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.
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 will 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: Celebrity Summit
Dates: March 12 - 19, 2016
Details: The Southern Caribbean is the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure. In March 2016, join more than 2,000 cruisers to St. Barts, St. Lucia, Barbados and Martinique from San Juan roundtrip. When you're not exploring the islands, enjoy classic Atlantis entertainment, top-deck parties and more. Available fares start at $929 for an inside cabin, but are subject to change.
Ship: Oceania Marina
Dates: April 4 - 11, 2016
Details: Celebrate Atlantis' 25th anniversary onboard Oceania Marina. The eight-night cruise will sail through South Pacific islands such as Bora Bora and Moorea and include two overnights, so cruisers have more time to explore the white-sand beaches, lush forests and local villages. Onboard activities include signature Atlantis entertainers and parties. The cruise is currently sold out, but you can still snag a spot on the wait list.
Trip: Anthem Caribbean Cruise
Ship: Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas
Dates: May 21 - 28, 2016
Details: Enjoy simulated surfing and skydiving, robotic bartenders and more when Atlantis hosts its first-ever cruise on Royal Caribbean's new Anthem of the Seas. The ship -- which will sail from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas and end in New York -- is a feast for the eyes with a number of innovative features, such as the SeaPlex sports complex; North Star, glass capsule that rises and extends over the side of the ship; and Two70, a high-tech entertainment venue home to the popular Spectre's Cabaret. It also will feature Atlantis exclusives like piano cabarets in the Schooner Lounge, four DJs and top-deck parties. Available fares start at $999 for an inside cabin with a virtual balcony but are subject to change.
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.
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.
Trip: Lisbon to Dublin Cruise
Ship: Windstar Cruises' Wind Surf
Dates: June 26 - July 4, 2016
Details: Raise a glass with fellow Olivia cruisers in a 300-year-old pub on the Lisbon-to-Dublin cruise. The masted Wind Surf will visit various ports in Spain and Ireland, as well as Porto, Portugal; Brest, France; and the U.K.'s Isles of Scilly. The entertainment line-up has yet to be announced, but inside cabin bookings are already on a waitlist. Prices start at $4,599 for an inside cabin.
Ship: Windstar Cruises' Wind Surf
Dates: June 4 - 13, 2016
Details: From medieval castles Scotland to whale watching in the North Channel, Olivia's destination-intensive, Dublin-to-Edinburgh itinerary is perfect for history lovers and sightseers. Windstar's 312-passenger, masted ship will take passengers to Northern Island, Scotland, the Isle of Man and throughout the United Kingdom. Highlights include Lewis Castle in Stornoway, Giant's Causeway and the Neolithic Heartland of Orkney. Prices start at $3,999 but are subject to availability.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.