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Top 10 Cruise Lines for Gay and Lesbian Travellers
Top Cruises for LGBTQ Travelers (Photo: Luna Vandoorne/Shutterstock.com)

Top 10 Cruise Lines for Gay and Lesbian Travellers

Top 10 Cruise Lines for Gay and Lesbian Travellers
Top Cruises for LGBTQ Travelers (Photo: Luna Vandoorne/Shutterstock.com)
Troy Petenbrink
Contributor
By Troy Petenbrink
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There was a time when the best a gay or lesbian cruise passenger could hope for from a "gay-friendly" cruise would be a self-organized "Friends of Dorothy" meet up. Now, gay and lesbian socials are standard on most cruises, and are actually organized, promoted and hosted by the cruise lines and their staffs.

The cruise industry has come a long way, not merely acknowledging but embracing its gay and lesbian passengers. It's really no surprise, given there is data suggesting that the percentage of gay and lesbian travelers who take cruises is the same as -- or even slightly higher than -- the percentage of heterosexual travelers who cruise.

Gay and lesbian cruise passengers haven't been shy about their enthusiasm, either. There are now dozens of Facebook pages and online forums, such as Cruise Critics' Gay and Lesbian Cruisers board, where information about cruise lines is readily shared. That enthusiasm isn't limited to the virtual world, as many gay and lesbian passengers are much more comfortable, compared to just a few years ago, in being open about their sexual orientation while onboard, and quick to call out incidences of perceived homophobia by fellow passengers or cruise-line staff.

In short, the gay and lesbian market is one the cruise industry cannot ignore.

There was a time when the best a gay or lesbian cruise passenger could hope for from a "gay-friendly" cruise would be a self-organised "Friends of Dorothy" meet up. Now, gay and lesbian social get-togethers are standard on most cruises, and are actually organised, promoted and hosted by the cruise lines and their crew members.
The cruise industry has come a long way, not merely acknowledging but embracing its gay and lesbian passengers -- nowhere more so than that bastion of Britishness -- Cunard Line. It's really no surprise, given there is data suggesting that the percentage of gay and lesbian travellers who take cruises is the same as -- or even slightly higher than -- the percentage of heterosexual travellers who cruise.
Gay and lesbian cruise passengers haven't been shy about their enthusiasm, either. There are now dozens of Facebook pages and online forums, such as Cruise Critics' 
Gay and Lesbian Cruisers board
, where information about cruise lines is readily shared. That enthusiasm isn't limited to the virtual world, as many gay and lesbian passengers are much more comfortable, compared to just a few years ago, in being open about their sexual orientation while onboard, and quick to call out incidents of perceived homophobia by fellow passengers or cruise-line staff.
In short, the gay and lesbian market is one the cruise industry cannot ignore.
As a result, nearly every cruise line has adopted policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, with a growing number also including gender identity. Indeed, many are proactively marketing to gay and lesbian travellers through traditional advertising, social media, onboard programming and sponsorship of LGBT events and organisations.
Along with this increasing openness of cruise lines is the fact that the options for gay and lesbian cruisers have never been better. There are exclusive all-gay and all-lesbian charters hosted by companies such as:
Atlantis Events
,
RSVP Vacations
,
Brand g Vacations
,
Aquafest Cruises
,
Ambien Travel
and 
Olivia
. Most of these are U.S.-based but Brits are increasingly signing up and booking online. Atlantis Events even has a dedicated U.K. website,
Atlantis Events
. There are niche cruises hosted by
Adventure Bears
,
Bear Cruises
and
Chub Cruises
. Non-exclusive cruises for gay and lesbian groups are available through travel agencies such as
Pied Piper Travel
,
Happy Gay Travel
, and
Source Events
; as well as the ability to book directly with a preferred cruise line. An excellent resource is
meetmeonboard.com
.
The following list highlights 10 gay- and lesbian-welcoming cruise lines, illustrating a rainbow of cruise travel opportunities that are bound to suit nearly any taste from ocean voyages to river cruises.

