Gay and Lesbian Charter Cruises 2016 - 2017

Almost every cruise line, from luxury to mid-range to mass-market, works to attract gay and lesbian travelers. LGBT cocktail parties or meet-ups are a popular activity onboard various ships. Some cruise lines even cater to the community on land through various partnerships (for example: Celebrity Cruises and Holland America have both worked closely with the Seattle Gay Men’s Choir). Passengers will find gay and lesbian travelers on just about any cruise, but some companies offer specialized sailings catering specifically to gay cruisers.

All-gay charter companies like Atlantis Events and RSVP (focused on gay men) and Olivia (exclusively for lesbians) charter entire cruise ships or riverboats and customize the whole trip. The charters work closely with the cruise line to develop itineraries, and they always bring aboard their own group of entertainers, musical guests, D.J.s and more to transform the ship into a floating world of frolicking and fun on the high seas. During the past 25 years, both Atlantis and RSVP have been chartering large and small cruise ships from major cruise lines, such as Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity and Azamara. Olivia joined the party 20 years ago by focusing exclusively on women-only cruises and by chartering similarly mid-range and high-end ships. All of these gay charter companies also regularly charter European riverboats for more intimate, culturally rich experiences for their passengers.

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The "Big Three"

Atlantis continues to be the dominant player in the gay cruising industry by chartering the biggest and most glamorous ships afloat -- such as Royal Caribbean's 5,400-passenger Allure of the Seas, which was used for the largest gay cruise in February 2012.

RSVP was sold to Atlantis Events in 2007. As a result of these transitions, the number of cruises RSVP offers has fluctuated from year to year. Olivia recently celebrated its 40th anniversary as a company (with 20-plus years in gay travel, specifically).

The Best of the Rest

Other players in the market offer smaller, more intimate full-ship gay charters -- including Source Events and r Family Vacations.

Houston-based travel agency Concierge Travel has made a name for itself by expanding the market through high-quality, lively gay-affinity groups aboard regularly scheduled cruises (i.e., partial, not full-ship, charters). Note: Partial charters are not listed below, but you can find more details on each company's website.

Where You'll Cruise

Gay and lesbian charter companies conduct extensive research before committing to a foreign destination. There have been well-publicized incidents of all-gay charters facing opposition and scattered protests at ports in such countries as Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Turkey, so the gay charter companies generally steer clear of controversy and head to the "greatest hits" port stops, mostly in the Caribbean and Europe. Gay travelers should be aware that, at some ports, they might be faced with different levels of social tolerance.

2016 - 2017 Preview

A continuing trend we're seeing for the coming year are more intimate, limited-availability sailings such as river and luxury small ships. However, cruise companies are continuing to offer many diverse choices for all-gay cruising in various sizes and itineraries. Travelers can choose trips to the most popular itineraries in Europe and the Caribbean or explore more bucket-list type places like French Polynesia and the British Isles, among a wide range of options.

Below is a roundup of gay and lesbian cruise departures through early 2017. This information, with specific dates, offers a snapshot of some of the adventures, but it's not meant to serve as a comprehensive calendar. Refer to each company's website for any updates or additions. Be aware that some gay and lesbian cruises sell out very quickly.

Atlantis Events

Trip: Venice to Barcelona Cruise

Ship: Holland America's Eurodam

Dates: July 29 - August 6, 2016

Details: The cruise onboard Holland America's Eurodam will kick off in the romantic city of Venice. From there, the ship will make its way to Croatia; Montenegro; Corfu, Greece; Rome; Corsica; and Marseilles before disembarking in Barcelona. Onboard entertainment will include the world's top gay DJs, poolside dance parties and more. Available fares start at $1,499 for an ocean view cabin but are subject to availability.

Trip: Barcelona to Athens Cruise

Ship: Celebrity Equinox

Dates: August 15 - 25, 2016

Details: Barcelona's thriving gay community makes it an ideal starting point for this 10-night Mediterranean voyage aboard Celebrity Equinox. The itinerary includes stops in Monte Carlo, Turkey, the Greek Islands and throughout Italy -- including Florence, Rome and Naples. On the ship, passengers can stay entertained with top DJs, drag performers, piano cabarets and more. Available fares start at $1,899 for an inside cabin but are subject to availability.

