In a tragic development during the “world’s biggest gay festival at sea,” a passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, chartered by Atlantis Events, unexpectedly died last week. Atlantis Events specializes in cruise vacations targeted at gay men. The death occurred during the Oasis Caribbean Cruise from January 21 to 28. The cruise originated and concluded in Miami.
A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines confirmed the death in a statement to The Advocate.
“I can confirm that we had a death onboard and that it was unexpected and not suspicious,” the spokesperson said.The details of the passenger’s death have not been publicly disclosed.
Details from a private Facebook group and private chat groups for those on the cruise shed some light on the incident.
Atlantis Events cruises feature large-scale circuit party-type dance events, among other entertainment offerings. Drug use at those events is common.
To all my gays on the Atlantis cruise please please be careful and look out for one another \ud83d\ude22— (@)
Unconfirmed reports suggest that there were at least five instances of an “alpha alpha alpha” alert issued during the voyage. Cruise ships typically use this code to signify that someone needs life-saving medical assistance. If accurate, the frequency of such alerts would suggest multiple medical emergencies during the cruise, although the nature and severity of these incidents remain unclear.
The Oasis of the Seas, known for its extensive amenities and entertainment options, was navigating with about 5,200 guests, according to Atlantis Events’ website. The itinerary included visits to several Caribbean destinations, offering a blend of parties, performances, and social activities.
An anonymous source aboard the ship spoke to The Advocate, highlighting that the death was isolated and also mentioned the spread of influenza A among passengers. The private Facebook group for the cruise revealed many passengers suffered from flu-like symptoms.
The source commended the onboard medical team of Atlantis Events for their professionalism.
Despite multiple requests for comment from Atlantis Events, the Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office, and Rich Campbell, CEO of Atlantis Events, no further information has been provided.
It is not the first time that a passenger has died on an Atlantis Events chartered cruise.
In 2022, a passenger died on the same ship during another Atlantis Events chartered cruise.
In the 2022 case, The Advocate reported a death aboard the Oasis of the Seas during Atlantis Events’ 30th Anniversary Cruise. The death was confirmed by Atlantis Events, with a representative describing it as “nothing out of the ordinary” and directing further inquiries regarding the cause of death to Royal Caribbean.
In 2020, a 46-year-old Florida man died after jumping 10 stories from the Oasis of the Seas in Puerto Rico during an Atlantis charter.
In November, two people reportedly died while aboard an Atlantis cruise.
According to a November 2020 study in the International Journal of Travel Medicine and Global Health, covering data from 2000 to 2019, 623 people died aboard cruise ships, with 89 percent being passengers and 11 percent crew members. The majority of these passenger deaths were among U.S. residents, and the leading causes included falls overboard or onto lower decks, suicide, murder, and terror attacks, unspecified natural causes, and cardiac incidents.
Canada, citing the risk of potential dangers, is advising LGBTQ travelers planning trips to the United States to check how they might be affected by recently passed laws in some states, Ottawa said Tuesday.
Anti-LGBTQ demonstrations in the U.S. last year rocketed 30-fold compared with 2017 and legal moves to restrict LGBTQ rights are on the rise.
Canada’s travel advisory for the U.S. now includes a cautionary message for those who consider themselves two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning or intersex — or 2SLGBTQI+ for short.
“Some states have enacted laws and policies that may affect 2SLGBTQI+ persons,” the advisory says. “Check relevant state and local laws.”
The advisory did not specify which states it was referring to.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government employed experts “to look carefully around the world and to monitor whether there are particular dangers to particular groups of Canadians.”
Speaking to reporters in Atlantic Canada, she added: “Every Canadian government … needs to put at the center of everything we do the interest and the safety of every single Canadian and every single group of Canadians. That’s what we’re doing now.”
She declined to say whether any talks had been held with President Joe Biden’s administration before making the change. The overall risk profile for the U.S. remains at green, indicating a normal security precautions requirement.
The U.S. is Canadians’ top travel destination, and in June residents returned from about 2.8 million trips south of the border. About 1 million people, 4% of the Canadian population aged 15 years and older, are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or of another sexual orientation than heterosexual, according to official data released last year.
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in the U.S., has declared a national state of emergency, citing the proliferation of legislation in state capitols aimed at regulating the lives of queer people.
The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa did not have an immediate comment.
IGLTA, the world’s leading LGBTQ+ travel association, is proud to announce the global launch of a groundbreaking initiative to support full equality within the travel industry: IGLTA Accredited™. Following a soft launch within IGLTA’s network, IGLTA Accredited™ has opened applications to hotels and accommodations worldwide, with anticipation of rapidly building momentum as travel organizations globally seek to champion LGBTQ+ inclusivity.
IGLTA Accredited™ sets the standard as an independent quality assurance process, providing concrete evidence that participating hotels genuinely welcome LGBTQ+ guests through their actions, not just empty words. To obtain accreditation, hotels must successfully document fulfillment of eight criteria, showcasing their dedication to creating a safe and welcoming environment for their staff and LGBTQ+ travelers.
