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November 12th, 2013

Aboard The 2013 HIV Cruise Retreat!

Another year, another magical Caribbean adventure with a happy community of people living with HIV and our loved ones. It could only be the annual HIV Cruise Retreat, also known as “the Poz Cruise.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe gathered in Miami from around the world, with a record attendance of almost 300 people. There was a couple from Sweden, a guy from Germany, and a family of five from the West coast. The only thing we had in common was the presence of HIV in our lives — but you would have hardly known it from our high spirits and passion for living. When you’re flying through the rain forest on a zip line with a couple hundred new friends, some of life’s worries just naturally fall away.

I have such affection for this group and this event. Maybe it’s because of the pure joy we have in each other’s company, or the fact that no one feels alone. We take care of each other. It doesn’t feel like a modeling competition the way so many gay events do. Where ever we fall on hotness meter, we are all embraced and welcomed by the group. I think that mutual support shines through in my video blog of the event, below.

And that included the more than 50 straight members of our group. While these men and women have conducted their own activities in years past, our group was far more integrated this year because we all really wanted to be. Not only did it add another dimension to our time together, but it added a naughty quality to our version of The Dating Game (we did a gay game and a straight one, one after another). I don’t think anything on board was funnier than the gay men in the audience cheering on the explicit answers from the straight bachelorettes!

I’m still adding new friends to my Facebook page, and some folks, as usually happens, became more than friends. At least one couple was celebrating an anniversary that commemorated meeting on the cruise retreat in the past. The gay and straight couples in The Newlywed Game really battled it out, and a gay couple prevailed (go team!).

Monkey GrabI should include my usual disclaimer that neither myself nor any of the other hosts are compensated for our participation in the HIV Cruise Retreat. I pay for my cabin like everybody else. The reason I have attended now for four years and serve as M.C. is because I support anything that builds community and lifts up those of us searching for acceptance and social support.

I also know how privileged I am to afford this type of vacation (rates begin around $600). Frankly, I send our cruise director Paul Stalbaum small checks throughout the year so the expense doesn’t sneak up on me. I hope you will forgive me for sharing my good fortune and please know that my intention is to encourage you to seek joy where ever you might find it.

Get ready for next year: it will be the event’s 10th Anniversary and everything about the vacation is improved, from the cruise line (the #1 ranked Celebrity Cruises) to the exciting ports of call leaving from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Check out reviews of The Celebrity Summit here by former passengers!

Zipline GrabThe 2014 HIV Cruise Retreat will take place November 1-8, 2014, and you can find out more by visiting www.HIVCruise.com (the site will be updated with 2014 info soon) or simply contact our travel agent and cruise director Paul Stalbaum (888-640-7447). Paul is living openly with HIV and began leading support groups for people with AIDS more than 20 years ago in Ft. Lauderdale. He is our advocate and champion when it comes to getting us the best price and exclusive perks while on board.

Thanks for watching, and please be well.

Mark

8 Responses to “Aboard The 2013 HIV Cruise Retreat!”

  1. Robert Pollock Says:

    November 12th, 2013 at 11:47 am

    I am definitely interested in the 2014 cruise and would like to know when reservations will be taken, cost of balcony cabins etc. Thank you.

    (Please contact the Cruise Director listed in the article above, Paul Stalbaum. His phone number and we site are included. Hope to see you there! — Mark)

  2. Fernando Martinez Says:

    November 12th, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I sow the video about HIV Cruise Retreat. I think is a wonderful idea to get a chance to share my experiences with more people with HIV+ Would be great!. I I would love to get more information about this topic. …
    FERNANDO

  3. Di Sanchez Says:

    November 12th, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Please keep me incontact about your next poz retreat and how can i do to seperate this trip…

  4. Bruce Middleton Says:

    November 14th, 2013 at 12:04 am

    You will have the time of your life! I can’t say enough positive things about this venture. I’ve known about this retreat for a few years now but never did it. I hope not to miss another one. You’ll meet a lot of special people on this retreat and as hard it is to believe, my very special one was in the stateroom next to mine! When you least expect it and aren’t looking……Thank you HIV Cruise Retreat!

  5. Healed Lee Says:

    November 14th, 2013 at 3:01 am

    I had a ball!! I cannot wait until the next one in 2014!! I will have more fun than I did this year!! See you all there!! <3

  6. Jim Chud Says:

    November 14th, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Mark,
    I think I will finally be healthy enough to join you guys next year. It looks like great fun. I have had 37 spine surgeries over the last 12 years – thank you Merck Pharnaceuticals – a long story – book out next yr. I am eager to go – but I have experienced one of the great tragedies that a gay man can face.(my tongue firmly planted in cheek now) after the most major of these surgeries, I found that the surgeon had ‘accidentally’ nicked the motor nerves that connect with 90% of my pectoral muscles. I had a huge chest, now I have a lot of empty skin with lots of vascularity. I have in the last yr, gotten the courage to take my shower at Gold’s Hollywood after my workout. People come up to me and say wonderful things like ‘ oh my God – you used to be that guy – you know the big guy. I think its so courageous of you to take your shirt off now’. I know that they mean well – but AAAUUUUGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!! To quote Charlie Brown.
    Take care Mark
    Jim

    (While I relate to your gay nightmare, most of us aboard know a little something about aging and body image issues. I look forward to seeing you! We’ll talk. LOL — Mark)

  7. Andrena Says:

    November 16th, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    …hope to join you next year! I need some fun! hugs!!!

  8. David Says:

    November 16th, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    This was my first cruise with Paul’s group and it was a great seven days. I am a little insecure at 64, but felt welcomed by
    the fabulous folks in the group. Looking forward to seeing the friends I met and making new ones next year. I will see you all in San Juan in November 2014.
    David

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