I figured I would be in the minority, but I hadn’t realized the enormity of what I was walking into when I agreed to go with my wife on the Oprah’s Girls’ Getaway Cruise.
Soon after I boarded the new Holland America Line ship Nieuw Statendam, I learned I was one of 57 men sailing with more than 2,400 women.
Perhaps my fellow males may be surprised, but it was an amazing (and eye-opening) experience.
I got to be a fly on the wall, daring to go where few men would journey. Along the way, I joined in when appropriate but otherwise stayed out of the way to bask in the glow of these lovely ladies.
I learned plenty. This cruise celebrated the importance of friendship, especially among women. The programming promoted the message that women should always feel empowered to live their best lives.
And the positivity starts with Oprah.
The wildly famous media icon is godmother to Nieuw Statendam; her Girls’ Getaway Cruise was capped with a naming ceremony in Fort Lauderdale.
Oprah sailed with Gayle King, her best friend of more than 40 years. Numerous cruisers onboard wore special T-shirts identifying them as groups from Texas or as particular fans of Oprah. The most charming ones stated “I’m Her Gayle and She’s My Oprah.”
Mothers cruised with daughters and grand-daughters.
We saw sisters. Best friends. And, yes, even husbands.
Colleen and I are married but also consider ourselves great friends, so it didn’t strike me as unusual that I would be there for support on a fun outing.
Certain moments did stand out, though, reminding me of just what I had signed up for. I was the only man among at least 500 women who were at the buffet for lunch. I enjoyed a similar ratio on the ferry to our stop in the Bahamas during the three-day cruise.
Most of the cruise ship restrooms usually designated for “Men” were converted, of course. This had a few of my fellow male cruise mates left to wander, spinning their heads, looking for a loo.
“Now we know how it feels to be a woman, having to wait so long to go,” I said.
The urinals in these restrooms were filled with hydrangeas – a delightful touch, Colleen thought.
A crew member saw me in a long line of women and exclaimed “A boy!” That drew a roar of laughter from everyone and led to a fun conversation and a bit of ribbing about how my wife had “tricked me” into this cruise.
Even Oprah took note of the men who had made the voyage during each of her four capacity-crowd “A Conversation with Oprah” sessions in the ship’s World Stage main theater. She asked the men to stand for a little applause and recognition, and she assured us we should be able to cash in on this goodwill at least until October.
Oprah was seen occasionally around the ship, and a few lucky passengers had a chance to interact with her informally. One woman shared time with Oprah chatting a little on an adjacent treadmill at the gym during her early-morning workout. Another group I talked to said it was the highlight of their cruise to get a video of them singing happy birthday to Oprah (she turned 65 during the cruise) when she stopped by their table in a restaurant after dinner.
She also set up a photo-op session, and I was able to meet her quickly and get a keepsake picture.
Our chat was brief, and I mostly thanked her for her time.
Gayle interacted frequently with cruisers on the ship and during our time ashore in the Bahamas. Cruise activities included Just Breathe morning yoga sessions, intense workouts, chats with editors of O, The Oprah Magazine editors, a pajama party (where Oprah served tequila shots!) and plenty of good food and music. We joined a fun excursion on Half Moon Cay. I was the only dude riding horses with dozens of women.
Each night, the Music Walk area would fill up. Cruisers enjoyed hearing classics at the Lincoln Center Stage (performed by a quintet of women), rocking out to the house band at Rolling Stone Rock Room, dancing the night away at B.B. King’s Blues Club or singing along to dueling pianos at Billboard Onboard.
Oprah wowed the attendees during her main theater show with her in-depth talk on the power of positivity and belief and how having the right attitude and frame of mind can help you attain happiness and be a better person. She easily weaved tales of her own life lessons into her talk and had the crowd enthralled for more than 90 minutes.
It became a little clearer to me about why women regard her with such esteem.
I have never been around a more diverse group of people – in terms of age and gender — who also were so friendly and positive toward one another. It’s hard to imagine a ship full of 2,400 men and 60 women putting out the same vibe.
Who handled the pandemic best? Vote in this year’s special Reader’s Choice awards
No doubt 2020 will go down in cruise history as the year of the pandemic – a once in a generation event. And this year’s Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards will reflect it.