Olivia

Trip: Tahitian Paradise Luxury Cruise

Ship: Paul Gauguin

Dates: August 20 - 27, 2016

Details: On a ship specifically designed to sail French Polynesia year-round, passengers can enjoy some of the world's most breathtaking islands combined with exclusive Olivia entertainment. The ship will spend time in the Society Islands (including Bora Bora and Moorea), Tuamotus and Tahiti, from where it will sail roundtrip. Activities may include snorkeling coral reefs, a helicopter tour or cooking class. Fares start at $4,099 for an outside cabin but are subject to availability.

Trip: Pacific Coastal Cruise

Ship: Holland America's Zaandam

Dates: September 25 - October 2, 2016

Details: From Vancouver/Victoria, B.C., to San Diego, Olivia cruisers can explore treasures of the Pacific coast in Seattle, Washington; Astoria, Oregon; San Francisco, California; and Santa Barbara, California. Attractions include Vancouver's gay-friendly Davie Village, Napa Valley and the cobblestone streets of Solvang, a quaint Danish town outside Santa Barbara. The entertainment line-up has yet to be announced. Prices start at $1,599 for an inside cabin.

Trip: Windwards Islands Luxury Cruise

Ship: Windstar Cruises' Wind Star

Dates: December 2 - 9, 2016

Details: Soak up some sun, make a splash in crystal-clear waters or hike a lush rainforest. Olivia's Windwards Islands Luxury Cruise will take passengers through the less traveled part of the Caribbean, visiting ports like Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada and throughout the Grenadines. Onboard activities include cooking classes and top-notch Olivia entertainment. Prices start at $3,199 for a porthole cabin, but are subject to availability.

Trip: Panama Canal to Costa Rica Luxury Cruise

Ship: Windstar Cruises' Star Breeze

Dates: January 7 - 14, 2017

Details: Olivia cruisers can unleash their inner Indiana Jones on the Panama Canal to Costa Rica Cruise this coming January. Opportunities for adventure will abound in each port of call, as small ship Star Breeze makes its way around the tropical rainforests. Fares start at $4,399 for an oceanview cabin but are subject to availability.

Trip: Caribbean Festival at Sea

Ship: Holland America's Eurodam

Dates: February 4 - 11, 2017

Details: The Caribbean Festival at Sea takes the cake for Olivia entertainment. The 2,104-passenger ship will host a number of musical and comedy acts, theater productions, dance shows, workshops more. Off the ship, passengers can indulge or explore on island time, in Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Key West and Half Moon Cay, Holland America's private island. Fares start at $299 for an inside cabin, but space is limited.

Trip: Majestic Alaska Cruise

Ship: Holland America's Amsterdam

Dates: June 25 - July 2, 2017

Details: Nature lovers, rejoice. Olivia will kick off next year's Alaska season with a weeklong Alaska cruise that includes visits to Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Hubbard Glacier and Victoria, B.C. The entertainment lineup has yet to be announced, but in port, passengers will have a wide range of options like fly-fishing, floatplane tours and English tea afternoons. Fares start at $1,799 for an inside cabin, based on double occupancy.

Trip: Iceland Midnight Sun Cruise

Ship: Windstar Cruises' Star Legend

Dates: July 28 - August 4, 2017

Details: A "once in a lifetime" opportunity awaits, just below the Arctic Circle. Cruisers on Olivia's Iceland Midnight Sun Cruise can explore breathtaking scenery, natural baths, charming villages and more as the ship makes its way from Reykjavik to Grundarfjordur. Entertainment will soon be announced. The cruise is currently sold out, but those interested can sign up on the waitlist for a chance to get onboard.

RSVP Vacations

Trip: Danube Explorer Cruise

Ship: Emerald Waterways' Emerald Belle

Dates: October 9 - 16, 2016

Details: Embark on an all-gay river cruise on Europe's revered Danube River. From Budapest, Hungary, to Bucharest, Romania, passengers can immerse themselves in the history, scenery and culture of quaint river towns and vibrant cities. Onboard Emerald Waterways' new ship, entertainment offered by RSVP will include piano bar and cabaret entertainers, local performers and movie nights. Prices start at $3,199, but space is limited.

Source Events

Trip: Dreams of Tahiti Cruise

Ship: Windstar Cruises' Wind Spirit

Dates: September 16 - 23, 2016

Details: This September, the four-masted Wind Spirit will take cruisers on a journey through the South Pacific. Sailing from Tahiti roundtrip, passengers can enjoy stops in Moorea, Bora Bora and other Society Islands -- including two overnight stays. Activities off the ship may include kayaking, snorkeling and an authentic Polynesian feast with fire dancers, while Source Events will host a series of exclusive entertainment onboard. Available fares start at $3,699 but are subject to change.

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