Gay cruises are exploding thanks to a smorgasbord of gay-friendly cruise lines. Going on an LGBT cruise is a popular way to meet or find community with other people in a gay-friendly vacation environment.
Many of these best LGBTQ-oriented cruise lines set sail with either a gay-friendly (Royal Caribbean) or an all-gay atmosphere (Azamara), so how you travel depends on your personal preference. Some prefer to book a private group on a mainstream cruise ship to take advantage of immersive sightseeing opportunities, while others may be more interested in boarding an entire LGBT chartered ship that’s packed with nonstop parties and inclusive entertainment.
Check out the top LGBT cruise companies (and the most LGBT-friendly cruise line) where being loud and proud is encouraged and celebrated.
Royal Caribbean International
This popular cruise line has won awards for its skill at providing LGBT-friendly cruises. It’s one of the best cruise lines for a welcoming and LGBT-oriented experience according to many travelers who belong to the gay community.
Royal Caribbean International makes it a priority to foster diversity and inclusivity on all their ships.
In 2022, the cruise line also partnered with Pride 365. Pride 365 gave a stamp of approval to Royal Caribbean International as a company that is loud and proud about actively supporting their LBGTQ+ guests, crew members, and employees as well as the LGBTQ+ community. They are famous for treating guests and staff like royalty and creating an environment of inclusion that’s designed to put a smile on guests’ faces every day of the year.
Each gay cruise has a bonanza of LGBT-centered activities such as parties, drag shows or a Celine Dion tribute show, and same-sex symbolic wedding ceremonies performed either at sea or at certain onshore ports. There are also LGBTQ meetups scheduled at the start of each cruise so that gay passengers can find and meet like-minded travelers.
A sampling of sailing destinations includes ports in Mexico, Cartagena, Columbia, Puerto Vallarta, the Caribbean, and more where passengers can enjoy gay bars, gay beaches, and parties onshore.
Since Royal Caribbean International isn’t a gay-only cruise line, keep an eye out for LBGT-themed sailings, book a group on a mainstream trip, or check out third-party travel companies such as Atlantis Events that often charter Royal Caribbean International ships to book an entire gay cruise.
If you’re looking for a less hyped, more intimate cruise experience, Azamara won an award for being the best small ship cruise line for LGBTQ passengers. Happy travelers have also voted it one of their favorite small cruise lines for 7 years running.
Azamara fulfills its promise to “roll out the rainbow carpet” with tons of fun events and activities that celebrate and embrace the gay community. The line also works hard to ensure that arrival destinations are LGBTQ-friendly.
While on board, enjoy LGBT cocktail parties, watch the Pride flag get flown from the ship’s mast at certain gay-friendly ports like Amsterdam, and partake in festive entertainment.
This small ship line also has a range of inclusive amenities that include gratuities, self-service laundry, and a select offering of alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks so you don’t have to pay extra for every beverage since it’s already included in your fare.
This luxury cruise line is so inviting and LGBTQ+-focused that it’s easy to mistake Virgin Voyages for an all-gay cruise line. While the adults-only cruise company also welcomes mainstream passengers, they’ve gone the extra mile to offer gay-friendly events, facilities, and amenities.
These include gender-neutral restrooms, a Pride Party often held on board the Scarlet Lady ship, Pride-themed cocktail parties, and drag performances. Virgin Voyages extends its spirit of diversity and inclusion to its employees as well and supports its staff with choosing their own gender identity during the voyage.
This line has a young, energetic, and friendly vibe that was created with LGBTQ+ customers in mind. There’s an atmosphere of inclusive luxury with bottomless brunches that are a foodie’s delight, alternative art displayed in certain vessel spaces, and cool places like the Squid Ink tattoo parlor where you can get a souvenir of an unforgettable trip.
The line also attracts a diverse crowd that loves high-energy deck parties, fabulous fashion, drag queen shows, and popular music. There is also an inclusive, label-free, and judgment-free nightclub experience where people can live their true, authentic lives.
Atlantis Events often partners with Virgin Voyages to charter gay and lesbian cruises so that you can find a gay-specific cruise of your choice throughout the year.
Seabourn and Holland American Line
Owned by Carnival, the Seabourn and Holland America cruise lines offer cruises that are LGBT-friendly and welcome visitors from every kind of background.
You can start with a get-together welcome party on a regular cruise or book passage on a gay-only sailing that is chartered by an organization like RSVP Vacations. This third-party agent has specialized in LGBT cruising experiences for almost 40 years.
A voyage on Seabourn delivers an intimate, luxury experience. The ships are small with gorgeous designs. They feature great customer service and outstanding dining, while fitness classes and cocktails are included. The line has hosted many gay and lesbian groups and featured LGBTQ charters with Atlantis Events.
Cunard, Holland America is Seabourn’s sister cruise line. They offer a traditional cruise with modern updates. The ships are practically identical to the Seabourn Line in terms of design, capacity, and amenities. The company focuses on long, in-depth voyages that tour many countries.
This cruise travel company is one of the biggest gay and lesbian travel brands on the market. Founded in 1991, Atlantis Events has over 20,000 passengers each year who enjoy their LGBTQ vacations. Atlantis is a third-party travel company that charters huge, yacht-like ships from Royal Caribbean International and the Norwegian Cruise Line for an immersive, all-gay cruise experience.
