Variety is the spice of the ocean when it comes to gay cruises. Do you want to visit big coastal cities on a huge vessel akin to a floating gay adult playground, or would you prefer to weave around hidden bays and remote islands on an intimate clothing-optional catamaran?
What should you do to capitalize on your time once aboard? What should you bring? What ever will you wear – if anything at all?
We look at the who’s, the where’s, the how’s and the what’s of gay cruises.
Choose Your Cruise
Choosing the size of the cruise is the most important choice to make during booking. When you first say cruise, you say how big. All sizes have distinct advantages – such is life – and make for completely different experiences.
Larger cruise liners come with a ‘more -is-more’ approach; the top dogs try to outdo each other in the sheer amount they offer. You can expect a wide range of eateries, themed drinking venues, drag shows, theater productions and legendary deck parties with internationally renowned DJs. The big names for this type of cruise are Atlantis Cruises, VACAYA and The Cruise (by La Demence). The former being the biggest in the world with up to 5,000 guests – that’s a lot of men! Consequently, these cruises tend to be more experience focused than destination focused. Meaning you could not even leave the ship and still have a great time. These cruises have had time to nurture a friendly welcoming environment that is inclusive to all types of gay men and their fun-loving allies.
On the other side of the coin are the more modest-sized vessels and gay sailing trips – with everything from two hundred to twenty guests aboard. Naturally, it’s easier to make friends on these trips and being in an intimate group often leads to a more bespoke trip with flexible itineraries and more group-based activities – like water sports and even (on one cruise) naked twister! There’s way more of a focus on the destinations themselves and you’re sure to discover – to use a travel cliché – off the beaten track locations beyond the big coastal cities. Some great options in this category are Source Journeys, Pride Sailing and – if you want to let it all hang out on a naked cruise – Everything to Sea.
If in Italy, you can’t beat Quiiky’s Aeolian Gay Sail Adventure for an authentic exploration of Italy’s islands. Or see Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Taormina and Catania with immersive daily excursions for their Atlantis Virgin Voyage.
For these more intimate cruises you aren’t just limited to the high seas either. River cruises tend to be in the middle range, such as those run by VACAYA or Brand g Vacations. On a river cruise the emphasis is put firmly on the destination – visiting Amsterdam or Budapest from the river is a must on any bucket list. So, you can expect less on-board entertainment, but higher-quality dining unique to the region you’re visiting.
Of course, one does not have to pick a specifically gay cruise at all and instead opt for joining a gay group trip within an LGBTQ+ friendly adult-only cruise, such as those offered by Two Bad Tourists with Virgin Voyages. Virgin has mastered the fine art of adult cruises, going above and beyond to provide for their LGBTQ+ attendees. If there’s any doubts about this then ‘The Diva’ – a title held by every Virgin ship’s resident drag queens – will assuage them, adding a splash of camp to the ship’s events.
Places to See, People to Do
Having chosen the ideal cruise for you, the next step is to decide how to best spend your time on the cruise. Should you wish to truly capitalize on your vacation, it pays to study the itinerary, both in terms of on board parties, events and what’s on offer at the ports themselves.
On the bigger cruise liners this is especially true. They say – somewhat truthly – that there are two types of gay aboard: Your “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” types, who shake every last bit of fun out of the ship itself till the early morn. Then there’s the more “up and at um” types, who rise early and launch themselves into the onshore excursions. At the extremes these two groups only seem to meet at mealtimes and crossing paths as the sun rises to switch shifts. Age is, of course, a factor.
You can pick a team depending on your style – and this makes it easier to meet friends whose interests align with your own – but partying and exploring new destinations need not be mutually exclusive. If you plan on playing both sides, really learn the ship’s itinerary beforehand. In other words, don’t plan a big onshore excursion the day after a White Party! Always remember to pace yourself and partake in a little TLC at the onboard spas and Jacuzzis or visit a quieter corner of the ship to gaze out over the waters. As for the smaller vessels you often can get to know your fellow passengers before the cruise itself via social media and messenger groups.
If you´re traveling alone, some cruises – both big and small – provide the option of sharing with a roommate of around your age – a great way to find a partner in crime. If you choose this option, a few months before the cruise you´ll be given a questionnaire to find the perfect fit for you.
All booked and ready to go, it’s time to pack. There’s not a big difference here between packing for a land holiday and cruise, but there are one or two items the avid gay cruiser shouldn’t be without.
Once more, knowing the itinerary is key for choosing outfits fitting to the themed parties of the ship. Even the smaller vessels tend to have themed parties that can range from White Parties to PJ Parties. It isn’t necessary to have an outfit for them all, but it sure adds to the fun. You’ll need something smart for at least one of the nights, more if you plan on wineing and dining in a restaurant. On a larger cruise, you can never really go wrong with a harness or two!
The other thing to consider is sea sickness. If it’s your first time out to sea for a length of time you might not even know if this is a concern for you. Better to air on the side of caution and pick up some pills for motion sickness. Whilst you’re at it, why not pick up some Berocca for at least one, inevitable, hangover!