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Jim Winsor's Out & About: Tales from the sea

This year's Atlantis Mexican Cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas has sailed into the history books, and wow, what a week it was.

This was my third Atlantis cruise, and it seems they keep getting better and better. For those of you who have never been on one, I'll try to explain the positive energy everyone experiences that week.

Imagine a week where over 2200 men from around the world, of all ages and types, gather together in a floating luxury hotel, and quickly become a common tribe through various activities (parties, shows, meals, adventures ashore, etc...).

For example, within a day or two of boarding, everyone gets in the habit of greeting everyone they pass in the hallways, stairs and elevators - even if complete strangers. That's the kind of vibe created ... and this year was no exception.

A week of underwear parties

The parties were generally fantastic. My favorites were the Dog Tag Tea Dance on Monday afternoon (a poolside military-themed party where dog tags with colored dots indicate how sexually available everyone is), The 90's Divas Party on Thursday night (this was an outdoor party made perfect by the weather ... the 80s temperature and warm Pacific breezes made the night ideal for dancing under the stars), and the signature Atlantis White Party on Friday night (the sexual energy of hundreds of boys packed together in skimpy white outfits on the dance floor made for a night of incredible experiences).

In fact, skimpy outfits were pretty much the rule for all of the parties, I'd say. It's funny, the first party on Sunday was supposed to be the unofficial underwear party. But it seems the idea stuck on for the rest of the cruise as well, as speedos, booty shorts, underwear and jockstraps became the regular dance apparel for many throughout the week (see my Atlantis cruise photo album for ample evidence of this).

The DJs for the cruise (Abel, Manny Lehman, Phil B, and Wayne G) all did an amazing job, while the Atlantis/Mariner team was very efficient and resourceful in dealing with changes in the weather: The Urge Party and the White Party scheduled up at the pool got moved down below to Studio B because of cold and wind, while the Looking Glass party took advantage of some warm weather and moved in the opposite direction. The lighting team of Kyle Gamer and Poncho Lucero of Laseronics and Robert Montenegro on video projections created a suburb visual experience at each and every party as well.

The performers

The on board entertainment did not disappoint. In addition to Charo (who's traditionally the day one act of the cruise), drag performers Jackie Beat, Cashetta and Miss Richfield 1981 all gave hysterically funny performances. The "surprise" headline entertainer this year turned out to be Belinda Carlisle, who despite being at first unknown to many of the 20-somethings on board ("Who?"), got a standing ovation after singing many of her well-known and catchy hits from the 80s and 90s, such as Mad About You, Heaven Is a Place On Earth, and the very cruise-appropriate Vacation.

How I gained 2.4 pounds last week

And then there was the food. A great way to meet people on an Atlantis cruise, I've found, is at dinner in the formal dining room. Seating is random, about eight to ten people per table, so you never know who you might be chatting to at dinner. And the food is generally very good there (as I recall, I ate either prime rib, lobster, or lamb every night!), which gives everyone something to chat about.

For those in a hurry to get ready for the next party or show, however, the upstairs buffet at The Windjammer was always fast and plentiful.

And for the first time, I managed to try both of the four-star specialty restaurants (Chops and Portofino). There's an extra $25 charge on your cruise account to eat there, but the superior food and service easily makes it a worthwhile treat.

Other activities (I didn't get around to doing)

As far as the ports of call go (this year being Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta), I can't say much, as I didn't really leave the ship for any length of time. Reason being, lounging at the pool each day sounded like a much better activity after one of the nightly late-night theme parties mentioned above. Trying some of the organized shore excursions (which range from para sailing to swimming with dolphins) are things still on my "to-do" list for future cruises (along with climbing the rock wall, getting a massage, working out at the gym, ice skating, etc...).

The 2011 Atlantis Mexican Cruise returns to San Diego

Speaking of future cruises, there had been speculation that this was the last Atlantis Mexican Cruise for a while. Reason being, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (the operator of the Mariner) is withdrawing all it's ships from the west coast, and thus there was some doubt Rich Campbell (the owner of Atlantis) could hire another ship in time for next year.

This speculation, thankfully, did not pan out. Rich announced during this year's cruise that it would be returning next year ... on the Holland America ship Oosterdam.

This brand new 2011 Atlantis Mexican Cruise will set sail on Saturday, October 15, and return the following Saturday, October 22. Ports of call will be the same as this year, but in reverse order: Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and then Cabo San Lucas. In addition, the Puerto Vallarta stop will be an overnight (12pm to 2am), allowing some time to experience the nightlife of that city.

And here's the exciting part: it'll be sailing out of and returning to ... San Diego! Yes, after a hiatus of three years, our city will once again play host to the influx of out-of-town boys flying in for the cruise.

This 2000 passenger cruise is not up yet on the Atlantis web site (only those aboard the 2010 cruise have been allowed to book it thus far), but once it goes public I expect it will fill up rather quickly (as I mentioned above, we had at least 2200 boys on this year's cruise). So, if this sounds like something you'd be interested in, I'd definitely recommend acting sooner rather than later. It would be great if we could have an even larger San Diego contingent on board for next year!