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Celebrity BEYOND transatlantic cruise: Setting sail

Rome to Ft. Lauderdale crossing features parties, shows, and some rough seas

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Celebrity BEYOND

My 2023 trip to Europe to join the Celebrity BEYOND on a transatlantic voyage back to Ft. Lauderdale has begun. I flew United Airlines to Rome from D.C. The flight was on time and great, except for the food, which as usual on United, was awful. The flight attendant asked what I wanted for lunch, but since it was already 7 p.m., I suggested it may be dinner. She laughed and said yes, dinner. Then I chose the short ribs from the menu and she said, “pick a second choice we only have 14 servings of that.” I laughed, and said then it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t one of the 14 to get the short ribs. 

Other than dinner all went well. We landed in Rome about 10 minutes early. That was made up for when it took over 40 minutes to get our luggage, and it came down on a luggage station already packed with bags from another flight which made it difficult for anyone without extra-long arms to get their bags off the conveyer belt. 

After finally having my bag, I walked out of the baggage claim area, and met my pre-arranged taxi, through Booking.com, and he escorted me to his car. He was a very nice gentleman and his car was a beautiful new Jaguar. It was a nice ride into Rome. I arrived at the UNA Deco hotel, where I have stayed several times before, and got a nice welcome and was told my room was ready early. Wow, a great welcome. Headed upstairs to wash up, and began two wonderful days in Rome. 

I left messages for friends, also staying at the hotel, and arranged to meet them the next morning for breakfast at the great buffet the hotel provides. Then headed out to walk around Rome. For me there is always with a sense of wonder when seeing sights like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon. Rome is packed with tourists, lined up seven deep at the Trevi Fountain.  Even so I bumped into friends there who were also going to be on the cruise. I wandered for hours, stopping for a cappuccino, and a light lunch, and eventually was tired enough to head back to the hotel early for a good night’s sleep. Since I never can sleep on a plane, was exhausted and skipped dinner. Woke refreshed the next morning and met friends for breakfast, and then headed out again. Had a great day and had arranged to meet my friends from Rehoboth Beach, Mary, and Nancy, who were also joining my group on the cruise. Lawrence, from Columbia, who I had met on a previous cruise was staying at my hotel, and he joined us for dinner that evening at a nice restaurant near the Spanish Steps. The ladies were staying near the Spanish Steps and we parted ways with them after dinner and Lawrence and I decided to take a long walk back to our hotel to walk off dinner. 

Day three dawned bright and sunny. After breakfast Lawrence and I headed to the designated meeting place, which was only two blocks from the hotel, to board the bus our hosts (travel agents extraordinaire, Scott and Dustin, of My Lux Cruise) had arranged to take us to Civitavecchia, the port where we were to board out ship.  We met some old, and some new, friends on the bus. As we arrived at the port, we saw the BEYOND was docked close to the Celebrity EDGE and together they made an impressive picture. We arrived at the port about 10:30 and began our check-in to board the ship. 

Courtesy of Scott, I had arranged for an upgrade to use the retreat amenities, the retreat is the fancier part of the ship. I really enjoy the retreat lounge. My cabin was concierge class. I was able to check in at the retreat section and when I handed my passport to the nice lady at the gate, after having dropped off my luggage, there seemed to be a problem. She said I would have to wait and I called Scott from My Lux Cruise over to see if he knew what the problem could be. Turns out she was just waiting for her manager to come over to welcome me on board. They apparently knew I was going to blog and write about the cruise and I thought that was very nice.  We then got online with everyone else to walk up the gangplank to enter the ship. So, the cruise began. 

Celebrity BEYOND Transatlantic Cruise: Blog #2

Day 1 on the ship begins and we are welcomed by a great crew as we walk up the gangway. The BEYOND has a very similar feel to the EDGE and the APEX, both on which I had cruised before. Clearly Celebrity BEYOND is a beautiful ship. I went directly to my cabin, set up my computer, and unpacked the one small bag I carried with me. The larger luggage was to be delivered to the cabin. Then I set out to tour the ship. 

Again, it has a very familiar feel but there were some clear differences. The first thing I did was head to my muster station to check in, which every guest must do. It’s so you know where to go in case of any emergency during the cruise. There, one of the crew checking us in, was a very attractive and charming young man, who it turned out was one of the entertainers, an aerialist. He and his partner would perform during the cruise. I chatted with him and found he was from Ukraine, and of course knew the talented Bilak Brothers, who I have written about. Guess there is something in the water in Ukraine that breeds aerialists. I suggested I wanted to interview him later in the cruise, and he said that would be great.

