Lesbians and gay men — and sometimes their same-gender-loving bisexual partners — have long had vacation outlets, opportunities to surround themselves with other gay travelers on cruise ships through Olivia Travel, RSVP Vacations, Atlantis, Sweet, and R Family Vacations. I’ve been on six or seven Olivia cruises, boats sailing to exotic destinations (in our case) in the Carribean, full of literally thousands of lesbians, where I’ve always felt at home. But eight years ago, when my partner transitioned (from lesbian to man) we started to wonder if there would ever be a cruise tailored to people like us: transgender travelers and the people who love them.
We’ll get our wish in November as Transgender Vacations and Royal Carribean play host to what is believed to be the World’s First Transgender Oceanic Cruise. The seven-night, Navigator of the Seas cruise will sail out of Galveston, Texas, on December 14 and stop in Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico.
"This has been a dream of mine for a very long time,” says Stephanie Land, a transgender travel agent with Dynamic Travel and founder of Transgender Vacations. She says she put together the cruise so that both transgender individuals as well as those who crossdress (but don’t necessarily identify as trans) can “take a vacation and be themselves…for us to feel comfortable with who we are.”
Unlike Olivia or Atlantis, the transgender cruise will not book the entire boat, but will be a large enough block that LGBT travelers (yes, everyone, Land assures us, is invited) will feel comfortable together. In addition to the private parties (there’s a Sail Away party in Galveston, as well), multiple drag shows, a Ms. Diva contest, and performances by queer comedian Paul Hallasy, the boat itself also offers some of the most heralded cruising features: a rock wall that overlooks the sea; a basketball court, ice-skating rink, and mini-golf course; the FlowRider, a signature surf simulator that lets you surf without getting into the ocean; 16 clubs, bars, and lounges; 10 pools and whirlpools (including an adults-only option); a three-story dining room; casino; and plenty of places to dump the kids.
“I think that for the FTM or MTF communities, that we want to be ourselves and be around other people just like in every day life,” Land admits.” I am putting this cruise together for [trans people] that want to venture out and be ourselves, and for crossdressers that want to come and will feel welcome to express themselves.”
Hallasy, a fixture on the comedy circuit and an actor/comedian The Advocate called one of the "Seven LGBT Comics to Watch," adds that the importance of the cruise can simply be stated in its tagline: "The first-ever transgender cruise (but all are welcome)."
Above: Belize City
The cruise, which starts at just over $700 a person, is booking fast and the final rooms need to be reserved with a $250 deposit by August 16 at TransgenderVacations.net or by calling 800-766-2911. While the three destinations are frequent ones for gay and straight cruises, Land says that she believes the group should do shore excursions together for greater safety. While Honduras is not LGBT-friendly, the port of call there is actually an incredibly safe private island that visitors will be comfortable exploring. Both Cozumel and Belize are frequent stops for LGB cruises, but Land says, “ we do have to use common sense when we are in a different country.” She lists tips for LGBT travelers on the cruise website.
In addition to the cruise, Land is helping to set up shore excursions, booking the host hotel Hilton Galveston Island Resort for the first night, airfare, shuttles to the dock, and everything in between. “This is my first cruise that I am putting together for transgender travelers and I am hoping that this will be a success,” Land admits. “I want this first cruise to be fabulous, and I want everyone to have a wonderful time."
IF YOU GO: The Deets
Deposits: a $250 per person deposit is due at the time you make your reservations (that’s based on double occupancy; Land can pair you with a roomate if you are going solo). There’s a $500 deposit for single occupancy room
Payments: The rest of your cruise payment is due on September 30. Prices range from $740 for an inside stateroom to $958 for an ocean view room with a balcony. Details on the cabins can be found at TransgenderVacations.net.
The Host Hotel: It’s common for cruisers to arrive the night before the cruise so they can hit the ship early the next day. The host hotel on December 13, site of the Sail Away reception, is the Hilton Galveston Island Resort. Prices are $163 for a king bed, and include taxes, free parking, and complimentary shuttle to the ship.