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The Great Gay Outdoors: Cruising in Alaska

gay alaska

OUT contributor Zachary Zane discusses his first time on Princess' gay-friendly Alaskan cruise. 


My life is very gay. I go to gay bars. I write for gay publications. I wear crop tops and leather booty shorts. I delete Grindr only to get drunk and re-download it four days later. I go to at least two drag shows a week, and my straight roommate has even begun tongue-popping with the occasional Okurrrr when he gets excited.

I love the life I’ve created for myself and the creative queers with whom I surround myself, but at times, it can be, exhausting. Dramatic would be another word, but I don’t want to perpetuate any negative stereotypes about gay men… even when they’re 100% true.

This is all a long way of saying, it’s nice to get away.

That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to cruise down Alaska with Princess Cruises. I figured it would be good for me to take some time off cruising, to go, well, cruising… only on an ocean. Less bears with harnesses and more bears eating salmon.

Alaska has always been one of those places I had dreamed of going, but didn’t think my life would ever take me there. As a queer man, there are simply too many other places I have to go to first, like Mykonos. (Gotta be a basic biddy and get them IG followers. Am I right ladies?)

And to be completely honest, I’m not one of those “outdoorsy gays.” I’m not that friend who’s like, “Do you like camping? We should totally rent a cabin somewhere in upstate New York. I just need to get out of the city for a little bit.” No. Those aren’t words that will ever come out of my mouth.

But like the drag queen, Alaska surprised me, and in the end, I’d say she slayed the competition. (Sorry Mykonos!) I think I may be more of an outdoorsy person than I realized. I may even go ahead and add “rugged” to my Grindr tribe, because I scaled a 60-foot glacier using spiked boots and sickles. (That may not be the actual word they use to describe the hammers, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was attempting to figure out how the hell I was going to make up that vertical block of ice.) 

That’s the thing about Alaska: Everything is epic, and a cruise is the best way to see it all. From the balcony of my room I would see glaciers that ran miles long. The air begins to taste fresher when you’re that close to a glacier. In my very scientific analysis, air hits the glacier, bounces to you, and you can actually taste the coolness from 200-feet away. After tasting the air outside Juneau, I finally understood what those Dentyne Ice commercials are all about.

There are also activities for everything you thought imaginable. Princess Cruises has it all set up and ready to go, so it’s very easy to book the excursions through them. I went river rafting, which had some class 3 and 4 rapids. Mudflap, the man in charge of our river expedition, told us before hopping on the raft, “Sometimes, you just gotta take it the face.” I vehemently agreed, and then asked what he was specifically referencing. He informed me how it’s necessary to lean into the waves and get a wet while you’re paddling for your life. I totally agreed.

Then there are a bunch of other activities, including taking an ATV ride through Alaskan wilderness, whale watching, salmon fishing, hiking, seeing wild bears in Denali National Park (I actually saw them! I told them if they ever make it to NY that I’ll take them to the Eagle, but not sure if they heard me. They were gingerly picking and eating berries.)

And the rest of the time, while you’re not gallivanting through the Alaskan wilderness, you’re on a cruise, which honestly, isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I thought I was going to go a little stir crazy – or whatever the nautical term of “cabin fever” is. But with all the excursions during the day, you’re wiped out by the evening. Best part is, the moment you’re back on the cruise, you start drinking rosé. You walk around – like a dignified old lady – going from room to room, eating, playing trivia, eating, watching the cruise performers who are all surprisingly talented (not sure why cruise performers get a bad rep), and then eating more.

It’s the perfect ratio of activity to laziness. You also, of course, can choose to have a more relaxed vacation or to take a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier and go dog sledding with huskies. The choice is yours.

But I think the best part of the Princess Cruise, which appropriately markets themselves as gay-friendly, was the escape it offered. It provides a little distance from the gay lives we know and love, but sometimes need a break from, and if you actually are one of those guys who loves the outdoors, then you’re going to be absolutely obsessed.

So instead of taking another trip to upstate NY, Fire Island, or Provincetown, maybe it’s time to embrace that inner rugged, outdoorsy gay that lives in you, and take a cruise alongside our great nation’s 49th state.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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