Author: Alfredo Casuso

Businesses and Residents Invited to “Light Up the Night” for Palm Springs Pride 2021

Businesses and Residents Invited to “Light Up the Night” for Palm Springs Pride 2021


Two contests celebrate all-inclusive love and award winners with travel prizes

17 October 2021 – Palm Springs, CA: It’s  almost time for Palm Springs Pride and residents and businesses are invited to decorate their storefront, home or apartment for the 2nd annual Light Up the Night contest presented by Alaska Airlines. KGAY 106.5 Palm Springs, Gay Desert Guide and Vacaya LGBT+ Vacations are sponsoring the contest on social media.  

The first contest is for businesses to create a store window display using pink and rainbow lights – and their creativity – to welcome visitors to Greater Palm Springs Pride.  The winning business will receive air travel for two to the Alaska Airlines destination of their choice. A second contest will follow for the “home edition” where participants can “Light Up the Night” at home for a chance to win a Vacaya LGBT+ Vacation for two to the Caribbean and air travel on Alaska Airlines.

To enter, a business takes a photo of their completed display, using the hashtags #ILoveGayPalmSprings AND #LightUptheNight from their Facebook or Instagram page. The business will then be entered in the contest which runs now till October 31st at 12 midnight. One entry will be selected and that business owner will receive the roundtrip air travel for two on Alaska Airlines.

Visit Palm Springs Pride Facebook Page to enter.  One entry per business allowed. No purchase necessary.



From Bill Miller

Update:  October 15th 2021

Fri Oct 1  Carnival Update: Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation, described 2020 as a “trying but inspiring time” during last week’s “State of the Cruise Industry” panel in Miami Beach. Donald called 2020 transformative, and now has his sights set on the recovery. “We know where the road is headed and the road is headed toward a very bright future … but the road does have potholes and detours in it. It has been choppy and complicated,” said Donald, noting the Carnival brand had 11 ships back in service at 70 percent occupancy.  Across the corporation, the cruise brands in service for Carnival Corporation are averaging 68 percent occupancy, he noted.

Below:  The Carnival Glory berthed in nighttime St Thomas by fine photographer Andy Hernandez

American Queen Steamboat Co and Victory Cruise Lines have joined and become American Queen Voyages.
Cruising:  Staggering!  2020’s cruise passenger count plummeted to 5.8 million globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, an 81% decrease from the 29.7 million in 2019.
Below:   The AIDAmar in dry dock at Hamburg.

Onboard the Crystal SymphonyThere was a small covid outbreak onboard earlier this week and our dear friend George Chandler was aboard and was loyally “on duty” as one of our agents.  He reported, “Just had an update [from Thu Sep 30th] on the covid situation, heard at the front desk this morning, that the 5 people who tested positive have remained in Bermuda under quarantine and the 21 people they were in contact were retested and remain negative, and were returned to the ship on Monday. Otherwise, now heading back to NYC under cloudy skies.”
Sat Oct 2nd   Portugal:  Lisbon is officially back in business as the port and it is expecting 45 cruise calls in October following 13 calls in September.

Sun Oct 3rd Carnival Cruise Line unveiled a unique two week cruise to Greenland from Baltimore in 2023 a week ago.  A big hit!    It sold out in 24 hrs and so the Company has scheduled a second.  The cruises will be aboard the Carnival Legend.  