Next, I headed to the Sunset Bar, larger than on the other EDGE ships and beautiful. I knew it had been designed by the talented Nate Burkus. I was going to be spending time there. The plentiful artwork around the ship was intriguing. Not sure I appreciated all of it, but then art is always in the eye of the beholder. The elephant at the pool is great. But another piece I stopped to look at thinking ‘why?’ Then near me I overheard a couple say, “wow, isn’t that beautiful.” Yes, we all appreciate art differently. I continued my tour looking at the various lounges, and then headed to EDEN, a lounge where the LGBTQ happy hour would be held each evening, and shows would be performed. Walking toward the Eden lounge on APEX you walk through a silver tunnel. On the Beyond, you walk into a black space, with silver freeform sculptures on the wall, floor, and some hanging from the ceiling. In some ways beautiful, but dangerous. There is one silver ball hanging from the ceiling directly in the walkway, which anyone over 5’9 must duck, not to smash into. I am surprised Celebrity hasn’t been sued yet. The black mirrors are such one woman walked into one while I was there, thankfully she wasn’t hurt. Again, art is in the eye of the beholder, but this installation actually seems dangerous. Once I navigated through the tunnel, the EDEN lounge is as great as on other EDGE series ships. 

Scott and Dustin, of My Lux Cruise, had invited our group of nearly 100 to a 4:30 sail-away party in their suite, one of two amazing Iconic suites, on the ship. The other was occupied by Mark and Juan, an incredible couple, I first met on a Panama Canal cruise. So, I headed back to my cabin to wash up and change, expecting to see my luggage. No such luck. I was surprised since it was now five hours since we checked our luggage on the pier. I was to find out even those in the Iconic suites were missing some of theirs. Seems there was a small issue, and what was to be priority luggage, for the retreat passengers, never really got labeled as such, and the luggage sat for hours on the pier. So, I headed to the sail-away party and it was great. Dustin and Scott, working with Christophe, the Hotel Director, set up a fun party. There were old friends to greet, and new ones to meet, a perfect start to the cruise. Just a side note, Christophe had been Hotel Director on the APEX until recently, and we met him last year. He is a great guy. I hope to work with him during the cruise to set up some interviews with the Captain and other crew, if Celebrity corporate gets out of the way. After the party a few of us headed to the Tuscan restaurant, one of the four main dining rooms, for a relaxed dinner. Then it was an early night for me, looking forward to day 2 and my first excursion. 

Celebrity BEYOND Transatlantic Cruise: Blog #3

Day 2 on BEYOND dawned bright, and I had arranged to have coffee, juice, and a bagel delivered to the room. It was delivered late, but the room service manager called, apologized, and promised it would be on time for the rest of the cruise. I always do a continental breakfast in the room. I then headed to the theater, to check in for my first excursion. 

The theater is beautiful, and was crowded with those checking in for various excursions. Mine was a bus trip to Papallo, and Santa Margherita, and then a small boat ride to Portofino. I was going with my friends Mary and Nancy from Rehoboth, Beach. They are all small, beautiful, tourist towns, on the coast.  We were treated to breakfast in Rapallo, some pastries and cappuccino, and took a walk around town with our guide. Then it was back on the bus, and off to Santa Margherita, another pretty town. As we were heading there our guide confirmed the sea was quite rough, something we could see, and the planned boat trip to Portofino was cancelled. She then told us we could take a taxi, or small bus, from Santa Margherita, along a narrow road to Portofino. Many of us did take the bus. It was worth it as Portofino really is a beautiful place, with a great little harbor. But you understood again why the boat trip was cancelled as the water was lapping over the harbor wall, onto some of the streets. But that didn’t stop any of us from enjoying our time there.  After returning to Santa Margharita, and all-in-all a very nice day, the bus brought us back to the ship around 4pm. 

I then headed to the retreat lounge for another cappuccino, and met some of the group there. Then it was time to change and the LGBTQ+ happy hour in the Eden lounge. This was a precursor to dinner, again in one of the main dining rooms, and then a Halloween costume Party back in the Eden lounge. This party was arranged by Scott and Dustin. They had a roped off area in the lounge for our group, and there were some great costumes. In fact, a couple of the guys went on to win prizes in the ship-wide Halloween Party and contest, held a little later in the Martini Bar. Everyone was in great spirits all evening. The great thing about these cruises is you can stay and party till the wee hours, even head to the casino to try your luck, or if you are like me, you can head back to the cabin around eleven, for a good night’s sleep. Yes, I am getting old, LOL.

