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There has never been a better time to consider a gay cruise. Itineraries are going to more remote destinations than ever, more charter companies are offering a wider variety of cruise experiences to meet the full spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community, and the quality of the ships chartered are almost uniformly elevated and luxurious.
No longer are gay and lesbian groups and full-ship charters relegated to older, tired vessels. Full-ship gay charters are commanding big business for the cruise industry and major cruise lines are responding by offering their newest and most exciting ships. In turn, many charter companies will take over the entire ship, bringing aboard their own dance parties, entertainment, activities and hosts to tailor the vacation experience to their audience.
The magic of a gay cruise lies in the shared experience of traveling with your community. Each sailing fosters an environment where you can be yourself; you can choose whether you want to blend in with the crowd, or stand out and be celebrated for your flair.
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Bonds form more quickly and naturally aboard a ship where you’re surrounded by your people, especially on full-ship charters where large mixers kick off each sailing. Expect welcome parties with themes that go beyond just a nametag, whether that’s icebreaker games or an opportunity to dress up in a way that signifies where you’re from or how you identify. You’ll find more openness throughout the ship compared to a traditional non-themed cruise, especially on the pool deck, as many passengers seek out the experience to expand their social circle.
Don’t miss the boat on making lifelong friends during an epic vacation. Here are 12 of the best gay cruises coming up in 2022 and 2023.
OUTbound’s Christmas Market River Cruise, Dec. 11-18, 2022
The best part of a Christmas Market river cruise is docking in a port that is often a few steps away from the warm glow and transfixing scents of a European Christmas market. The best part of booking that cruise with OUTbound, a charter company that focuses on LGBTQ+ travelers, is going to those markets with your newfound group of queer friends.
OUTbound’s December itinerary on CroisiEurope’s Douce France saunters along the Rhine River, alighting at ports in France, Germany and Switzerland where there will be plenty of time to sample the local warm chestnuts and mulled wine. Most of the OUTbound trips are hosted by celebrity gay couple Jonathan Bennett and Jaymes Vaughan, who bring a playful whimsy to the journey. There are still a few cabins available with rates starting at $3,397 per person, not including port fees and taxes.
How to book: Reserve your spot on the OUTbound website or by calling 916-683-1000.
Atlantis Events’ Caribbean Cruise, Jan. 22-29, 2023
Atlantis is the largest gay cruise charter company, and it completely takes over many of the largest ships at sea today. If you’re someone who appreciates partying on through sunrise on a brand new ship, don’t pass up the chance to sail on Norwegian Prima this January with Atlantis’ Caribbean Cruise. The new ship debuted in late August 2022, piloting a new class of ship for the cruise line that seeks to host a more upscale, elevated onboard experience. Expect Atlantis to bring an impressive overlay of high-tech party lights and sound gear to keep the dance parties hopping day and night.
On this weeklong itinerary from Port Canaveral, Florida, the ship will stop in Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; Georgetown, Grand Cayman and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. Make sure to pack accordingly and dress to impress; every night will bring a different theme and you can be sure many of the 3,200 guests onboard will be dressing up. Select cabins are still available with rates from $1,099 per person, not including additional booking fares, taxes and port fees.
How to book: Pick the cabin you want for the Caribbean Cruise on the Atlantis website or call 310-859-8800.
Atlantis Events’ Southern Caribbean Cruise, Feb. 4-12, 2023
Going for the record as the largest gay cruise in history, Atlantis is gearing up for a full-ship charter of Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas with its staggering capacity of over 5,600. The 8-night cruise will leave from Fort Lauderdale and visit the line’s private beach in Haiti, as well as Aruba and Curaçao. The itinerary also includes four days at sea, which the charter company will fill with pool parties, gay-focused entertainment and many dance parties.
Atlantis charters are specifically geared toward gay men, though you’re likely to find a small percentage of lesbian women and a few straight allies. Though this cruise is all about the party, you’re certain to find a more relaxed quiet scene on a ship as big as Harmony if you seek it out. Rates start from $1,289 per person, not including additional booking fares, taxes and port fees.
How to book: Pick the cabin you want on the Southern Caribbean Cruise on the Atlantis website or call 310-859-8800.
