The Best (and Worst) Ports and Destinations for Gay Cruises

Updated on March 26, 2020

two men sihouette on a cruise
The ports you decide to visit can make or break your gay cruise experience.

Choosing a cruise itinerary is one of the most exciting and inspiring parts of picking your perfect cruise. Whether you’re yearning for white sand beaches soaked in sun, cozy cafés tucked away in corners of bustling cities, or prefer to spend your vacations on adventure-packed shore excursions on a Caribbean cruise, your cruise itinerary can have a big impact on what you do. This is particularly true for LGBTQ community cruisers.

While much of the world is perfectly happy to welcome LGBTQ+ travelers to their shores, shops, and sites, there are still 70+ places in the world where being gay is a crime. To help chart the perfect course and pick ports that will be paradise for you and your queer posse, we’ve put together this list of the best gay cruise destinations, and a quick list of those you’ll want to avoid. 

Best cruise ports for LGBTQ+ cruises

The good news is that a lot of the world’s best vacation destinations are open to LGBT travelers, and more are legalizing gay marriage every year. Here are a couple of our top picks you shouldn’t miss on your LGBT cruise.

1. Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Beaches and boating canals abound in this port city located on Florida’s southeastern coast. With plentiful shopping districts like Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale is quickly becoming quite the hotspot for cruisers. It definitely helps that many gay-friendly cruises depart from and return to Fort Lauderdale. Plus, if you’re in the market for a transgender cruise, Fort Lauderdale is your spot: This palm-studded port city was voted most trans-friendly port in the world in 2015, and it takes that accolade very seriously.

2. Ibiza, Spain

No gay cruise port hotspot list would be complete without this sizzling Spanish isle. Notorious the world over for its insane parties and concerts, the island also boasts enclaves of peace and quiet, including yoga retreats and secluded beaches. Take a walk along one of the many secluded beaches or strut your stuff along Platja d’en Bossa, a shopping street lined with bars and hotels. Party all night in Ibiza Town or San Antoni, but then recover in a beachy cove nestled in pine-studded hills.

3. Sydney, Australia

Head down under to discover this popular port. While the whole city is very gay-friendly, you’ll want to hit up Oxford Street in Darlinghurst for a particularly purple spread of shops, bars, and restaurants. If you’re lucky enough to visit in March, celebrate Pride with a massive parade and all-night party during Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. 

Then take in the peace and quiet on a remote Polynesian island, where acceptance of LGBT people is part of the culture. If you’re on a lesbian cruise (or particularly a lesbian singles cruise), be sure to make a stop in Newtown or the McIver’s Ladies Baths - the only women-only public baths in Australia. The beautiful landscapes of Australia alone are a good reason to take a cruise.

The port of Sydney with many ships on the sea at sunset
With its LGBT openness, Sydney offers many different options for gay cruisers. | Author: Josh Withers

4. Barcelona, Spain

Home of Gaudí’s architectural whimsy, maximalism, and organic lines, Barcelona offers sun, culture, food, romance, shopping - plus a gay-friendly attitude. Beyond your typical tourist hotspots like La Sagrada Familia and La Rambla, Barcelona is also within easy reach of some of Spain’s most welcoming queer neighborhoods. Visit nearby Sitges, legendary party destination for gay men, with tons of bars and nightlife in the LGBT-centric Old Town, as well as clothing-optional beaches like Platja d’Aiguadolc and Platja dels Balmains.

Where will you cruise to?

Check out available cruises for gay friendly ports and destinations.

5. Taipei (Keelung), Taiwan

Come for the Japanese colonial architecture, stay for the night markets and scrumptious street food. Try the Taiwanese-style beef noodle soup before you head to the Red House district (Ximending) to explore gay-friendly LGBT-owned shops and bars. For a dose of culture, history, and spirituality, visit Long Shan Temple. On May 2019, Taipei legalized same-sex marriages, so now you know what to do (or not) during your stay.

6. Montevideo, Uruguay

This relatively unknown port city charms with a walkable art deco Old Town just minutes from the port, lively nightlife, and savory steakhouses. Montevideo’s history is also surprisingly progressive: homosexuality was decriminalized back in 1934, and gay marriage was legalized in 2013, making it a gay-friendly haven. Grab some lunch and people watch at La Fonda or Plaza de la Independencia, then spice up your life with some gay tango.

