queer cruising

Best LGBTQ+ cruises & port cities in the world

Guests onboard a VACAYA cruise
VACAYA Caribbean cruise. Photo courtesy VACAYA/Gabriel Goldberg @HollywoodBruisers

For a hassle-free vacation where you only have to unpack once while still visiting multiple destinations, nothing beats the appeal of LGBTQ+ cruises. It’s been nearly 37 years since RSVP Vacations‘ first gay cruise set sail from New Orleans. Since then, new industry leaders have emerged, leveraging the power of the gay travel dollar to secure some of the most coveted vessels in the world.

The coming year boasts dozens of itineraries, including large ship charters and more intimate river boats. For those on a budget, sharing an inside cabin is the most affordable way to go, but if you’re looking for a smart splurge, plenty of upgrades are availalbe, too. Queer cruising is also a terrific option for solo travelers.

Celebrity’s Edge class ships feature concierge-class cabins with infinite-view verandas and 24-hour room service; Virgin Voyages’ “Lady Ships” offer “Rock Star” quarters in the spirit of the brand’s founder Richard Branson, and river boats like the soon-to-launch Amadeus Nova feature environmentally-conscious technology and modern design touches like drop-down panoramic windows.

GayCities highlights five itineraries for every type of traveler, from the cruising novice to the seasoned sailor.

R Family Vacations OUT in the Tulips! Amsterdam to Brussels

A man in a field of tulips
Stops throughout Holland and Belgium will offer plenty of photo opps. Photo: Shutterstock

R Family Vacations celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2023, and is best known for its family-friendly LGBTQ+ cruises and land itineraries, and recently added adult-only travel to its offerings. R Family Vacations OUT in the Tulips! Amsterdam to Brussels river cruise (April 14-21, 2024) traverses the Rhine River aboard Uniworld’s 1930s-inspired River Queen. The vessel pays homage to the steamships of the era and features Art Deco-inspired interiors.

The full charter begins in Amsterdam, with stops in Schoonhoven, Heusden, Maastricht, Antwerp (known for rising star European fashion designers and diamonds), and Brussels. The destinations offer insights into artist Vincent van Gogh’s creative inspiration, while food enthusiasts will appreciate Belgian chocolate, fries, and waffles.

Family travelers can also look forward to R Family Vacation’s summer cruise on Celebrity Beyond (July 7-13, 2024).



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OUTbound Springtime in Paris cruise

Jaymes Vaughan, left, and guests aboard an OUTbound river cruise
Jaymes Vaughan, left, and guests aboard an OUTbound river cruise. Photo courtesy of OUTbound Travel

If you’re the type who gets queasy even looking at the ocean, a river cruise is a terrific entry point for experiencing the luxury and convenience of traveling by water. And what’s more gay than sailing down the Seine with OUTbound founders (and hubbies) Jonathan Bennet and Jaymes Vaughan as your hosts?

Outbound’s Springtime in Paris river cruise (April 24-May 1, 2024) offers a curated itinerary for up to 105 passengers aboard the MS Renoir, featuring a “French chic” design inspired by the friendship between Coco Chanel and Auguste Renoir. Stops include the bucolic towns of Vernon, Duclair, Honfleur, and Rouen, bookended by overnights in Paris with plenty of time to discover queer landmarks like LGBTQ+ bookstore Les Mots à la Bouche and high-end shopping at Galleries Lafayette Haussman.

Brand g Prague & Danube River cruise

A rendering of the new Amadeus Nova riverboat.
A rendering of the new Amadeus Nova riverboat.

Brand’s Danube River cruise (August 27 – September 5, 2024) will whisk travelers aboard the brand-new Amadeus Nova, a luxury 157-passenger vessel, from Passau to Budapest.

Brand g has been leading queer travelers around the world on LGBTQ+ cruises and land tours since 2011, growing from a two-person operation to a global team of travel enthusiasts, and now offers more than 20 itineraries per year with a focus on bucket list destinations and bespoke experiences.

Brand g’s European river adventure begins with two nights in Prague before disembarking from Passau, with stops throughout Austria (including an extended stay in Vienna) and a final hurrah in Budapest, Hungary.

Highlights include guided tours of cultural and historical sites (plus an optional Sound of Music tour to Salzburg), with plenty of time to explore queer life in each port city, such as Vienna’s upscale martini bar Felixx or Budapest’s local hangout Habroló Café & Bar.



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Two Bad Tourists Spain, France & Italy cruise

Virgin Voyages
Virgin Voyages offers adult-only itineraries on their new fleet of cruise ships. Photo courtesy Virgin Voyages

Gay travel influencers David Brown and Auston Matta have been inspiring queer travelers for over a decade as Two Bad Tourists. More recently, the pair has added group travel like LGBTQ+ cruises to their offerings, drawing on their experiences from visits to more than 60 countries.

David and Auston will host a seven-day cruise aboard Virgin Voyages’ inaugural ship Scarlet Lady (October 20-27, 2024). Beginning and ending in Barcelona and with ports of call in Toulon, Marina di Carrara, Ajaccio, and a final hurrah in Ibiza, the itinerary offers plenty of time to the gems of southern Europe while also experiencing onboard amenities.

By design, Virgin Voyages adult-only sailings feel grown-up in every way, from menus designed by Michelin-starred chefs to an onboard tattoo parlor. Two Bad Tourists’ small group drops a queer anchor for those who also enjoy mingling among allies and like-minded travelers.



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VACAYA Australia Cruise

Man in a sailor's hat on a cruise ship
Photo courtesy of VACAYA.

Leave it to VACAYA to go where no queer has gone before — at least on an 11-night luxury expedition to The Kimberly. Australia’s rarely explored northwest region is the ultimate bucket list for adventurers who like to travel in style.

Itinerary highlights from Darwin to Broome include King George Falls, Jar Island, Montgomery Reef, and Talbot Bay Horizontal Waterfalls. And as always with VACAYA, getting there is half the fun.

The tour operator, known for LGBTQ+ inclusivity that spans the entire queer spectrum, also has a keen eye for alluring ships packed with perks. This time around, VACAYA has secured a full-vessel takeover of the Seabourn Pursuit (May 10-21, 2025), the cruise line’s second ultra-luxury expedition ship that launched in 2023.

Expect dramatic shorelines, secluded beaches, and guided expeditions to some of Australia’s most remote and coveted locations. Onboard amenities include Molton Brown bath products, Swarovski binoculars, plush robes for lounging after a day of exploring, and a culinary program where “luxury ingredients abound,” along with high tea and an open bar.

While queer urban hubs like Sydney and Melbourne are on the opposite side of the country, consider extending your stay to fully experience the Aussie lifestyle.



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