New Generation of Cruise Ships:   You can ride a roller coaster on the new Carnival Mardi Gras (below) or visit the tattoo parlor on Virgin’s  Scarlet Lady (bottom below) or munch in gourmet specialty restaurants on the likes of Spanish octopus with sunchokes and muhammara, hanger steak with mint and anchovies or goat cheese polenta with fancy stuff toppings.   Or  reach into your bank account and book passage  in an $11,000-a-day penthouse on Regent.  Yes, cruising – and the resumption of cruising – has moved to yet higher dimensions.   
Sun Oct 4th India’s Narcotics Control Bureau has busted a rave party onboard a cruise ship off the coast of Mumbai. A team of NCB officials seized drugs such as cocaine, hashish and MDMA during the raid onboard Cordelia Cruise Line’s Empress.Passenger Preferences:  We find it interesting how cruise travelers prefer one ship over another – and sometimes within the same cruise line.  For example, our dear friend & frequent fellow traveler Rosemary Barnhardt wrote to us recently:  “We love Crystal Cruises.  But  Lee and I still so much prefer the subdued beauty of the Crystal Symphony [seen below at Pier 88, New York] to her rather bright-colored near-sister, the Crystal Serenity.”
Mon Oct 4th China:  The 930-passenger Zhao Shang Yi Dun – formerly known as the Viking Sun of Viking Ocean Cruises – has become the first cruise ship to resume commercial voyages with guests in China. The ship has set sail on an eight-day “Charming South China Sea” cruise departing from Shenzhen, sailing to Sanya and then returning to Shenzhen.  The ship combines European and Chinese elements to bring guests “diversified cultural and artistic entertainment programs,” according to the press release.Onboard, China Merchants Viking Cruises and Shanghai Wenguang Performing Arts Group SMG Live have created unique shows for the Star Theater onboard. These shows combine original Broadway classic musical tracks and drama performances that integrate elements like dance and audience interaction. Each voyage will also have different guest performers that will bring “surprise performances” to the guests. Additionally, the Zhao Shang Yi Dun offers onboard lectures on culture, art, natural sciences and food and has 2,000 hand-picked books available in the ship’s several public reading areas.Storylines, the upcoming private residence cruise line, has introduced a new collection of upscale homes at sea. The company said that it previously provided more affordable entry-level options into the condo ship market, with the vast majority of homes being studio and one-bedroom units in the 237 to 754 sq. feet range starting around $350,000. However, the largest two-story penthouse residences – at 1,529 sq. feet and $8M – were in short supply, and there were many consumer requests for intermediate two and three-bedroom options. To facilitate that, Storylines said that it has reconfigured some smaller residences to create 84 new larger homes ranging from 909-1417 sq. feet, with purchasing options starting from $2,455,000.

Tue Oct 5th Southampton, England: Our loyal friend Dave Smith  reports:   “Fresh out of a long refit & overhaul at Brest, the Queen Mary 2 has been docked at Berth 101 in Southampton docks since Friday.  She is docked next to Mayflower Park & the people taking photos & just seeing her are in the hundreds.  What an advert for Southampton & for Cunard!  But I don’t know how long she will be in Port.  In other local news, the 600 ft-plus chimney at Fawley Power station on Southampton Water will be felled at 7am on Sunday 31st October.  There is a mile & a half ‘stay outside zone’. We will have a great view from across the water at Hamble & Netley Abbey beaches.  They are going to build 1,500 homes there. And the Rank Hovis Building just inside Dock Gate 4 has been knocked down & they are going to build homes & leisure park there.”  Vintage Southampton in 1925 below – with the Aquitania, Homeric, Olympic & Araguaya at dock.

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Above:   Changing hands – a moodful view of Holland America’s Rotterdam & Amsterdam while laid-up and soon to be transferred (in 2020) to Fred Olsen Cruise Line.

Bits’n Pieces:  Brazil has officially agreed to a resumption of  cruising this winter (their summer, of course).  … MSC Cruises will restart, in Nov, 7-night North European cruises – calling at Hamburg, Amsterdam, Zeebrugge, Le Havre & Southampton – and each with thoughtful 12-hr stays in each port. … Boutique small-ship cruise line Atlas Ocean Voyages announced in late Sep that it will introduce complimentary medical insurance for all passengers on all voyages, covering unexpected travel, medical and legal coverage, along with emergency evacuation. … Billionaire tycoon Richard Branson, who never liked cruising, looks to “disrupt” the industry with his Virgin Voyages.
His Scarlet Lady was set for its first US sailing Oct 6th. … More news from Atlas:  This luxurious, adventure, small-ship cruise line is one of the first cruise lines to sail at full capacity after the successful Aug debut of its first ship.  One of the company’s chief executives was one of my 6th grade students in a Hoboken middle school back in the mid 1990s. 
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Wed Oct 6th Crystal Cruises:  Our dear friend Jim Brochu is aboard the Crystal Symphony, lecturing and adding much joy.  Happily, a message from one of our favorite Broadway & television stars:    “Absolutely wonderful trip so far. The boarding process [at Pier 88, New York] was incredibly easy and took about an hour from start to finish.  Actually, it was very strange to pull up at the pier on a departure day and see no cars in front of us.  There’s 174 people on the ship and everybody has been keeping their social distance to be safe.. But when we all got our negative results [from Bermuda Govt health testing] last night, the festivities broke out and hugs were plentiful. And making things even better — lots of old friends on board.”

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Above:   Holland America’s Koningsdam in Norway

Turkey:   The iconic funnel of the Grand Celebration, the former Celebration of Carnival Cruise Lines, came tumbling down this week at a scrap yard at Aliaga in Turkey.

Fri Oct 8th Carnival Cruise Line announced plans for more ship restarts for Jan and Feb, as it works towards the return of its full fleet sailing from U.S. homeports in the spring of 2022.   With 17 ships scheduled to be operating by year-end, the Carnival Sunshine will restart from Charleston on Jan 13th and Carnival Liberty from Port Canaveral on Feb 11th.