Day 3 on BEYOND dawned partly cloudy, and I had planned to do an eight-hour excursion to Nice and Monaco. Instead, went with my friend Ken, on our own excursion. We took the ship’s tender into VilleFranche -sur-mer. A charming town. Also taking the tender was my aerialist friend, and we walked around with him for a while. He had to be back at the ship early to prepare for a show that evening. Ken and I took the train to Nice. It was only a short trip and we walked around Nice, and took the tram to the beach. It wasn’t the main port, and was a little disappointing, but we had nice lunch and enjoyed walking around. Ken was looking for a pharmacy but they were all closed. We had forgotten it was All Souls Day. Then it was time to take the train back to VilleFranche, and board the tender back to the ship. Just as we got on the tender, it began to rain. We felt our timing was perfect. It was another nice day off the ship. 

Now it was time to relax, wash up, and then head to the LGBTQ+ happy hour, which I do each evening. Then it was dinner again, this time in Cyprus, another of the four main dining rooms.  Now this was going to be a little later evening for me, as the first show I wanted to see was being performed in the EDEN lounge at 10:45. It was one where my friend the aerialist, and his partner, were performing. They were great, as was the entire cast. Talented singers and dancers.  So, it was worth staying up past my bedtime. In any event, day 4 was going to be our first sea day. 

Celebrity BEYOND Transatlantic Cruise: Blog #4

Day 4 dawned bright and windy, with the ship’s motion a little strong from side to side. It was not a day to be outside so the inside lounges and solarium pool were going to be crowded. I had my usual breakfast delivered to the room, exactly on time with a charming waiter, and then did some writing. Then I headed to the gym. I had made a commitment to myself to go to the gym every sea day, and I intend to keep that commitment. The gym was busy but my timing was great. I headed to the lifecycle area and just as I got there one of the bikes opened. I spent about an hour in the gym and felt proud of myself. Then I treated myself, and headed to the retreat lounge for a cappuccino. I met some of the guys from our big LGBTQ group, Mike and Jason, and others who were also sitting there chatting and relaxing. We then all headed to the retreat restaurant, Laminae, for lunch. It was my first meal there this cruise. I had a simple, but great, burger and fries. Then I just wandered around the ship and found a nice place to sit and read till it was time to head back to the cabin and change for happy hour. I did contact the guest relations desk, asking to set up a meeting with Christophe, the Hotel Director. He very able assistant contacted me and suggested we could meet at the retreat lounge the next evening at 6:30 which sounded great to me. 

The evening was nice. We went to the early show in the theater. The show, Stage Door, with the production cast was great. They sang and danced to a wide variety of musical numbers from Broadway shows. Then Paul, John, Ken, and I headed to Fine Cut, the steak house for dinner. While we weren’t all that thrilled with the meal, I must admit some others who have eaten there, raved about it. After dinner we headed to the Martini Bar and it was crowded. By eleven I headed back to the cabin. 

Day 5 dawned sunny and windy. We docked early in Malaga, Spain. I have been to Malaga often, and had signed up for an excursion to Mijas, a small mountain town above Fuengirola, on the Costa Del Sol. I went because I wanted to see what the town looked like today, nearly fifty years after I was first there. While it is a beautiful, and a busy tourist town today, for me it was disappointing as I remembered it as a small cute town with a few main streets. Now you can buy a condo there for a mere $500,000 as advertised in one of the real estate shops. But it was a nice drive down the coast. We got back to the ship by 1:00pm and I headed back to the retreat lounge to relax. That evening I met some of the group and we headed to the show in the theater, Legacy, three very talented singers. From there we went to one of the main dining rooms, Tuscan, for dinner, and had a relaxed evening at the Martini bar. The next day, Saturday, would begin six days at sea as we crossed the Atlantic to Bermuda. 

At the show we were warned there was a big storm in the North Atlantic, and the Captain determined he would change the route of the ship to a more southern route and try to avoid the worst of the storm. We were told there would be some higher waves and we would feel the rocking of the ship. We sure did feel it beginning that night. 

I woke up on Day 6 to the room rocking. I was OK with that, and felt no sea-sickness. That was not the same for all in our group. I was impressed with my room service waiter who still delivered my breakfast on time, and carried the tray without a problem. The crew has great sea legs. The first of our six sea days had begun.

