Book ‘em, Dano, book ‘em now.
By Marene Gustin
Forget the staycation this year. Why not a gaycation? Whether by land or sea, a vacation cruise can meet all your needs. Just think of all the food, fun, sunshine, and scenery you’ll enjoy as you’re being pampered. But remember to do your research first.
The Spartacus Gay Travel Index for 2017 (SpartacusWorld.com) ranks the most gay-friendly places in the world to visit. As in past years, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Russia rank at the bottom of the barrel, while Sweden and the United Kingdom are listed as the most LGBT-welcoming countries. But you needn’t go anywhere near that far afield to find a perfect vacation spot.
Jesse Garza of Galveston Cruises suggests checking out cruises departing from the Port of Galveston, right down the road. Although a passport is not required if you leave and return to a U.S. port, Garza highly recommends that you travel with one.
“We have a list of special events and Journey Cruises coming up in the next year and a half,” he says. Current ships that depart from the Port of Galveston include Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, which departs every Sunday and returns the following Sunday; the Carnival Breeze, departing every Sunday and returning the following Sunday; the Freedom, departing every Saturday and returning the following Saturday; and the Valor, which features both four- and five-day cruises. And there are two more ships that will eventually depart from Galveston: Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas, coming this fall, and the Carnival Vista, coming in the fall of 2018.
You can also book now for Gay Galveston Cruises’ 2018 Mardi Gras Cruise, departing February 9 and returning on the 14th on the Vision of the Seas. The cruise visits Costa Maya and Cozumel.
Kim Gustavsson, owner of Concierge Travel, Inc., in Houston, is a leader in LGBT travel, booking tours and even designing its own land tours and small-ship cruises specifically for gay and lesbian travelers. One of the company’s tour highlights is the annual Pineapple Point Weekend this June.
“It’s like a reunion for our clients to see each other again, although it is open for anyone,” says Gustavsson. He calls the male-only three-day weekend one of the best gay getaways of the year.
Nestled in the heart of gay-friendly Fort Lauderdale, the Pineapple Point Guesthouse & Resort is the lap of luxury, featuring six buildings, a gym, massage studios, pools (including a clothing-optional pool), an evening happy hour, and bikes so you can pedal to the nearby gay bars, seafood restaurants, and white-sand beaches.
If you need more excitement than play in your vacay, Gustavsson suggests the November Journey into Africa tour, with lush accommodations and a four-night safari in the bush.
Maggie Beaumier, director of strategic marketing at Olivia, is excited about the lesbian travel company’s 45th anniversary. “We offer full charter cruises, resorts, and land adventures,” she says. There’s a 45th-anniversary Caribbean cruise with a brand-new ship, the Summit, piloted by the first American female captain.
And you can beat the Houston heat this June with Olivia’s Alaskan cruise, featuring amazing scenery and special guests like comic duo Kathy and Mo, author Dorothy
Allison (Bastard out of Carolina), and DJ Wildfire.
And if you’re taking your family with you, check out R Family Vacations, founded in 2003, which creates cruises specifically for LGBT parents and their children.
According to Community Marketing & Insights, gay travel generates $65 billion pink dollars for the industry in America alone. That’s quite a large niche market, so it’s no wonder more and more travel companies are putting together tours and cruises specifically targeted to the LGBTQ community. There’s a magazine for this industry, an international organization (the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association), websites, newsletters, and television and social-media advertisements all touting gay travel.
So whether you’re traveling alone and looking for fun, vacationing with your significant other, honeymooning, or enjoying a group of friends far from home, the best way to enjoy your vacation is to find a gay travel agency that can meet your specific needs. Then you just need to pack the bags and say bon voyage.