Madrid wins bid to host World Pride in 2017

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by Don Church and Tony Schillaci

Left to Right, the Madrid Committee that hosted the presentation in Boston to win World Pride '17: Juan Carlos Alonso, Miguel Sanz, Emilio Aguilera, Monica Duce and Carlos Sanchez


The spirit of the legendary Spanish conquistadors was again present in the Americas as the Madrid Pride committee won the honor of hosting World Pride 2017 last fall in Boston, Massachusetts. The event is expected to draw more than two million visitors for the week-long Madrid celebration in 2017. Book early.

The vibrant, openly gay-friendly city of Madrid was unanimously chosen by more than eighty delegations from cities around the world that make up InterPride, the International Association of Pride Organizers.

Madrid’s winning proposal, including a dynamic video, was presented by Miguel Sanz, representing the city’s mayor and the CVB; long-time equality activists Juan Carlos Alonso and Carlos Sanchez, chair and vice-chair of Madrid Pride; and Monica Duce and Emilio Aguilera from AEGAl, a group of entrepreneurs and other professionals from the LGBT community.

The first LGBT associations and demonstrations began in the late 70′s, especially after the death of General Franco and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in 1975. Madrid’s first official Pride – Orgullo Gay – event drew 10,000 celebrants in the 80’s and grew to one million, including gay, straight, and their allies to celebrate diversity and equality in 2012. The mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella, has thrown her support behind World Pride 2017, and one of the co-sponsors is The Office of Tourism of the City of Madrid and its director Miguel Sanz and his team of travel professionals.

This year, 2013, from July 3-7, Madrid and the LGBT community join forces for an action-packed week of festivals, parades, and cultural happenings, lots of fun for everyone – including families, gay and straight.

The summer fun begins in Madrid on July 3 with International Gay Pride Day. This is the day when streets in the Chueca neighborhood are decked with flags and bunting and good cheer in the local bars as crowds overflow into the street. The festivities reach their climax on Saturday July 6 when the parade is estimated to attract more than one million people from all over the world. The parade floats begin at Puerta de Alcalá (6pm) and finish in the Plaza de España (11pm). On Sunday the 7th it’s time for brunch and rejuvenation from the all-night parties.

Following tradition, a welcome address in Plaza de Chueca opens Pride Week. Squares across the neighborhood will be packed with cultural events, concerts, performances and music. Calle Pelayo is the setting for Madrid’s best drag queens to strut their stuff and is also where a riotous high-heels race is held, with men of all ages trying to outrun each other wearing tastefully elegant shoes. Plaza del Rey is hosting the MuestraT Festival, a showcase for young musical talent, jazz sessions and a hand-clapping Flamenco Pride night on Friday 5th.

From July 4 to 6, Plaza de Callao will showcase international DJs and guest appearances by pop artists, and the grand gala final of the Mr. Gay Spain competition. The biggest party is set to take place on the 6th in Plaza de España, where Soraya and Marta Sánchez will be making thousands of people get up and dance.

The whole Chueca neighborhood, which is located adjacent to the popular Gran Vía, is the epicenter of the festivities, is a good example of the tolerance and respect typical of an open and cosmopolitan city with a 21st-century sensibility. Chueca is open to a whole range of divergent lifestyles. The festivities that are celebrated by all people who want to live their lives openly and freely. Proof of the fact is that instead of calling them the “Gay Pride festivities,” all Madrilenos refer to it as “the Pride festivities.”

In 2009 and 2010 Madrid was voted Best Gay Destination by fans of MTV’s Logo channel. And, the Madrid Pride (Orgullo) party has also become the most popular fiesta for mainstream folks and families in all of Spain.

As well as open-air concerts, outdoor dining and drinking, myriad events and the madess typical of Chueca nights, MADO (Madrid Pride) is also a week packed with cultural and activist programs as part of the MUESTRA-T festival, hosted by different art galleries, cinemas, bookshops and associations that support equal-rights causes.

Gay tourists will feel especially comfortable in Madrid’s charming Chueca district. This traditional neighborhood has become a trademark for modernity, avant-garde fashion, the latest designs, the craziest parties, delicious cuisine and excellent music and clubs.

Chueca unites people who have been living here forever and people who are new to the area, and all of them coexist with the thousands of visitors that arrive daily. The neighborhood’s two main avenues are Calle Fuencarral and Calle Hortaleza, which are home to the most trendsetting fashions. It’s not just about fashion – there is also furniture, gifts, books, interior design, exquisite perfume shops, and designer, luxury and affordable hotels. In a nutshell, Madrid is a most beautiful, all-inclusive major world capitol.

