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Mike McGinty writes ad copy for a living, and humorous essays for his sanity.

He began his writing career after serving on submarines for six years and earning a B.A. in Mass Communications. He's written TV, radio and print ads for all kinds of clients: UPS, the NFL, Kodak, Cartoon Network, the Georgia Lottery, IBM, FOX-TV, HP and many other companies with initials for names. His work has won numerous awards, including a Clio, Communication Arts, NY Festivals, and several London International Ad Awards. He has also taught copywriting at Atlanta's Creative Circus, and in San Francisco at both the Academy of Art and The Miami Ad School.

Mike's personal essays have been published on Gay.com, Outsports.com, and SiliconMom.com, and in The Noe Valley Voice. He has also written for print and online magazines, including San Francisco Bride, American Magazine, Betty, Whispers from Heaven, and Sensor. In addition, a stick drawing he made in the fourth grade hangs proudly on his mother's refrigerator door.

Mike was born in Boston, was raised in the South, and currently lives in San Francisco, where he's finishing his first book, a humorous chronicle of his three-week family vacation called Europe on Two Parents a Day.

Contact him at

Heterosexuals Off the Starboard Bow
"The ice carving demonstration begins poolside at 1:00. Come enjoy this fascinating look at how our master sculptors create these beautiful works of art, right before your very eyes."

I wrapped my lips around the long, red straw sticking out of my tropical rum drink and sucked as hard as I could, hoping the cold, sweet concoction would soon transport me to a place where PA announcements weren't quite so annoying.

How was it that I found myself on another cruise, when I swore on a stack of travel brochures that my last cruise would be just that - my last cruise?

Contrary to what travel agents would have you believe, a cruise is anything but relaxing. I defy anyone to find a quiet, uncrowded place anywhere on board. Want to soak in the hot tub? Squeeze in next to the other 23 passengers with the same idea. Care to schedule a massage? Sorry, the masseuse is completely booked with the large Canadian group who beat you to the punch. Feel like going for a quiet stroll on deck? Watch out for the giggling gaggles of 13-year-old girls running all over the ship on a scavenger hunt.

The commercials say it's "the most popular cruise line in the world." They fail to mention that the entire world will be along on the voyage. Or that they'll all be wearing some form of plaid.

It's not that I didn't enjoy vacationing with my family in the sunny Caribbean. Or having my bath towels folded into cute little animals and left on my bed every night. But witnessing a couple of drunk, 20-something dudes lure a 45-year-old woman and her underage daughter back to their cabin was a bit much. I know it exists, but really. This is my vacation.

I did take demented pleasure, however, in the string quartet playing in the lobby of the ship's atrium as we boarded. We filed slowly behind the other passengers en route to our cabins as the tuxedoed musicians launched into a rousing rendition of the theme from "Titanic." (I swear, I am not making this up.) I never could decide what was behind that particular selection: exceedingly poor taste or an inspired sense of humor.

I found that spending an entire week on a hulking ship with deck upon deck of gift shops, bars, coffee shops, showrooms, pools, casino, florist, spa, cosmetic counter, photo gallery, restaurants, video arcade and a pizza joint with hordes of families pushing strollers, licking ice cream cones and leading whiny kids by the hand, is a lot like going on vacation at the mall. The only difference I could discern was the conspicuous absence of retail queens. I even saw a tuxedo rental store. On Formal Night the line extended all the way around the liquor kiosk to the pastry shop.

Even standing on deck, gazing out to sea isn't quite the breathtaking picture of contemplative serenity the brochures like to paint. Other cruise ships, with the same itinerary as yours, shadow you like pesky younger siblings, polluting your horizon as completely as an oil refinery on the French Riviera. Somehow, skimming quietly along in the middle of a pristine ocean loses a good bit of its getting-away-from-it-all charm when you can look off the starboard bow and see giant smoke stacks made to look like Mickey Mouse ears.

One afternoon, fighting off nausea at the preponderance of black socks and sandals poolside, I decided to watch the men's hairy chest contest, the closest thing next to imported vodka that could rescue me from the heterosexual hell I was in. I showed up early and scored a great seat on the balcony above the stage. But as soon as the shirts came off, dozens of people crowded the railing in front of me and blocked my view. No hairy chest was worth this aggravation. I collected my towel and abandoned my chair. As soon as I did, three sunburned women from the Midwest ... with the thighs to prove it ... plopped down. I had to find some small piece of elusive solitude before I snapped.

What I found was the topless deck, populated by just four brave women. Now, I don't particularly enjoy seeing women's bare breasts, but I had learned, in my limited experience, that they don't make any noise. So I settled into a chair and started reading. The engines were louder up here, their resonance causing the deck to vibrate as if I had stuck a quarter in a slot somewhere. But I didn't care. Besides, the vibration fit the half-naked women motif.

Unfortunately, my tranquility didn't last long. Within minutes, I heard the yells of two pre-teen boys who had ignored the "Adults Only" sign and the barricaded stairs. Apparently, the topless deck on a cruise ship is the absolute most perfect place in the world to play freeze tag. I was just about to tell them to leave, when they went up to one of the women and the taller of the two whined, "Mom, we're hungry."

It was going to be a long vacation.


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