1. Home
  2. Cruise Styles
  3. Gay & Lesbian Cruises
  4. Top 10 Cruise Lines for Gay and Lesbian Travelers
Top Cruises for LGBTQ Travelers (Photo: Luna Vandoorne/Shutterstock.com)

Top 10 Cruise Lines for Gay and Lesbian Travelers

There was a time when the best a gay or lesbian cruise passenger could hope for from a "gay-friendly" cruise would be a self-organized "Friends of Dorothy" meet up. Now, gay and lesbian socials are standard on most cruises, and are actually organized, promoted and hosted by the cruise lines and their staffs.

The cruise industry has come a long way, not merely acknowledging but embracing its gay and lesbian passengers. It's really no surprise, given there is data suggesting that the percentage of gay and lesbian travelers who take cruises is the same as -- or even slightly higher than -- the percentage of heterosexual travelers who cruise.

Gay and lesbian cruise passengers haven't been shy about their enthusiasm, either. There are now dozens of Facebook pages and online forums, such as Cruise Critics' Gay and Lesbian Cruisers board, where information about cruise lines is readily shared. That enthusiasm isn't limited to the virtual world, as many gay and lesbian passengers are much more comfortable, compared to just a few years ago, in being open about their sexual orientation while onboard, and quick to call out incidences of perceived homophobia by fellow passengers or cruise-line staff.

In short, the gay and lesbian market is one the cruise industry cannot ignore.

Updated June 14, 2018

As a result, nearly every cruise line has adopted policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, with a growing number also including gender identity. Indeed, many are proactively marketing to gay and lesbian travelers through traditional advertising, social media, onboard programming and sponsorships of LGBT events and organizations.

Along with this increasing openness of cruise lines is the fact that the options for gay and lesbian cruisers have never been better. There are exclusive all-gay and all-lesbian charters hosted by companies such as Atlantis Events, RSVP Vacations, Brand g Vacations, Olivia and VACAYA; non-exclusive cruises for gay and lesbian groups through travel agencies such as Pied Piper Travel; and, of course, the ability to book directly with a preferred cruise line.

The following list highlights 10 gay- and lesbian-welcoming cruise lines, illustrating a rainbow of cruise travel opportunities that are bound to suit nearly any taste.

1. Azamara Club Cruises

Accommodating merely 690 guests each, Azamara's three ships -- Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest and Azamara Pursuit -- are very appealing to travelers seeking a more intimate experience. Another of the line's strengths is its "Destination Immersion" program, which means relatively longer port stays, affording passengers an opportunity to more fully explore and experience destinations. Back onboard, Azamara gets a great deal of praise for its inclusive amenities such as select alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, gratuities and self-service laundry.

What Cruise Critic members are saying: "We have always had a wonderful time on Azamara! They are always very gay friendly." (Phxazzcruisers)

Special notes: Azamara is part of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which received a perfect rating on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. The index is a national benchmarking survey and reports on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality. Azamara has been extremely proactive in marketing to LGBT travelers, and its ships are frequently booked for gay and lesbian group travel.


2. Celebrity Cruises

Providing the "best aspects of classic, elegant cruising and updating them to reflect current lifestyles" is Celebrity Cruises' goal -- and it meets it well. Celebrity's newer Solstice Class (2,850 passengers) and its older, refurbished Millennium Class (2,138 passengers) ships are very popular. Travelers are frequently drawn to Celebrity for its ships' upscale decor, spacious standard cabins and high level of personalized service.

What Cruise Critic members are saying: "I've always found Celebrity extraordinary in the way gay people (really any people) are treated." (johhnnyt)

Special notes: Also part of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Celebrity frequently sponsors LGBT Pride events and regularly targets LGBT travelers in its marketing efforts, including the promotion of onboard same-sex marriages.


3. Crystal Cruises

Luxury is Crystal's priority, and its two oceangoing cruise ships, Crystal Symphony (848 passengers) and Crystal Serenity (1,070), provide passengers outstanding service. The cruise line operates on an all-inclusive model with one of the highest passenger-to-staff and passenger-to-space ratios in the industry. In addition to its big ships, Crystal operates a 62-passenger yacht and Crystal River Cruises.

