Blogger Marcus Adams (aka Sparkx) offers expert advice on how you can plan, choose and book your LGBT cruise

Marcus Adams of Sparkx.org on the rise of LGBT cruises
Marcus Adams of Sparkx.org on the rise of LGBT cruises

For me and for a lot of other travellers, cruising has always been about choice, variety and good value for money. But it’s also unique. No other holiday gives you the chance to tick several places off your wish list without having to pack and unpack over and over again. That, in a nutshell, is why cruising works for me – I love travelling, but I’m no backpacker. And the industry is changing, too. Thankfully, we’ve bid a fond farewell to the cruising clichés of old and waved in a new era that has something for everyone, however they like to holiday.

Get me on a cruise ship, and one of the things I love the most is socialising. It might have something to do with the pretty much unlimited food and drink, but you instantly feel relaxed, and that means it’s the perfect environment to meet like-minded people and share those experiences. I think that’s why I’ve made some amazing friends on board – friendships that have lasted. I can’t really say the same for other holidays I’ve been on, which lack that sense of community I’ve come to love.

LGBT cruises on the rise

And it’s clearly not just me. The number of LGBT cruisers is increasing every year, and more young people than ever are giving cruising a chance, too. Which means guests on board are becoming more diverse. Websites like Meet Me On Board are the perfect place to find out more about other LGBT travellers and the cruises they’ve enjoyed, as well as giving people the chance to chat and arrange meet-ups on board.

Cruise lines are also becoming savvy. LGBT events are now standard on most cruise lines. I’ve gone along to a few and it’s the perfect place to meet new people and share experiences. Lines including Celebrity Cruises are taking their support of the community even further by supporting events like Miami Pride.

So hopefully I’ve convinced you that you’ll be in good company. But how do you choose which cruise to go on? For me, as with a lot of cruisers, it really comes down to budget, tastes, interests and itineraries.

A cruise for all tastes

There is literally a line to suit everyone, from small boutique ships and river cruises to large mega-ships. If you’re after boutique, you can’t go wrong with lines such ash Azamara Club Cruises or Seabourn, which take you to exclusive ports and exclusive experiences. If cities are more your thing, then there’s nothing quite like exploring Europe on a river cruise. Or, if, like me, you have an endless need to be busy, the large mega-ships by Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises or Norwegian Cruise Line give you the chance to immerse yourself in extraordinary activities and entertainment such as West End shows, ice skating, go karting and even rock climbing – all at sea.

Some of the best meals I’ve ever had have been on ships. I’m a self-confessed foodie and cruises excel in serving up food from around the world, including from world-renowned and celebrity chefs. I’m also partial to a good cocktail, or three, and cruises do not disappoint here either. There is usually a wide range of bars, so you can enjoy specially selected wine while watching the world go by or if you like something a bit more energetic, you can usually find a spot to dance the night away. On some lines, like Princess Cruises, you can even have bespoke drinking experiences like personally blending your own wine before sitting back and enjoying it. As with many cruisers, my favourite bar has to be the ice-covered Martini Bar on Celebrity Cruises, shaking up some of the best martinis I’ve ever had.

The convenience of a cruise

So that’s people and experiences. But what about ease? Technology has become a day-to-day part of our lives and cruise lines are embracing this opportunity to personalise the cruise experience. You can now use apps to do things like order a drink and have it delivered to your exact location on the ship, or keep up-to-date with news and social media through enhanced wifi, as well using it to help you book activities at the touch of a button. You can’t get any more convenient.

As frustrating as it is, I know that personal safety can still be a concern for LGBT travellers, especially if we’re travelling to unaccepting destinations. But in all my years of cruising, I have thankfully never seen or had a negative experience, and almost every cruise line has adopted policies to protect LGBT travellers and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, with some also including gender identity.

Cruise ships travel to ports all across the world and, broadly speaking, these are seen to be safe places to visit. But some are considered to be less friendly towards LGBT travellers. This includes some parts of the Caribbean, Middle East, Russia and Asia. My advice would be to research and read up on the various destinations to see if you want to visit while in port. Remember, there’s always the option to stay on the ship. For further peace of mind, I would suggest talking to the excellent shore excursions staff on board and to book excursions through the cruise line if you do have any concerns.

Specialist LGBT operators

There are also a number of speciality LGBT cruise options you could consider. Companies such as Atlantis Events hire out whole ships to provide a unique LGBT-only experience on board. This includes parties and exclusive shows hosted by celebrities and influencers. These events come highly recommended to me by friends, who’ve had unique experiences and praised the friendly atmosphere on board. There are also specific cruises relating to particular interests, including drag-themed cruises.

You can also find LGBT cruises for smaller groups, where an operator will book a number of cabins from groups of solo travelers to hundreds of passengers. Similar to all-gay cruises, the operator will provide additional amenities, shore excursions and experiences on board.

But what if you’re in a loved-up bubble? In my opinion, a cruise is one of the most romantic ways to travel, so much so that it’s fairly common for couples to get engaged on board. It doesn’t surprise me when you can watch the sunset over the ocean from your own private balcony. Building on this, cruise lines are now advertising bespoke packages to the LGBT market, including letting you tie the knot on board.

Cruising with the family

And if you’re after a family cruise, you’re not forgotten either. Cruises increasingly cater for small people with exceptional entertainment and family facilities, while also being rated very LGBT friendly. A number of lines, like Celebrity Cruises, have won LGBT awards for the overall experience they provide to passengers, including families.

So that’s everything covered – people, places, food, entertainment, romance, families. And I still genuinely believe that cruising is one of the best ways for LGBT travellers to see the world, meet new people and take in new experiences. Hopefully I’ve convinced you that cruises have got everything you need, and perhaps if I’ve done a good enough job, I’ll see you on board one day.