(Mirror) There’s nothing worse than signing up for a cruise and finding that it’s with a group where you don’t fit in. Although cruise ships accommodate anywhere between a one to three thousand passengers, there are often large groups that book the majority of the cabins.
You’re more likely to encounter that on some of the lower-end lines such as Carnival and Princess than you are on mid-to-upper-level lines such as Royal Carribbean, Celebrity or Cunard, but it can still happen.
One way to avoid that is to sign up for a cruise where you know the LGBT community will be well represented. There are agencies, such as RSVP, Atlantis, Vacaya and Olivia, that book entire ships exclusively for their groups, as well as agencies that book large groups on mainstream sailings, such as Pied Piper, Aquafest, MTM Travel or Meet Me Onboard. If you’re looking at an exclusively gay cruise expect to pay a bit more. Not only do the companies producing these events need to provide additional staff, the entertainment level is usually much better than what you’d get on a mainstream cruise. It’s not unusual for these groups to bring in top name divas from Broadway or Hollywood for special shows. And then there are the parties; on some ships you’ll need a steamer trunk just for the costumes!
All-gay cruises have the reputation of being a non-stop circuit party, and you can certainly find that, but ultimately the cruise is what you make it. If you want to chill in peace by the pool, bring your noise-canceling earbuds, grab a book and relax, you’ll have plenty of company seeking the same.
The choice between a gay group cruise on a mainstream ship or an all-gay cruise is a matter of personal preference. Look at the itinerary, ship, cost and other factors when making your decision. For groups on mainstream ships, the group’s size is sometimes hard to predict. In the end it all depends on your comfort level-whether in an all-gay group or a mixed environment.
Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades is one of the busiest cruise ports, which means that you can catch a specialty cruise out of your home town just about every week. The following LGBT cruises, sail out of Fort Lauderdale, with a few exceptions that are noted.
Atlantis has chartered the sensational new Celebrity Edge sailing March 17 - 24, Caribbean cruise. The trip takes a ship full of gay men (and a few women) to Key West for Atlantis’ first visit in almost 10 years! After having most of the day to explore the numerous LGBT bars and restaurants and shopping charming Duval Street, cruisers head back to the ship around sunset and set sail for Cozumel, Mexico where everything from world-class diving to tantalizing restaurants beckon. During its return leg, the ship stops in Grand Cayman. Tickets range from $22,000 for a penthouse suite, to $1,429 for an ocean view cabin. Next year’s cruise hasn’t been scheduled yet, but a similar itinerary and departure date should be in the offing.
For more information, check out AtlantisEvents.com.
Aquafesthosts a number of international tours, but perhaps its most popular is its annual Halloween cruise of the western Caribbean. Priced beginning at $899 the cruise departs from Miami on Oct. 27 on the Norwegian Breakaway with stops in Roatan, Bay Island, Honduras; Harvest Caye, Belize; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. The tour package includes two private cocktail parties, a host, private entertainment programs on Halloween, some fun and games with prizes, group dining, and optional private shore excursions in some ports of call.
For more information and other cruises, check out AquafestCruises.com.
The Melissa Etheridge Cruisesails March 31 – Apr. 7 on the Norwegian Pearl. Although this excursion sails out of Tampa, I am including it because of its unique draw. Not only does it feature Melissa Etheridge in two shows, it is a Lilith Fair on the seas, with appearance by Jill Sobule, Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole, Dar Williams, Crystal Bowersox and a dozen more performers. The ship stops in Harvest Caye, Costa Maya, and Grand Cayman during the seven day festival on the high seas. Everyone sailing gets a photo with Melissa, a Q&A with Melissa, and access to a guitar clinic with Etheridge. Available ticket prices range from $1,300 to $2,800.
Check out TheMelissaEtheridgeCruise.com.
RSVPrecent Caribbean cruise sold out weeks before it sailed Feb. 10-17, on the Holland America New Amsterdam. The group sailed to four gorgeous islands with 2,100 gay and lesbian friends. The relatively small (for a major liner) ship made for a more intimate experience. The ship’s first port of call was Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. From there it sailed on to San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, and Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. On board the ship’s usual amenities, such as the spa and fitness classes were augmented by special entertainment including popular gay and lesbian entertainers, and legendary cabaret stars. Theme parties and T-dances traditionally brings out everyone’s creative best. Next year’s cruise dates haven’t been announced but expect it to come up early to mid-Feb. Fares range from $979 to $8,500, go to rsvpvacations.com for more information.
Happy Gay Travel and Source Eventswill present the 10th Annual Miami Gay Pride Cruise Apr. 8 - 13, on the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas. The five-night cruise sails to Havana, Cuba the day after Miami’s Pride Parade. Prices start at only $589 per person, including all the shipboard private parties, meals, special cocktail hours.
For more information, go to HappyGayTravel.com.
For those of you with kids, an all gay cruise can be a bit much. Check out R Family Vacationsfor a more kid-friendly experience. There are many ways to define a family, and R Family Vacations celebrates them all. On R Family Vacations, everyone is welcome: men and women, LGBT or straight, and family & friends of all ages. R Family Vacations always offer signature kids programming for those families with children, but it's not only about the kids. R Family sails from Fort Lauderdale aboard the Celebrity Edge, Apr. 21-28. The Eastern Caribbean cruise includes stops in San Juan, Tortola and St. Maarten. The cruise will also include a number of parties, including the “Sail Away Mixer”, a welcome party, special theme nights, and group dinners. Entertainment features LGBT comics, musical performers, and shore excursions. Stateroom rates range from $1676 to $1726, with special prices for additional guests staying in the same room.
Go to RFamilyVacations.com for more information.
While not an LGBT cruise per se, our community was well represented on the Ultimate Disco Cruisewhich sailed from Feb. 14-19. Those sailing were able to hustle back in time and relive everything that made the disco era so special. Live performances by more than 40 disco legends, including KC and The Sunshine Band, Kool & The Gang, The Spinners, Gloria Gaynor and Evelyn Champagne King took place at over 25 interactive events aboard Celebrity Infinity as it cruised from Fort Lauderdale, with stops in Key West and Cozumel before returning home. Next year’s cruise, Feb. 10-15 sails out of Miami.
Check out all of SFGN's March Mirror Travel stories @