Forty years ago, a then 20-year-old Judy Dlugacz and a handful of her friends decided it was time for a change in the music industry. In 1973, they established Olivia Records, a label dedicated to lesbian and feminist music. Folksingers Meg Christian and Cris Williamson signed on as its original artists, other women quickly followed suit, and over the next 15 years, the company put out more than 40 albums.
What does that have to do with cruising? By 1988, Olivia's original partners had all moved on, with the exception of Dlugacz, who was thinking about her next move. The answer came to her after a show in Seattle, when some fans commented on how fun it would be if the community established by the Olivia concerts could actually travel and vacation together. The idea stuck, the record label quickly transformed into a travel company, and the first two Olivia cruises were scheduled back-to-back in 1990, bringing 600 women each to the Bahamas. Twenty-two years and more than 150 cruises later, Olivia celebrated the 40th anniversary of the original Olivia Records in 2013. In January and February, they marked the occasion with two weeklong Caribbean cruises, featuring some of the original Olivia record label ladies.
A week before we left for this cruise, we were talking with our hairdresser about the concept of an all-lesbian cruise and why we'd choose to spend the extra money to be surrounded by women instead of opting for a cheaper "mainstream" vacation. One thing that makes Olivia cruises unique -- and the 40th anniversary cruise in particular -- is the entertainment. Music specifically for the lesbian community has always been a major focus, since the company's earliest days.
But even more important is the sense of community that follows and the feeling of absolute freedom that thrives in an all-female environment. Some of our fellow travelers confessed to having taken a dozen or more trips with Olivia, so, at some point, the vacations begin to feel like extended family reunions. And you really can't put a price on the joy of being somewhere where you can absolutely be yourself, or "Feel Free," as the Olivia motto goes.
Check out our slideshow to discover what's unique about an all-women cruise.