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In debate, Biden must stay on offense

President needs more lines like ‘I am running against a 6-year-old’

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President Joe Biden (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

On June 27, President Joe Biden will debate the man he has called a six-year-old. A great line, and he needs a few more like that. Unless there is a clear stumble by either candidate, we know what they will say. Trump will call Biden ‘sleepy Joe,’ among other names. But the reality is, people are used to it. They are not as used to Biden returning the favor. And Biden, aside from referring to Trump as a convicted felon, needs some lines that will make headlines the next day. Something with a little humor in it, but still making a strong point. 

Trump is scary. The recent column in the Washington Post on how Russ Vought, the former president’s budget director, is laying the groundwork for a broad expansion of presidential powers, is truly frightening. Now if it were me, I would be able to use my usual litany of words when referring to Trump: racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic pig, found liable for sexual assault, and convicted felon. I may even go as far as suggesting society replace the word felon with “Trump.” People at trials could be convicted of 34 “Trumps.” But Biden can’t really use that. Maybe Biden can do something like look him in the eye and say, “You can’t really believe all the BS you keep spouting!” Then add, “The world is a complicated place, and even most six-year-olds seem to have a better understanding and grasp of it than you do.” 

Then there is the focus on the very serious part of the debate. The discussion of issues including the economy, abortion, contraception, and foreign policy. Reminding people, it was Trump who killed the immigration bill in Congress, telling energy billionaires if they raise him a billion dollars, in essence bribe him, they can “drill baby drill.” The president needs to speak to African Americans, Latinos, women, and the young. He needs to tell each of those groups what will happen if the six-year-old he is running against, were to become president again. 

Then he needs to look directly into the camera and say to the audience at home, “It isn’t only Trump you need to fear, it is the people he will surround himself with. His sycophants and cult, who will let him get revenge on anyone who says a word against him.” You can count on the fact it will be much worse than the last time around when he tried to stage a coup, because no decent person will work for him.

The first debate will take place 18 weeks before the Nov. 5 election. So much can change between then and the election. Remember when we talked about an October surprise? In today’s world there could be July, August, and September surprises as well. Between now and election day we will be treated to an overload of polling, most of it wrong. We will read hundreds of headlines, many of them clickbait. If you watch TV you will get to listen to hundreds of talking heads, many knowing no more than you. The difference being, they are being paid to spout off on the election, giving not facts, but their opinions. 

It seems every four years we hear this could be the most important, the most crucial, election of our lifetime. Well, this time those who say it just may be telling the truth. One candidate, convicted of 34 “Trumps,” is telling you he will be a dictator, and using Hitler’s words. He has the likes of Russ Voight advising him, and openly says he will seek revenge. Nothing could be more frightening. He is telling the young he doesn’t care about climate change, and telling the poor their programs will be cut because he will cut taxes for the rich.  

He calls our soldiers, those who sacrificed their lives and died in wars, “suckers and losers.” He called John McCain “a war hero because he was captured,” saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.” This frightening, sick man, with the world view of a warped six-year-old, will lead the United States if we aren’t willing to stand up to him, and his MAGA cult. Yes, I am afraid! And you should be too! If you are a woman, a minority, a member of the LGBTQ community, or just poor, be scared, be very afraid! If Trump and his cult win, you will lose what little you think you now have.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Why you should celebrate pride with a musical about GenderCannibalism?

Rose: You Are What You Eat, through June 23 at Woolly Mammoth.

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Photo courtesy of Woolly Mammoth.

Because when I came out as trans my aunt told me it was because I ate my twin in the womb…and that’s what the show is about

Because…remember that time when you decided to dress like exactly like your older sister; or you stole your mothers’ makeup or your brother’s tie; or you decided to dress up like Katherine Hepburn for halloween when you were (i dunno) 10; or you started to look eerily like your lover…..that’s all gender cannibalism

Because because because because because….” because if you know that song this was made for you…and if you don’t…it’s okay, we’ll work on it

Because you can probably find a cute date at the show irl instead of just swiping in your phone…think of theater as an in person dating app without as much drunkenness as the bar

Because maybe that cute date is me

Because you can sing along to music written by a bunch of queers from Philly and D.C. 