VACAYA’s 5th Anniversary Caribbean Cruise, Feb. 12-19, 2023
Celebrating its fifth year of large-scale charter cruises and full resort buyouts, VACAYA will sail on its largest full-ship charter yet on Celebrity Reflection. The ship will depart from Fort Lauderdale and stop in Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Grand Cayman Island with two days at sea.
VACAYA is the first and only large-scale travel group to openly and outwardly welcome the entire LGBTQIAPK (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, polygamous/polyamorous, kink) community and its allies. The vibe on board is friendly and easygoing, the entertainment is Broadway-caliber and the nightly parties onboard are more about gay anthems than house beats. The company also features an opportunity to give back on each trip with its ReachOUT program, offering the chance to volunteer on a local project while in port. Fares for available cabins on the upcoming Caribbean cruise start at $1,797 per person, not including port taxes, fees and gratuities.
How to book: Get up-to-the-minute availability on the cabins and their locations for the Caribbean Cruise 2023 on VACAYA’s website here or call 718-504-0404.
OLIVIA’s 50th Anniversary Cruise, Feb. 19, 2023-Feb. 26, 2023 and Feb. 26-March 5, 2023
OLIVIA is the most renowned and popular travel group for lesbians, having hosted more than 300 trips for more than 350,000 women. Among the many trips on the books for the next two years, OLIVIA will celebrate its 50th year of lesbian group travel with a full-ship charter of Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam in February 2023. The first cruise sold out so fast that the company added a second week.
Join 2,000 women for a cruise through the Bahamas (roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale with visits to Grand Turk, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay) with more than 30 renowned guests and performers including Cris Williamson, Iren Young, Dr. Bonnie Morris and Deidre McCalla. The remaining cabins on the second sailing are going fast with rates for available cabins starting from $2,999 per person, not inclusive of fees and airfare.
How to book: Reservations for the second week of the 50th Anniversary cruise can be made on OLIVIA’s website or by calling 800-631-6277.
VACAYA’s Mystic Jungle Cruise, March 7-17, 2023
VACAYA’s small-ship luxury cruises roam the world, visiting exotic ports and often going where few LGBTQ+ groups have gone before. The travel company’s Mystic Jungle Cruise will bring LGBTQ+ passengers to many off-the-beaten-path ports on an expedition cruise in Central America, sailing on Ponant’s Le Bellot. The 11-day itinerary begins in Costa Rica with port stops in Colombia and Panama, including passage through the Panama Canal. The ship’s inflatable Zodiac boats will take guests on immersive jungle and rainforest experiences.
VACAYA’s all-inclusiveness of the queer community pairs nicely with the all-inclusive benefits on this cruise, including an open bar and unlimited internet. These smaller ship sailings almost always sell out quickly. Rates for available cabins start at $6,497 per person and do not include port fees, admin fees and gratuities.
How to book: Check the latest cabin availability and book the Mystic Jungle Cruise on VACAYA’s website or call 718-504-0404.
Brand g’s Amazon Cruise & Machu Picchu Discovery, March 19-31, 2023
Join a small group of 40 other LGBTQ+ travelers for Brand g’s 4-night cruise on the Amazon River on the Delfin III, owned and operated by Delfin Amazon Cruises. The cruise is part of a 13-day luxury vacation package that will capture many highlights of Peru, most notably with a glass-domed train journey to Machu Picchu.
Brand g is known for its intimate, small ship charters with a focus on all-inclusive luxury. The all-suite ship still has some availability in the base rate suites, which start at $6,699 per person, not including taxes, tips and fees.
GaySail’s Gay Nude Cruising in Tahiti, April 15-22, 2023
Anchors aweigh and off with your clothes! GaySail’s nude sailings offer the rare chance to sail au naturel in the safe confines of a private, full-charter catamaran. GaySail’s upcoming Tahiti cruise will take a small group of up to 14 gay men on a journey to many of the highlights of the South Pacific, including Bora Bora, Maupiti and Moorea.
GaySail has an impressive lineup of small ship charters scheduled including both clothing-optional and all-nude sailings. The charter company caters predominantly to European gay men (its headquarters are based in Amsterdam) but men from all around the world are welcome to join. Pricing for the April 2023 sailing starts at 2,195 euros per person, including taxes and fees.
