Although making travel plans for most individuals is relatively easy this sometimes is not the case for someone who is HIV positive. Tom Donohue can’t remember the last time he was at ease and let alone able to unwind and not have it be the focal point and or change his outlook for his vacation. That was until he discovered that there were HIV positive cruises for people in the very same situation looking for fun, laughter and support.

Snorkeling, a Mad Hatter Party, and dinner with what became 200 and more of my newest friends was not what anyone would think of as a typical HIV/AIDS support group. Neither is the location — hundreds of miles off the coast of the United States on the beautiful blue ocean near the exotic islands of Aruba, Curaco and Princess Cays.

This event welcomed hundreds of HIV positive men and women, infected and affected, to the coast of Florida, where we began a journey we would never forget. Our first glimpse of each other came when gathered at a local resort. With Paul Stalbaum leading each voyage he brings a personal and genuine touch to making a welcoming feel.

Throughout the week we got to know each other at social and educational events, all of which were optional. I found that the more events I attended, the more this group began to feel like more of a family rather than friends I just met. Our mutual connection, “therecipe,” provided private times that our group attended. It was a great way to connect with other HIV-positive people who understand the challenges of being positive. And it was especially refreshing for me, someone from a rural town, to network with other positive guys.

We all have something in common, yet we all take something different away from this trip. Paul’s mission was to create a safe environment that allows people from all over the country to come together for a life-affirming week of camaraderie, laugh out-loud events and the chance to walk away with many new friends. “I am proud to say that, over the years, aside from literally hundreds of lasting friendships, we have had dozens of people meet their next partner on our cruise,” he said.

This year, the cruise is heading out of Fort Lauderdale and over Halloween sailing on Princess Cruise Lines to Princess Cays Bahamas, Grand Turk, St. Thomas, and St. Marten.

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