallies together for an afternoon of mud masks on the beach (above), all the better.
5. Sharing our greatest challenge is the very thing that can help someone else
Before I said a word to other cruisers, I already knew them. Or at least, I knew a large and significant part of their lives. Being in each other’s company, whether or not the topic of HIV came up in conversation, brought a kind of immediate intimacy that is difficult to describe. It reminded me that the meaning of life is to take that about which we have the most shame or difficulty and use it as a tool to help someone else.
The 2016 HIV Cruise Retreat is a Caribbean voyage from Ft. Lauderdale, October 29 – November 6th. Find out more here or contact agent Paul Stalbaum at 888-640-7447.
Well I learned that scene from Titanic is still a thing I guess .
Sounds like what I need. Nice little fun adventure.
Lordy, a boat full of HIV positive men, I know they had fun or relaxed. Good for them I hope everyone enjoyed themselves.
Do a lot of the passengers use meth and trade HIV strains via bareback sex? Are you poz stache?
I wish my brother had lived long enough to have taken this cruise. I know he’d have been at the front of every line — be it zip, to go snorkeling, or even to hold court and be pretentious. Over 25 years, and how I still miss him!
@alphacentauri: Do you douche before opening your mouth? It would be a great idea!
@alphacentauri: Self-Loathe much?
I know quite a few people who have Cruised as part of this group. Their reactions are overwhelmingly positive (no pun intended). Their experience is full of fun and fellowship. Yes, some have had Love Boat-esque flings. Some have even met their spouses, but all have come home with a sense of friendship, family and community that some of them hadn’t had before.
@griffnyc: It’s not self loathing it’s the truth. I happen to be HIV neg and I’ve been out for decades. There are some HIV+ men who do practice safer sex and who do not bareback or use drugs; but the majority of them do bareback and quite a number of them do use drugs like meth.
@Curtispsf: There’s no need to; but you certainly have to as your mouth is a c u n t.
@alphacentauri: Ahh.. so it’s not self-loathing, it’s ignorance. While there is no denying that there is a disproportionate percentage of drug abuse within the gay community as a whole (both poz and neg) I would separate that issue from the HIV community. As for safer sex practices strictly speaking about HIV prevention.. We are very fortunate to live in a time where condoms aren’t the only option. With the advent of PrEP, TAsP and even PEP, an educated person who practices these preventive measures can reduce their risk of transmission to near zero. If condoms are your method of choice in protecting yourself and your partners, I applaud you for that as well.
Here are links to two video discussions on PrEP:
I normally don’t agree with alphacentauri but he is right here. I also don’t see the need for a cruise. This is not something that should be celebrated.
@alphacentauri: Flagged. How do you know that a “majority” does that?
And how do you even get on here with that “Prove your humanity” trick question from Queerty? (Besides, “2 + 3” seems a little too tough for you!)
@Giancarlo85: I disagree. Surviving should be celebrated. Friendship and fellowship should be celebrated.
By all accounts, this is a group of about 300 people on a regular cruise. Not a drunken party boat. Some people are from small town America who have very few people to discuss things openly with because unfortunately there is still a great deal of HIV shaming out there.
Can you see how for some this could be a liberating and empowering experience?
@Giancarlo85: As the article points out, some of them meet long-lasting romantic partners on these cruises. Is that not something to “celebrate”? Is there a reason you object to that? Why do you feel so compelled to weigh in on each and every HIV article, anyway?
(Reminder: nothing is stopping you from “ignoring” me as you have several times vowed to do. Ignore away!)
Kevin J Desmond
I hope they do this mor often … I think it’s a great idea.
@Giancarlo85: people do not celebrate having HIV or cancer or any other life threatening disease. The celebration is surviving whatever disease one has. Along with that goes also the guilt of why one has survived when so many others did not.
@wade.l: he’s to stupid to get it and paints everything and everyone with to broad of a brush. I do like all of his different handles. To bad he spouts off the same genius on each though. And agrees with herself.
@griffnyc: Yet “SEX” was mentinoed in the headline. I believe this is glorifying HIV. That is my opinion.
Is offthemark anywhere around? I can’t seem to read any of his posts. They don’t appear anymore.
@Giandorko86: Oh look it’s the dumb fuck that shows up every now and then (ironic Buttcrude was on today… someone who can’t come up with an original username because he’s mentally inept and suffers from impotence).
@Giancarlo85: Slimy little, choad. Your wacky conspiracy theories won’t save you now.
