We talk a good talk about the strength of a more unified community. Over the decades we’ve added letters to the movement to create a more diverse, welcoming, and clear representation of who we are. But though we’ve become more inclusive in our language, inclusiveness hasn’t necessarily applied to our travels.
Take the gay cruise as an example. There are cruises that focus on lesbians, gay men, bears, party boys, families, drag-queen enthusiasts, and even an upcoming Golden Girls cruise (it’s not specifically gay, but c’mon!). Can’t we all just vacation together?
Enter Vacaya. The first adult-only, large-scale LGBTQ+ travel company to launch in decades, Vacaya is making it its mission to welcome the entire LGBTQ spectrum. “We saw an opening in the market because of the way the other players were focusing on niche elements: Olivia is focused on lesbians, RSVP is focused on the gay male, with Atlantis [marketing] to the niche of the circuit party crowd. We thought we could bring together a community that is super welcoming to all,” says Patrick Gunn, a co-founder of Vacaya.
This August, we’ll get the first glimpse into this new social experiment when Vacaya’s inaugural cruise sails from New York, with stops up the northeast coast and an overnight in Provincetown, Mass., coinciding with the Carnival kick-off party.
“Our community is growing. We are bigger than a bunch of men in speedos,” says Tracy Terrill, another Vacaya co-founder. “There’s always room for a party but we’re so much more than that. Creating vacations for everyone is looking into the future.”
According to Gunn and Terrill, Vacaya is actively working on developing a diverse audience with how they advertise, the events they attend, the philanthropic groups with which they partner and their programming. And they insist there’s room for everyone in LGBTQ travel.
“I see the value of women’s spaces and lesbians can often be overlooked within the LGBTQ community, but I would personally be interested in a more diverse cruise because I enjoy the entire spectrum of the LGBTQ family,” says Merryn Johns, the editor-in-chief of the lesbian-focused Curve Magazine, and a lesbian herself. Johns also emphasizes the importance of an itinerary that caters to the different interests of the guests: “For example, if a guy wants to dance on the deck with his shirt off and then get a blow job near the lifeboats, who’s to say that’s not a good time? However, a 60-year-old lesbian stepping out to take the evening air and watch the dolphins might not agree.”
Add our straight allies to the mix. Research shows that younger people want to travel with their friends, no matter what their sexual orientation. To that, Gunn says, “If you believe love is love, you belong on our vacations.”
Matt Christian, a straight ally who will be traveling with his wife on Vacaya’s December Europe river cruise agrees: “When we travel, our experiences become as much about the people we meet as the places we go. With Vacaya we instantly knew our vacation would be a blast.”
Vacaya is committed to creating programming for everyone, insists Terrill. On any given night, guests can expect a tea dance on deck, a comedian, a cabaret show, and a live music performance, all happening simultaneously.
One of the performers booked on the Provincetown cruise is Brody Ray, a transgender singer featured on America’s Got Talent. He’s planning to bring his mom on the cruise. “It gives me a sense of comfort and security that we don’t have to worry about somebody being offended that you’re trans. To know that none of that is going to be an issue is pretty awesome,” says Ray.
In its first year, Vacaya has planned the Provincetown cruise, a resort takeover in Riviera Maya, Mexico, and a river cruise through Europe’s Christmas markets.
“I think it will take a little time and energy to develop some of the diversity that the company stands for,” says Steve Duross, who has booked passage on the Provincetown cruise. “But I like that they state it upfront: this is who we want to be, this is what we’re going to try to do, please join us and be a part of it. There’s an invitation there—it’s not just a ticket, it’s a mindset.”