The first thing you need to do before you set out to visit Madrid is to find an accommodation suited to your tastes and needs. This city is truly open to diversity. You’ll feel at home anywhere, so there’s no need to look for a “gay hotel” just to feel comfortable. However, if you want to make the most of the gay scene and everything else the city has to offer, you’ll probably prefer gay-friendly accommodation located in or close to Chueca.

When it comes to luxury establishments, The Westin Palace (Plaza de las Cortes, 7) is noteworthy for the special attention it pays to LGBT guests, who often celebrate weddings here (check out their facilities and services). Built in 1912 in the Art-Nouveau style, it has famously put up such famous figures as the spy Mata Hari, Pablo Picasso, Federico García Lorca, Salvador Dalí, Buster Keaton, Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth and Ernest Hemingway. To protect the privacy of their guests, Palace hosts don’t name those who’ve stayed there lately, although we did hear that Jennifer Lopez was a recent guest.

La Zona www.hostallazona.com offers reasonable prices and is owned by a gay couple who decided a few years ago to create an easygoing atmosphere. Situated in the heart of Chueca, the hostel offers cozy en suite bedrooms in a truly friendly welcoming environment. Complete with breakfast service, the hostel also offers apartments for clients looking for a little more independence or extended visits.

Another good budget option is the Hostal Puerta del Sol at Puerta del Sol 14, a long-standing establishment in the heart of Madrid, offering basic comforts, including breakfast, at reasonable prices.

For visitors who like to stay in hotels where design is everything, try the Hotel Room Mate Oscar Plaza Vázquez de Mella 12, [+34] 91 701 11 73) in the heart of Chueca. It has state of the art interior design and is also one of the trendiest establishments in which to have a drink, lunch or dinner in its second-floor Paris-Tokyo restaurant overlooking the busy street action. It serves superb French-Asian fusion cuisine in a glamorous setting. The personable host, Pepe Eiroa, makes sure that everyone of her guests is treated like a rock star.

For help in finding just the right hotel for you, contact Ian Karlsson (a hard-working gay activist) and his team of international specialists at www.bookingay.com. It’s a world-leading online booking system for more than 1000 gay, lesbian and gay-friendly accommodations and events all around the world.

For nightlife, a fun and crowded bar in Chueca is Liquid, with video screens, a DJ and dancing – Liquid heats up later than 11 p.m. http://www.liquid.es/ Another option is Delirio Live, a Chueca club with a fun party vibe. http://www.deliriochueca.com.

In the Lavapies neighborhood, the newest lesbian club is Club 33. With cultural events every Sunday, (http://club33madrid.es) it is close to the Anton Martin metro station.

For the Circuit followers who prefer huge venues with 4000 revelers, a monthly rave is the LGBT big party WE Party. (http://www.wepartyontour.com) The website will show where in the world, in addition to Madrid, the parties are being held.

And the grandpapa of them all, Museo Chicote www.museo-chicote.com on the Gran Via has been around since Hemingway decided to sit in a corner and write his Spanish Civil War dispatches while drinking. Chicote serves giant cocktails, and only cocktails. Have a Singapore Sling or a Bahama Mama for about 10 – 15 Euros. Listen to great jazz while you chat and drink. Everyone meets at Chicote for before and after dinner cocktails. It’s just the best. The owners also manage Ohm Dance Club (http://www.ohmclub.es) one of the main clubs for LGBT people in Madrid.

For updates on Madrid, Madrid Pride, World Pride 2017 and other travel and LGBT travel stories, please click on SUBSCRIBE at the top of this page and below the headline. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Written by Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’

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Norwegian Breakaway to make NYC its homeport in May 2013

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by Don Church and Tony Schillaci

THE NCL BREAKAWAY WILL SAIL INTO NYC MAY 2013

By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’ ™

If you think that size matters and bigger is better, it will be strike-up-the-band day when the new 4000-passenger Breakaway arrives in her year-round homeport of New York City. While dockside, arriving passengers and spectators will have no trouble spotting the Breakaway’s hull with its eye-popping graphics by the legendary pop-artist Peter Max.