While on board these mega-ships, passengers enjoy every kind of perk imaginable. These include an array of dining options, on-deck pools, hot tubs, gyms, and sports courts. These all-gay cruises feature queer motivational speakers, on-demand LGBTQ movies in every cabin, drag-themed events, and parties that will get your pulse pumping.
If you’re cruising as an LGBT person and want a ship that’s packed with high-impact dance parties and inclusive entertainment, then Atlantis Events cruises offer a fun and friendly atmosphere. Some of the 2023 trips have included visits to Aruba, Curacao, Haiti, Cozumel, and the Cayman Islands.
It’s important to note that while Atlantis Events cruises are inclusive of all genders, it’s a predominantly gay male scene, with women making up only about 5-10% of passengers.
Best Overall LGBT-Friendly Cruise Line
While there are several great options on this list, our pick for the best LGBT-friendly cruise line has to be Virgin Cruises.
That’s because this line designed its ultimate cruise experiences specifically with the gay community in mind. The line prides itself on offering a welcoming, queer-friendly space for passengers to enjoy their trip and stay.
For example, Virgin Cruises is for adults only, provides gender-neutral toilet facilities, offers unique drag shows, and allows the ship’s staff the freedom to express their gender identity in their own way. Virgin’s huge, yacht-like ship is a hyper-social playground with original events, interactive activities, unique dining, and plenty of opportunities to bask in the sun and the water 13 stories above the ocean.
If you book the line’s Scarlet Lady cruise, there’s fun stuff to attend like the all-red Scarlet Night Party or the Pajama Party.
In addition to this, Virgin Cruises ensures that they promote luxury on every level.
This includes dining options at over 20 eateries on board with both still and sparkling water options, gratuities included, Wi-Fi, and fitness classes that passengers can take as many times as they like. The staterooms are often spacious, while some rooms feature an outdoor terrace with a hammock and ocean views.
2024 is set to be a spectacular year for Virgin Cruise adventures. For instance, there’s the Exotic Southern All-Gay Cruise that launches from San Juan to explore four gorgeous islands in the Caribbean. From beautiful scenery and fabulous dining to spectacular entertainment, and from France to Ibiza, Virgin makes their cruises a trip to remember.
- Destination culture and safety
It is also important to consider what ports you wish to explore. While all of these and many more cruise lines are welcoming and supportive of the gay community, not all the countries that you visit may have such an open or inclusive culture. A large party ship can attract more attention from locals than a small group aboard a mainstream cruise line.
It’s always a good idea to research any possible travel destinations to learn about the culture and how to stay safe when onshore.
Going on a gay cruise is a great way to meet new people, see the sights or take in themed entertainment, and have a great time with like-minded people. The good news is that many cruise lines today feature gay cruise experiences or are designed with LGBTQ people in mind.
At the same time, there are several factors to consider when picking the right gay cruise for you. These include:
- Groups vs. buyouts
Group cruises refer to LGBT travel groups that purchase a block of cabins available on a cruise ship for an upcoming tour. Then the travel group sells these to clients who want a gay experience on board with the general population. An LGBT travel group may schedule special activities onboard, outings, or host gay-friendly social ends.
Buyouts refer to entire cruise ships that are chartered by an LGBTQ+ travel company. No matter what kind of gay cruise experience you select, most cruise lines will ensure that nearly 100% of the ship’s company will be LGBTQ.
Thinking about if you want a gay-friendly experience onboard with a mix of gay and non-gay passengers or if you prefer an entire LGBT chartered ship experience.
- Gender/Orientation preferences
While all these cruise lines cater to gay guests, some cruise lines such as Atlantis Events tend to attract gay males more, while females tend to enjoy Olivia. Of course, from the Royal Caribbean to Virgin Cruises and more, many cruise lines cater to both orientations.
- Compare costs
Maybe the sky is the limit when it comes to price, but if you’re on a budget or have a cap on what you’d like to spend, then consider a cruise line that may not feature over-the-top entertainment like celebrity cruises or consider booking a group instead of chartering a ship to keep costs down.
Keep in mind that chartering an entire ship for a gay cruise can cost more than mixing with a general population. That’s because cruise companies often go to great lengths to ensure that there is spectacular LGBTQ-friendly entertainment on the menu. For example, entertainment that is tailored to a gay audience may feature Broadway or drag shows, LGBTQ+ comedy and cinema, epic dance parties with famous DJs, and themed parties.
Since LBGT-centered cruise lines work hard to build value into the entire experience, LGBTQ cruises can cost more than regular cruises. That’s why doing a group rather than a buyout can help save money for doing other activities and having a blast onshore.
Travel experts predict that the LGBTQ+ cruise market will continue to expand in the future. This means that passengers can pick cruise lines that specifically cater to the queer community or set sail on more mainstream but gay-friendly cruise lines that feature festive and inclusive entertainment and Pride celebrations on board.
Whether you want to sail away aboard a week-long party Pride cruise with a famous company or enjoy a more intimate travel experience with a smaller line that focuses on LBGTQ trips, finding an LGBT cruise that fits your budget, personality, and preferred activities help you sail into the sunset to enjoy an unforgettable experience that’s uniquely suited to you.