More Snippets:  Norwegian Cruise Lines said his full fleet of 28 ships will resume service by Apr 1st for the first time since the Covid pandemic. … Jamaica is eagerly preparing for the resumption of cruise calls by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines beginning in November as well as 110+ planned cruise ship visits from Oct through Apr 2022 by Carnival Cruise Line. … 
Sat Oct 9th More from Carnival:  With half its U.S. fleet back in service and sailing from six U.S. homeports – the most in cruising – Carnival Cruise Line has had an accomplishment-filled three months since resuming guest operations this summer. The company’s restart began on Jul 3rd 2021 when the Carnival Vista set sail from Galveston and since then 10 additional ships have resumed service, carrying 237,000 guests from homeports along the East and West Coasts and the Gulf of Mexico all while guests were devouring nearly half a million Guy Fieri burgers and enjoying 11,000 adrenaline-fueled rides on BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea that debuted on the new Mardi Gras last Jul 31st. But it’s more than just burgers and roller coaster rides, Carnival’s resumption of service has provided much-needed vacations to hundreds of thousands of loyal guests, a boost to the economies in its homeport and port-of-call communities and opportunities for its shipboard team members to support their families in 120 countries around the world.  

Sun Oct 10th Holland America:  Holland America Line is resuming service on the West Coast today as the Koningsdam welcomes guests back in San Diego. After a 19-month operational pause, the 2016-built vessel is starting a week-long California Coast voyage.

Mon Oct 11th Singapore:  Australia has finally announced the softening of some of its travel bans and so the likes of Cunard now plans a special long sailing next winter from Southampton to Singapore by the Queen Elizabeth.  

More Bits’n Pieces:  Ports such as Tampa & San Francisco are now planning resumption of cruise sailings.  … If you’re looking for an aviation-focused adventure, Singapore Airlines might have a good option for you. The airline operates the world’s longest flight, from New York-JFK to Singapore. But throughout the pandemic that 9,537-mile, 19-hour route has largely been off-limits to most travelers. Now, thanks to the recent news about Singapore relaxing entry requirements for vaccinated Americans, the flight is once again within reach for many.  It resumes Oct 19th. … 

Fri Oct 15th Update from Cunard:   A message from our dear & kind friend Capt Aseem Hashmi, master of the Queen Mary 2:  “I am currently aboard QM2 after just returning to the UK shores after a four- week dry dock in Brest (France). The dry dock was mainly for external projects, but the refit internally is in full swing. Almost 400 crew are joining this week so the ship is coming to life again!” 

At the podium:  Tentatively (well, it has to be tentative in these uncertain covid times), I am joining the Crystal Serenity as a speaker on Nov 1st-15th for two seven-night Miami/Bahamas cruises;   and then the Queen Mary 2 for her Christmas-New Year Caribbean cruise departing from New York on Dec 22nd, returning Jan 3rd.  

Out of the old shoebox:   

Below:  The Queen Mary 2 arriving at San Francisco for the first time in Jan 2007


Thank you to all our readers, correspondents, those “agents” in faraway places! 

San Francisco’s Oldest Indian Restaurant “New Delhi” Celebrates 33 Years as “Legacy Business” by Raising Funds for Nonprofit “Compassionate Chefs” Initiative 

Media contact:  David Perry / / (415) 676-7007

San Francisco’s Oldest Indian Restaurant “New Delhi” Celebrates 33 Years as “Legacy Business” by Raising Funds for Nonprofit “Compassionate Chefs” Initiative 

“Deep Gratitude To You” is theme of November 3 Event  

Honoring “Heroines of Recovery”

Vice President Kamala Harris
San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed
and Attorney Mishty Deb 

Former SF Mayor Art Agnos Celebrated as “Partner in Compassion”

14 October 2021 – San Francisco, CA:  As a wise teacher once said: we need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude every day, in every way. Certainly, no one embodies that more than Ranjan Dey, founder and owner of San Francisco’s historic legacy business, New Delhi Restaurant, the oldest example of Indian Cuisine in the City. On Wednesday, November 3 at 6pm, Ranjan hosts an event whose theme is just that: “Deep Gratitude To You”.  Marking New Delhi Restaurant’s 33rd Anniversary, the evening of food, fun, fabulous music and festivities  will honor three extraordinary “Heroines of Recovery” who demonstrated amazing leadership helping small business recover from the COVID shutdowns: United States Vice-President Kamala Harris, San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed, and attorney Mishty Deb.  Additionally, former SF Mayor Art Agnos will be celebrated as a special “Partner in Compassion.”  Tickets are $ 50 and all proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit Compassionate Chefs Cafe.   The festivities will begin at 6pm with an open bar and buffet of traditional Indian delicacies, a short program at 7pm followed by a special Bollywood dance performance, and lessons for the willing, by Shruthi Reddy. Tickets available at