Because we are all so hungry and so so thirsty 

Because I guarantee you will leave feeling fed

Because cannibalism puns are tasty

Because it’s a comedy

Because there are pay-what-you-can tickets

Because it plays all of June

Because we are consuming gender all the time but rarely watching what and how we eat it 

Because it’s an anti-assimilationist endeavor: the corporations can’t co-opt “gender cannibalism” for pride month (but there is merchandise available at the show…)

Because it’s only 75 minutes

Because I dance around in tighty whities with socks on my hands

Because there is a free clothing swap and treats in the gallery next to the show

Because why not?

Because you will be cast as my Mother, and that’s the role of a lifetime (or at least my lifetime)

Because you won’t know what will happen; you can’t pause or rewind the show; you will be taking a risk; you will find it’s more than just entertainment; you will feel me talking right to you

Because I’ve been writing this show for 34 years and am finally ready to share it with you

Because I’ll be in the lobby afterwards to say hi, and receive hugs, stories, and phone numbers 

Because I made this piece for you, my dear deviants, trans folx, genderful ones and for the people that care for us. It is a good laugh and a good cry and meant as a gift, a way to end your day feeling loved, nourished and worthy

Because don’t you want to be nourished and reminded that you are loved and worthy? 

And frankly because art needs you to survive and you need art to thrive

Because I took the time to write this letter to you and you took the time to read it, and neither you nor I want to waste that investment

Because you won’t want to miss it

Get tickets to Rose: You Are What You Eat, playing through June 23rd.

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Elon Musk is a danger to society

X has become a warped platform that spews anti-trans hate

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Elon Musk (Photo by shganti777/Bigstock)

Elon Musk is officially a danger to society. As of mid May of 2024, X.com, the platform formerly known as Twitter, has started banning accounts that use the word “cisgender” or “cis,” deriding it as a slur. For those who don’t know, “cisgender” refers to any person whose gender aligns with the genitalia they were assigned at birth. Erasing the word “cisgender” from tweets, or X.com remarks, ensures that gender nonconforming people can’t articulate the bigotry they feel in this world. 

Musk has been notorious for his transphobia. It didn’t just start in mid-May of this year. In June of 2023, during Pride month, Musk liked a bunch of transphobic tweets. For instance, he promoted the Matt Walsh documentary, “What is a Woman?”, which was a film in transmisogyny. 

Moreover, in July of 2022, Musk’s transgender teenage daughter sought separation from her father because he was hateful toward her and bullied her because of her gender identity. In December 2022, Musk tweeted “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” mocking the words that transgender people need to enunciate who we are. This wasn’t the first time that Musk mocked pronouns. 

Musk is becoming increasingly dangerous toward trans people, especially as X.com takes on a new dimension — turning into a warped platform that spews conspiracy views, including right-wing thoughts that trans people shouldn’t exist, and other ultraconservative opinions. 

What adds heavy weight to the danger that Musk poses is the relative success of his companies and the wealth, measured in dollars, that he carries on his shoulders. SpaceX is valued at around $180 billion, and Tesla is worth approximately $571 billion. The more wealth Musk accumulates, the more power is attached to his transphobia. Already, he is consciously allowing employees within his companies to mock transgender people. Having a CEO who openly teases a marginalized population is a recipe for that company to tease said population as well. 

As a former small business owner, I’m actually a huge fan of Musk’s work. The billionaire is brilliant beyond belief, and, after being bullied in school in South Africa, earned degrees in physics and economics from the University of Pennsylvania. At one point, he was working so hard on one of his first startups that he often slept in the office and showered at a local YMCA. In interviews, it is clear that Musk borders, if not embodies, genius. His intellectual prowess is second to none. 

Additionally, the mogul has been open about his diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome and bipolar disorder. It’s impressive, to say the least, that Musk has racked up all of these accomplishments despite having these diseases of the mind and body. He has vocalized his use of ketamine therapy, for instance, in treating his bipolar, which is a ballsy move to make as CEO. 

Unfortunately, though, Musk just won’t stop with his transphobia. He is making X.com a non-democratic place for sponsored conspiratorial speech, and banning words is the farthest thing from freedom, which is a virtue he claims to embody. 

Many scholars of Elon have noted that he lives in a distorted reality, and I have to agree with that sentiment. Banning “cisgender” from X.com is certainly a distorted thing to do, and should be looked upon as a danger to society. 

Isaac Amend is a writer based in the D.C. area. With two poetry books out, he writes for the Blade and the Yale Daily News. He is a transgender man and was featured in National Geographic’s “Gender Revolution” documentary. He serves on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Contact him at [email protected] or on Instagram at: @literatipapi

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