Reasons to Take or Skip a Gay Cruise
Last updated on March 24, 2020
Gay travel has become a real business. While LGBTQ+ people have been cruising since the first commercial cruise ship set sail more than a century ago, it has only been in the last 30 years that all-gay cruises have begun building a niche market for themselves. However, the gay and lesbian cruise market is flourishing, and every mainstream cruise line now welcomes gay, lesbian, and queer passengers to their ships.
If you’re considering taking the plunge and booking an all-gay cruise, or you’re just looking to dip your toes in and see what’s out there, you’re in luck! The options for LGBT travelers are wide and varied, and continuing to expand all the time. Here are some reasons you might want to explore the colorful and exciting world of gay cruises the next time you plan a vacation.
Why should you take a gay cruise?
Of course, the biggest factor in whether to take an LGBT cruise is YOU. Do you wish you could spend more time in the gay community? Are you wishing you could be completely comfortable and carefree while on vacation? Or are you an ally looking to surprise a friend or loved one with the vacation of a lifetime in an accepting, fun environment? Whatever the reason, gay cruising offers some unique and unforgettable experiences on the open sea.
1. The atmosphere
Cruises have earned their well-known reputation for being fun and relaxing getaways. But typical cruises pale in comparison to gay cruises. The atmosphere on board a gay cruise is unlike anything else - vibrant, lively, social, and bright.
Gay cruises are designed not only to be havens from ugly aspects of life on shore (like homophobia or closed-mindedness), but also to highlight the life, pride, and culture unique to the LGBT community. From entertainment to dining to the itineraries themselves, each cruise celebrates the diversity that makes the community sparkle.
2. Activities that cater to couples, singles, and friends
The idea of embarking on a gay cruise when you’re single may seem daunting at first, but don’t worry. There are plenty of activities onboard to help you connect with other people. Gay cruises for singles offer opportunities to look for love or friendship in a judgment-free zone.
If you’re traveling with your significant other or spouse, there are also plenty of entertainment options and activities to choose from, as well as opportunities for romantic or intimate moments for just the two of you. Cruisers traveling in a group can also find tons of options for spending sea days (or any day) with group activities.
If there’s one iconic break that chartered all-gay cruises make from the typical cruise, it’s the number of parties scheduled on the ship. All-gay cruises pack in the parties, and keep it fun and fresh with themed parties, costume parties, dance floors and other opportunities to get out and socialize. Plus, gay cruises tend to serve half the food and twice the alcohol as non-gay cruises, meaning the party can transition from day to night seamlessly.
4. An inclusive vacation - and not just socially inclusive
One of the best parts about cruise travel is how much is included in the price of a ticket. Accommodation, meals, even some entertainment is covered in your cruise fare. Drink packages are also available for purchase on many cruise lines to help keep onboard spending under control and ensure you have a great time.
While we always recommend budgeting in advance (see our article about the true cost of a cruise for more info on that), cruises continue to offer the best value in traveling. And you can find very good gay cruise deals by browsing the web or setting up a cruise price alert on our website.
Select your preferred gay cruise ship
5. Wake up in a new city every day
If you’ve cruised before, know anyone who has taken a cruise, or just read about cruises, you’ve probably heard a common refrain: Unpack once, see multiple destinations.
The allure of exploring some of the world’s most beautiful and best gay friendly destinations like the Caribbean islands, Canada and New England or even just Los Angeles while being able to return to a kind of “home-base” is undeniable. Add to that the Broadway musicals, stocked bar, world-class cuisine, and nonstop parties onboard the cruise ship and you have a truly winning combination.
6. A worry-free way to travel internationally
You know better than anyone that the fight for equal rights has been long and fraught. And while the tides are turning in many places all over the world, there are still places where the fight for equality and gay rights is yet to be won. For this reason, navigating the intricacies of international travel can be especially difficult for LGBT cruisers.
One of the biggest benefits of cruising is knowing you’ll be stopping in ports that will be welcoming. Although there aren’t any dedicated gay cruise lines (yet), every gay cruise operator will ensure that you and your fellow cruisers can explore the world safely, openly, and comfortably.
That being said, if you opt for cruising with an LGBT group rather than take a chartered all-gay cruise, be sure you take a look at the itinerary ahead of time and make sure all ports are gay-friendly.
7. Meet other LGBT people
Cruise ships are notoriously sociable places where even the shyest wallflowers can meet a bevy of new friends. Connecting with other gay men in the LGBT community goes beyond the typical networking you may expect from a cruise, though.
As with pretty much everything, gay cruises take making friends to a new level, letting you mingle with everyone from guest DJs like Ru Paul to Mr. Gay Europe himself. Remember: some of the most memorable experiences happen when you least expect them, so put yourself out there and let the cruise surprise you!
8. Be YOU
Perhaps the best argument for choosing a gay cruise is that you can be whoever you are, unapologetically and with zero judgment. There’s no need to be even partially closeted, and no need to worry about passing or even fitting in. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer - whoever you are, you can find a place and a community where you truly belong.
What makes gay cruises special?
Before you book a cruise trip to Ibiza, take a look at some things that make gay cruises different from conventional cruises. We also recommend thinking realistically about all you need to know about gay cruises and what you’re looking for in a cruise. If luxury cruises and intimacy are more your style, you may want to skip a cruising companies like an Atlantis events party boat and find a quieter Azamara cruise. Here are some things you can expect to experience on an all-gay cruise.