“Thank you will never be enough for the many people, including our honorees, who helped us get through COVID. By us, I mean our entire City of San Francisco and very specifically our family here at New Delhi Restaurant,” said Chef Dey, New Delhi owner. “In appreciation we are launching the Live Legends at Compassionate Chefs Cafe 2022 series to give back and enrich the community trough culinary and performance art and story-telling and archive and capture bygone memories.”

The brainchild of Chef Dey and Carmen Milagro Live Legends is an interview series with Bay Area artists and musicians benefitting Compassionate Chefs Café which raises funds to help underprivileged kids right in New Delhi’s neighborhood, the Tenderloin, as well as across the ocean at the three biggest slums opposite Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India. Compassionate Chefs Café’s goal and mission is to help the kids become global citizens by connecting them through several ongoing programs.  New Delhi Restaurant has transformed into Compassionate Chefs Café, twice a year in May and November, since 2005.  The inaugural artists for the  Living Legends 2022 series will be announced at the November 3rd event.

“Everyone attending will partake in the delicious story of how the community was always there to help us,” Dey continues. “They will hear about a lawyer who was there to lend us a helping hand all the way from Texas when we were so lost trying to get our PPP and EIDL loans. This happened when I was posting my frustration that the big banks were just facilitating big business. We as a small mixed family immigrant business were just not a priority.”

New Delhi Restaurant has been serving guests from around the world from the same location for over 30 years. It is located in a 100-year-old former hotel ballroom built in 1914. Decorated like a Maharajah’s private banquet room, the restaurant serves cuisine made from recipes culled from the royal Indian menus dating back 300 to 400 years using the freshest local ingredients. Chef and owner, Ranjan Dey, star of the documentary series “MY INDIA”, creates daily specials with his six gourmet spice blends, available nationwide under New World Spices.  New Delhi Bar has been the favorite hot spot for many, working in the downtown restaurant and hotel industry, since its inception in 1988. It is famous for its “Double-Happiness-Happy Hour”: The first from 5:30pm to 7:30pm and the second from 10pm to 12 midnight (“because not everybody works 9 to 5” according to Ranjan.) New Delhi is a great place to try inventive cocktails like Madras Madness or Oh! Calcutta; sip specialty infused Mango or Lychee Martinis and soak up the lively atmosphere and friendly company.

On January 27, 2020, New Delhi Restaurant was proud to be recognized as a Legacy Business: an honor only given to 239 business and the first Indian restaurant and South Asian owned business to be included. San Francisco’s Legacy Business Program acknowledges longstanding and community serving establishments that help make up the “soul of the city” and preserve the unique character of San Francisco.

“Our evening of ‘Deep Gratitude To You’ will be a delicious celebration of the stories of our resiliency,” Dey sums up.  “Through creativity and gratitude we were able to overcome, survive and thrive. This event will feed the body and soul.”

New Gallery in San Francisco’s Castro Neighborhood Premieres with Group Show Featuring Six Artists Who Subvert the Heteronormative Gaze

Media contact:  David Perry / / (415) 676-7007

Schlomer Haus Gallery Presents “Unseen Seen”
October 26 – 5-9pm

IG: schlomer_haus

New Gallery in San Francisco’s Castro Neighborhood Premieres with Group Show Featuring Six Artists Who Subvert the Heteronormative Gaze

12 October 2021 – San Francisco, CA: Creative couple and Castro residents,Steffan Schlarb and Brandon Romer, are embarking on a long-hidden dream to help artists and their beloved neighborhood thrive. The husband-and-husband duo are opening an art gallery with an emphasis on queer, underrepresented and emerging art and artists. On Tuesday, October 26 (5pm – 9pm) the couple will open the Schlomer Haus Gallery (2128 Market Street San Francisco) in San Francisco’s storied LGBTQIA Castro neighborhood.  The gallery’s inaugural show, entitled Unseen Seen (IG: schlomer_haus), is an exhibition featuring six international artists: Heather Benjamin, Lanee Bird, Evan Paul English, David King, Ryan McMenamy and John Webster.

“The six artists in this group exhibition explore the dynamic ways queer artists subvert the heteronormative gaze,” said Schlarb in a statement. “The queer gaze and queer visibility are conveyed in diverse mediums, through abstract and figurative subject matter, and shared subcultural signifiers, making the unseen seen.”

