If you and your partner want to visit several places during a short vacation without constantly unpacking and repacking your luggage, a cruise may offer you the ideal vacation. Cruises can be luxurious or budget-friendly, allowing for many vacation options, from relaxing to exciting, from three days to two weeks, from European river cruises to tropical ocean cruises or Alaskan whale-watching trips.

Everyone can find a cruise that’s right for their interests and for the time and budget available. But there are a few things LGBTQ individuals need to know before hopping aboard the ship of their dreams.

Do Your Research!

Health Insurance

First, check with your health insurance company to make sure you are covered in case of illness or injury when you are out of the country.

Local Laws and Customs

Also, when traveling to foreign countries, it is important to know about the laws and customs of the land. Consider enrolling in the U.S. government Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to find out more about the countries you will visit and to enroll to receive travel alerts from the consulates in those countries. STEP is an invaluable tool that lets you learn about local customs laws, dress codes. body language and gestures that are considered offensive. (In some cultures, tourists are scorned for something as simple as wearing shorts and tank tops or athletic shoes.) You can also use STEP to research your destinations for any potential health risks or required vaccinations.

The LGBTQ traveler must also research the level of acceptance, tolerance, or even legality of marital relationships and “gay” behavior in each country. In some countries, LGBTQ marriages may not be recognized, and in others you may be harassed or even arrested if you are LGBTQ. STEP can help you research each country your ship will visit. Be careful to follow local laws while you’re abroad. Not every country is safe for the LGBTQ traveler, and it might be advisable to stay aboard ship in some ports. However, don’t let one inhospitable country stop you from boarding your dream ship; instead, spend the day on-board when your ship docks in that port and explore all the exciting activities cruise ships offer.

Pack

After you’ve done your research and have found the type of cruise that offers your dream vacation, you’re ready to start packing. Having everything needed can make or break a vacation trip.

Sunglasses

Because of the reflection of the sun on the water, always pack sunglasses for a cruise, and depending on which ship you’re taking, you may need bathing suits and sunscreen or long johns and parkas.

Jacket or Sweater

Onboard air conditioning on even tropical cruise ships can be chilly.

Medications

Don’t forget to pack medications you may need for the duration of the trip, along with a letter from your doctor if you need to carry your medications off the ship. If you know you get seasick, or think you might, visit your physician before your trip to get a prescription for a Scopolomine transdermal patch. Over-the-counter seasickness meds often leave you drowsy.

Traveler’s Checks

If you are using traveler’s cheques, make copies of the checks in case they are stolen.

Legal Documentation

You should also pack, in your luggage, a copy of your passport, a copy of your driver’s license, and a copy of your marriage certificate. If you lose your passport or driver’s license, having a copy can be tremendously helpful. (It’s also a good idea to leave copies of these documents, along with your itinerary, with relatives or friends at home.) If you or your spouse is injured while in a foreign country, you may need a copy of the marriage license in order to obtain visiting rights at a hospital or to be able to make medical decisions for your loved one.

If any problems or difficult situations occur while you are on foreign soil, the U.S. Consulate can be your best source in seeking advice and assistance. You can also contact your travel agent for additional support and guidance.

Find Friends 

If you are traveling on a LGBTQ cruise, you will, of course, find friends everywhere. If you’re traveling on other types of cruises, consider inviting friends along or making new friends on the cruise. All larger cruise ships print a daily itinerary of special events on board each day. If the itinerary doesn’t have a listing for LGBTQ gatherings, look for meetings of “Friends of Dorothy,” which is code phrase for gay that most older LGBTQ people recognize.

If you don’t find those on the itinerary, check the bulletin board near the guest services desk. Most ships will have one or two cocktail hours scheduled specifically for LGBTQ people to meet. You may make new friends with whom you can share your day trips or enjoy an evening meal. If the cruise does not have such a gathering, ask the guest services staff to set one up. If you and your spouse or travel companion are introverts, don’t worry, you can avoid crowds and create your own little cocoons of privacy.

Cruising can be an exciting or a relaxing vacation experience. Do your research and find the trip that’s right for you. Bon voyage!

Olivia Travels