Gawker's Caity Weaver attended a Paula Deen celebrity cruise, and you won't believe what she encountered. Actually, you might, given that the Attend-B-List-Celebrity-Cruise formula is a guaranteed go-to for funny, if predictable, travelogues.
The formula goes like this: 1) Find a fading celebrity throwing a cruise that will mostly be attended by a niche group of dedicated fans. 2) Attend the cruise that is likely to have the strangest (read: most non-mainstream) types of fans on board. 3) Ogle at the traditions and customs these foreign people have. And most importantly, 4) Discover that people are different but also ultimately the same at heart.
This isn't to mock these essays; they are genuinely enjoyable! The celebrity cruise piece works like any good travel writing, in that it explores a new and different world from that of most readers, while pointing out the differences and explaining their universality. With Paula Deen's adventure in mind, here are some of the key pieces of celebrity cruise writing and how they stick to the formula.
Cruise: Paula Deen
Who Attends: Gawker's Caity Weaver attended Deen's celebrity cruise because, in her words, "I wanted to see who was willing to spend, at minimum, roughly $3,000 to support a downtrodden millionaire. I wanted to see if there were any black people." The answer, you may be surprised to hear, is that there were a few black people! One in particular was the "The Grill Sergeant," a singing chef, whose friendship with Deen is chalked up to a marriage of convenience for both. Most attendants, though, were much like Paula Deen: a slightly overweight white woman near her 60s from the South.
What They Do: Eat and cook, of course. They eat BBQ, they learn how to cook BBQ, they drink, and they play plenty of slot machines in the meantime. Oh, and all do one other thing consistently, at least in interacting with Weaver, which is to defend Deen from those accusations of racism. "Everyone on the boat is racist and nice. Including me," she writes. Most of the cruise's attendees defend Deen as getting a "raw deal," citing the litany of flimsy excuses for those accused of being racist. She has black friends. Black people say the n-word to each other, so it's actually racist that whites can't. It wasn't just Deen; everybody was racist back then (it was only in 1987). And so on.
We're All the Same: Most of the attendees are mourning loved ones, a universal feeling of lost love. "[B]y the end of the first night, I realize it is safe to just assume that every woman I meet is taking the trip to help cope with the death of the love of her life," she writes. They certainly have different ways of handling that loss — a celebrity cruise, really? — but hey, we can all relate to that.
Cruise: The Backstreet Boys
Who Attends: 20- to-30-something women, with a dash of over-45ers, who used to be (or still are) big fan girls. They "make Beliebers look well-mannered, $17.50 commemorative plastic cups of frozen rum drinks in hand," BuzzFeed's Torie Bosch wrote of her time on the cruise. Like Bosch, some attended just to relive their youth. Others, including one woman who has spent $10,000-$15,000 "in the last 'few' years alone" on Boys-related expenses, have remained dedicated to their fixation. For example, Bosch meets a 26-year-old with each of the Boys' faces tattooed on her back. Aggressive.
What They Do: Swoon over the Backstreet Boys, of course. The cruise begins with fans chanting "What what in the butt?" and "Junk in the trunk" at the crew in between their performance of old songs, and "positively shrieking" at their dance moves. The chance to take a photo with the group is the cherry on top of the celebrity-fainting sundae. Bosch positions herself as a slight outsider, a former big-time fan who has pushed her love for the Boys away over the years out of embarrassment. She is the only one who manages to keep the star-struck squeals inside.
We're All the Same: In the end, the story is more about the universality of the girl-on-boy-band extreme fandom that stretches from the Beatles all the way to One Direction. "Here, they are still boys, and we are still girls," Bosch writes. We pretend to get over our childhood fandoms, but it's time we just embrace them.
Cruise: Kid Rock
Who Attends: Rednecks, in the words of GQ's Drew Magary, who "have more fun than uppity liberal folk like me." Most wear denim, a few wear custom overalls, and almost all go without a shirt for part of the time.
What They Do: At Kid Rock's cruise — err, excuse me, "Kid Rock's Chillin' the Most Cruise" — everything is fair game. "You are meant to get very drunk and very naked and encourage others to do likewise," Magary explains. There is cheap beer and shirtless overweight men and women aplenty, people who love a good time in the form of drunken debauchery surrounded by newfound friends. And they come up with creative solutions to that drunkenness. "Always ask for the wheelchair," one woman tells Magary. "Because then they'll roll you back to the cabin if you're too shitfaced to stand." There is, of course, plenty of vomit around.
We're All the Same: The cruise attendees aren't just here out of Kid Rock fandom, they're here to celebrate life, uniqueness, and happiness. Oh, and the strength of the liver. "To party this hard takes genuine effort, and community," something every frat college kid and club-goer can relate to, "and it's hard not to admire the zeal of these folks." We all just want that community, whether it's in overalls or not.