One of the perks of living in South Florida has been the easy access to cruise ships and the ability to snap up last-minute deals.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has put that in jeopardy by recently enacting legislation that bans businesses from requiring proof of vaccination in the state. Many cruise lines were ready to start up business but had planned on requiring passengers and employees to be vaccinated.
Norwegian Cruise Line, which is headquartered in Florida, was planning to launch ships to the Caribbean and Europe at limited capacity this summer. Frank Del Rio, chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line, said that because of DeSantis' rule, the cruise line may skip over Florida ports altogether. "We certainly hope it doesn't come to that. Everyone wants to operate out of Florida. It's a very lucrative market."
Several major cruise lines have already moved their ships to operate out of international ports. Norwegian has plans to sail out of Jamaica and the Dominican Republic starting in July. Celebrity will sail from St. Maarten, and Royal Caribbean ships will depart out of the Bahamas and Bermuda.
I predict that DeSantis will back down, moving those ships out of Fort Lauderdale and Miami (not to mention all the other Florida ports) would mean a loss of millions of dollars of revenue. Not just from the cruise lines but ancillary businesses such as hotels, and local restaurants and shops.
While bookings for this summer may be iffy (not that I’m ready to jump on a cruise ship anyway), by autumn everything should be straightened out and we most certainly will have reached herd immunity. Here are a few LGBT groups sailing on mainstream cruises, which are usually much cheaper than all-gay cruises. All are sailing from Fort Lauderdale or Miami, and some are still offering early booking discounts.
Bears at Sea
The Halloweenie BearCruise sails on the Norwegian JOY, from Miami, with stops at Roatán Bay Islands, Harvest Caye Belize, Costa Maya, and Cozumel. The group’s special events include a nightly hot tub takeover (yum bear soup!), karaoke, private shore excursions, specialty entertainment, and the Halloweenie party.
Prices range from $1,300 for an interior cabin to $1,600 for a mini-suite. Prices include a premium beverage package, a $50 shore excursion credit (per port per cabin), all taxes, fees, including gratuities on beverage package and dining package, a 250-minute internet package, and dining at two specialty restaurants.
For more information check out bearcruise.com, or call 866-541-2187.
Extend That Thanksgiving Holiday
Pied Piper’s Post-Thanksgiving Cruise week-long cruise is especially popular with South Florida folks (ask for the Florida discount). This year it takes place from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4, aboard Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. With stops at the Caribbean islands of Antigua and St. Thomas and Coco Cay.
Special entertainment and activities include private first-run movie showings, a costume theme party, a private beach party in one of the tropical cruise ports, nightly cocktail gatherings, an interactive Game Show, a “Dancing with the Stars” event, welcome aboard party, and singles mixers!
Cruise fares range from $720 for an inside cabin to $992 for an ocean-view balcony stateroom. For more information call 800-874-7312 or go to piedpipertravel.com.
Grey and Gay
Now in its 18th year, Travel by MIM’s 12-day cruise is designed for the mature male and his admirers. They’re not excluding women and they've had women join them in previous years. This cruise will bring together younger and older men (and women) for amazing camaraderie and friendship. For some this cruise has become an annual get-together. Sailing aboard the Celebrity Equinox, the group has private gay mixers as well as nightly get-togethers in the lounges. Each night you'll have the opportunity to enjoy dinner with your fellow cruise mates.
Included in the southern Caribbean cruise are a welcome aboard cocktail party, private dining room tables for members of the group, pre-dinner cocktail parties, tour escort, organized activities during days at sea, optional private group shore excursions, the classic beverage package, gratuities, and Wifi.
Prices range from $1,750 for an inside cabin to $3,500 for a veranda stateroom.
Call 954-735-8108 or visit gay-travel-by-mim.com.
Boogie Nights (and Days)
While technically not a gay cruise, you can be sure our community will be well-represented on the Ultimate Disco Cruise, which returns Feb. 26 through March 3. Sailing the Caribbean on the Celebrity Summit. The third incarnation of this popular cruise features more than 40 live performances from some of your favorite disco legends to keep you groovin’ all day and all night long.
Among the performers on this year’s cruise are KC and The Sunshine Band, Kool & The Gang, The Spinners, Rose Royce, The Ohio Players, Exposé, Evelyn “Champagne” King, A Taste of Honey, Thelma Houston, Peaches & Herb, The Hues Corporation, Bee Gees Gold, Boogie Wonder Band and the ultimate Donna Summer tribute performed by Rainere Martin. The music starts late morning poolside and continues until the wee hours of the morning. And it’s all hosted by none other than Deney Terrio (the former host of Dance Fever.)
The musicians don’t just perform on stage, they take part in Q&A sessions, panel discussions, and game shows and dine right beside you in the casual dining rooms. There are theme nights and costume parties, trivia contests, dance competitions, karaoke, and pool-side dance lessons. All this while visiting the exotic ports of Cozumel and Costa Maya.
Prices range from $1,449 for an interior stateroom to $2,299 for a Concierge class veranda room to $7,599 for the penthouse suite. Pack your platform shoes and your passport and book your space now at ultimatediscocruise.com or call 844-296-3472.