O&A Exclusive: Judge David Young tells all

Editor's note: Daytime TV's openly gay Judge David Young offers Out & About Newspaper readers an exclusive look at his summer vacation. Young is no stranger to Music City. His partner Scott is a Vanderbilt University alumnus, his godson currently attends the university and Young has several close friends who reside in Nashville.

by Judge David Young

I have never liked cruises. If the waves don't make me nauseous, the other passengers usually do.

David Foster Wallace got it right in "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" when he described the experience as “a tragic exercise in managed fun.”  But hey - this was an Atlantis cruise, Foster Wallace isn't even gay, and this trip had a drag queen squirting antibacterial goo on my hands each time I got on or off the ship.  This was not going to be a typical cruise.

The Journey Begins

My partner Scott and I left Miami and headed to Copenhagen, a city where the sun never sets, to kick off a fabulous vacation.

 We decided to enjoy a few extra days in Copenhagen before setting sail on the Atlantis Cruise. The trip started with a celebrity sighting, and it was me! The oddest part about this was that a complete stranger approached me to ask if I was Judge David Young from TV--and he turned out to be my cousin! 

I had never heard of him before, but according to my mother this man was indeed related. His grandmother and my grandfather were siblings. Who knew? This was a great start to what was sure to be an exciting trip.

We visited the Tivoli Gardens (where Walt Disney got the idea for Disneyland, I'm told), toured the city by boat, went through the canals, saw the new opera house, visited the Royal Palace and had lunch in a charming outdoor cafe in Neuhaven overlooking the sailboats.  

We took the train out about 45 minutes towards Helsignor (Elsinore in English - Hamlet's castle, for the Shakespeare fan) and found an amazing contemporary art museum, called Louisiana (named after a woman, Louisa, not the American State). The museum is on a cliff on the coast, where you can see a spectacular view of Sweden across the water.

There's good shopping in Copenhagen, but all the talk about the bad exchange rate is justified. Everything was extremely expensive. Still, I bought the cutest little Royal Copenhagen ceramic penguin to add to my collection.

$40 dollar hamburgers were standard. Scott and I went with several friends to a fantastic meal at Era Ora - nine-course chief's tasting menu, great wine, the works. Took out a second mortgage on my home to pay for it, but it was worth it. 

The next day we boarded the ship and took in the Atlantis atmosphere. Dance music in the elevators, an electric vibe in the air and the occasional cruise director dressed as a daisy. I can’t count the number of boys who swore they were Kate Winslet and opened their arms at the bow of the ship. We were ready for some fun!

First Port

Our first port was Warnemunde, which is a three hour train from Berlin. We took a 20 minute train to the quaint little city of Rostock where we had a very relaxing day. 

Scott and I walked around the town and had an incredible German lunch. It was a lovely day followed by a crazy night. We went to the Conquest party which had a Viking theme, so you can imagine what kind of costumes (or lack thereof) we saw! 

All the boys were dressed like Vikings, but my favorite costume of the night was four guys who were dressed up as the football team the Minnesota Vikings. Another highlight of the night was when we met the fantastic comedian and writer Bruce Vilanch, who even knew me from my TV show!

Monday morning we went back to sea. The best part of the day was when I got to judge a beauty contest to pick the ship’s top model. It was an honor and a blast!

Second Port

Tuesday we went to Tallinn, Estonia and toured the old city. We also took an all day bike tour (yes, I did something athletic!) of the country. The town was magnificent! 

My favorite part of the tour was when we cycled through a park that was a resurrection of the look and feel of the 18th and 19th century lifestyle.  

We concluded the afternoon with a delightful lunch prepared by two women in an old log cabin. It was very authentic and very delicious.  

Third Port

Wednesday started in St. Petersburg with an incredible serenade by the Dixie Land Band. The highlight of St. Petersburg for me was the lavish palaces.   The Amber Room in Katherine’s Palace was truly mind-blowing.

 To be so close to so much history and culture was an awe-inspiring experience that is difficult to put into words.

Thursday we experienced a bit of culture that really hit close to home. We visited the Jewish Synagogue. Being in a place with so much history for the Jewish people was a moving and spiritual experience for me. We continued our religious awakening by exploring several spectacular cathedrals.

Though I’m no saint, it was not difficult to appreciate such magnificent beauty. After a day of religious splendor we took the evening in a slightly different direction and attended the ship’s infamous White Party.  Everyone was dressed in white.  

Some people even painted their skin white, which left very little to the imagination. Scott wasn’t feeling well so he stayed home and trusted me to behave with our friends. Poor Scott missed out on a great party. All I can say is good times were had by all!

Fourth Port

Friday morning rolls around and we dock in Helsinki, Finland. Unfortunately, I was feeling a little under the weather from our previous night of fun, so I did not begin my explorations until early afternoon. 

Once I did make it out I was pleased to step out into a beautiful city. I was also delighted to discover that there was great shopping to be had, which happens to be one of my favorite pastimes.

The Final Port

On Saturday morning we docked, got one last squirt from the antibacterial fairy, and disembarked in Stockholm. Our cruise had come to an end, but we weren’t quite ready for our vacation to be over. 

We spent the day sightseeing, starting with a visit to the Vasa, which is the coolest museum I have ever seen. It is a 17th century ship that was designed to help Stockholm in the war against Norway. 

The ship was so well preserved that 90% of what was displayed looked the same way it did back in the 17th century. It was spectacular! 

Determined to soak up as much Swedish culture as possible while we were there, we stopped by a little café to indulge in a typical Swedish lunch. 

This delicious meal resulted in an even more cultural experience because while we were at lunch we met two straight men who told us about a fabulous high-end market we should visit (of course in “hetero” they said you should hit up this market, but the enthusiasm was still notable). 

When we got there we walked into a giant warehouse filled from floor to ceiling with fresh food. And when I say fresh, I really mean fresh. A leg of lamb, for example, actually still looked like a lamb’s leg. 

There was an endless variety of fish and meat, but we decided to go in a sweeter direction and left the market with some wonderful chocolates.

That night we went to a bar made entirely out of ice, appropriately named The Absolute Ice Bar. The temperature was permanently set at 23 degrees so parkas are a requirement when frequenting this hip attraction. 

This was a fabulously unique experience that I highly recommend. The best part is you can be sure your drink will be served cold, as the vodka is served in an ice cube.

Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen, from the people, to the culture, to the weather; every bit of it is jaw-dropping. 

The old town of Stockholm is known for its amber, which gave Scott a great opportunity to enhance his amber collection. Our last day there was a memorable one, and was a perfect way to end the trip. 

Final Thought

As I mentioned earlier, I have never been a huge fan of cruises in the past, but the Atlantis Cruise has made me a convert. It is a great vacation for gay couples or singles that offers a wide variety of opportunities for everyone. I can’t imagine a trip filled with more energy, color and excitement!

Judge David Young premieres season two on Sept. 8 and airs two back-to-back shows on Nashville's WNAB at 11 a.m. 

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