7. Helsinki, Finland

Finland’s capital offers plenty of sightseeing and nightlife, as well as unique experiences like LGBT-friendly nude saunas. If you can, try to arrive in the South Harbor - that way you’ll be right in the thick of the action right off the cruise ship. If museums are your culture of choice, stop in at the Design Museum for progressive design inspiration. A must for gay visitors is the Tom of Finland Experience - a tour celebrating gay culture in the city through an intimate look at one of its most iconic denizens.

8. Quebec City, Canada

One word, my friends: poutine. If you have yet to indulge in the ultra-Canadian treat that is french fries, gravy, and cheese curds, this port city will give you the chance to fix that. Walk it off and shop till you drop in Quebec City’s many boutique stores. Simon, a department store, is a great spot to find some off-the-wall, unique fashion pieces that are sure to turn heads. And if you’re not already full from Canada’s hearty cuisine, stop in at J.A. Moisan to experience a living time capsule of North America’s oldest grocery store.

9. Auckland, New Zealand

From stunning vistas to wine tours to metropolitan bungee jumping, New Zealand really has it all. If you like to explore your destinations on foot, opt for a Maori walking tour - acceptance of gender fluidity and homosexuality is built into Maori culture, so you can take in the scenery without stress. Afterwards, take in the majesty of Auckland’s gay rugby team, the New Zealand Falcons. Finally, explore Newton for gay-friendly shops, eateries, and bars.

10. Mykonos, Greece

It’s true that this Greek island boasts idyllic beaches and 16th-century windmills, but what Mykonos is known the world over for are its legendary parties and LGBTQ+ nightlife. With clubs and dance halls that blast the bass until well past dawn, this party isle is one you won’t want to miss. If gay cruises for singles pique your interest, consider booking an Azamara Club Cruises luxury cruise for all-inclusive comfort.

A row of white houses directly at the sea on Mykonos
Enjoy legendary parties and exceptional LGBTQ+ nightlife with a gay cruise to Mykonos. | Author: jimmy teoh

11. Reykjavik, Iceland

The capital of this subarctic island offers dramatic landscapes dominated by black volcanic beaches, ethereal fog, and a sense of somehow being at the edge of the horizon itself. The city itself is a progressive haven for LGBT rights, and Iceland is proud of its gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer citizens (and visitors). Iceland was the ninth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, and homosexual partnerships have been celebrated there since 1996. Try the Nordic cuisine and explore the wilderness with hiking, backpacking, and overland camping trips - and, of course, no trip to Reykjavík is complete without a whale watching boat tour.

12. Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The “Venice of the North” is home to plenty of romantic canals for strolling, cafés and shops to visit, and photo-ops galore. It also happens to be one of the top 10 queer-friendly places in the world! Each year Amsterdam plays host to the canal Pride parade, which perfectly compliments the colorful, narrow houses along the water’s edge. Take a bike tour through the city, or venture into the countryside for a glimpse at the Netherlands’ world-famous tulip farms and windmills. If you’re looking for a destination wedding spot, Amsterdam might be a good place - gay marriage has been legal there since 2001.

13. Tel Aviv, Israel

Israel’s second-largest city (after Jerusalem) is a cosmopolitan gateway to the Middle East, and is one of the most tolerant places in the region. You can find plenty of museums dedicated to Jewish history, culture, and art, as well as indie shopping and nightlife in and around the city center. Visit Jaffa Port for a taste of history (and fresh-caught fish), or explore one of the city’s many LGBT gyms, beaches, bars, restaurants, and parties. Tel Aviv also hosts a government-funded, internationally recognized Pride parade - check your schedule to see if you’ll be visiting in time to take part!

Where will you cruise to?

Check out available cruises for gay friendly ports and destinations.

Best destinations for LGBTQ+ cruises

If you’re looking for a specific cruise region for your gay, lesbian, or bisexual cruising adventure, you’ll be glad to know that many of the world’s most sought-after destinations are open to you. Here are some of the most welcoming and accepting cruise destinations for gay cruises.

