All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise

by Susan Polk Little

Rosie’s Family Cruise

Starring: Rosie O’Donnell and a whole bunch of really happy families!

91 minutes (released 2006) rated NR

Directed by Shari Cookson

All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise is an insider’s look at the first American cruise specifically geared towards gay, lesbian and bisexual couples and their families (appropriately called “r Family Cruise”). The Norwegian Dawn cruise, hosted by Rosie O’Donnell and the brainchild of Rosie’s partner Kelli, includes all the activities, food and entertainment one would find on a “normal” cruise but includes something extra: a completely open atmosphere of acceptance and good will toward every person on the boat. Guests repeatedly say “I feel so free here; our family can just be who we are.” Indeed, one of the first public address announcements broadcast upon departure is “You can talk to anyone on the cruise you want to here… judgment free.”

This non-rated documentary, focuses on a handful of the families on board, each sharing their path to becoming a family and talking candidly about the different obstacles they overcame while creating it. Some passengers featured are hopeful parents-to-be, including one lesbian couple who eagerly awaits the results of a pregnancy test, only to be disappointed again with news that the insemination didn’t result in pregnancy. The prospective mother-to-be explains that, since they are a lesbian couple, they are only allowed frozen specimens from clinics in their state. Not all is lost, however, as they meet up with two gay men who indicate that they might be willing to be donors.

Another featured passenger, former Green Bay Packer defensive player Esera Tuaolo, signs footballs and photos for the kids, explaining how freeing it is to just be himself on the cruise after so many years of having to hide his identity. He and his partner adopted two relatives’ children from within his own family tree. Once the children were in the picture, he says, they had to be an out couple because “it’s not about us anymore, it’s about the kids.” Comparing his “pre-out” experience at kids’ football camps with the r Family Cruise kid’s football event, he expresses surprise and happiness that, even while presenting his true self, the kids are still just as admiring and eager to meet him. This was something he had never experienced before.

On this cruise, “family” is the main emphasis and this movie shows just how many different varieties of families are possible, each with a common denominator: they all love each other and are truly appreciative that they are a family. Partly this is what makes each of their stories so touching – their struggle to just be accepted as a family. Nothing underscores this struggle more than a shore trip in Nassau, where they are met with angry, fundamentalist church members, protesting their lifestyle. The protester’s signs, “Animals have more sense than Homosexuals” and “Jesus Don’t Want No Sissies”, bring the stark “real world” back into sharp relief. This display, considering the small children who are subjected to it, reminds the viewer why a special cruise is even necessary in our world.

At the end of the cruise, one of the passengers laments that the whole world couldn’t be like the one they had while sailing aboard the r Family Cruise. And Rosie herself expresses hopes that, one day, everyone – straight, gay, bisexual, transsexual – everyone will be able to live in a world that’s as accepting of each other as the passengers of this, the first gay and lesbian family cruise.

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