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 January 2017. Royal Caribbean's 5,400-passenger Harmony of the Seas will be chartered for the largest all-gay cruise January 2018.
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.
2017 - 2018 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 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 Oosterdam
Dates: October 14 - 21, 2017
Details: Sailing from San Diego roundtrip, Atlantis cruisers can experience three highlights of Mexico's west coast: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Onboard entertainment will include Atlantis' own gay circus show, Miss Richfield 1981, La Voix and a variety of gay comedians, cabaret stars and drag performers. Fares start at $849 for an inside cabin.
Ship: Holland America's Noordam
Dates: February 18 - March 1, 2018
Details: Passengers on Atlantis' Auckland to Sydney Cruise can enjoy visiting six different locations Down Under before sailing into Sydney for one of the largest gay and lesbian celebrations in the world: the city's 40th anniversary Mardi Gras celebration. After departing Auckland February 18, Holland America's Noordam will offer a scenic cruising experience through White Island; then visit New Zealand's Napier, Wellington, Akaroa; Hobart, Tasmania; and Melbourne, Australia. Onboard, passengers can relax (and party) day and night, saving most of their energy for the celebration in Sydney; past performers have included George Michael, Kylie Minogue and Boy George. Fares start at $1,399 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.
Ship: Windstar Cruises' Wind Surf
Dates: October 13 - 20, 2017
Details: Raise a glass of your favorite red, white or rose with fellow Olivia cruisers on the picturesque Italy and Amalfi Coast Cruise. The masted Wind Surf will depart from Rome and visit ports along the country's west coast, including Sorrento, Positano, Capril and Amalfi, before ending in Barcelona. Among the cruise's entertainment lineup will be singer-songwriter and activist Cris Williamson, Grammy-nominated and Bammy Award-winning musician Barbara Higbie, and comedians Karen Williams and Poppy Champlin. The cruise is currently sold out, but those interested can sign up on the waitlist for a chance to get onboard.
Ship: Celebrity Summit
Dates: April 2 - 9, 2018
Details: Soak up some sun, make a splash in crystal-clear waters or hike a lush rainforest. Olivia's 45th Anniversary Caribbean Cruise will take passengers through the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, beginning in Fort Lauderdale and ending in San Juan. Ports of call include Labadee, Haiti (Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s private island), Punta Cana, St. Croix and St. Lucia. Onboard, cruisers can enjoy entertainment from a handful of stars including singer-songwriter and activist Cris Williamson, and comedians Vickie Shaw, Suzanne Westenhoefer and Karen Williams. Prices start at $1,299 for an inside cabin, but are subject to availability.
Ship: Holland America's Rotterdam
Dates: June 9 - 16, 2018
Details: From Rotterdam, Netherlands roundtrip, Olivia cruisers can embark on one of the world's most scenic cruises. Make sure you have your cameras ready when passing through Norway's Eidfjord, Geiranger, Alesund and Bergen. Onboard entertainment details will be released in the near future. Prices start at $1,699 for an inside cabin.
Ship: Azamara Quest
Dates: October 6 - 13, 2018
Details: Kick off your cruise in the romantic city of Venice; then visit the medieval town of Dubrovnik, Croatia, before hopping around the Greek islands. Cruisers also can enjoy complimentary standard spirits, international beers and wines, bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas onboard. Onboard entertainment details will be released in the near future. Available fares start at $2,799 for an inside cabin, but are limited availability and subject to change.
Brand G Vacations
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.
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.