On Monday afternoon, nearly 2,000 people arrived in Juneau for their first stop on the 30th anniversary RSVP Vacations cruise. The cruise line caters exclusively to gay and lesbian people.
The Southeast Alaska LGBTQ+ Alliance, also known as SEAGLA, hosted an event for cruise patrons at the Imperial Saloon downtown. Nearly 200 patrons mingled, drank and played billiards during the two-hour event.
“It’s just important to remember that we are in the community, that we’re neighbors, but also to welcome people who are traveling, who might be looking for community,” says Lauren Tibbitts-Travis, SEAGLA outreach coordinator.
She helped organize the event.
“It’s one thing to go somewhere that you’ve never been and see the sights, but if you’re going there [and you] immediately identify with [the place], that makes it a much better experience. That’s what we’re trying to do at these events,” Tibbitts-Travis says.
This week’s cruise will take tourists to Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, British Columbia. Although the passengers are predominantly male, the cruise caters both to gay and lesbian people.
Ticket prices ranged from $900 to almost $3,000. Joe Fallon and his husband David Rodes says the cruise was worth it.
“We’d never been to Alaska and we’d always wanted to do an Alaska cruise, but a straight cruise never seemed like that much because we figured we’d be with a lot of old people,” Fallon says.
Fallon and Rodes, who are both in their late 50s, decided to take the cruise to celebrate paying off their mortgage.
“We met working in the same shopping center when we were like 17 and 18 years old.” Fallon says.
They’ve been together for 39 years, says Rodes.
Both men says they’re most excited to see Glacier Bay.
For 47-year old Sam Wilson, he decided to go on the cruise because it’s something his best friend has always wanted to do.
“He actually wanted to go for a very long time, and we finally found time to go. We travel a lot, this is like my fourth cruise. I did a couple in the Caribbean and a Mediterranean one, so this was like on the bucket list — definitely one to come and see,” Wilson says.
Wilson and his friend have traveled everywhere from Egypt to Greece. He says the cruise is like a party every night and there’s always a chance to meet new people.
Halfway through the event, four local drag performers took the dance floor to entertain the crowd. Performer Vanessa LaVoce-Kellie — who preferred to be identified by her stage name — was one of them.
For her the event symbolized a larger effort to create a more inclusive community.
“I performed tonight because there’s not very many opportunities to do drag here in Juneau; it’s been getting a lot better. We’ve been having more exposure, but any chance that I get to step out in face and give somebody a show, I’ll take it,” La-Voce-Kellie says.
For LaVoce-Kellie, the bigger the drag queen presence in Juneau, the better.
“These events give people that safe place, and help us to build the conversation for more acceptance and tolerance. The more you can do for love the better,” LaVoce-Kellie says.
The cruise left late Monday night to travel to its next destination, Sitka, before making a stop in Glacier Bay.