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My video report aboard the HIV Cruise Retreat

If I clear my mind, I can transport myself back to so many fun moments during the 2010 HIV Cruise Retreat. Maybe I’m zip-lining through the rain forest of Costa Rica, or I’m gorging myself at the dessert buffet. The water slide high above the 3,000 passenger ship will always make me smile.

Paul and Mark REDFor the 200 people in our group (and even Dabs the AIDS Bear), it was something more than a vacation. It included education seminars (AIDS treatment updates from activist Nelson Vergel, author of the new book “Testosterone: A Man’s Guide”), live game shows just for our group, and shore excursions that tested our spirit of adventure.

There was a minimum of the strutting or posturing you would normally find among a large group of gay men. Instead, there was a vulnerability we shared (body image issues, from lipoatrophy to weight, were empathetically embraced) that helped us feel closer to one another from the start.

The cruise is the result of the commitment of travel agent Paul Stalbaum (with the joker cap on, above, with me as Orphan Annie at our group’s Red Party on board). Paul not only arranges the cruise details and private shore excursions, he dips into whatever profits he makes to provide a dozen partial scholarships, cash prizes for games, and discounts for future cruises. He’s also a man living with HIV for 29 years; to say this event is a labor of love would be an understatement.

Paul also organizes a cruise for straight folks living with HIV, and that group traveled with us on this cruise, which was great. They also have their own cruise trips, and you can find out more about them here.

I hope the spirit of the cruise comes through in this video blog. We all shared something beyond our HIV status, and I believe it was a sense of joy and gratitude for the life that has been given us. Enjoy the video, my friends, and please be well.





  1. richard November 1, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Sounds like it was a great vacation from life… hope to be on one in the future.

  2. Jason Nero November 1, 2010 at 11:25 am

    You are such a breath of fresh air in the world today in my opinion. I am not HIV Positive but my partner is. He stumbled over your page and the irony is he didn’t register but I did =). I look forward to your emails and your updates and stories. The past two years have been rough for me, and i watch your videos and such and see the freedom and strength and pride that you have that radiates from you. Thank you so much for being you and showing people like me who maybe experiencing rough waters of a diff kind that sometimes you just gotta keep trucking on and loving life! Sending love, hugs and good ole fashioned ass grab to you my friend!!!!!
    (Thanks, Jason. This made my day. — Mark)

  3. bill konigsberg November 1, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Awesome video, Mark! Looks like a lot of fun.

  4. Sherri Lewis November 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Hi Mark,
    Thank you for sharing the Gay HIV Cruise by video. You really get a good sense of it. I’m so glad you were hosting. I know it’s a lot of fun! You were great!
    Lots of love,
    Sherri oxoxo

  5. Dab Garner November 1, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Great video as always buddy. Glad to see everyone had such a great time. Thanks for including Dab the AIDS Bear in your video. Hope you have a great week.
    big bear hug,

  6. Gerry M November 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    “Holy Kaletra” sassy man, you’ve sold me! LOL I’m taking the next HIV cruise this coming spring! And I have no excuse, it departs from my coast I believe? I just read all about the cruises a few weeks ago on the website and thanks in advance to Paul Stalbaum for manifesting a great idea. As always a wonderful segment Mark and thanks for getting the word out about this great gathering.
    Peace and blessings,
    Gerry M.

  7. Tom Donohue November 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Mark, I went on the spring one this year and this brought back sooo many great memories. Thank you for making this video, what a great great video. I sure do miss all my friends I met on our cruise. This just might have me on for next year. Thanks again! Job well done and thanks for the laughs I needed them today.

  8. Steve November 1, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    My favorite part of this video is at the 7:59 mark when you state that you realize at this moment you are not going to die of HIV. No, you are going to die here in the Costa Rican jungle on a Zip Line. There is so much truth, joy and the irony of life in that line. Live on !!!

  9. Tusk November 2, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Hi Mark. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who tried to make the cruise but was hit with the financial reality of living on a fixed income in an impossible economy. In any case, I was there with you all in spirit and hope the high seas brought much joy and hopefully some romance to some of you who least expected it. The night you all left Ft. Lauderdale I put a candle on my altar to keep you guys safe. Glad it was a hoot. xo Tusk

    (Your spell must have worked. Some of the travelers left the boat “two by two.” — Mark)

  10. Subversive Librarian November 2, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Great work as always, Mark. I wondered if Anita made an appearance but I see that Little Orphan Annie might have upstaged her. Well… only if Anita allowed it. Welcome home!

  11. Billy Quercia November 3, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Mark, The Cruise and your seminar as well as the other speakers and activities set forth by Paul has changed my life. I am a board member of the Central/West Florida Ryan White Council and I informed them all about you and the cruise today at our monthly board meeting. They were all impressed and many have already told me they have checked your site out and will be going next year on the cruise. You, Paul, Nate and Glover changed my life and I am so Honored to have met you and have you all as a part of my life. SEE YOU ALL NEXT YEAR and maybe sooner. PEACE to you all!

    (Thank you so much Billy. I had a blast and look forward to doing it again! — Mark)

  12. Sue November 4, 2010 at 9:42 am

    You look “fabulous”!
    Love you Annie.

  13. Sam March 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    This cruise looks like so much fun. I hope to attend this year and enjoy the company of those who can help me laugh and grow. Thanks, Mark, for doing this blog post. Seeing it helped me to make up my mind that this cruise is for me. Sam

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