There’s a new player in the LGBTQ travel world, and their amazing inaugural season features everything from a Halloween getaway at a Mexican resort to a big-ship Icelandic cruise.
But Vacaya’s trips aren’t the only thing that will set it apart in the industry. “We’re rewriting the playbook,” says VACAYA CEO Randle Roper. “For too long, options for LGBT+ travelers have been extremely limited. Our community has been segregated—not intentionally, of course, but it’s happened nonetheless. Through the years, gay travelers have really only had one large-scale choice: Atlantis/RSVP, which focuses on a traditional circuit-party-style cruise. Lesbian travelers have had the venerable Olivia. Both are great companies with rich traditions, but VACAYA is looking to bring our community together in a completely new and exciting way.”
Roper, who was previously president of RSVP Vacations, teamed with three other industry professionals to create VACAYA in 2018. It’s the first LGBTQ travel company in almost a decade. (Brand g began in 2011, but they mostly do LGBTQ river cruises.)
“VACAYA is a new startup,” says Kim Gustavsson of Concierge Travel. “They want to focus on customer service. For years, people have been saying we need a new player, and they are the first to focus on big cruise ships as well as resorts.” Concierge Travel is a gay-owned boutique travel agency and tour operator founded in Houston in 1997. Although you can book VACAYA trips at myvacaya.com, if you book through Concierge Travel you’ll be supporting the local community. The agency gives 20 percent of its total profits to local LGBTQ nonprofits like the Montrose Center.
Here are the travel choices from VACAYA this year:
Sailing August 11–18 from New York (Port Liberty) on the Celebrity Summit, this seven-night cruise is VACAYA’s very first vacation event, and they’re pulling out all the stops as they journey to Saint John, Canada; Bar Harbor, Maine; and finally to the Provincetown Carnival. Celebrity Summit will be the largest ship ever to overnight in Provincetown.
Stay at the five-star Unico Riviera Maya, recently added to the Leading Hotels of the World roster. The resort offers a level of luxury unmatched by previous options available to LGBT travelers. VACAYA takes over the entire resort for a Halloween and Day of the Dead celebration, October 27–November 2.
EUROPEAN RIVER CRUISE:
Celebrate the holiday season aboard the luxurious Emerald Destiny as VACAYA explores the Christmas markets of Europe, including Amsterdam, Cologne, Nuremberg, Vienna, and Budapest. Seven- and 14-night options both begin December 5.
Sail above the Arctic Circle and see breathtaking glaciers and fjords, explore Iceland’s capital, and enjoy native wildlife for seven days and nights, August 30–September 6.
Vacaya CMO Patrick Gunn says, “The spirit of VACAYA is about exploring new destinations with old and new friends, building lifelong memories, and giving back to the communities we visit and in which we live. This spirit is captured perfectly in our tagline: Open sea. Open mind.”
VACAYA goes beyond the usual circuit-party options by offering spa experiences, sightseeing tours, special entertainment, and its ReachOut program where guests can give back to the communities they visit, either through sweat equity or donations.
“They cater to a more mature crowd,” says Gustavsson, “although they do offer some student rates.” Travelers have to be 18, and they must be accompanied by someone who is at least 25 staying in the same room.
Vacaya CFO Tracy Terrill adds, “It’s hard to believe that in 2019 our efforts are actually groundbreaking. VACAYA is the only large-scale travel company catering to the entire LGBTQIAPK community. We’re reigniting a sense of discovery that has been missing for far too many years. We’re doing that with new destinations, new ships, new resorts, new luxuries, new entertainment, and above all, world-class guest service.”
The Celebrity Summit, the ship for VACAYA’s very first cruise, isn’t new, but this will be its maiden voyage after being completely remodeled and modernized at a cost of several million dollars. All ships and resorts are fully booked by VACAYA for the exclusive use of its LGBTQ travelers and their allies.
“Our mission is to fulfill the vacation dreams of all adults who believe love is love,” says VACAYA COO John Finen. He continues, “Whether you’re a group of gay single men looking to make new friends, a lesbian couple looking for a romantic getaway, a transgender person looking to connect with like-minded individuals, a straight ally who doesn’t want to miss out on all the fun, or someone who is magically and inspiringly in between, VACAYA has a cruise or resort vacation for you.”
This article appears in the May 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.