I arrived at the docks on West 55th Street and 12th Avenue around 1:15 PM Sunday morning. After about an hour of so of checking in luggage, going through metal detectors and filling out various forms, the 1,500 or so people waiting began to board the gargantuan Norwegian Dawn.
As I was waiting on line, I was struck by how many gay and lesbian parents and their children were taking part in the maiden voyage of "r family vacations," which caters to families of all sizes and shapes. Had anyone wandered into the waiting area, I don’t think he or she would have guessed these were not ordinary families, because, in fact, they are. I spoke to many people on line who were extremely excited to share this extraordinary experience with their young children. It seemed to be the first cruise for most, myself included.
Upon entering the ship, I had the feeling of stepping into an episode of “The Love Boat,” although, truth be told, I couldn’t spot Doc, Gopher, Captain Stubing or cruise director Julie McCoy anywhere. After a bit of exploring, I found my room on the tenth floor — there are an astonishing fourteen decks on the Norwegian Dawn, boasting ten restaurants, several theatres, a few pools, a casino, sun decks and much more. The room is terrific; my favorite part is the door that opens on to a little deck with two deck chairs and a table. You’re literally right on the ocean while in your own stateroom. I actually fell asleep reading Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked” as the ship tore through the seas.
There was a mandatory lifeboat drill at 3:30 PM that took place on each of the floors that has cabins. I happened to be sitting next to Taboo’s Cary Shields, who is one of the entertainers on the ship later in the week. We discussed the enormity of the boat, and then we were all instructed on how to use our life preservers in case of an emergency.
A “Sailaway Celebration” followed on Deck 12 at the Oasis Poolside. There was a barbecue with live music with Broadway’s Billy Porter as well as recorded tunes spun by DJ Michael Connelly. A few of the theatre personalities enjoying the festivities included Darius de Haas, Gavin Creel, Seth Rudetsky, Julia Murney, Jose Llana and Paul Castree. Later in the evening, at 9 PM, Gregg Kaminsky, one of the founders of "r family vacations," welcomed everyone to the ship’s Stardust Theatre before introducing his staff and his business partner, Kelli O’Donnell. After some brief remarks, the evening’s entertainment — Bollywood — began. Featuring the Jean Ann Ryan Company, the production was a mix of Bollywood sights and sounds and dazzling acrobatics. The crowd seemed thrilled by the agile cast and their incredible feats of human strength, and the hour-long show was greeted by a standing ovation.
Well, I’m off to the cruise’s kick-off dance party. Tomorrow night is Rosie’s Variety Show — more to come soon .
Happy sailing, and, of course, happy diva-watching!