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Best River Cruises for Gay and LGBTQ Travelers
Top Cruises for LGBTQ Travelers (Photo: Luna Vandoorne/Shutterstock.com)

Best River Cruises for Gay and LGBTQ Travelers

Best River Cruises for Gay and LGBTQ Travelers
Top Cruises for LGBTQ Travelers (Photo: Luna Vandoorne/Shutterstock.com)
Cruise Critic
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An affinity for cruising, whether river or ocean, does not discriminate and has a diverse audience, but river cruise companies still lag behind ocean ships when catering specifically to the LGBTQ market.

Perhaps it is because river cruise sailings put a stronger emphasis on ports of call than onboard amenities and activities or that river cruises are smaller, making them a more intimate experience that is already inclusive for everyone.

Many cruise lines offer special training for onboard staff about the nuances of personal relationships, including LGBTQ couples.

Other lines note that while they don't have specific cruises aimed at LGBTQ travelers, river cruising overall is very popular within the demographic. According to David Winterton, Head of Marketing and Global Brand Curator for Emerald Waterways, "We found that LGBTQ guests love our product and don't want to be restricted to just one cruise on one date." The company does have a page on its website that lists Pride events in different European cities.

A common and pleasing theme we heard from companies is that river cruising should be a memorable experience for everyone no matter who is on board; we agree wholeheartedly. Here is a look at what some of the major players offer for LGBTQ passengers:

Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways has chartered some cruises in the past and typically books several sailings throughout the year through LGBTQ travel providers. On these cruises, Avalon customizes its cruise excursions to be of particular interest to LGBTQ travelers, but any charter client can ask to create their own unique itinerary. This can include designing specific activities in ports of call to mapping out popular nightspots or areas of interest in each city.


Brand G Vacations

Two mature women hugging on river boat with bridge in background

Tour operators are fast becoming the primary way to find LGBTQ sailings.

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Brand G Vacations

is known in the marketplace for its numerous river cruise trips and land tours (in addition to small ship ocean sailings). Brand G Vacations offers a single supplement for those traveling solo and wanting to make new friends. On some cruises, they even offer a roommate matching program that helps individuals both save cash and immediately meet another passenger; according to Brand G Vacations, as many as 40 percent of passengers are traveling solo.

According to the company, the average age of travelers is in their fifties, but there are often younger people onboard. The majority of their passengers are male and come from North America. Brand G Vacations itineraries span the globe, including trips on the Amazon, Danube, Douro, Ganges, Mekong and Rhine rivers among others, using ships chartered from some of the world's top river cruise lines. This is a top choice when it comes to river cruising with like-minded travelers.


Olivia Travel

Olivia

is a specialist in the lesbian cruise market and charters sailings on both river and ocean ships. The company notes that river cruising is a growing market among lesbian travelers. Onboard, the company provides entertainment and programming that is geared toward the interests of its passengers. Similar to Brand G Vacations, it provides solo passenger rates and even has onboard coordinators that are focused on keeping single travelers engaged and involved. Room sharing is also an option.

Uniworld

Uniworld launched increased sensitivity training with onboard staff and its sales team in 2017. ManAboutWorld co-founders Billy Kolber and Ed Salvato flew to Cologne, Germany, to meet the staff and crew and help conduct various breakout sessions with ship captains, cruise managers and all employees who interact with guests to explain what is important to LGBTQ customers. They share examples of how customers may feel underserved and guidelines for treating everyone without bias or disrespect.


U by Uniworld

Through a partnership with

R Family Vacations

, U by Uniworld -- a sister company to Uniworld - will offer a seven-night Seine River cruise beginning and ending in Paris from September 22–29. Popular stops will include Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, Rouen, Honfleur, Vernon, and Paris with a nighttime stroll to the Eiffel Tower. Travelers can follow van Gogh's footsteps in the quaint village of Auvers-sur-Oise and bike along the Seine River. The itinerary will include entertainment like LGBTQ-themed comedy and music onboard, dance and theme parties, and an open bar with rates starting at $3,059 per person. This sailing should garner plenty of interest from both young and young-at-heart passengers.{#widget:fac_button|data.section:newsArticles|data.cruise-line:238|text:U by Uniworld Cruises#}-----

VACAYA

Eight shirtless men on rocky bluff

VACAYA

specializes in LGBTQ travel and even provides sensitivity training to cruise line staff when chartering its own sailings. In addition to onboard staff, the company adds gay staff of its own and offers outreach programs while in port that allow passengers to give back to communities to promote understanding through voluntourism.Weeks before a charter sailing, executives travel to the ship to talk with the onboard staff and explain the needs of their clientele. The brand also monitors interactions between crew and guests during the cruise and uses examples from the team in daily meetings with staff to make sure everything is perfect.In summer 2020, Vacaya is combining a Douro River cruise with the chance to experience Lisbon's Pride festival. Passengers will enjoy four nights in the city before boarding their river ship to visit Portugal and Spain. Activities include tasting wines in the Douro Valley or biking in Salamanca.

Updated January 31, 2020

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