What Cruise Critic members are saying: "My husband and I love Crystal Cruises. ... Very nice upscale passengers and crew that are very gay friendly." (movie buff)

Special notes: In 2012, the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles was included in the entertainment lineup on a 17-day theater- and film-themed cruise from L.A. to New York City on Crystal Serenity.


Find a Cruise

4. Cunard Line

The operator of Queen Elizabeth (2,058 passengers), Queen Mary 2 (2,600) and Queen Victoria (2,014), Cunard dates back to 1840 and embraces the "Golden Era" of cruising. Every cruise includes afternoon tea served by white-gloved stewards. Among Cunard's most popular offerings are its iconic transatlantic crossings aboard Queen Mary 2.

What Cruise Critic members are saying: "In general, I find Cunard to be the most gay-friendly cruise line sailing today." (eroller)

Special notes: Cunard has been a supporter of the Human Rights Campaign and has a long history of partnering with LGBT travel agencies for full charters and group bookings.


5. Holland America Line

A sister cruise line to Cunard, Holland America also offers a traditional cruising experience with modern touches. HAL's fleet range from the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam to the 835-passenger Prinsendam. The emphasis here is on worldwide, often lengthy, itineraries.

What Cruise Critic members are saying: "My wife and I have cruised twice on HAL. First with another lesbian couple, and the last with a straight couple. At no time did we feel uncomfortable as being 'gay women' on either cruise." (SweetP2)

Special notes: Holland America is a dependable supporter of LGBT organizations, including the National LGBTQ Task Force and The San Diego LGBT Community Center. Olivia held two Caribbean cruises to celebrate its 40th anniversary and partnered with Holland America for both.


6. Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian has one of the youngest fleets in the industry. Similarly, the company takes a youthful approach to its cruising, having pioneered the "freestyle" concept. That translates to a relaxed dress code, flexible dining and cutting-edge entertainment. Norwegian is also known for its large number of continental U.S. homeports, including New York, Seattle, New Orleans, Boston and Tampa.

What Cruise Critic members are saying: "I've never not met gay folk on Norwegian ships." (Cruiser Bruiser)

Special notes: Norwegian has supported organizations such as the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, and its ships are frequently charted for gay and lesbian cruises.


7. Princess Cruises

Princess caters to a wide variety of cruisers. The "Love Boat" line offers approximately 100 itineraries, ranging from one to 100-plus days, and calling on more than 300 ports. That range is also reflected in the fleet, from cozy 680-passenger ships to amenity-packed 3,600-passenger water worlds.

What Cruise Critic members are saying: "I keep going back to Princess. ... Food is good, service great and all staff are welcoming to LGBT travelers, which there almost always are quite a few." (yyjguy)

Special notes: Princess' ships are often chartered for gay and lesbian cruises. RSVP Vacations, for example, selected Regal Princess for its 30th anniversary Caribbean cruise.


8. Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean is one of the largest cruise lines in the world, boasting a fleet of more than 25 vessels. The line puts a great deal of focus on onboard activities with such innovations as indoor skydiving and a surf simulator. The line is also very tech savvy, offering some of the best internet service at sea, along with robot bartenders on some newer ships. Royal Caribbean also likes to live large with four of the world's largest cruise ships: Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas. These mega-ships hold more than 5,000 passengers each.

What Cruise Critic members are saying: "My husband and I met lots of people on Oasis and Allure, some through the roll call, but mostly just bumping into them in one of the bars. The Rising Tide Bar is a hoot, and we always saw 'family' there." (CntPAcruiser)

Special notes: With its parent company's perfect rating on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index and a rich history of hosting gay and lesbian charters and groups, there is little doubt that Royal Caribbean is a welcoming cruise line. For Atlantis Events' 25th anniversary, it chartered Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas for a seven-day all-gay sail to the Caribbean.


