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All Aboard the HIV Cruise Retreat


Richard is handsome and adorably shy. His sister began emailing me a few months ago, wondering if her brother might enjoy the HIV Cruise Retreat, because he isn't able to disclose his status comfortably in his fairly small town.

RayDavidSMALL.jpgOn the last night of the cruise I gave him an award for "Sweetest Backstory," explaining to the crowd that his cruise ticket was a Christmas gift from his sister, who clearly loves him very much (the awards are really just a silly way to acknowledge various people on the ship). He accepted the award with tears streaming down his face, while dozens upon dozens of new friends applauded heartily.

It is that fellowship, that embrace of our lives and all that we are, that best describes the week-long event on the high seas.

For seven days, I lived in a state of enhanced gratitude. For my life, my health, and for the people who organize the retreat.

Sailing from Ft Lauderdale to various islands of the Caribbean, the Cruise Retreat included more than 200 gay men, women and our supporters. We feasted on non-stop food and the loving embrace of friends old and new.

Along the way, there were games, shore excursions and even budding romances. The protective walls that often surround those of us living with HIV came crumbling down, replaced with new relationships, email addresses and phone numbers. By the time we docked back in Ft Lauderdale, hugs were long and new confidants had been established.

I don't expect that everyone has the ability to afford the trip, but the message of the event - reach out for support and friendships where ever you might find them - echoes in my mind and heart today.

Thanks for watching, and please be well.


p.s.  The 2013 cruise is sailing November 2-9, 2013, but cabins fill up months in advance.  Personally, I send the travel agent a little here and there throughout the year to make it easier, but the affordable rates might surprise you. NOTE:  Although this cruise is often referred to as "The Poz Cruise," it has no affiliation with POZ Magazine.

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Comments on Mark S. King's blog entry "All Aboard the HIV Cruise Retreat"


One of the returning co-hosts here, going on his eighth cruise. Paul, the travel agent does match up singles by cabin type, age and smoking preferences. We have our own (optional) activities and dining room section. It can be a very laid back week for those who work hard the other 51 weeks of the year, or, as much fun as one wants to partake of shipwide activities. One of our group usually wins the hairy chest contest!

I've made good friends from around the U.S. with whom I've visited and have visited me. It's like having a new set of cousins! Mark is a great emcee at our socials and one year gave an award for a member of our yahoo group who asked if the cabins had bidets. No question is too naive to be asked. And, no they don't.

Hope to meet you on board!

I have been on five Cruise Retreats with Paul and the gang. During those cruises I have made lifelong friends with people from around the country. Celebrating my honeymoon with my life partner and many HIV friends during the 2012 cruise was truly a vacation we will never forget..

Great opportunity for personal, social, business etc to connect with POZ communities and supporters. Blessings on and for all.

Thanks for the beautiful column! I have never especially wanted to go on a cruise (even a Gay one), but now I'm more tempted than ever: new friends romance, adventure on the high seas. How can you go wrong?

It was my first cruise last fall, I truly enjoyed myself for seven days and I still can't stop thinking about the great time. I met a lot of wonderful people and have been able to keep in touch with them either through email or phone calls. I am looking forward to the up coming cruise, I think I was probably one of the first to reserve my cruise. I convinced my brother and his wife to join us on the cruise and they seem to be pretty excited to be a part of the Poz cruise. I am looking forward to seeing everyone again and meet new people.

Thanks Mark for a great article. For over a decade Paul Stalbaum has been creating "safe space" for our community. Hats off to you and the whole crew!

Mark makes the cruise sound so inviting and fun

Wow!! How do I sign up?

Thanks for the great description of the cruise. I've been on two and am signed up for this one (hoping to find a cabin mate this time). I've had a great time on both of them. Paul does a great job with putting this together and the events organized just for the group are always great fun!

Cruise sounds fun and much is it to go? What is your cut/kickback for promoting it the way you do? Hmmmmmm ......

Minnie Pearl asks me an important question, above: "What is your cut/kickback for promoting the cruise?"

I do not profit from this cruise in any way. I pay for a discounted cabin (no window), and also pay for my extras, my shore excursions, etc. (Pricing info is available at

In return, I host the group events and MC the game shows. It's a great gig, no doubt about it, and I happily pay my way because I love events that build community among people living with HIV.

Thanks for the question! I would never want to take advantage of POZ or the trust of my readers for my own personal gain. I really do believe in this event.

personally I think this is all well and good for THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT!!
When I contacted the organizers of this cruise to inquire about some sort of scholarship program they did NOT even show me the courtesy of a reply. Shameful!----- Rick

In attempting to comment anonymously I was rejected, so apparently all is nOT what it seems

thanks for this story, mark. i grew up in ft lauderdale and have always wondered whether these cruises were worth the investment of time and money or not.
i guess you've answered my question. is the 2013 cruise sold out?

Sounds like it was a blast. Have you ever considered doing a cruise for heterosexuals as well. I dont knock any one on their preference but myself I am straight so I would like to able to be among straight men as well. Just curious.

Interested in meeting people with HIV and dating.

Thank you, Mark for the great article! I was on the cruise you see in the video (and in the video if you look really hard! LoL!) Being a "Poz" from a small town in central IL, as you can imagine, can be difficult for me to find people who share my experience. The "Poz Cruise" has changed my life. No kidding. I have made some lifelong friends and know people who met their Life Partner on-board. Nothing could be better than Sun, Sand and Sea to bring people together and share our stories and our lives. Again, thanks to Mark King for the article and to Paul Stalbaum of Cruise Designs Inc. for helping to make my lifepath a better road.

Michael M.

This cruise sounds like a lot of fun, and the price is certainly affordable. My question for those who have gone is; are there a significant number of younger (under 35 or so) people that go? Most of the poz friends I have are in their 40s or 50s and it would be nice just to meet some people around my age (25). Thanks.

i've never heard about this cruise before .. i think it's a great thing !! i bet it is empowering to be around so many other hiv positive people in one place..

Can you go on these cruises as a single neg guy 420?

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This page contains a single entry by Mark S. King published on March 15, 2013 8:32 AM.

HIV and Gay Media: The Vanishing Virus was the previous entry in this blog.

My Sad and Trivial Night with Rock Hudson is the next entry in this blog.

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