This latest addition to the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet begins sailing to Bermuda every Sunday beginning on May 12, 2013. In the fall, the fun-filled Breakaway will turn its compass toward the southern Caribbean, the Bahamas and Florida from October 2013 through April 2014.

In keeping with the spirit of its Manhattan homeport, the Norwegian Breakaway’s entertainment will include three Broadway shows: five-time Tony nominated “Rock of Ages,” the dance sensation “Burn the Floor” and “Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy.” The comedy troupe The Second City, Howl at the Moon dueling pianos, and New York’s own Slam Allen will also perform on the luxury liner. Celebrity Chef and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian will also debut his first restaurant, Ocean Blue, on the Norwegian Breakaway.

And to set a rhythm that’s in step with its hometown, the official Godmothers of The Norwegian Breakaway will be the dazzling Radio City Music Hall’s Rockettes. That shows there’s no business like show business on this gem of the oceans.
Two of the many spacious features of the ship, The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place, are unique seaside venues that will enhance the guests’ connection with the ocean while dining, strolling and shopping.

The top decks of Norwegian Breakaway will feature the first Aqua Park at sea with five full-size water slides, including twin free fall slides-the first ever at sea, and a three-story sports complex that includes the largest ropes course at sea, a nine-hole miniature golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall and… well, you’ll just have to see for yourself how much fun stuff for all age groups can fill a such a large luxury resort-at-sea

Stateroom options are many and varied: The Haven by Norwegian has 42 suites at the top of the ship with eighteen more located throughout the other decks. All through the ship there are innovative single studios, staterooms with ocean views, balcony and mini-suites, spa suites and bright inside cabins for budget-minded passengers.

The Breakaway will offer a true Ice Bar onboard, which will be kept at 17 degrees F. and feature ice sculptures of New York icons; the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Chrysler Building. The Ice Bar is an arctic-like frozen chamber, guaranteed to give guests an ultimate thrill chill. The bar, seating and glasses will all be made entirely from ice. Located

on deck eight, the Ice Bar will accommodate approximately 25 passengers at a time. They will be given hooded coats and gloves to keep warm. An additional charge for the Ice Bar will include two signature cocktails. You’ll need to book early to enjoy a Central Park, Times Square Lights or Broadway Dream cocktail. For non-alcoholic drinks, the Lady Liberty and the Coney Island are in the mix.

According to Cruise Critic, when it comes to gay-friendliness, “The most open and accessible ships include Norwegian Cruise Lines, with at least one FOD meeting on every ship and on every cruise, and they have moved in recent years toward a consistent policy for their valued gay/lesbian passengers. (We should note that, while the cruise lines have this official policy in place, it is possible that a particular cruise may omit the meetings for various reasons, such as scheduling, with no slight intended.) NCL may now also include the term GLBT in the listing to avoid any confusion.” Should you have any trouble finding a GLBT group social onboard, contact the Cruise Director or the Concierge office for information and assistance.

For a virtual cruise of the incredible variety of features and accommodations on Norwegian Breakaway, visit www. breakaway.ncl.com/. To book a cruise on Norwegian Breakaway, contact a travel professional or call Norwegian at 800-327-7030. Online visit www.ncl.com.

Copyright© Out and Travelin’ ™ 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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It’s always fair weather aboard the gay-friendly new Celebrity Silhouette

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by Don Church and Tony Schillaci

Sitting on the Lawn at the Silhouette Lawn Club

Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’™

With the coming of winter it’s comforting to know that fair weather is an easy drive from Connecticut and other northeast states along the interstate highways to Port Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey.

We drove after the morning rush hour to Port Liberty and parked ($19 a day) in the secured lot, a short walk to a dock-side terminal. We boarded the gay-friendly Celebrity Cruises newest Solstice-class ship, Silhouette, one of the most technologically advanced, spacious and luxurious ships afloat today.
The ship offers seven-night cruises to the Eastern and Southern Caribbean from Port Liberty this winter. www.celebritycruises.com.

For a few extra dollars we recommend booking the AquaClass accommodations – you’ll have an upscale stateroom with a veranda. It includes unlimited access to the AquaSpa which works closely with Elemis®, one of the leading providers of health and beauty solutions. The spa offers a wealth of transformative treatments (acupuncture, yoga, beauty services, massage) that draw on cultures from around the world.

Another perk is being able to dine in AquaSpa’s hugely successful specialty restaurant, Blu. Executive chef Jacques Van Staden’s menus offer light, flavorful dishes prepared using natural reductions and sautéing methods. The high-quality and expertly prepared dishes have deservedly won raves from cruisers – and us. For those not in AquaClass a table can be booked at Blu, based on availability for an extra charge.

