Olivia Thanksgiving Cruise

My favorite way to vacation!

This was my fourth cruise with Olivia Travel, and the best one yet. I took my sister to celebrate her 40th birthday, and we had so much fun. We made amazing new friends, danced every night until the wee hours, ate, drank, and laughed ourselves silly.


We started our trip with a luxurious stay at The Hotel Zamora in Saint Pete Beach. It is the cutest little boutique hotel with the friendliest staff. We had a lovely room with a beautiful water view. And the restaurant, Castille, would be worth making the trip for all on its own. 



The deck off the restaurant has a dreamy waterfront vibe and the menu offers some of the best tapas I’ve ever had in the US.  I could have eaten the lobster ajillo all night long.  I am a firm believer in arriving a day early for any cruise. There is no point starting out a vacation worrying about whether you will make it to the boat on time! And the Hotel Zamora was the perfect pre-cruise overnight spot.


We boarded Holland America’s beautiful ms Rydam around 1:30. The line is SO much shorter at the point in the day. We got all checked in and then picked up the coveted Solos dog tags for those who are either single or traveling alone. We got to meet one of our Solos coordinators for the week, Sara Stone. It was my first time single on an Olivia Cruise and I could tell already I was in very good hands!


As we showed our ship cards, Jill Cruse, VP of Olivia Travel was there to greet us. Our cabin had a big picture window and plenty of space for my little sister and I to settle in. After unpacking we headed for the Solos reception where we met as many of the 300 or so Solos onboard as we could. I even got to see a few old friends from the last cruise! Then it was time to muster and that, strangely, was when the fun really began. 


While at muster, we began talking to two of the girls we were standing next to. The conversation then moved inside the ship where a friend from a past cruise and a friend of the girls we met joined us and then we were 6. It was obvious that something fun was afoot. So we made our way to the Lido Deck for our first official toast!


That night we all met up for the Bonnie Raitt concert. The show was too short but truly stellar. Raitt looks and sounds exactly as she did a zillion year’s ago. It was incredible to be able to see her in such an intimate setting. Cris Williamson joined her on-stage and, yes, I cried. True music magic.  After the show, it was time for dinner. We queued up and ended up meeting a couple we loved and there it was our merry band of eight. Little did we know at that moment, these were the girls who would make our trip!


After dinner we danced, and drank champagne, and did tequila shots at the sailaway party.  We then ended the night by climbing to the very top deck of the ship just as we glided under the most glorious bridge. It was the perfect ending to a perfect start to our trip.


In the morning we joined our gaggle for breakfast and then made our way to the pool at the bow of the boat where there were tons of chairs to be had and literally the most perfect weather. It was downright glorious, honestly. We were surrounded by new friends and rows of happy, lesbian couples and solos alike. While I love being in the world in general, I truly cherish being in the Olivia world, where there is no judgment of any sort and everyone knows your name. 


We later made our way to the Lido Deck where we got talked into playing the Wet and Wild pool games, which we lost but were having too much fun to care! As the sun was setting, we took to the chairs on the side deck and wrote and read and talked about the day. It was the ideal way to wile away the late afternoon. 


Comedian Poppy Champlin was the night’s entertainment and was hilarious. I love stand-up comedy. But I especially love lesbian stand-up comedy and Champlin is among the best of the best. We had to set down our drinks for fear of spillage – or spittage! After the show was another dinner for eight and then up to Club O where DJ Citizen Jane was spinning. We found ourselves drinking the specality of the house – Wang Wangs, which have seven different spirits in them. Needless to say, only one is advised. 

The next morning we woke up in Costa Maya. The weather was lovely and I finally caved and went to Señor Frogs. It’s poolside with wifi and served as the perfect backdrop for a day of talking and laughing and writing and drinking oversized mojitos served in obscenely shaped glasses. The day slipped away as we dipped in and out of the pool, and soaked in the sun and each other.