9. Seabourn Cruise Line

Seabourn is the cream of the crop in the luxury cruise segment. The line is highly praised for its outstanding customer service, quality dining and inclusive extras such as complimentary cocktails and fitness classes. The fleet is made up of three 450-passenger ships -- Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest -- and two, newer 600-passenger ships, Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation. Standard rooms measure a generous 300 square feet, and all ships feature a restaurant by renowned chef Thomas Keller. Seabourn leans toward exotic itineraries, but mainstream ports certainly make it into the mix.

What Cruise Critic members are saying: "Having over 200 days on Seabourn (and have cruised most all the other lines), I find the line one of the most gay friendly!" (Host Dan)

Special notes: Seabourn has done many gay and lesbian charters with Atlantis Events and frequently has gay and lesbian groups on board.


10. Viking River Cruises

River cruises allow passengers to experience smaller, more specialized destinations. Viking is the largest operator of river cruises and has set a high standard for this niche. While its ships are relatively small in order to navigate bridges and narrows, Viking isn't short on amenities, such as private balconies -- a rarity on river cruises. Cruises also include guided shore excursions.

What Cruise Critic members are saying: "My partner of 34 years and I have been on two Viking river cruises. Both were two-week cruises. We made a lot of friends on each cruise and were welcomed with open arms." (tt_dp)

Special notes: Viking frequently partners with LGBT travel agencies for full charters and group bookings.

Popular on Cruise Critic

Cruise Packing 101
There once was a not-so-savvy seafarer who didn't feel right unless she took two steamer trunks crammed with outfits on every cruise. This, she learned, was not a good idea. Besides incurring the wrath of her male traveling companion, who pointed out that he would have to wrestle with excess baggage through airport terminals and beyond, she quickly tired of cramming her belongings into tiny closets and bureaus. The now savvy seafarer follows her own packing 101 rule: Thou shalt put into one's suitcase only that which will fit neatly in the allocated storage space without hogging every available nook and cranny for thyself. Following that advice is getting easier these days because, for the most part, cruising has become a much more casual vacation -- even on luxury and traditional lines. Plus, with airlines charging to check bags and imposing extra fees for overweight luggage), it's just plain economical to pack light. To do so, you need to have a good sense of what you’re going to wear on a cruise so you don't pack your entire closet. If you're wondering what to bring on your next cruise, here are our guidelines for what you'll need to pack.
Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. Fall foliage enthusiasts, for instance, will find September and October the best time to take that Canada/New England cruise, whereas water sports-lovers (and families) much prefer to sail the region in the summer when school is out and temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
Secrets the Cruise Lines Don't Tell You
Cruise ship life can be a little mysterious. Your choices aren't always spelled out in black and white. The more you cruise, the more you pick up on the unofficial secrets the cruise lines don't tell you -- which give you more options, let you save money and generally allow you to have a better time onboard. Maybe it's knowing what your cabin steward is able to bring you or what the off-the-menu items are at the bar or dining room. Or perhaps it's a tip to getting a good deal on an onboard purchase. But why wait to figure these things out the hard way -- possibly after you've missed your chance? We trawled through all the great advice on Cruise Critic's Message Boards to bring you some of the worst-kept cruise secrets ... at least among our readers who love to share. But whether you're a first-time cruiser or an old sea dog, you might find there's something here you didn't already know.
6 Best Adults-Only Cruise Sun Decks
Cruise ship sun decks offer all the convenience of loungers, hot tubs and beverage service -- and all the headaches of screaming children, rock concerts on poolside screens and live bands playing "Hot Hot Hot" for the 20th time. Adults-only sun decks offer all the former in a much more serene environment. We have nothing against kids, but even on the most family-friendly cruise ships, an area explicitly excluding children gives parents a valuable hour or two of "me time," while maintaining the sanity of fellow cruisers who came on vacation for peace, quiet and minimal crying. Adults-only sun decks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many have amenities not available in the main deck areas and nicer loungers or sun beds; some also require an entry fee. We have not included adults-only solariums that are strictly covered pools. If the only "whining" you want comes with dining, then consider the following six sun decks that maintain a strict adults-only ambiance.