1. Europe

We suggest:

  • A wine-themed tour from Paris through the Burgundy vineyards with a handful of your bosom buddies
  • A river cruise to renowned party cities like Amsterdam and Vienna, where you can explore the vibrancy of Europe’s commercial hubs
  • Gay-friendly German cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, and Frankfurt - or stay in a Slumber Wine Barrel with your sweetheart in Central Germany.
    BONUS: If you stop in Berlin, be sure to visit the Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism for a sobering reminder of the full scope and devastation of the Holocaust

2. Hawaii

We suggest an intimate exploratory cruise of Hawaii with few other passengers and a focus on nature and culture, including diving and immersion excursions.

The mountainous coast of Hawaii with green forest and turquoise water
If you are looking for an exploratory cruise experience, a gay cruise to Hawaii fits perfect. | Author: Braden Jarvis

3. South Sea

We suggest a relaxing, rejuvenating stay on one of the many tranquil Polynesian islands, where being queer is about as scandalous as being left-handed. Cruise trips to South sea are also getting more affordable with time as they have become very popular.

4. Repositioning

Repositioning cruises are usually Transatlantic or Transpacific, departing from a port on one side of the ocean and ending on the other side. Fort Lauderdale, mentioned above, is one of the best gay cruise ports for repositioning cruises and gay cruise lines, thanks to its gay-friendly attitude and LGBT amenities. Plus, fewer ports of call mean better prices, fewer potential sites of conflict, fewer families, and longer sea-day stretches to help you disconnect and really relax.

5. Mediterranean

Home to gay-friendly hotspots like Mykonos and Lesbos, the Mediterranean is also one of the most beautiful and most popular cruise regions. We recommend lesbian cruises stopping in Lesbos, especially around the time of the Eressos International Women’s Festival, which celebrates women who love women.

A white terrace with pink flowers on Santorini facing the sea
With Mykonos and Lesbos as especially gay friendly destinations, a Mediterranean cruise is a great option. | Author: Alexandre Chambon

6. North America

We’ll admit that this continent boasts tons of gay-friendly destinations, but here are four of the most popular and highly recommended hotspots (all conveniently reachable by cruise):

  • Canada
    Ski some of Canada’s most idyllic slopes during Jasper Pride Gay Ski Week in Alberta or Whistler Pride Gay Ski Week in Vancouver. Also worth exploring: the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Calgary. Trust us - your Instagram feed will thank us later.
  • San Francisco
    A major historical site for the fight for equality in the US, San Francisco continues to boast some of the most queer-friendly neighborhoods in California. Visit the GLBT Historical Society Archives and Museum in the Castro District for a glimpse into the hard fight for equality in the US.
  • Palm Springs
    Home to America’s first all-LGBT city council, Palm Springs also plays host to Dinah Shore, one of the largest lesbian parties in the world. For you outdoorsy types, there’s also plenty of hiking and sightseeing tours available without venturing too far from the port.
  • New York City
    The city that never sleeps is also the home of Stonewall Inn riot in 1969, a landmark event in the history of LGBT equality in the US. As you might expect, nightlife and entertainment options are abundant in the Big Apple, from Broadway to Fifth Avenue. You can also trawl the many museums, including the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art and the National Archive for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History.

Where will you cruise to?

Check out available cruises for gay friendly ports and destinations.

The Worst gay and LGBTQ+ cruise destinations

As much as we hate to end on a sad note, it’s incredibly important that you’re aware of the places where being gay, bisexual, or a transgender traveler is still dangerous - especially when those places are also popular mainstream cruise destinations. 

Based on the Spartacus Gay Travel Index for 2020, which includes 197 countries and autonomous regions, here is a quick overview of some of the most popular or common cruise destinations that are anti LGBT, therefore not safe for gay travelers and LGBT cruisers.

Homosexuality is illegal Extremely unfriendly to LGBT people Reports of violence against LGBT people Reports of LGBT people being sentenced to death
Maldives X X
Jamaica X X X
Egypt X X X
Morocco X X X
Russia X X X
Malaysia X X X
Haiti X X X
Chechnya (Russia) X X X X
Countries that are not ideal for a gay cruise

Now that you know where to go, find out everything else you need to know about gay cruises to plan you next trip.

Check out these articles for more information on gay cruises: