Gays and lesbians are among the most enthusiastic "cruisers" around, with no shortage of choices for high-sea adventures. Besides all-gay charters such as Atlantis, RSVP, and Olivia, there are a bewildering number of mainstream cruising possibilities, from small yacht-like ships, to ultra-luxurious midsize ships, to behemoth floating cities with several thousand of your closest friends (for the week).
Almost all cruise lines court the gay community through marketing campaigns, onboard amenities and special programs such as the very popular "Friends of Dorothy" (FOD) meet-and-greets listed in the ship's daily program. And the ship's officers and staff (a large percentage of whom are typically European or Asian) have usually undergone some sensitivity training about homophobia, and have learned to extend the same accepting, friendly courtesies to gay passengers on a one-week getaway as they do to straight guests year-round. But balancing the expectations and interests of their majority straight and minority gay passengers can be a challenge. In which direction should Mr. and Mr. or Ms. and Ms. gay traveler who are ready to hop aboard a mainstream ship point their cruising compass?
Radisson Seven Seas
This ultra-premium cruise line provides the same type of luxury experience offered by Crystal, Seabourn, and others in its category, but it has a more laid-back vibe. Of course, given the price tag, there is a high proportion of older, retired folks on board the four ships, but we're all made to feel welcome. All-open seating means that there's never any need to break bread with stuffed-shirt bible-belters (unless you want the drama), and the crew doesn't bat an eye when asked for a king-size bed instead of doubles.
This top-rated ultra-premium cruise line boasts many loyal gay guests who keep returning to their three ships for the cocooning luxury and impeccable, gay-friendly service. While on board, many gay passengers enjoy the FOD meetings, private events (galley tours, officers' receptions, and so on) and can even check out gay-themed movies in the ship's library. The sophisticated gay passengers mix and mingle freely, enjoying the acclaimed gourmet cuisine and the best entertainment on board any ship.
"There's a reason it's called Princess," reports one enthusiastic fan of the popular line. With Personal Choice dining (in addition to traditional fixed seating), gay-friendly crew and staff and some of the largest ships afloat, Princess includes almost every cruising feature. Besides Internet cafes and expansive showrooms, many Princess ships boast pulsating dance floors that make West Hollywood and Chelsea habitues feel right at home.
The nine ships of this upscale cruise line get high marks for their gay-friendly treatment, although some complained that it was hard to get an FOD meeting approved by the Cruise Director on a recent sailing. Many gays love the mix of passengers on board. Luxury seekers can book the Celebrity Concierge Class suites, with their menu of pillow choices, duvets, and Frette bathrobes. Those with visions of gorgeous Latin bodies doing the samba all night regularly book the 14-night Celebrity cruise that hits Rio during Carnivale.
This classy 13-ship line is set apart from other lines in its strong emphasis on the highest quality, diverse cuisine that appeals to gay gourmands. As with Celebrity, many gay and lesbian cruisers who don't want to spend a small fortune for a long cruise opt for Holland America and its more reasonable high-end experience. Particularly popular are the sparkling new Vista Class ships, offering more staterooms with verandas. One gay couple reports that when they danced together on a recent cruise, no one seemed to notice (or care).
Part One | Part Two