Gay cruising is a major niche in the themed sailing market. These cruises are dedicated to offering ships full (or sometimes just groups) of like-minded passengers, and a number of sailings are offered each year.
But if you’ve never sailed a gay cruise before, then you might have a number of questions about what to expect. And even if you have taken a traditional cruise, there’s still a lot that is different about these trips. Or maybe you’re interested in taking one of these cruises but you’re not quite sure if it’s right for you.
After all, there’s a lot to have questions about. Can you sail solo? What’s the atmosphere like? And is everyone so young and fit as what’s seen in the pictures?
No matter the questions you might have, we’ve highlighted some of what you’ll want to know about this style of sailing before you board.
Know the Difference Between Gay Cruises Versus Gay Group Trips
The first thing you should realize is that there are gay cruises and then there are also gay group cruises.
With a gay cruise, a company like Atlantis Events charters an entire cruise ship and then creates a cruise that’s dedicated solely to their passengers. The cabins are resold through the company, not the cruise lines (so a passenger isn’t able to book the cruise through the cruise line’s website). Activities and entertainment are also geared toward the experience, which will be different from a normal cruise.
With a gay group cruise, a portion of a cabins are set aside for a smaller group (from dozens to hundreds) aboard a regular trip. This way there is still a larger contingent of gay passengers than what you’d find on a typical cruise, but the experience is in line with a traditional cruise (though there might be some special events planned). These trips offer more opportunities to sail since they don’t require chartering the whole ship. The downside is that they aren’t dedicated solely to gay passengers.
Several Companies Specialize in Gay Cruises
If you’re searching for a cruise to sail in the gay niche, you may not realize how many options you actually have. In fact, there are a number of companies that operate cruises, either with full ship charters or those previously mentioned group trips aboard regular cruises.
Just like cruise lines, each company seems to have a slightly different style of trip, giving you a number of options.
- Atlantis Events (specializes in whole ship charters for gay & lesbian cruises)
- R Family Vacations (trips for LGBT+, including friends and families)
- Pied Piper Travel (gay and lesbian group cruises)
- Brand g (LGBT+ river cruises and land tours)
- Olivia (LGBT+ woman cruise charters and resorts)
- VACAYA (specializes in whole ship charters and full resort buyouts for the entire LGBT+ Community)
These options should give you a good starting point in finding your style of cruise, as well as your different options for sailings.
Gay Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Lesbian (or Other Groups), But it Can
First things first, all the companies that specialize in this niche will be open and welcoming no matter how you identify. But you likely are interested in sailing with those that you have the most in common with as well. So if you’re a gay man, then you likely want to sail with other gay men. And if you’re a lesbian woman, then you likely want to sail with other lesbian women.
In the case of cruises, the term “gay cruise” is usually specific to mean gay males. Others are always welcomed, but you’ll find that most passengers fall into this group.
If you’re something else, then don’t worry. With the number of companies operating in this space, there is a welcoming place for everyone.
These Cruises Sail Around the Year (and Many Places Around the World)
One good thing about the popularity of this style of cruising is that trips are available year-round and worldwide.
The full-ship charters are less often, sailing a few times each year. However, with the gay group cruises, there are trips that sail literally every month. As well, they can range everything from short Caribbean cruises to lengthy holiday trips in exotic parts of the world. This includes transatlantic cruises, trips to Hawaii, Europe, Asia, and more.
One thing to note is that we don’t know of one easily searchable spot for gay cruises. Instead, it does take some searching around several websites to get an idea of all your available options.
Full Ship Charters Transform the Cruise Experience
We’ve covered that there are trips where the entire ship is chartered for the cruise and others where a group of rooms is booked on a normal cruise.
On those chartered ships, the experience is much different. With the entire cruise ship being used for the specialty cruise, that gives the company behind the charter more room to cater the experience to their specific audience.
For example, Atlantis Events says “we customize every facet of the experience – entertainment, itinerary, shore excursions – to create a one-of-a-kind vacation tailored specifically to our incredibly diverse group of gay and lesbian guests from around the world.”
“Atlantis hand-selects each and every comic, singer, musician, cabaret act, production show, drag performer, DJ, and more to create a lineup that’s tailor-made for a wide range of tastes.”
In other words, the experience on these trips isn’t just a cruise that happens to have gay or lesbian passengers. Instead, it’s reimagined to cater to the crowd.
Cruising Solo? You Won’t Be Alone
Sailing solo on a traditional cruise is definitely a niche. Most of the crowd are couples, families, or groups of friends. On a gay cruise, however, that’s not the case. In fact, it may be that more than half the ship is sailing solo.
Atlantis Events says that “all Atlantis vacations are roughly half singles — half couples.” Brand g says that “depending on the trip, anywhere between 15 to 40% of the group will be solo travelers.”
In fact, in our searches, just about all the companies behind the cruises cater in many ways to single cruisers. This includes things like special singles programming to make sure that those traveling alone are able to meet plenty of new friends. As well, room share programs are also widely used where single passengers are matched up with roommates on the ship to share a cabin.
Don’t Let the Marketing Photos Scare You. Real People Sail These Cruises
“I’ve always been insecure about my weight, and if the marketing strategy for an LGBTQ+ cruise, vacation, or tour company doesn’t include me or make me feel seen — as a chubby Black gay man — I avoid it,” said Kwin Mosby in a Travel & Leisure article about his experience on a gay cruise.
It’s understandable why he might have been concerned. Head to some of the major companies that put on the cruises and you’re likely to see lots of photos of beautiful people with chiseled bodies and tiny swimsuits. It can make you feel like if you have a “normal” body that you’ll be out of place.
In fact, Atlantis Events even addresses this question in their FAQs, which asks if you “have to have a great body to fit in”:
“Very funny. Seriously, while we have some great bodies in our brochure and website (remember it IS marketing!), Atlantis is really all about being yourself and feeling great about who you are. Whatever shape you’re in, you’re going to feel right at home on Atlantis. We promise.”
Mosby seemed to confirm that in his article.
“After a couple of hours on the ship, before leaving Port Everglades in Hollywood, Florida, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of passengers boarding. The age of passengers skewed older, but it was a microcosm of the LGBTQ+ community — different ethnicities, sexual orientations, and more.”