Everyone on board the ship is gay
Okay, maybe not everyone. There will also be bisexual, transgender, and queer cruisers too! Some gay chartered cruises are also hetero-friendly, so if you want to bring your straight friends (or parents) along you can. If you love spending time with the gay community and wish you could spend even more time with them, an all-gay cruise is right for you.
On the other hand, keep in mind that a cruise ship is a contained space where you’ll have to mingle with people. If spending lots of time over multiple consecutive days with the LGBT community sounds overwhelming, it may be best to consider other options.
Did we mention the parties?
Pool parties, themed parties, costume parties - all-gay cruises pack activity and entertainment programs with parties. They tend to be vibrant, exuberant, and loud. Gay cruises also famously buck the traditional cruise dress code and opt for a come-as-you-are attitude, so pack your sequins and feathers.
Of course, if you prefer your parties subwoofer and sequins optional, you may be better suited to an Alaskan itinerary (which tend to be calmer). As you might expect, gay cruises tend to cater toward gay patrons, so if you’re looking for a lesbian cruise, check out sailings on an all-lesbian Olivia charter.
Select your preferred gay cruise ship
Drag queens reign
When it comes to entertainment, few things compare to the pageantry, comedy, and all-around fun of a drag show. All-gay cruises keep the party going by focusing on entertainment that brings fabulous shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race and Priscilla Queen of the Desert to the open sea.
While there’s no denying gay entertainers are fantastic, if your style is more Hannah Gadsby than Neil Patrick Harris circa the 2011 Tonys, you may want to consider if booking passage on an all-gay cruise is right for you.
Extroverts, get ready to live your best life
Letting loose with costume parties, voguing classes, and bare skin is part of the charm of all-gay cruises (which are notably different from all-lesbian cruises). Previous passengers on board charters by Open Sea and Atlantis cruises have loved the social atmosphere aboard their all-gay cruises, and have suggested that’s part of the allure of cruise travel in general.
On the flip side, that means introverts may have more trouble finding a quiet corner to recharge.
All-gay cruises are more expensive
Parties, celebrity DJs, drag queens, concerts, Broadway productions, more parties...these things cost a lot of money, and that shows up in the price of the cruise. Every year, thousands of LGBT people decide the experience is worth the added cost, but it’s worth mentioning so you can choose what’s right for you.
Drink packages and shore excursions will cost extra, but many charter companies and major cruise lines offer rewards programs for returning customers that can help offset those extra costs in the long run.
You should SKIP an all-gay cruise if…
As fun as chartered all-gay cruises are, they still aren’t the right choice for every LGBT cruiser. Even beyond the special ways in which all-gay cruises differentiate from conventional cruises, there are a few circumstances where a gay cruise may not be the right choice.
...you’re traveling with children
If you’re traveling in a group with families, or if you’re planning to bring your own kids with you, an all-gay cruise is out of the equation. Not only is the atmosphere onboard gay cruise ships decidedly not family friendly, all-gay cruises allowing children are rare. If you’re looking for a gay-friendly family cruise vacation, one option is booking through R Family Vacations, a travel company specializing in arranging LGBT family vacations.
Another option for LGBT families is picking a regular cruise on a gay-friendly, family-oriented cruise line like Royal Caribbean Cruises or Disney Cruise Line. These cruise lines boast award-winning hospitality and entertainment for parents and kids, and are worth a look.
...you care more about ports than sailing under the rainbow flag
If exploring the myriad destinations on your bucket list sounds more tempting than spending a week in a floating Pride Parade, we won’t judge you. If you’re picky about which ports you want to see, keep in mind that chartered cruises come with itineraries that cater to the majority. That means that if you’re longing to get off the beaten path and explore some more remote locations, it may be tough to find an LGBT cruise that fits.
One option is to consider connecting with an LGBT group on a mainstream cruise line like Princess Cruises or Celebrity Cruises. That way you can get the best of both worlds by exploring the globe to your heart’s content without sacrificing meaningful community experiences.
...your travel companions aren’t comfortable in an all-gay environment
Don’t get us wrong - we aren’t suggesting they’re closed-minded. But even supportive allies can become overwhelmed by the constant queue of parties and activities, and it’s important to discuss what your expectations are for the cruise ahead of time with all involved. For some LGBT cruisers, it may be important for their straight friends and family to experience the environment where they feel most at home; for others, ensuring everyone has a great time may be the most important aspect.
One more thing...
There’s no denying that LGBT+ cruises have carved a niche market for themselves, and are quickly growing into a significant portion of the total cruise market, and that’s awesome. But it’s worth mentioning that the number of gay cruises continue to outnumber lesbian cruises by a huge margin. That isn’t a bad thing, but it is indicative of a trend that has translated from the gay community at large into the market for LGBT cruises.
Looking for a specifically transgender cruise? A lesbian singles cruise? How about your first bisexual cruising experience? These categories continue to be seriously underrepresented. One thing is sure: there is work to do to ensure a safe environment for everybody and as you have better things to do than demonstrating for human rights campaign on your cruises and resorts, you should keep in mind that your safety is cruise lines priority.
While progress may not be moving as quickly as some of us may like, we look forward to a future where everyone, regardless of gender identities or sexuality, can find the dream cruise that’s perfect for them.
Update: Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, sailing are being canceled until mid April. Atlantis declined to offer refunds to the vast majority of its passengers who no longer want to board the ship amid fears of an outbreak of COVID-19. Please read more about this here.