Pied Piper Travel’s Greek Isles Cruise, June 5-16, 2023
Pied Piper’s small gay groups on large-scale ships have sailed on hundreds of cruises since its inception in 1990. With upwards of 50 group sailings scheduled currently through 2024, Pied Piper’s globe-trotting trips span an impressive variety of destinations and themes including trips to Antarctica, Rio during Carnival and New Zealand.
Of the many cruises scheduled, the company’s Greek Isles cruise on Celebrity Beyond is among the most exciting. The Edge-class ship is brand-new, having launched in April 2022, and the ship will depart from Civitavecchia (Rome) roundtrip with stops in Sicily and Naples, Italy; Santorini, Mykonos and Athens, Greece; and Istanbul and Ephesus, Turkey.
Sailing with the Pied Piper group includes a special Welcome Aboard cocktail party, private dining tables, an onboard Pied Piper host and invitations to special events and activities on board. The base rate for this cruise is $2,672, not including taxes, gratuities, and additional port fees.
How to book: More details on pricing and availability for the Greek Isles Cruise can be found on Pied Piper Travel’s website. Book your reservation by calling 800-874-7312.
R Family Vacations’ 20th Anniversary Cruise, July 16-23, 2023
Join R Family Vacations for a special group sailing on board Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, the cruise line’s newest ship and the largest passenger ship in the world. While this is not a full-ship charter, R Family will host many exclusive group activities during the sailing including performances by Broadway belters, an LGBTQ+ comedy show, dance parties, a theater camp and special R Family dinners. The ship will depart from Port Canaveral, Florida, with stops in CocoCay, Bahamas; Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; and Roatan, Honduras.
R Family was the first LGBT family travel company and has been a leader for 20 years in the LGBT family travel market, creating the opportunity for queer families to connect and share in the joy of travel. The company has since expanded beyond family travel to include adults-only, small-ship sailings. Rates for the company’s special 20th-anniversary cruise start at $1,082 per person, not including port fees and taxes.
How to book: Pricing and availability can be found on R Family’s website. Book your reservation by calling 917-522-0985.
Source Journey’s Basel to Amsterdam Pride River Cruise, July 29-Aug. 5, 2023
Source Journeys has been a small-group LGBTQ+ charter company for more than 20 years, hosting a handful of small-ship charters and land-based tours each year. Of the company’s upcoming trips planned, its summer 2023 Amsterdam Pride river cruise on Avalon Panorama is a highlight as it concludes with Amsterdam’s world-renowned Canal Pride Parade. No other pride celebration in the world can compare to the wonder of Amsterdam’s citywide celebration annually held during the first weekend of August. Join the hundreds of thousands of revelers as they line up along the canals, cheering along more than 70 boat floats, decorated in the year’s theme.
Source prides itself on a shipboard atmosphere of acceptance, where all feel welcome. Pricing for the 7-night cruise starts at $4,499 per person, not including port fees, gratuities and pre- and post-cruise packages.
How to book: Reserve your spot on Source Journey’s Basel to Amsterdam Pride River Cruise on the company’s website or by calling 305-672-9779.
Out Adventures’ Egypt: Nile River Cruise & Cairo, Nov. 24-Dec. 3, 2023
Check the Great Pyramids of Giza off your bucket list, trace Egypt’s queer history while exploring Khnumhotep & NiankhKhnum’s tomb, and lose yourself in Cairo’s bustling bazaars on Out Adventures’ 9-night Egypt tour. The trip features three nights in a hotel in Cairo followed by a 4-night Nile River cruise and two additional nights in Cairo before flying home. You’re going to be sailing with a small group of no more than 20 gay men (and their allies and families) with excursions that’ll include visits to Luxor Temple, the Royal Tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Abu Simbel Temple.
Out Adventures has a number of gay charter cruises, some combined with land tours, planned through 2023. The trips focus on groups no larger than 40 to enable a more tight-knit sense of community and connection and allow the group to travel to more exotic, remote destinations. The small-ship experience will fill up fast with rates starting at $4,995 per person, not including taxes, tips and fees.
How to book: Book your spot on the Nile River cruise on the Out Adventures website or call 866-360-1152.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
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- A beginners guide to picking a cruise line
- The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- 12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
- The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise
Featured photo courtesy of All Inclusive Photo Project/Celebrity Cruises.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.