What’s life at sea like for an LGBTQ performer on a cruise ship?

© Tommy Bruce for Gay Times

If you’re the kind of traveller who likes to squeeze four or more destinations into one holiday, but hates having to unpack and repack every few days and drag your behind through airport security over and over, a cruise is highly likely the option for you.

Celebrity Cruises is dedicated to “promoting diversity, inclusivity and equality” on their fleet of modern luxury vessels, which also boast fine dining, Broadway-style entertainment, and staterooms that truly feel like you’re in a hotel on the ocean.

But what is life like at sea for the LGBTQ members of the cast and crew?

Gay Times caught up with singing and dancing star of the Celebrity Equinox, Dom, as it sailed through the Caribbean to talk about the cruise liner’s huge Pride events, his favourite cruise destination, and why LGBTQ travellers should choose exploring the high sea for their next adventure.

Is there a real sense of community amongst the performers on board?
Yeah, absolutely. We’re all independent contracts, so we do become a family because once we come to Miami, we are there working six days a week from 9am to 6pm rehearsing these new shows. We all have to come together to not only create a final product, but we also need to create these relationships onstage and offstage. We get a chance to really bond as human being. The cast is all mixed – from different countries, different religious backgrounds, different walks of life. There are heterosexual dancers, there are same gender loving dancers and singers, and we all get along quite well. So we do become a family. We fight like a family, we make up like a family, we laugh, we cry together. We really do become a family on board. It’s quite amazing to me because just on this cruise ship I know there are 72 nationalities, so it’s incredible that within the crew itself, we can all get along and figure it out on a tiny vessel, compared to the rest of the world. If anybody had the chance to cruise, I think the world would be quite different!

How much fun is the Celebrity Cruises Pride Party at Sea event?
I did that on a smaller vessel, which is the Millennium class on the Infinity. It was so much fun. They did a rainbow balloon drop, they had some special cocktails, and they really wanted the cast to mingle and be out there. We were so excited to just be there in general. All of the officers came out, and we had Celebrity gear that was all decked out in rainbow. Especially for me, one of the things I do miss working on a cruise ship is that sense of community outside on land, and it’s just the same on board. You’ll be quite surprised with how many LGBTQ people and allies come together and really do celebrate everybody. With the parties on board, it’s nice. There are also little gatherings for LGBTQ people on board outside of that. As performer on board, it’s quite easy to tell who’s from the community in the audience – there’s a different vibe! Depending on which high note I sing, there’s someone giving me some extra energy. It’s really nice to see that on board, and to work for a company that is such a strong ally.

Why should LGBTQ travellers choose a cruise for their next holiday?
To be honest with you, before I started working on a cruise ship I was very fortunate to travel outside of working on a cruise. But there’s nothing like working on a cruise ship or even vacationing on one, because you can go to bed and wake up in a different country. You don’t have the hassle of airports, you don’t have the hassle of always going through security, you don’t have that sense of rush. Once you get on board it’s your vacation, it’s the way you want it. We keep it very personalised. We’re very knowledgeable in anything that we can assist you with. That’s from needs in entertainment all the way down to just how your stateroom is kept. The on top of that we provide a very genuine service, which is why I think some members of the community would choose to come to Celebrity. We’re very inclusive, and we never want anyone to feel like they’re left out or they don’t belong. We want you to feel like this is the place you were meant to be. You’ll never feel uneasy on board. Being same gender loving, sometimes you can feel like, ‘I don’t know if this is as accepting of a place or environment for me to feel comfortable.’ But I’ve never felt that working on Celebrity. That is the main reason: you’ll feel like you’re at home. If you come for Pride, you’ll feel like you’re in the centre of London or in Los Angeles, having the best time. They really cater to the needs of the guests.

What was the audition process like to get the job?
The audition process varies. For speciality acts, they can submit and they go through an agency. But then they also do an open call across the globe, where they will go to London, Australia, the United States, and they do multiple cities in each country. At the Pineapple Studios in London, they have a big turnout. There’s lines around the corner. For me, I submitted online. A friend was really pushing for me to come work here. She had just finished her first contract, and was like, ‘You’d really love it – you’ll love the music, and the shows.’ So I sent off my information to the casting director and she asked me to send some songs back to her. I did that and ended up on my first contract on the Celebrity Infinity.

© Tommy Bruce for Gay Times

How many different shows do you perform in?
I perform in four production shows, and one of the themed nights. For the shows, there’s a more classical-themed one called Elysium, which will be the last cast to perform on the Celebrity Equinox before they install the new version. Then there’s a big Broadway-style production called Topper, with beautiful costumes. I play a robot in that one! Then there’s our last production show, which is Life. That features all of the dancers and all of the singers, and it’s more of a pop review with a powerful message about love, loss and acceptance. Each show is very challenging and brings different things, so I don’t really have a favourite per se, but I really do enjoy becoming a new character for each show. We also do a Broadway cabaret with just the singers, and that is a very intimate setting. We all get to choose our songs. Then there’s the poolside party which is a rock concert called Celebrity Rocks, and it’s just everything from Aerosmith to Blondie to The Beatles.

When you’re not performing on the ship, what do you do to relax?
If it’s a sea day, I like to be very active on board. I will go up to the gym. I like to stay healthy and active. Then I also like to walk around the ship, and see the guests enjoying their time. I’m such a people watcher! Something that warms my heart is, I see older couples who have obviously taken some ballroom courses at home and it’s so beautiful to watch them dance in some of the venues to the live musicians. We also do hang out as a cast, so we’ll watch movies together. When we are docked in port we’ll go explore together, visit different parts of the city, and go on excursions. Off the ship, it’s an adventure. Even if we’ve been to that port six or seven times already, we always discover something new to do.

What’s your favourite cruise destination and why?
I fell in love with Alaska. It was like a completely different world. I’ve never seen that much nature – especially being born and raised in Los Angeles as a city boy. I never got the chance to experience nature that’s completely untouched. There were time we went on hikes in Alaska that you would just turn around and there was no city, no civilisation behind you. You would just see beautiful snow-capped mountains. So for me, that was my favourite port: Juno, Alaska. I also really love Puerto Rico. There is a mixture of the Caribbean life, but then a Spanish old town. It’s really nice to be able to walk to one side of island and be in the downtown with a fort from the 1800s, and then you just walk a little bit further down and there’s a beautiful Caribbean beach.

To have a taste of a life at sea visit celebritycruises.co.uk, or find them on Twitter @CelebrityCruise.

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