@ButtStuff: So is true? Are you trying to hook up with texman on that c*h*a*t r*oom? You’re insane. You can’t even save yourself. You’re such a disgusting disgrace.
@wade.l: Exactly. I think the cruise is a great way for POZ men to meet each other, for friendship, relationships, hookups, whatever they want, without fearing rejection and serotransmission.
As with the prior thread about Caitlyn Jenner that involved a lot of transphobia, there seems to be poz-phobia here. It’s 2015, not 1965, yet some of the fear and negativity would not be out of place from the world of 50 years ago.
@Giancarlo85: Chat room, you dumb trick. Chat room, chat room… chat room.
@Kangol: Yes – except fortunately it’s not a “lot,” it’s just two commenters: “alphacentauri” and Giancarlo85. Often in Queerty comments, Giancarlo85 has been utterly mystified by the concept of sero-discordant relationships; he literally can’t believe such things happen, let alone that they can be conducted safely for decades. So logically, one would think he’d have no objection to poz people doing whatever each other, as long as they avoid those pure unsullied HIV-negatives. But no. Here he objects to poz people meeting each other at all!
@griffnyc: Far from living in “small town America,” Giancarlo85 lives in Los Angeles, and purports to be a lefty in every other respect except for demanding to run everyone’s sex lives. He HATES SEX and he wants everyone to just cuddle. (I don’t know where alphacentauri lives: hopefully 4.3 light years from Earth like his namesake!)
@ButtStuff: If you connect the word together your post gets censored, you dumb fuck.
Is Offthemark still posting? I can’t see his posts. Must be that glitch. All I can say is I’m not into non-stop bareback sex like some on here. I’m not telling anyone to anything and I don’t hate sex. I’m no virgin lol. Far from it. I’m just not into hardcore bareback sex with strangers in dark alleyways… like Offthemark. It’s a shame I can’t see his posts anymore. That glitch really is causing a lot of problems on this site.
@Giancarlo85: *not telling anyone to do anything.
Look at it this way… you’re free to do all the bareback sex you want and having multiple partners. More power to you. But please don’t expect me to endorse your behavior.
It seems to me that a lot of the HIV+ shaming happens right here whenever the subject arises. I don’t understand it. Surviving HIV is a reality for many of us and should be celebrated, especially if you are in your 50’s or older. We all deserve love and companionship no matter what the age or status. Some folks here seem not to be old enough to understand or lived through the true dark times and I hope that this is their excuse for insensitivity. I don’t know why people associate HIV positivity with promiscuity, but they are for the most part using old, ignorant (and hetero) moral theories that they the apply to their lives. We, as gay people, need to learn new paradigms that are in agreement with the 21 century. Stop using ignorance and stupidity to judge people you don’t know and can’t relate to. Instead, here’s a suggestion, why not try and listen, really listen instead of speaking. You might be able to experience something truly new and understand novel concepts.
@Giancarlo85: You’re entitled to your opinion. I believe you’re grossly mistaken, and it’s a free country. You’re allowed to be.
And Our HIV Positive brothers and sisters are entitled to some good old fashioned S-E-X if they want to have it. There’s no shame in having HIV.
Don’t paint this vacation as a meth-fueled sex party, from the firsthand accounts that I’ve heard from my friends, nothing could be further from the truth.
@onthemark: thanks for the insight. I guess there are some folks who like to stir thing up. :O It’s the internet after all.
@griffnyc: Thanks. For the record, I’ve written here many times that I don’t bareback and I don’t personally see the attraction of doing that. Giancarlo85 needs to lie in order to make his prudish “points.” Notice how he’s suddenly pretending it’s a matter of us expecting him to “endorse” blah blah blah. He’s incapable of minding his own business about a subject that doesn’t concern him.
“Don’t paint this vacation as a meth-fueled sex party…” – Yes, as the article itself says, there are plenty of HIV+ women on these cruises and people mostly enjoy the friendly interaction. I doubt there’s much if any drug use especially since this is mostly an older crowd and they go to several different countries in nine days!
@griffnyc: And I believe you are totally wrong and misreading my posts… But whatever. I am done trying to argue with people who refuse to listen. I gave up on that other guy ages ago. It is funny I don’t see his nasty rants anymore. What a relief.
The most hilarious thing is he calls me a prude. He is about as dumb as a rock. He doesn’t know a damn thing about me. He is a disturbed man who has also used violent threats in the past (he really wants to beat me up). I just ignore, but I can’t see his ego trip crap anymore. Thank goodness.
