Summer may be over, but the spray tans will have to wait, thanks to these fabulous winter getaways. Before you pack away those flip flops and bikinis, check out the tropical adventures from lesbian travel powerhouses Olivia, Sweet and Alyson Adventures designed with you in mind.
Founded in 1973 as a women’s record label, and now a thriving travel and lifestyle business, Olivia will be celebrating its legacy of empowering the lesbian community through high-end vacations and the cream of lesbian entertainment on its Western Caribbean Cruise (January 29-Febaruary 5, 2012).
Join more than 1000 women on Olivia’s largest sea excursion of 2012, where you’ll tour four unforgettable ports of call over five fun-filled days of activities, entertainment and R&R. Leaving from Tampa, Fla. on Holland America’s luxurious ms Ryndam, you can find your inner Zen in Cozumel, Mexico; dive the coral reefs of Mahogany Bay, Honduras; visit the jungles of Belize City, Belize; and tour the ruins of Costa Maya, Mexico. While at sea, try your luck at the onboard casino, chow down at elegant restaurants or see a comedy showcase.
Singles and couples alike are welcome, even those traveling solo. Olivia will pair you with another passenger should you need a bunkmate. “The singles probably have the best time of anyone on board,” says Olivia President and Founder Judy Dlugacz.
Famed for its ability to reserve the scene’s biggest names for onboard entertainment, Olivia has announced several favorites for the Western Caribbean itinerary. Political humorist Kate Clinton, comedian Vickie Shaw, singer/songwriter Sweet Baby J’ai, LOGO’s Big Gay Sketch Show alum Julie Goldman, British comic Gina Yashere and singer/dancer Lori Michaels are just a few of the celesbians booked for the occasion.
“We have incredibly gifted musicians and entertainers, and we continue to refresh with new generations coming forward” on each excursion, says Dlugacz. “Besides bringing top talents, you get to see what our own community has done [in arts and entertainment], which is extraordinary.”
Guests can even get to know one another before leaving land. Register to join the online groups designated for each trip on olivia.com and talk to other women who are considering travel with Olivia or who’ve already booked their tickets.
Rooms are going fast, but Large Oceanview Staterooms are still available. The ticket price includes a room with a view and two beds (convertible to a queen), meals, room service, gratuities and admission to all shows and parties. You’ll need to pay for airfare, airport transfers, alcohol and soft drinks, extra services on board and souvenirs.
Many who embark on one of Olivia’s trips come back again and again—and even if you’re a newbie, you should start planning for the upcoming 40th Anniversary Southern Caribbean Cruises (January 27-February 3, 2013 and February 3-10, 2013).
Tickets are already selling fast for the back-to-back 2013 celebratory cruises, which feature the same itinerary and commemorate Olivia’s 40-year journey.
“What’s going to happen is going to be amazing,” Dlugacz teases.
Aboard Holland America’s newest Signature Class ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam, Olivia expects to sell out both excursions on the luxurious 2,100-passenger vessel, their biggest cruise yet. With dozens of performers, activities and parties already slated, Olivia will be introducing a brand new Southern Caribbean itinerary with departure from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and ports of call in Half Moon Cay in The Bahamas; gay-friendly Curacao; and the tropical jewel of Aruba. Shore excursions to these Caribbean paradises include beach breaks, snorkeling and scuba diving excursions, shopping trips to historic capital cities, glass-bottom boat tours and sporty sessions on sea kayaks, jet skis or thrilling ziplines.
The planning is well underway with over 40 entertainers slated to perform, as well as some surprises. Women’s music legends Cris Williamson and Meg Christian will perform together for the first time in decades, while comediennes Kate Clinton, Vickie Shaw, Karen Williams, Marga Gomez, Lisa Koch, Michele Balan and many more will have girls rolling in the aisles. The best lesbian musicians on the indie scene will take the stage nightly. In addition to the stellar lineups and round-the-clock entertainment, Olivia fans will be encouraged to share their stories of past adventures and attest to the impact Olivia has had on their lives.
