BEST ALL-GAY CRUISES
Since 1990 the boys (and girls) at Atlantis have been offering all-gay resort vacations on land. Then in 1995 they dipped into the all-gay cruise business—now they run the world’s largest all-LGBT cruise every winter on the 3,200-passenger Navigator in the western Caribbean. They’ve also broken new ground with the first all-gay cruises to Alaska and South America (both available in 2006), as well as adding new destinations like Croatia to their existing itineraries. Their ships attract big gay-icon performers like Rosanne and Deborah Gibson, and there are flamboyant theme parties and tons of other activities. Call 800-628-5268.
The first gay big-ship organizer in 1985, RSVP now runs six cruises a year, including a Princess Cruises charter for Halloween 2006 and intimate river cruises on the Danube, as well as land-based tours in Ireland, Peru, and Thailand. For families, seniors, couples, and singles, RSVP emphasizes inclusiveness of all walks of gay life. Call 800-328-7787.
The world’s biggest lesbian travel company, Olivia Cruises and Resorts has proved that there is a huge market in women’s travel. Offering a safe, fun environment for women and their families, Olivia not only does far-out destinations like the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica but also attracts top talent such as Lily Tomlin, Melissa Etheridge, and k.d. lang. Call 800-631-6277.
BEST MAINSTREAM CRUISE LINE
A family-friendly brand with great youth programs and even onboard surfing! Call 866-562-7625
Slightly higher-end than most cruises, Celebrity focuses on service, food, spas, and spacious accommodations. Call 800-647-2251.
A vanguard of the industry, Holland America is over 130 years old, running a dozen five-star ships. Call 877-724-5425.
BEST SMALL-SHIP CRUISE
Windjammer It calls its jaunts “Barefoot Cruises” and means it, with all-gay nudist trips on its bona fide seaworthy tall-ship sailing vessels. Call 800-327-2601.
BEST GAY EVENT IN THE U.S.
San Francisco Pride
For most queer citizens of the world, attending the gayest week in one of the gayest U.S. cities is like making a pilgrimage to Mecca. Preparing for its 36th anniversary on June 24–25, 2006, San Francisco Pride kicks off with an afternoon festival near the resplendent City Hall, where encounters with Radical Faeries, two-spirit Native Americans, homo hip-hop artists, and cable cars full of gay San Franciscan cops are the norm. Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
New York Pride
Is it any wonder that the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement celebrates gay pride in a massive way? During Pride Week (June 18–25, 2006), the entire isle of Manhattan seems to be bathed in lavender—including the lighting of the Empire State Building and a lavender line down painted Fifth Avenue, where an estimated 250,000 marchers and 350,000 spectators attend the annual Pride March.
Gay Days at Disney World
Gearing up for its “Sweet 16” Anniversary in 2006 (May 30 to June 4), Gay Days is the perfect excuse to don crimson and let your inner Disney queen act out!
BEST MAINSTREAM EVENT IN THE WORLD
New Orleans Mardi Gras
It’s still unclear how many people will celebrate Mardi Gras 2006 in post-Katrina New Orleans, but judging from the handful of diehards who turned out for Southern Decadence less than a week after the hurricane hit, we’re sure that at least a few beads will fly from French Quarter balconies.
The ancient Olympians may have shown more skin, but all eyes remain glued to the triumphs and tragedies of the Olympics. Turin hosts the 2006 Winter Games and Beijing the 2008 Summer Games.
Carnaval in Rio
From February 26 to March 1, 2006, this Brazilian city’s streets will once again surrender to churning masses of feathered dancers, shirtless revelers, and rowdy musicians. This drag show to end all drag shows isn’t even an officially gay event!
BEST ALL-GAY EVENT IN THE WORLD
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Starting the first Friday of every February (just when the winter doldrums move in for the kill in the Northern Hemisphere), the fab folks Down Under kick back for a monthlong summer celebration of art, music, sports, dance, and film—culminating in an outrageous street parade and party (next year’s is on March 4, 2006). What started in 1978 as a march to commemorate Stonewall has turned into the wildest queer party on the planet. After a few poorly attended years, Sydney Mardi Gras is back on track. In 2005 over 19,000 people crammed onto seven different dance floors for the sold-out main party. And the straights get as crazy as the queers.
The floats in this Dutch city’s dazzling pride parade actually float. With around 250,000 spectators (for a town of 750,000), the annual Canal Parade is Amsterdam’s third-largest event. The pride festivities every August go well beyond the parties and parades, with film festivals, art exhibitions, sports events, and music concerts galore. And worry not—Amsterdam is as queer-friendly as ever, despite bad press about growing conservative forces in the country.
New York Pride
(see Best Gay Event in the United States on this page)