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Gay Cruise anyone?

Atlantis CruisesFor many, the prospect of a cruise fills them with horror. Seven days and nights of screaming children, moaning pensioners, the heady delights of shuttle board and dreary night club singers. But that, of course, is a mainstream cruise.

 

A gay cruise is as different as different can be. We know this, because we’ve been on one. Two, actually. Not all gay cruises are the same, of course, but on ours we experienced five thousand very happy gay men (and a sprinkling of lesbians) partying every night away like there was no tomorrow, buoyed along by a clutch of drag queens, gogo boys and New York’s top DJs. Apart from being immensely fun, it was a reminder of how far gay culture and gay travel have come in the past 30 years.

 

Gay Cruises & Tours - where it all began

Gay cruises, gay tours and gay holiday packages have boomed in the last few years. The ships, the barges, the busses, the hotels just get bigger and bigger with each passing year. And like so many gay cultural phenomena, it all started in the US of A. It was back in 1985 that the first RSVP cruise ship, with 750 gay guests, set off from New Orleans for a cruise around the Caribbean. RSVP’s cruises and holidays grew over the years, only to be overtaken by rival upstart Atlantis Events, which launched their first gay holiday week in 1991 for 300 guests. Olivia, now a huge travel operator for the lesbian market, first started in 1973 as a women’s record label, and now fill entire cruise liners with over 2,000 lesbians, running gay cruises and gay tours for women all over the world.

 

Gay river cruises EuropeAtlantis Cruises and the rest…

Europe, of course, is the perfect place to cruise - lots of fascinating ports of call, brimming with history, each an easy night’s sail from the next. Unsurprisingly, the huge American gay travel companies now have a good range of gay cruises each year across Europe. Atlantis gay cruises organise two big gay-only cruises in Europe each summer, one in the Mediterranean and one around the Baltic states and Scandinavia. (Interestingly, in 2014, the company dropped St Petersburg from their northern itinerary due to rising homophobia in Russia.) Both cruises draw thousands of (mostly) gay men, most of whom travel all the way from the United States to experience the delights of Rome, Barcelona and Stockholm each year. The other big gay (male) cruise held each year in Europe is run by the Belgian La Démence clubbing brand. Their party ship plies the Mediterranean each year - and could well be the forerunner of many more truly ‘European’ gay cruises in Europe. Olivia, the American lesbian tour company, also run a big cruise in the Mediterranean each year.

 

Gay groups on Cruises

Gay-only cruises, though rocketing in popularity, aren’t the only way to enjoy a cruise with fellow gays and lesbians. In recent years, we’ve seen a growing number of ‘gay-groups on cruises’. These are basically gay-only groups hosted on mainstream cruises by a gay tour operator. A number of events and dinners are planned just for the group, and then guided tours at every stop. It has been an effective way of broadening the range of cruises that gay travellers can enjoy while still enjoying the company of like-minded gay travellers.

 

Gay sailing holidaysMore intimate cruises and tours

Big isn’t the only way to go when it comes to gay cruises in Europe. Gay tour operators, mostly from the USA, also organise a number of smaller, more niche cruises on the continent. There are a couple of bear cruises each year in the Mediterranean - one organised by specialists Cruise4Bears.com. Lesbian operator Olivia charter large river boats for their up-scale guests, floating down the Rhine, Rhône or Danube and watching the castles and châteaux go by over a glass of chilled rosé. Gay holiday company Pied Piper also organise a number of smaller gay cruises down Europe’s rivers.

 

Gay tours and holidays

Again, it’s the American gay tour companies that lead the field when it comes to gay tours in Europe. Bus-based tours travel from city to city, with tours organised during the day and plenty of lovely dinners and bar-hopping organised each evening. For the more adventurous, hiking and bicycling holidays have popped up in more exotic locations, such as Tuscany, the Dalmatian Coast and Eastern Europe. They’re a great way to really get off the beaten track and really experience the local culture. Some tours are now themed - such as ‘wine tours’ and ‘culinary tours’ in regions such as the South of France and Northern Italy. At the other end of the scale, clabbers and twins are now flocking to party-based holidays in Europe’s beach resorts. The Dunas Festival, in Gran Canaria, offers non-stop partying and daytime mini-cruises and tours in environment that offers plenty of fun and sun, but not much culture. The RYANA holiday in Rhodes and the ‘Capri’ holiday on the Amalfi Coast in Italy are similar - plenty of partying, tours and sun.

 

All the top gay cruises, gay tours and gay holidays - on one page

With so many gay cruises, tours and holidays to choose from, we wanted to make it easy to see at a glance exactly what there was on offer each year, and where. So we created our Gay Cruises, Tours & Holidays page. On three maps, it charts every cruise, tour and holiday package in Europe. Just hover over any item to view more information. All the items are then listed below the maps. We're adding new gay cruises, tours and holidays all the time - so make sure to check back with the page now and then.

 

Check out our comprehensive listings for the coming year in Europe:

 

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