Sailing from Port Liberty to the Caribbean, it’s always fair weather in the gigantic solarium with its soaring crystal- clear roof. This area will be a welcome refuge during the first and last days of cruising between Port Liberty and the Caribbean. Once in warmer waters, some guests might just decide to forgo the use of the outdoor pool just to indulge in the style and luxurious feeling offered in the lush Solarium.

Everyday is a perfect day in this exotic and tranquil place that includes shaded and conversation areas, cabanas, pool, hot tub, and the covered AquaSpa Café, available to all passengers.

We heard waves of raves about AquaSpa Café. We quickly found a table, poured ourselves a chamomile iced tea, and discovered a multitude of light, flavorful, health-spa dishes in this most relaxing atmosphere. We lunched on skillfully roasted vegetables in a flavorful vinaigrette and lightly marinated grilled chicken breast on a bed of mixed greens in a creamy mustard sauce.

Another not-to-be-missed feature of the Silhouette is the dazzling and luxurious Lawn Club on deck 15 with its 22,927 square-foot manicured grass lawn overlooking the sweeping seascape.
The Lawn Club Grill is the first outdoor, interactive grill venue at sea, where guests can grill their own top-quality meat with the help of a Celebrity chef or have a luscious steak grilled to order. Everyone can participate in interactive cooking demonstrations and classes led by Celebrity’s chefs or guest chefs.

The Lawn Club also offers eight rentable private cabanas – or Alcoves – where two to four guests can settle under a très-chic white awning, order a picnic basket, and snooze or take advantage of the complimentary WiFi access in an atmosphere of lazy relaxation.

Another Lawn Club venue is an intimate casual-dining spot called The Porch, which, for a small cover charge guests can indulge in sandwiches, salads, fresh pastries and cool drinks in a low-key “Hampton-like” luxury.

At cocktail time, you have a choice of Michael’s Club on deck 5 to see the recently re-styled casually elegant bar that features anywhere from 50 to 70 international beers, including ales, lagers, lambics, wheat beers, plus seasonal beers and ciders.

Before heading off to dinner at Blu, it was time for a nap, shower, and a complimentary pre-dinner glass of champagne while sitting on our private AquaClass veranda. – 85% of the staterooms have one. And that’s just one of the seemingly endless features and amenities onboard, as outlined in the ship’s daily newsletter. Or you can chose to do nothing at all except breakfast, lunch and dinner in the lap of luxury, including genuine hospitality and unobtrusive service by the exceptionally well-trained international staff and crew.

Another memorable dining experience is the two-tier Grand Cuvee dining room. It is as dazzling as a diamond and exudes a casual elegant ambiance. The tables are well spaced for privacy, the food is Michelin-quality and the wines are expertly selected for top quality – even the less expensive vintages we tasted were highly drinkable.

The shops on the Silhouette include a Bulgari Boutique, a first on a cruise ship. The other shops are as appealing as the ones on 5th Avenue or Rodeo Drive . The corridors though this area are extra wide to allow plenty of space for window shopping.

Some of the many other outstanding features of the Silhouette deserve mention, including the deck plans that allow easy flow of passengers. A coordinated team of engineers, designers and decorators have created a distinctive ambience for each space and a pleasant and fluid transition from one area to another without a jarring note in the whole ship.

The Grand Foyer with its glass-walled atrium, sweeping and elegant staircase, glass elevators and spacious lobby has many conversation areas for relaxation and enjoying live performances. We were impressed with a quartet of male singers – Aquaudio – who brought down the house with perfect-pitch a cappella hit songs.

As you glance upward toward the top of the atrium, the two-story library and the quiet Hideaway with its tree-house escape area are just two of hundreds of wonderful spaces on this luxury liner. The library and Hideaway are open 24 hours.

For nightlife, a visit to the Silhouette Theatre provides cirque-style extravaganzas and Broadway song-and-dance spectaculars. And nearby is the state-of-the-art Quazar dance club, and Fortunes Casino and Bar.

We spotted many gay and lesbian couples and small groups onboard and being mainstream, as is our community these days, they were no doubt treated equally well as we were by the first-class staff, crew and the happy-go-lucky passengers.

The five-star Celebrity Silhouette experience can be described in just three little words – “This is living!”

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