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Exclusive | Ask the Travel Expert, May 2007

Exclusive | Ask the Travel Expert, May 2007

HIV Travel; Puerto Rico, Curacao; S. Florida

Ed Salvato is Corporate Director of Travel Media at PlanetOut Inc.--responsible for Gay.com/Travel, PlanetOut.com/Travel, and the editor-in-chief of the award-winning Out Traveler magazine.

Ed speaks often as a gay-travel expert and is frequently quoted in the press. He writes a monthly syndicated travel column and appears regularly on radio and TV.

Ed knows gay travel, and he proves it by answering your questions.

Looking for the perfect romantic gay honeymoon? How about budget recommendations, gay-friendly guesthouses or the best gay nude beaches on earth? Worried about an unfriendly reception in an anti-American country, or wondering about incidents of gay-bashing or the gay- or lesbian-friendliness of a Caribbean island? Ask Ed! (Note: Depending on the volume, he may not be able to respond to every question.)

Hey, Ed,
Know of any trips/adventures specifically for the HIV+ gay man? I am single and looking for travel adventures with other HIV+ men.

Can you help?

Thanks,
Chuck

Hello Chuck,
Thanks for your mail.

I've been in touch with various tour operators and, unfortunately, the large gay tours aren't specifically geared toward HIV+ men. Toto Tours confirmed that they often have HIV+ gay men on their trips, although they don't have trips tailored for just this group.

However, you might want to check out the smaller, nonprofit company Healing Waters Wilderness Adventures (www.hwaters.org), based in San Francisco. They offer affordable kayaking, rafting, and hiking trips for HIV + men and often run day trips around the San Francisco Bay area.

I also found two properties in Key West that sound really promising, though, one with a thrillingly fun social and the other a fabulously indulgent spa. The likelihood of meeting other HIV+ travelers at these properties is high. Here's a quote from an article on them,

“Key West, Florida is a popular spot for travelers who are HIV+. Perhaps they come for what longtime residents claim is the island's almost mystical qualities, which, many believe, can resuscitate the most pulverized of spirits.”

Sounds hard to resist!

Hope this helps!
Ed

Hello Ed,
I am a 30-year-old gay man going on vacation with a 21-year-old straight guy. We are both fairly youthful single guys and we are looking for a party-type of atmosphere. We are looking for someplace that will fit both of our needs though. Someplace that is young, filled with single people, good nightlife, and daytime activities. We would like to go someplace gay-friendly but not all gay -- someplace where gays and straights happily coexist and it wouldn't be hard for either of us to meet people.

The Caribbean is our number 1 choice for a general destination. We would want to go in July, or more preferably August. We are open to Cruises but really like the idea of an all-inclusive type of package. Can you suggest anything or specific places for us? That seems like a pretty demanding criteria list but it would be really great if both of us can get what we want.

Thanks in advance,
Mike

Hello Mike,
You should both be able to find what you're looking for in Puerto Rico or Curacao.

Curacao markets to the gay community (www.gaycuracao.com) and has a great reputation as a gay-friendly destination.

As for Puerto Rico, to quote a recently updated article on Gay.com,“Puerto Rico is one of the gayest spots in the Caribbean. With much to offer gay sun worshipers, its sandy shores are U.S., so there are no customs formalities for travelers from the mainland. And the large number of flights from numerous gateways in the U.S. means convenient, inexpensive access.”

But PR also has no end of entertainments for your straight traveling companion.

My final suggestion would be to consider joining a gay group on board a mainstream cruise. Organized by travel agencies or companies, on these kinds of vacations, you'll be traveling on a regularly scheduled cruise with a large contingent of other gay and lesbian folk, often with a "host" on board, and you'll enjoy special group amenities such as private dinner rooms, cocktail parties and shore excursions. The two biggest organizers of gay groups on board mainstream cruises are Ocean Voyager Cruise Consultants and Pied Piper Travel.

Have a fantastic vacation!
Ed

Hi Ed:
I am considering a weekend getaway in Florida. Have done South Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Does that only leave Key West ? Or, can you suggest anywhere in Orlando (that does not involve a Mouse) that offers culture and nightlife for gay men?

Jeff

Hi Jeff,
Thanks for your mail.

Orlando's gay scene is busy and active, with a good mix of locals and tourists. There are around a dozen bars that mix both mice and men from friendly Wyldes to the wild Parliament House -- a hot venue with a poolside patio and four bars.

As for culture, Orlando is home to the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Science Center and Mennello Museum of American Folk Art. The city also has opera and ballet companies. Park Avenue in Historic Winter Park has quaint restaurants, parks, and boutiques. It's home to Morse Museum of American Art with its Tiffany collection.

You should also consider St. Petersburg, a laid-back beach community on the Gulf of Mexico with white sand beaches, friendly downtown gay bars like Georgie's Alibi, and the largest Pride event in Florida. The city has an artsy spirit, regularly hosting outdoor theater, music, and festivals, and is home to the impressive Salvador Dali Museum and Museum of Fine Arts.

As for Key West, it really is the end of the rainbow. It's quaint, quirky, very laid-back and a lot of fun.

Have a great trip, wherever you decide to go!

Best,
Ed

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