The large cruise line that started an industry trend with its "Freestyle Cruising" (no set dinner times, open seating, relaxed dress codes) appeals to a broad range of gays and lesbians. This decidedly midrange cruise line offers great value for the money, and the staff is generally attuned to gay interests. (No problem with FOD meetings on most ships, and many large gay groups with various parents, siblings, and friends on board many ships.) Norwegian launched the Pride of Aloha in gay-friendly Hawaii in July 2004 for one-week inter-island cruises, and will launch its sister Pride of America ship in Hawaii in June 2005.
We aren't exempt in wanting bragging rights for having sailed aboard the "longest, tallest and grandest ocean liner ever," the over-the-top Queen Mary 2 (QM2). In fact, one bar on the QM2 -- the Commodore Lounge -- has already been nicknamed "Commodorothy" because of the high concentration of gays who liven it up each evening. Assigned seating is in tune with the formality of the grand, old-world experience, yet many of the QM2's features are very modern, such as the fabulous Canyon Ranch Spa and huge weight room. Cunard's formal service in the English tradition on board its three ships (the others being the QE2 and new Queen Victoria) ensures that all passengers are treated with respect.
The Yachts of Seabourn
With only three ships of 200 guests each, the luxury yachts of Seabourn are, well, like intimate yachts plying smaller, colorful harbors around the world. The small size means that just about everyone is included in the onboard activities and games. Besides appealing to the inner sybarite in all of us, the Yachts of Seabourn attract experienced, slightly older gay and lesbian cruisers who've done the big ships and who want to visit lesser-known destinations in a more refined atmosphere.
By sheer dint of having the largest fleet (19 at latest count) and the most varied itineraries, any Royal Caribbean cruise will include many FODs. Gay and lesbian "size queens" favor the glamorous 3,000-plus-passenger Explorer of the Seas or Voyager of the Seas. Active passengers love the rock-climbing wall, ice-skating rink, and in-line skating. The large ships, midrange price and huge number of activities means that Royal Caribbean is perfect for families, including those headed by or including gays and lesbians.
The three Windstar ships (more accurately, small motor-sailed yachts) are renowned for reviving the meaning of the word "sailing." Despite the ships' small size -- 148 passengers on the Windstar and Windspirit and 308 on the Windsurf -- the overall experience is luxurious, with fantastic gourmet cuisine, spas and, on the Windsurf, fitness centers. In the active itineraries, passengers can make use of free water sports, such as water-skiing or snorkeling, launched from the back of the ships.
Part One | Part Two