That night Singer/Songwriter Nedra Johnson performed. Her music had everyone swaying, laughing and tearing up. We had the best dinner in the ship’s Italian restaurant, Canaletto, sharing plate after plate of every item on the menu, believe it or not. The night ended with dancing, once again, until we were the only ones left in Club O with DJ Pat Pat spinning.


We woke up to a rainy day in Guatemala the next morning.  So we cancelled our beach bbq break excursion we had planned. Instead, we had a lovely day doing puzzles, writing and laying low. The evening got under way with a rousing game of Oldyweds Newlyweds with the always hilarious Suzanne Westenhoefer as host. 


That night I was incredibly grateful to be invited to join Judy Dlugacz at dinner in the ship’s glorious steakhouse, the Pinnacle Grill with a long table of illustrious guests, including Poppy Champlin, Cris Williamson and her partner Judy Werle, Rachel Wahba, Nedra Johnson, Olga Murray (Founder of the Nepal Youth Foundation), and Sandra Valls. It was overwhelming, truly, to be dining with this incredibly powerful group of women who have changed the lives women who love women each in their own unique and incredibly important way.


The night ended with, what else?, dancing in Club O with DJ Pat Pat and DJ Citizen Jane spinning. The boat was rocking and pitching so much that night that we had make it part of our dancing, moving with the ship as we went.

The next day brought us to Mahogany Bay, Roatan where there was more rain to be had. No matter. We enjoyed the day onboard and dashed through the drops to check out the little shopping village at the port. But we were more than happy to enjoy our weeklong home regardless of the weather outside.


Cris Williamson was the evening entertainment and I was not alone as I swooned for an hour listening to the musical legend who paved the way for so many of the lesbian powerhouse musicians today. It was an honor and a joy to see her in such a small venue surrounded by so many other fans who adore her. 


We celebrated by sister’s birthday with dinner at The Pinnacle. But this time the steakhouse was transformed for one night only into New York’s famed Le Cirque restaurant. We had the most glorious meal and sang and toasted to my little sister turning the big 4-0 in just two days time. 


The rest of the night, yes, Club O. So much fun to have a place to go dancing every night. DJ Citizen Jane was killing it in the DJ booth and we weren’t doing to badly ourselves on the dance floor. 


Friday morning we were scheduled to be in Cozumel. But the seas were so harsh that day and the night before that we spent the evening in port allowing us to eat and dance and play without all the rocking. Then we spent Friday cruising instead of in port. The high seas simply would not have allowed us to get ashore. 


Luckily the weather cooperated on Friday and we spent the day soaking in the sun without giving two seconds thought to whether is was a beach in Cozumel or the top deck of the ms Ryndam where we were enjoying our day. The entertainment for the evening was the insanely hilarious Sandra Valls who had us rolling in our seats as much as the boat was on the sea and for the sixth night in a row was had dinner with our now cemented for life party of eight.  


It’s not every day that you make such incredible, fast friends, particularly a large group of eight as we were. But we were the perfect traveling, eating, drinking, dancing, and everything companions. I felt like the luckiest girl on that high seas that week. Thank you, Rebecca, Victoria, Christi, Jen, Kim, D, and Ruth. 


Club O after dinner and then to bed for a well-deserved night’s sleep.


Saturday was breezy and sunny and wistful as we knew it was our last, laying out on the deck and connecting with friends new and old. Suzanne Westenhoefer performed stand-up that night and was entirely too funny. I have seen her perform several times and although she is always quite good, she was exceptional that Saturday night. We celebrated my sister’s birthday in earnest at dinner and at Club O as it was official that day and it was the perfect way to wrap up a perfect week.


There are lots of ways to vacation and lots of ways to travel. Olivia is one of my favorite. Judy has created “the world the way it should be” with groups of women looking for only one thing – the ability to feel free. And she has done it flawlessly. Although I’m delighted to be back home, I miss my new friends and the community of Olivia. No matter how many times I go, when an Olivia trip ends, I am always excitedly awaiting the next.