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
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.
Ship: Allure of the Seas
Dates: January 22 - 29, 2017
Details: Atlantis is taking over one of the biggest cruise ships in the world. For seven nights in the Western Caribbean, Allure of the Seas will treat more than 5,400 cruisers to an array of dance parties, performances by guest acts and other themed activities. Itinerary stops include Cozumel, Costa Maya and Royal Caribbean's private island, Labadee. Available fares start at $1,099 for an inside cabin, based on double occupancy, but are subject to change based on availability.
Ship: Oceania Regatta
Dates: February 25 - March 7, 2017
Details: Is the Rio Carnival on your bucket list? If so, there's no better place to celebrate than on Atlantis' new Rio Carnival to Buenos Aires Cruise. Kick off your week with three days of festivities in Rio de Janeiro, before diving into a week of DJ-led dance parties, musical performances and top-notch dining on Oceania Regatta. Additional ports include Parati, Brazil; Santos, Brazil; Punta del Este, Uruguay; and Montevideo, Uruguay before ending in Buenos Aires. Available fares start at $3,199 for an inside cabin, based on double occupancy, but are subject to change based on availability.
Ship: Celebrity Silhouette
Dates: September 4 - 14, 2017
Details: Passengers on Atlantis' Amsterdam to Barcelona Cruise will enjoy visiting nine different locations throughout Europe in just 10 nights. Get your fix of wine in Bordeaux, France, spend the night in Lisbon, Portugal, and explore all southern Spain has to offer (stops include Cadiz, Malaga and Valencia). Among the onboard activities will be theater productions featuring Broadway singers, cabaret performances and parties on Eurodam's poolside dance floor with retractable roof. Available fares start at $1,999 for a balcony cabin.
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.
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.
Brand G Vacations
Trip: Amazon Discovery Expedition
Ship: Delfin Amazon Cruises' Amazon Discovery
Dates: Two dates in 2017
Details: An intimate adventure awaits Brand G cruisers in the rain forests of Peru. For two dates in 2017 -- April 7 to 19 and May 1 to 13 -- the cruisetour (part cruise, part land tour) will take adrenaline junkies on a six-night cruise along the Amazon River, followed by a land tour through the country's Sacred Valley. Highlights include a tour of Machu Picchu and dinner at a floating restaurant in Iquitos. The 44-passenger, all-suite ship includes all meals as well as nonalcoholic and select alcoholic drinks (wine at dinner, plus local beer and pisco-based cocktails throughout the cruise). Available fares start at $6,199 for the April trip and $5,799 for May.
Ship: Amadeus Silver
Dates: August 11 - 20, 2017
Details: Relish all the Old World charm and beauty the Danube River has to offer. Passengers on the 180-passenger Amadeus Silver will begin their cruise with a two-night hotel stay in Prague, where they can enjoy a half-day tour and Pride festivities. The seven-night cruise will then depart for Passau, Linz, Melk, Vienna and Bratislava -- while onboard entertainment that includes "Female Delusionist" Miss Conception and music/comedy legends Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen. The cruise will end in Budapest, where passengers have an option to spend two nights at a hotel. Available fares for this cruise start at $4,099.
Trip: Jewels of Vietnam and Cambodia
Ship: Lueftner Cruises' Mekong Navigator
Dates: Two dates in 2017
Details: The temples of Angkor Wat, overnight stays in Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap and a visit to Phnom Penh's famous Silver Pagoda are only a few highlights of Brand G's Mekong River cruise. Kick off your adventure with a pre-cruise, hotel stay in either Siem Reap or Ho Chi Minh City before boarding the 56-passenger ship, which includes local soft drinks, beer, wine with dinner and other alcoholic beverages. An additional hotel stay at one of the aforementioned cities (opposite the departure port) is also part of the package. Choose from two itineraries -- August 31 to September 12 and October 20 - November 1. Available fares start at $4,495 for the August 31 departure and $4,995 for the October 20 departure.
Ship: Holland America's Koningsdam
Dates: February 5 - 12, 2017
Details: Enjoy RSVP entertainment under the Caribbean sun, on Holland America's newest ship. For seven nights, Koningsdam will set the stage for top-deck dancing and theme parties -- including a YouCreate Party, for which passengers get to choose the theme. The itinerary includes stops in Grand Cayman, Roatan and Cozumel. Available fares start at $1,799 for a family ocean view cabin, based on double occupancy, but are subject to change based on availability.
Trip: Summer in Alaska Cruise
Ship: Holland America's Eurodam
Dates: August 5 - 12, 2017
Details: Adventure awaits in Alaska, with RSVP vacations. Sailing roundtrip from Seattle, passengers can explore Alaska's Glacier Bay, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, as well as Victoria, Canada. Onboard entertainment will feature RSVP signature acts, drag performances, deck parties under the Midnight Sun and more. Available fares start at $1,189 for an inside cabin.
Trip: Danube Explorer Cruise
Ship: Emerald Waterways' Emerald Star
Dates: October 12 - 19, 2017
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' Emerald Star, entertainment offered by RSVP will include piano bar and cabaret entertainers, local performers and movie nights. The cruise is currently sold out, but you can still snag a spot on the wait list.
Ship: Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas
Dates: April 10 - 14, 2017
Details: What better way to celebrate Pride than on a cruise ship? Source Events takes it to the high seas for the eighth year in a row -- with two days in the Bahamas (with cruisers' own private "gay beach") and a day in Key West, roundtrip from Miami. Activities will include a beach party and barbecue as well as exclusive Source Events entertainment onboard. Fares start at $449 for an inside cabin.
Trip: A Voyage Around Iceland
Ship: Windstar Cruises' Star Pride
Dates: July 17 - 24, 2017
Details: Soak in pristine nature baths and hike natural preserves on Source Events' eight-night Iceland cruise. Sailing roundtrip from Reykjavik, the 212-passenger luxury ship will visit Circle Surtsey Island (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and a handful of colorful fishing villages, where waterfalls and rolling green hills abound. Passengers also will have an opportunity to explore Snaefellsjokull National Park, which is home to glaciers and lava fields. Fares start at $3,999 for an oceanview suite.
Trip: Rome to Cannes Cruise
Ship: Star Clippers' Royal Clipper
Dates: September 16 - 23, 2017
Details: The five-masted Royal Clipper will take cruisers on a journey through France and Italy -- with three days in Corsica, one day in St. Tropez and along Italy's west coast, where you can wander through the Tuscan countryside and soak up the sun in Cinque Terre. Source Events entertainment will be offered onboard. Available fares start at $3,249 for an outside cabin.
Ship: Metropolitan Touring's La Pinta
Dates: October 18 - 26, 2017
Details: Calling all nature lovers. Snag your spot on the 47-passenger La Pinta for a chance to explore the Galapagos Islands. Departing from Quito, Ecuador, the cruise will include a variety of guided educational tours and activities, including whale watching, kayaking the secluded Tagus Cove, snorkeling off beaches and observing numerous bird colonies, sea lions and land iguanas. Fares start at $6,499 for a deluxe cabin; port taxes and park fees apply.