Chris I understand that. I loss my brother in 1999 . My brother and your brother may have been fighting for the front row. He is missed by me so much it still sickens me. I’ll never truly get over it although he made me live my life to the fullest. The fight is not over but I’m so happy that things have changed. I miss him and just wanted to say I understand your feelings. Best wishes to you and your family.
@Giancarlo85: You pretending to not be able to read onthemark’s comments, is just so deliciously juvenile and immature. Like something a four year old would do. Keep up the good work.
@ButtStuff: Says the guy who allegedly tries to hook up with teenage boys. Get a grip. Nobody cares what you say on here.
@Giancarlo85: “He is a disturbed man who has also used violent threats in the past (he really wants to beat me up).”
Citation please. Says the one who has declared, twice, that I should be run over by a bus! Well, he probably got me mixed up with someone else again, as he does often, because he’s too lazy to keep track of anyone here. (But I’m beginning to suspect undiagnosed AIDS dementia!)
“The most hilarious thing is he calls me a prude… He doesn’t know a damn thing about me.”
By his own declaration, Giancarlo at age 30 has had “sex” (if you can call it that) with exactly four guys in his entire life. To most gay men that’s a prude. Hell, even to most straight religious women nowadays that’s a prude.
@ButtStuff: lol… Red Rover, Red Rover….
@griffnyc: I use condoms and other safer sex practices; but I do not use PreP/Truvada as it’s expensive, toxic, and has horrible side effects.
Plus every gay man I know that is on it thinks that it’s an excuse to bareback like it’s the 70s and that they’ll stay “neg” and free from all other STDs but these people are idiots with a death wish.
Is offthewall still posting? That glitch is really getting bad. He must be going on one of his prolific long winded rants about how he knows more than anyone else. He doesn’t know anything about my personal life. Let just make that very clear right now.
I think offthewall suffers from Alzheimer’s. That is a sad unfortunate condition of where you forget everything. He also suffers from republican disease. That is where you constantly make up lies. Serious condition for sure and no known treatment. I guess I have pity for him.
@alphacentauri: Ri-i-i-i-ght… it has all kinds of horrible side effects and yet YOU, personally, know tons of guys who are on it (despite the horrible side effects) and they tell you all about it and how exactly they use it while being aware of what a self-righteous pr1ck you are about the whole PrEP thing. Yeah, that’s real believable.
@Giancarlo85: Giancarlo is always forgetting about the existence of Google. (So much for millennials being good with computers?)
March 5, 2015: professional busybody Giancarlo, on yet another HIV comment thread, reveals his lifetime number of sex partners (four)…
… to which poster Saint Law remarks, “With all the time you spend on here I’m surprised it’s that many.” Ha ha ha ha ha.
I know the whole thing is to provide help, companioship, to share tenderness, compassion but there is another side: This ship cruise is a big infirmary. A sane one should be afraid to be sorrounded by so many infected people because the chances to be infected by accident would be great.
I have a suggestion for others… one can google anything Offthemark wrote and see how much of a blatant republican he is… he is also a self proclaimed “fiscal conservative”. One can also see that Offthemark spends far more time on here than me (he’s retired and lives off this site… it’s his only social venue). He was banned from the bars.
I can’t see his posts any longer and that’s a good thing. He sure is a nasty vindictive pest.
@onthemark: Clearly you have issues reading and comprehending what you read. Most bisexual and gay men do know others who are on Prep/Truvada even if we are smart enough not to put that toxic medication in our body or to bareback unlike the fools that take PreP and do it raw and think that they’ll stay neg.
@alphacentauri: Your musings about PrEP are completely off-topic here, since this article is about cruises for people who are ALREADY poz. Reading comprehension, yeah right.
Anyway, you don’t know for sure that your imaginary friends are not using PrEP as directed by doctors, i.e. generally with condom use. Why would they tell YOU about such things? Obviously they would have no reason to do that.
@Giancarlo85: I’ve never voted Republican in my entire life so no one will find that. You mix up everyone here because you’re too lazy to keep track. Btw, I was just in Calif. for two weeks and didn’t post here once (and that’s provable on Google too!). You couldn’t go a week without posting here if your life depended on it. As that March 2015 article shows, you always have the same misinformed HIV “opinion” and you never learn a damn thing.
@onthemark: Griff is the the one who mentioned PreP. I simply replied to his post, and then you replied trolling and posting nonsense BS as usual.
Because they’re my friends, duh, or some of them are acquainences but are quite open about how they are into barebacking-as they were before PreP/Truvada was available and they did not start having safer sex just because of starting to take the toxic Truvada/PreP.
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