“The wonderful thing about Olivia is taking people who were part of creating this movement from the early era through this life changing empowerment, to the people who are with us today and are part of what is happening now,” said Dlugacz. “[It is] the emergence of a lesbian phenomenon that never existed before.”
For more information on all Olivia cruises, see olivia.com.
Sweet’s lesbian adventures are for those who like to work just as hard as they play. With eco-conscious activities, exciting ports and opportunities to lend a hand along the way, CEO and Founding Partner Shannon Wentworth created this company with the spirit of altruism at the forefront.
“Sweet takes fabulous women on meaningful vacations with a perfect blend of debauchery and do-goodery,” Wentworth says. “We [look] for ways to help women, children, animals and the environment.”
Guests traveling with Sweet board as a group onto a mainstream ship, which keeps the total package prices low. Every passenger on board wants to be a part of the Sweet group’s exclusive parties and dinner get-togethers after a few days, says Wentworth. She expects the Short & Sweet Bahamas Cruise (February 17-20, 2012) to be no different.
If you need a break from the winter blues, this three-day cruise is just the ticket. The party starts with a bon voyage in “the gay wonderland” of Miami on February 16, where you’ll get to break the ice with your shipmates at the South Beach hotspot Mova. The next morning, you’ll be whisked away on the world-class ship Norwegian Sky to the private shores of Great Stirrup Cay, followed by Nassau, Bahamas before returning to Miami.
“We’re visiting gorgeous ports with white sand beaches, warm clear water and stunning views. The snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean is incredible,” Wentworth says
Prices start at the affordable $430 per person, which includes adorable staterooms, fees and taxes, food at most restaurants, all shows and Sweet parties. For additional details, see discoversweet.com.
Rooted in history, Alyson Adventures began in the early 1970s as one the very first organized gay travel groups—coded in those days as “tourism for discerning gentleman.” Today it is a popular touring company for mixed groups of gay men, lesbians and their straight friends.
Led by experienced guides, cycling and diving are two of the most popular activities with Alyson Adventures. The groups tend to be on intimate side, usually 10-15 people, where being gay in even the most traditional of locations is rarely an issue.
“We go pretty much everywhere. We’re dealing with small groups, descending on a conservative town. When you see a mixed group of men and women, the assumption from the locals are that it’s just husbands and wives. They might see someone holding a hand, but no one picks up on it,” said Zack Moses, Alyson Adventures’ Marketing Manager.
If you’ve always wanted to learn to scuba dive, the Octopus’ Garden Scuba Diving Adventure (January 28-February 4, 2012) is your chance. This diving expedition from the tiny, undeveloped Dutch island of Saba, in the Netherlands Antilles, is designed for both beginners and certified divers. Certification is offered on the lush island, where newbies will learn safe scuba diving techniques in a tropical pool and in the clear Caribbean waters. Seasoned divers will be dazzled by Saba’s spectacular underwater landscapes.
The ticket price includes comfortable accommodations at a gay-friendly guesthouse, all continental breakfasts, five lunches and five dinners, as well as up to 11 dives (two or three dives per day over five days) for certified divers; or lessons (two days in the pool, then two days of actual diving in the Caribbean) for beginners. You’ll also enjoy post-dive island sightseeing and optional short hikes, including a hike up the island's Mt. Scenery, the tallest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Other expenses, including airfare to the island, gear rental and dive park fee, are extra.
Though most of the coed trips end up with male travelers in the majority, Alyson welcomes women on its mixed excursions. The company suggests lesbians travelers curious about the group dynamics should get in touch with women who have taken Alyson trips in the past, and the company can even put you in touch with individuals for a one-on-one chat through its informative website, alysonadventures.com.
Looking ahead, Alyson is excited to announce its inaugural all-women excursion to the Grand Canyon (July 27-August 5, 2012), which kicks off in Las Vegas before traveling far from civilization into the depths of the Grand Canyon, plunging through the white waters and camping under the stars for seven days and seven nights. The trip spans a week of floating the length of Grand Canyon National Park on a 14 person motorized raft; riverside camping and gear, all meals and drinks during the rafting, a pro river guide and much more.