By Billy Kolber. Originally published in HuffPost Gay Voices
There’s never been a better summer and fall to cruise in Europe. There are still five all-gay (big- and small-gay) cruises to choose from this summer, offering a remarkable breadth of styles, ports and experiences. Every one of these cruises is reason enough to go, but If you’ve never tried a gay cruise, here are five more:
- There’s no better place to make new friends. Seriously, next to college and summer camp (both of which you’ve probably outgrown), gay vacations offer the best opportunity to share new experiences with new people. Ask any gay cruise veteran the best part about their vacation, and they inevitably say, “Making new friends.” As adults, we don’t have many environments that are conducive for making new best friends. Cruising is one of them.
- It’s a vacation from planning a vacation. Not that there aren’t options (particularly on the big gay cruises, there are dozens of dining and entertainment opportunities every moment of the day), but the freedom comes in choosing to do what you feel like, when you feel like it, and having it all available without much planning or thinking, and almost all of it without an additional charge.
- Value. Most guests spend a few hundred dollars beyond the upfront price for drinks, shore excursions, spa treatments and other extras. And some spend thousands. But you can easily go the whole trip without spending an extra dime.
- Variety. If you have Gay-DD, European cruising was made for you. You’ll get to sample lots of different places and cultures. What could be more fabulous than drinking wine in Bordeaux one day, hitting the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao another, and then dancing the night away in Ibiza, all without ever repacking your suitcase?
- Community. And the freedom to be yourself within it. Whether your freak flag flies toward silly, sexy or serious, there are few experiences as liberating, empowering and supportive as an all-gay environment.
Ready to come aboard? You have two large-ship, one small-ship and two riverboat cruises to choose from. Large ships offer scale, and therefore more of everything: more people, more activities, more dining options, more parties, more entertainment. Small ships offer more intimacy, visiting smaller ports and providing a more relaxed environment and timetable for building friendships. River cruises offer more time on the ground in port, more spacious cabins, and more scenery while you’re sailing.
It’s likely that most of these trips won’t completely sell out, so you may experience another cruising luxury: extra space. Just a small reduction from full capacity means that the sometimes-short lines at the buffets disappear, and finding a prime spot by the pool is a breeze. Another reason to go this summer: European airfares may be high this summer, but if you’re flexible about dates and airports, you’ll find better-than-usual availability for award tickets, especially in business class. And with your frequent flyer miles losing value every year, experts recommend spending them, not saving them.
Which cruise would you like to go on? Here are this year’s selections, from August through September:
Ship: Celebrity Silhouette (2,886 passengers)
Price: Cabins still available, starting at $2,149
Itinerary: Venice, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu, Greece; Mykonos, Greece (overnight); Santorini, Greece; Naples, Italy; Ajaccio, Corsica; Rome, Italy
Tip: Little-known Corsica is an island you’ll be able to brag about having visited when your friends discover it three years from now.
Bonus: Free companion airfare
Ship: Celebrity Constellation (2,034 passengers)
Price: Cabins still available, starting at $1,699
Itinerary: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Bordeaux, France; Bilbao, Spain; A Coruña, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; Ibiza, Spain (overnight); Barcelona, Spain
Tip: This is a very unusual combination of amazing European destinations.
Ship: MSY Wind Surf (312 passengers)
Price: Cabins still available, starting at $3,299
Itinerary:: Lisbon, Portugal; Portimao, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; Malaga, Spain; Ibiza, Spain; Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Barcelona, Spain
Tip: The relaxed atmosphere on this intimate-sized ship is perfect for incubating new friendships.
Bonus: $300 to 500 discount for mentioning ManAboutWorld when you book.
Ship: Avalon Scenery (138 passengers)
Price: Cabins still available, starting at $2,999
Itinerary: Paris to Arles, France
Tip: The price includes two nights on land in Paris before the cruise to explore the world’s most romantic city.
Ship: Avalon Visionary (128 passengers)
Pricing: Cabins still available, starting at $4,382
Itinerary: Prague, Czech Republic, to Budapest, Hungary, with overnights in Prague; Vienna, Austria; and Budapest.
Tip: Three nights on land in Budapest are included at the end of the river voyage.