Cruise ships offer a safe and accepting environment for any passenger and have become a popular choice among LGBT+ travellers in recent years. Here is our pick of cruise lines, destinations and tailor-made cruise breaks that are LGBT-friendly, whatever holiday desires are top of the wishlist.
All at sea
Celebrity Cruises in particular is a champion of diversity and aims to position itself as the cruise line of choice for LGBT+ travellers. The company offers legal same-sex marriages at sea and kicks off every cruise with a hosted LGBT+ Welcome Party, followed with subsequent Social Hours and other special events to create a convivial atmosphere for passengers and crew.
Kuoni offers a seven-night Southeast Asia Cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong, departing February 9, 2019 from £2,489pp, including flights, transfers and one-night’s pre-cruise accommodation (kuoni.co.uk).
Similarly, Azamara Club Cruises hosts special meet-and-mingles on most sailings in partnership with Meet Me Onboard, a global social network for LGBT+ cruise enthusiasts. These often take the form of Happy Hours or similar events and are promoted in the daily newsletters distributed on board.
Azamara also stands out for its ‘Stay Longer, Experience More’ programme that includes overnight stays in particularly appealing ports of call such as Mykonos, whose LGBT+ nightlife and beach parties are legendary.
Azamara Club Cruises offers an 11-night round-trip Greece Intensive Voyage from Athens, departing August 24, 2019 from £2,999pp, excluding flights (azamaraclubcruises.co.uk).
Atlantis and RSVP Vacations (plus Olivia for the girls) have cornered the market for whole-ship takeovers, providing tailored environments and entertainment for their specialist audiences. A newcomer to the market this year is a Western Mediterranean LGBT Party Cruise, featuring Eurovision winners, the Vengaboys and drag superstar RuPaul. Expect pool parties, all-night dancing and large amounts of glitter.
Cruise1st offers the seven-night round-trip LGBT Party Cruise from Barcelona, departing September 29, 2018 from £399pp, excluding flights (cruise1st.co.uk).
Read more: Telegraph Travel’s Mediterranean cruise guide
Of course, a whole-ship charter doesn’t need to be quite so full-on. For something more intimate, grab a group of friends and take over a luxury hotel barge for the ultimate house party. Exclusive-use barge bookings make for easily tailored itineraries themed around anything from gastronomy or golf to history, walking and cycling. European Waterways, for example, has vessels for six to 20 passengers and recommends an experience-rich, wine-themed tour through Burgundy’s vineyards on L’Impressionniste (sleeps 12).
European Waterways offers a six-night round-trip Classic Cruise in Burgundy from Paris, departing April 7, 2019 from £3,408pp, excluding flights (europeanwaterways.com).
LGBT+ travellers are often drawn to experiences outside the mainstream, so small-ship cruise lines such as UnCruise fit the bill for their sense of discovery. UnCruise specialises in wilderness and wildlife immersions with a focus on hands-on experiences like kayaking and snorkelling. With only 18 cabins, its Hawaii cruises offer the chance to see manta rays and visit indigenous communities across four different islands with just a smattering of fellow passengers.
Bon Voyage offers a seven-night Hawai’i cruise from Moloka’i to Big Island, departing April 3, 2019 from £5,295pp, including flights, transfers and hotel accommodation (four nights pre-cruise and three nights post-cruise; bon-voyage.co.uk).
According to a recent survey by Gay Star News and Travel Trade Gazette, city breaks are the most popular holiday type for LGBT+ consumers. River cruises – which link a number of cities into a single sailing – should therefore have considerable appeal. Many lines offer overnight stays in favourite ports of call, such as this itinerary from Crystal Cruises that comes with the chance to soak up the colourful nightlife in Vienna, Regensburg and Amsterdam.
Crystal River Cruises offers a 16-night Grand Europe itinerary from Budapest to Amsterdam, departing July 23, 2019 from £6,623pp, excluding flights (crystalcruises.co.uk).
Read more: Telegraph Travel’s Rhine river cruise guide
Flying the flag
Pride celebrations feature in many LGBT+ travel agendas – and a river cruise is an ideal way to experience the festivities. Many of Europe’s most vibrant cities are connected by navigable waters, including the likes of Amsterdam, Antwerp, Vienna, Cologne and Prague, all of which appeal strongly to LGBT+ travellers. Emerald Waterways publishes a list of Pride events that dovetail with its cruises, including this one with a conveniently-timed overnight in Budapest.
Emerald Waterways offers a seven-night Danube Delights cruise from Nuremberg to Budapest, departing June 30, 2019 from £2,895pp, including flights (emeraldwaterways.co.uk).
Read more: Telegraph Travel’s Danube river cruise guide
The South Seas and Sydney
As for other notable Pride events, few can match the drama and spectacle of Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. Its highlight is the vibrant parade that snakes through the city’s streets, culminating in an epic, all-night party. Next year’s parade takes place on Saturday March 2. Celebrate in style and then recover on a cruise through the South Pacific islands, whose Polynesian culture is accepting and open to LGBT+ lifestyles.
Paul Gauguin Cruises offers an 11-night round-trip Cook Islands & Society Islands cruise from Papeete, departing March 9, 2019 from £3,862pp, excluding flights (pgcruises.com).
Repositioning cruises (when ships relocate between home ports) often attract a strong LGBT+ following. These longer-duration ocean crossings tend to draw fewer families, and consecutive sea days (as many as six) make for very relaxing voyages. As well as providing the ultimate disconnect, these cruises are generally keenly priced thanks to fewer ports of call. This Holland America Line option is paired with a Fort Lauderdale beach break.
The Luxury Cruise Company offers a 15-night Passage to Rome cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Civitavecchia, departing April 5, 2019 from £2,399pp including flights, transfers and two nights pre-cruise accommodation (theluxurycruisecompany.com).
Read more: Telegraph Travel’s Fort Lauderdale cruise port guide
Broadway at sea
For those that love a good show tune, Crystal Cruises’ Crystal on Broadway programme will have passengers dancing in the aisles. The initiative – launched last year – sees Tony Award-winning Broadway producer, Kevin McCollum (of Avenue Q fame) bring cast members and creative experts from some of theatre’s top shows to perform and interact with guests on certain Crystal departures. Twelve such sailings were scheduled for 2018, with more planned next year.
Crystal Cruises offers a 10-night Autumn Tapestry cruise from Montreal to New York, departing October 15, 2018 from £3,485pp, excluding flights (crystalcruises.co.uk).