“COVID really made us realize the importance of community. Opening Schlomer Haus Gallery is a way for us to foster community while expressing our love of art and our desire to help queer, underrepresented and emerging artists thrive.”

“We could have opened the gallery in another neighborhood with an established art scene,” explains Schlarb. “But we wanted to create a space in the Castro for the unseen to be seen — and where we can help foster artistic creativity and culture in the Castro.” 

Schlarb is an award-winning creative director with extensive innovation, creative strategy and product design experience. He has lead teams of designers in creating innovative and engaging digital products and experiences. He has lead successful projects for such clients as Google,

Salesforce and Open Table, among others. He is also an artist. He has lived in San Francisco since 1992 and the Castro since 2011.

Romer is a film and video producer in the advertising industry for nearly 20 years, producing for Facebook, Twitter and Xbox. He has worked with world-renowned directors Terrence Malick, Rupert Sanders and Jenn Nkiru. He holds a B.A. in Art History from UC Berkeley. He has lived in San Francisco for 20 years and the Castro for 11 years.

In accordance with an order from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, all individuals regardless of vaccination status must wear a mask while inside the gallery.

Unseen Seen will open October 26 – 5-9pm at the Schlomer Haus Gallery  2128 Market Street; Gallery Hours: Tue – Sat 12-6p, By Appointment; IG: schlomer_haus; T: (415) 275-0960; E:

LYRIC Names Laura Lala-Chávez New Executive Director

Media Contact: DP&A, Inc. / David Perry / / (415) 676-7007

LYRIC Names Laura Lala-Chávez New Executive Director

7 October 2021 – San Francisco, CA: San Francisco’s esteemed nonprofit LYRIC (, for 33 years serving LGBTQQ+ youth, has named Laura Lala-Chávez as its new Executive Director.

“We’re incredibly excited to welcome Laura to the LYRIC family. LYRIC’s Board of Directors unanimously agreed that we need Laura’s leadership experience, commitment to investing in LYRIC’s people and programs, and relationships with community leaders,” said Phil Kim and Michael Appel, LYRIC Board of Directors Co-Chairs in a statement.  “Laura will join LYRIC during a pivotal time: we’re in the midst of our first-ever capital campaign to expand our Center as we’re seeing increasing demand for our services. We believe her vision to move LYRIC’s work into its next phase will best serve LGBTQQ+ youth and affirms our commitment to racial equity.”

LYRIC’s longtime former Executive Director Jodi L. Schwartz continues as President to oversee the ongoing capital campaign through December 2021 to renovate LYRIC’s landmark home in San Francisco’s Castro District, allowing for increased program opportunities for youth. Interim Executive Director Toni Newman, who will remain through November 2021 to support Lala-Chávez’s executive transition,was recently named as interim CEO for the Black AIDS Institute.

“When I think of LYRIC, I think of youth moving to San Francisco in search of support. I think of youth in the Bay Area who are struggling to come out to their families, or are navigating family rejection, and the lack of stability losing your support system provides,” said Lala-Chávez. “I think of youth who are trying to survive in an unjust, oppressive world day to day. I think of the collective power we have to create change as a place of healing, acceptance, love and nurturance. I see this opportunity as a way to reimagine work in service to youth. I have seen the effects of trauma on youth in my time as a counselor and as a result I have become deeply ingrained in the city of San Francisco as a resident, advocate, director and change maker. I don’t think I could have dreamed a better opportunity than this one to create lasting, impact for LGBTQ+ youth in San Francisco.”

Lala-Chávez will start on October 25 and brings over 25 years’ experience in youth development, counseling and nonprofit management to LYRIC. Previously, Laura served as Executive Director of Challenge Day, a national organization focused on building empathy, compassion, and equity in school communities across the country. They also served as Associate Executive Director for Mission YMCA in San Francisco, a youth development organization supporting youth in creating educational, career pathways while supporting food and housing insecurity. She holds a Bachelors in Recreation-Nonprofit Management and a Masters in School and MFT Counseling from San Francisco State University. Lala-Chávez lives with her wife Cheryl, two children and dogs in the Portola district of San Francisco.

LYRIC is the San Francisco Bay Area’s leading organization offering expertise in youth workforce development, healthcare navigation, individual counseling, and group-based community building to marginalized low-income LGBTQQ+ youth.  In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, LYRIC has continued its vital work for queer youth in our community. LYRIC’s mission is to build community and inspire positive social change through education enhancement, career trainings, health promotion, and leadership development with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth, their families, and allies of all races, classes, genders, and abilities. For more information and to make a donation, go to  

Laura Lala-Chávez
Laura Lala-Chávez