These LGBTQ-focused travel companies can help you plan the perfect cruise
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Travel is one of the best ways to experience the world and learn about cultures different from your own. But when you’re traveling as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, it can be comforting to venture out with a group of like-minded people.
Thinking about a cruise? These LGBTQ-focused travel companies can help you to plan the perfect voyage. They mainly specialize in either partial or full-ship charters, where a large number of cabins (or all of the cabins) is reserved for your group. Read on to see which one might be a good fit for you and your family.
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Established in 1991, Atlantis specializes in LGBTQ travel but mostly caters to the gay community. Although it does offer chartered experiences at a handful of land-based resorts, most of its events are cruise ship charters.
The agency books trips for more than 25,000 travelers each year, nearly half of whom are solo travelers, and, in addition to raucous parties and handpicked entertainment, Atlantis provides luxury, camaraderie and adventure in some of the world’s most beautiful locations.
These trips are ideal for gays looking to mingle and party, as well as couples who want to get away with others in the gay community.
Brand g Vacations
A premier operator of luxury river cruises and land tours, Brand g has been around for 10 years and currently has 14 sailings scheduled for 2022.
Because the company specialized in river cruises, you’ll travel with between 40 and 200 passengers in an intimate full-charter setting that caters to the LGBTQIA+ community and its straight allies.
Included in its packages, Brand g provides upscale amenities, such as luxury small-group airport transfers and pre-cruies hotel stays and tours. It also includes alcohol and shore excursions in its fares.
Originally founded as Olivia Records with the aim of helping women launch their own music careers, Olivia Travel has planned trips for more than 350,000 lesbians and others LGBTQ women since it switched its focus more than thirty years ago.
Focusing on women-only travel for members of the LGBTQ community, Olivia offers full-charter vacations, many of them cruises. Because of its musical roots, Olivia has called on big-name talent, such as the Indigo Girls and Cris Williamson, to perform on some of its sailings.
In addition to ocean cruises, the company also has several river voyages available for late 2021 and beyond.
This Canada-based company focuses on gay travel for smaller groups, offering a more upscale and intimate experience. Travelers can either join existing land-based tours of no more than 16 people, or they can plan their own, with the agency tailoring the experience to client preferences.
Cruises sponsored by Out Adventures max out at 40 people, ensuring that you feel like more than just a number. This also presents a chance for singles to meet others in a more tight-knit setting. The average vacationer is 40 – 55, making these ideal trips for anyone who’s no longer in the “party phase.”
Additionally, Out Adventures’ trips focus on boutique experiences in port, while striving to give back to global LGBTQ communities — $50 from each passengers’ booking is donated to Rainbow Railroad — and helping to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time with regard to local customs and attitudes.
R Family Vacations
Founded in 2003 by Gregg Kaminksy and Kelli Carpenter (ex-partner of Rosie O’Donnell, who was previously affiliated with the brand), R Family Vacations is unique in the LGBTQ travel space in that its specialty is vacations for families with children.
Since O’Donnell and Carpenter parted ways in 2007, the agency has expanded a bit, venturing into the realm of adults-only LGBTQ travel and personal travel.
However, a large part of its customer base still relies on the R Family name for family-friendly cruise bookings. Although they aren’t full charters, sailings featured by the company next year include an adults-only voyage with luxury river cruise line Uniworld and family-friendly sailings to the Caribbean and Alaska with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, respectively.
Offering gay and lesbian travel since 1985, RSVP charters entire ships for its cruise vacations. The charters tend to be on some of the newest and largest vessels afloat, promising lots of ways for travelers to have fun onboard.
In terms of entertainment, the RSVP team schedules themed parties, where costumes are highly encouraged; showcases the latest films, both gay and mainstream; and highlights performances by gay-positive singers, dancers and comedians.
Although it was acquired by Atlantis Events in 2007, RSVP — which has helped more than 100,000 members of the LGBTQ community travel together — does not offer land-based trips. Like Atlantis, RSVP caters to travel for gays, but its clientele is about 10% lesbian on each sailing.
For two decades, Source Events has offered all-gay luxury travel that balances adventure with class, catering equally to singles and couples and topping out at between 15 and 300 people. The company also donates a portion of all proceeds to LGBTQ charities.
Besides group land vacations and individually customized trips, Source promotes full charters of small, intimate cruise ships from lines like Windstar and Atlas Ocean Voyages. You won’t find wild parties or scandalous shenanigans, but you will find an upscale experience that’s perfect for meeting other gays with discerning tastes.
Travelers can book cabins on partial gay charters aboard larger ships (think Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line) via Source, but those are generally specific Pride sailings that are shorter in duration and less exotic in destination. Most of what the company touts are voyages to places like the Black Sea, Dalmatian Coast, Tahiti, the Greek Isles and Antarctica.
Toto Tours is the oldest LGBTQ-focused travel company that has had the same management throughout its tenure. Opened in 1990, the agency helps gays, lesbians and their friends and family members travel in comfort and safety.
Most of Toto’s business comes from land-based trips and tours, including customized ones, but it does occasionally add cruises to its repertoire.
Due to the pandemic, the agency canceled all tours — including an Antarctica cruise that was scheduled for December 2020 — but it is in the process of putting together a selection of new trips for 2022.
VACAYA prides itself on serving the entire LGBTQIAPK community and its allies, rather than focusing heavily on just gay men. The company provides fully chartered access to all-inclusive land-based resorts, but where it really shines is with its cruises.
Featuring travel to locations like the Caribbean, Iceland, the Seychelles, the Greek Isles and Antarctica, along with some paddlewheel cruising through New Orleans, this travel agency mixes fun with adventure and learning on ships both large and small, allowing you to find a sailing that meets your preferences. It can also help to match you with a roommate to offset costs if you’re traveling alone.
Although VACAYA is a fledgling company, having launched in 2019 with its first season of travel offerings, it has weathered the pandemic, and nearly all of its chartered cruises for 2021 and 2022 have sold out.
Featured photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images.
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