Travel For Gays and Lesbians
Tour operators, resorts and travel clubs that specialize in travel for gay men and lesbians
Pied Piper Travel (800/874-7312, piedpipertravel.com/): Around since 1990 (and mentioned last week on our site), Pied Piper specializes in small gay groups aboard mainstream cruises (including the Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2) in contrast to the more expensive gay-only cruises offered by other companies. Included in their cruise deals are private cocktails parties, a tour escort, private dining tables, and of course meals and most drinks. Seven-night cruises start at an amazing $461 per person.
Cruises and Mexican resorts
RSVP Travel Productions of Minneapolis (rsvp.net/) and "Atlantis Events" of West Hollywood (800/628-5268; atlantisevents.com/) appear to be the largest tour companies for gay men and lesbians. In addition to operating a great many gay cruises since 1986, RSVP offers vacations in Peru, Ireland and French Polynesia, among other destinations. Atlantis, appealing to a slightly younger and perhaps more active clientele, runs a variety of stays, tours and cruises to various Blue Bay resorts and on smaller cruise ships, as well as to its own "Club Atlantis" near Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Olivia Cruises and Resorts of Oakland, CA (phone 510/655-0364 or 800/631-6277; oliviatravel.com/), is the largest operator of cruises and tours for lesbian travelers, a successful company in the cruise business since 1990 whose destinations are widely scattered and sold to a national audience. Its cruises outnumber its land tours four to one, and have recently gone to such attractive locations as Greece, China, Vietnam and Thailand, Tahiti, Turkey, and Alaska. It also offers long-term payment plans for its packages. Because of its high volume of incoming phone calls, you will occasionally have to leave a number, but are always called back promptly.
Particularly skilled at low-cost group tours on popular cruise ships is New York City-based Pied Piper Travel (800/874-7312; in New York 212/239-2412; gaygroupcruises.com/). Pied Piper's periodic offerings typically run in the Caribbean and to Europe, with a few to Australia and Africa. In San Diego, a company called Arco Iris specializes in escorted tours and group tours to Mexico, including airfare from many U.S. cities, for quite decent prices (800/765-4370; arcoiristours.com/).
For land-based holidays, there are growing options. One respected operator is Above & Beyond tours, based in Palm Springs, CA (phone 800/397-2681; owners vigilantly update the Web site, including last-minute specials, at abovebeyondtours.com/). It has been around since 1987, is United Airlines' official gay operator, and offers a wide variety of both independent and group global travel, including regular forays to Europe, South Africa, Latin America, and an annual trip to the Sydney Gay Games and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Skylink Travel of Santa Rosa, California (800/225-5759 or skylinktravel.com/) is prominent among the medium-sized women's operators, and growing in popularity. Around for over a decade, Skylink primarily operates land tours to international destinations (Kenya, China, Greece), and has recently discovered that perhaps half of its former group passengers are now requesting individual, custom-tailored arrangements for singles or couples, the classic "f.i.t.'s" (foreign independent tours) of travel, which Skylink willingly provides.
Onto outdoor and sporting vacations: Gay-owned Alyson Adventures (phone 800/825-9766, or visit alysonadventures.com/) is known for outdoor-activity trips, especially biking in France, but also river rafting, canyoning, and scuba diving all over the world. Or check out Montana-based OutWest Adventures (800/743-0458, or outwestadventures.com/), whose tours include skiing, hiking, and gay dude ranches.
Operating since 1990, Toto Tours (773/274-TOTO or 800/565-1241) is a smaller tour company for gay men only (primarily adventure travel, such as whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon, barging in Burgundy, hiking in Switzerland, multi-adventure tours (bungee jumping, game driving, biking, trekking) in South Africa, sailing a tall ship in the Caribbean). The Chicago-based company is online at tototours.com/.