1. Azamara Club Cruises
Accommodating just 686 passengers each, Azamara's two ships -- Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest -- are very appealing to travellers seeking a more intimate experience. Another of the line's strengths is its "Destination Immersion" programme, which means relatively longer port stays, affording passengers an opportunity to more fully explore and experience destinations. There are also multiple overnight stays in ports such as Mykonos and Ibiza. Back onboard, Azamara gets a great deal of praise for its inclusive amenities such as select alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, gratuities and self-service laundry.
Upcoming cruise: Happy Gay Travel have a 6-night cruise from Barcelona to Civitavecchia (Rome), departing on 13 August 2017 aboard Azamara Quest.
happygaytravel.com
.
What Cruise Critic members are saying: "We have always had a wonderful time on Azamara! They are always very gay friendly." (
Phxazzcruisers
)
Special notes: Azamara has been extremely proactive in marketing to LGBT travellers and its ships are frequently booked for gay and lesbian group travel.

2. Celebrity Cruises
Providing the "best aspects of classic, elegant cruising and updating them to reflect current lifestyles" is Celebrity Cruises' mantra -- and it meets it well. Celebrity's newer Solstice Class (2,850 passengers) and its older, refurbished Millennium Class (2,138) ships are very popular. Travellers are frequently drawn to Celebrity for their ships' upmarket decor, spacious standard cabins and high level of personalised service.
Upcoming cruise: Atlantis Events has a 10-night cruise from Amsterdam to Barcelona, departing 4 September 2017 aboard Celebrity Silhouette.
atlantisevents.com
What Cruise Critic members are saying: "I've always found Celebrity extraordinary in the way gay people (really any people) are treated." (
johhnnyt
)
Special notes: Celebrity Cruises frequently sponsors LGBT Pride events and regularly targets LGBT travellers in its marketing efforts, including the promotion of onboard same-sex marriages.

3. Crystal Cruises
Luxury is Crystal's priority, and its two ocean cruise ships, Crystal Symphony (922 passengers) and Crystal Serenity (1,070), provide passengers with outstanding service. The cruise line operates on an all-inclusive model with one of the highest passenger-to-crew and passenger-to-space ratios in the industry. In addition to its larger ships, Crystal operates the 62-passenger yacht Crystal Esprit and Crystal River Cruises.
Upcoming cruise: Happy Gay Travel has a 10-night Alaska cruise, departing Vancouver on 10 July 2017 aboard Crystal Serenity.
happygaytravel.com
.
What Cruise Critic members are saying: "My husband and I love Crystal Cruises. ... Very nice upscale passengers and crew that are very gay friendly." (
movie buff
)
Special notes: The repositioning cruises in spring and autumn that Crystal offer on their ocean ships get a high percentage of gay travellers who appreciate the days at sea as well as Crystal's Experiences of Discovery themed cruises which in 2017 include: Film & Theatre, Fashion & Style, and Classics in the Arts.

4. Cunard Line
The operator of Queen Elizabeth (2,058 passengers), Queen Mary 2 (2,670) and Queen Victoria (2,014), Cunard recaptures the "Golden Age" of cruising by styling its ships with Art Deco touches and grand public rooms that hark back to the days of the legendary transatlantic liners. The bars and lounges are the height of sophistication and every cruise includes afternoon tea served by white-gloved stewards. There's also a choice of dining in the famed Queens Grill and Princess Grill -- depending on the grade of accommodation. Among Cunard's most popular offerings are its iconic transatlantic crossings aboard Queen Mary 2.
Upcoming cruise: Pied Piper Travel has a 7-night transatlantic voyage to Southampton, departing New York on 15 June 2017.
piedpipertravel.com
.
What Cruise Critic members are saying: "In general, I find Cunard to be the most gay-friendly cruise line sailing today." (
eroller
)
Special notes: Cunard has been a supporter of the Human Rights Campaign and has a long history of partnering with LGBT travel agencies for full charters and group bookings.

5. Holland America Line
Holland America offers a traditional cruising experience with modern touches. HAL's 15-ship fleet ranges from the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam to the 835-passenger Prinsendam. The emphasis here is on worldwide, often lengthy, itineraries.
Upcoming cruise: Aquafest Cruises has an 11-night Alaska cruise aboard Noordam, departing Fairbanks on 13 September 2017.
aquafestcruises.com
.
What Cruise Critic members are saying: "My wife and I have cruised twice on HAL. First with another lesbian couple, and the last with a straight couple. At no time did we feel uncomfortable as being 'gay women' on either cruise." (
SweetP2
)
Special notes: Holland America is a supporter of LGBT organizations; Olivia held two Caribbean cruises to celebrate its 40th anniversary and partnered with Holland America for both.

6. Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian has one of the youngest fleets in the industry. Similarly, the company takes a youthful approach to its cruising, having pioneered the "freestyle" concept. That translates to a relaxed dress code, flexible dining and cutting-edge entertainment.
Upcoming cruise: Aquafest Cruises are celebrating their 16th Annual Caribbean Halloween Gay Cruise onboard Norwegian Pearl which departs New Orleans on 21 October 2017.
aquafestcruises.com
.
What Cruise Critic members are saying: "I've never not met gay folk on Norwegian ships." (
Cruiser Bruiser
)
Special notes: Norwegian has supported organisations such as the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, and its ships are frequently charted for gay and lesbian cruises.

7. Princess Cruises
Princess caters to a wide variety of cruisers. The "Love Boat" line offers a huge variety of itineraries of varying durations. That range is also reflected in the fleet, from a cosy 680-passenger ship to amenity-packed 3,600-passenger leviathans where dining is always a highlight with Cruise Critic members.
Upcoming cruise: Adventure Bears has a 7-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale on Regal Princess, departing on 5 November 2017.
adventurebears.com
.
What Cruise Critic members are saying: "I keep going back to Princess. ... Food is good, service great and all staff are welcoming to LGBT travellers, which there almost always are quite a few." (
yyjguy
)
Special notes: Princess ships are often chartered for gay and lesbian cruises. RSVP Vacations, for example, selected the Regal Princess for its 30th anniversary Caribbean cruise.

8. Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean is one of the largest cruise lines in the world, boasting a fleet of 25 vessels. The line puts a great deal of focus on onboard activities with such innovations as zip-lining, skydiving and a surf simulator. The line is also very tech savvy, offering some of the best internet service at sea, along with robot bartenders on some newer ships. Royal Caribbean also likes to live large with three of the world's biggest cruise ships: Oasis of the SeasAllure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas. These mega-ships hold more than 5,000 passengers each.
Upcoming cruise: Ambien Travel has a 7-night cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas, departing Barcelona on 11 June 2017.
ambientravel.com
What Cruise Critic members are saying: "My husband and I met lots of people on Oasis and Allure, some through the roll call, but mostly just bumping into them in one of the bars. The Rising Tide Bar is a hoot, and we always saw 'family' there." (
CntPAcruiser
)
Special notes: With its rich history of hosting gay and lesbian charters and groups, there is little doubt that Royal Caribbean is a welcoming cruise line. For Atlantis Events' 25th anniversary, it chartered Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas for a seven-day all-gay sail to the Caribbean.

9. Seabourn Cruise Line
Seabourn is the cream of the crop in the luxury cruise segment. The line is highly praised for its outstanding and personalised service, quality dining and inclusive extras such as complimentary fine wines and spirits. Three 604-passenger ships, Seabourn OdysseySeabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest/reviews/review.cfm?ShipID=596) and the brand-new 604-passenger Seabourn Encore make up the fleet, with standard suites measuring a generous 300 square feet. Seabourn leans toward exotic itineraries, but mainstream ports certainly make it into the mix.
Upcoming cruise: Aquafest Cruises have a 10-night cruise aboard the brand-new Seabourn Encore, departing Bali on 22 March 2017.
aquafestcruises.com
.
What Cruise Critic members are saying: "Having over 200 days on Seabourn (and have cruised most all the other lines), I find the line one of the most gay friendly!" (
Host Dan
)
Special notes: Seabourn has done many gay and lesbian charters and frequently has gay and lesbian groups on board.

10. Viking River Cruises
River cruises give passengers an "up close and personal" experience as they can navigate into the heart of historic towns and cities. Viking is the largest operator of river cruises and has set a high standard for this booming sector in cruising. While river vessels have to be relatively small to negotiate bridges, Viking River Cruises' new "longships" accommodate 190 passengers and aren't short on creature comforts with amenities such as private balconies and outdoor dining on the Aquavit Terrace. Cruises also include guided shore excursions.
Upcoming cruise: Aquafest Cruises have an 11-night Passage to Eastern Europe river cruise aboard Viking Aegir, departing Budapest on 8 August 2017.
aquafestcruises.com
.
What Cruise Critic members are saying: "My partner of 34 years and I have been on two Viking river cruises. Both were two-week cruises. We made a lot of friends on each cruise and were welcomed with open arms." (
tt_dp
)
Special notes: Viking frequently partners with LGBT travel agencies for full charters and group bookings.

Updated October 10, 2019

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