The eight criteria of IGLTA Accredited™ are built upon the pillars of diversity, equity, inclusivity, policy, community, advocacy, transparency, and sensitivity. They encompass the implementation of non-discriminatory policies protecting both LGBTQ+ travelers and hotel staff, comprehensive sensitivity training, a proven commitment to inclusive marketing practices, and tangible evidence of genuine support for the LGBTQ+ community.
“We believe allyship should be year-round, not just for pride,” said IGLTA President/CEO John Tanzella. “LGBTQ+ travelers are looking for real accountability in their travel experiences, and travel advisors want to know they are directing LGBTQ+ clients to hotels/accommodations that truly welcome them. We invite properties around the world to join us in championing integrity within the travel industry and elevating the standard of travel for all. IGLTA Accredited™ strives to provide peace of mind for all LGBTQ+ travelers, wherever their adventures might take them.”
W Costa Navarino was the first hotel globally to become IGLTA Accredited™. The resort opened last year in Costa Navarino, a sustainably driven destination in the Greek region of Messinia, southwest Peloponnese. They have implemented several practices to ensure a welcoming experience, such as role-play inclusivity seminars for associates, establishing an LGBTQ+ associates ambassador, and the creation of gender-neutral room amenities, spa treatments, and restrooms.
“The foundation of Costa Navarino is built upon a deep respect for our guests. Our commitment is not only to meet but to exceed their expectations,” said Stephanos Theodorides, Managing Director of TEMES, the developers of Costa Navarino. “Recognizing that everyone has a unique personality, we strive to anticipate diverse needs, ensuring that everyone feels as comfortable as they would in their own home. The fact that W Costa Navarino is the first hotel in the world to be IGLTA Accredited™ is a true honor.”
In today’s cultural climate, trust has become a rare commodity. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, which surveyed 28 countries, showed that nearly 6 in 10 people currently say their default emotion is distrust. It is no longer enough for brands to claim authenticity, it must be proven. This is especially true for the LGBTQ+ community.
Discover how IGLTA Accredited™ is transforming the landscape of trust and authenticity during our virtual event on 22 June at 10am ET. Click here to RSVP and to learn more about the program.
About IGLTA & the IGLTA Foundation
The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association is the global leader in advancing LGBTQ+ travel and a proud Affiliate Member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. IGLTA’s mission is to provide information and resources for LGBTQ+ travelers and expand LGBTQ+ tourism globally by demonstrating its significant social and economic impact. IGLTA global network includes 12,500+ LGBTQ+ welcoming accommodations, destinations, service providers, travel agents, tour operators, events, and travel media in 80+ countries. The philanthropic IGLTA Foundation empowers LGBTQ+ welcoming travel businesses globally through leadership, research, and education. For more information: iglta.org, igltaconvention.org or iglta.org/foundation and follow us on Facebook @IGLTA, @IGLTABusiness or @IGLTAFoundation, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram @iglta.
This is the 7th Annual Gay Travel Awards, and it is our honor to present The Gay Travel Awards Winners!
On behalf of gay travelers worldwide, we congratulate these exemplary travel-related businesses, hotels, destinations, tours, events, and influencers on their accomplishments in making our world a more inclusive and welcoming place! The winners across 38 categories were selected from among hundreds of deserving nominees. Without further ado, it is our honor to present The 2022 Gay Travel Awards Winners!
A leading gay tour operator and the world’s second-largest cruise line company is politely asking gay cruise passengers to stop making porn films during voyages.
LGBTQ+ travel company Atlantis Events and Royal Caribbean signed a joint notice, asking horny holiday-makers on board the Harmony of the Seas ship to stop making adult movies for OnlyFans or Just For Fans, or posting naked photos from the vessel.
Anyone breaking this new rule will be kicked off the gay cruise.
The Fort Lauderdale cruise ship, which is considered to be one of the largest passenger ships ever built, left for a week-long queer trip across the Caribbean on Saturday (4 February).
But, prior to the event, Atlantis Events warned passengers not to share adult videos from any of their ships after several adult videos reportedly went viral in the past.
“While we want everyone to have fun, there are limits and so we ask that you be respectful of all guests and our cruise partners,” a section of the guest handbook read.
“Please do not post anything explicitly sexual on social media in a public forum or other online space,” it continued.
“Any guest who posts or publishes an explicit and publicly visible photo or video will be asked to leave the ship with no refund.”
Regular cruisers have suggested that the policy was implemented sometime in October 2022, as no handbook prior to the date advised against explicit content during Atlantis Events trips.
It reportedly applies to all forms of social media platforms, including private or paywall accounts such as Onlyfans.
To help combat the apparent wave of cruise ship pornography being taken on the ship, the company said it had hired a “team of volunteers” to monitor the site.
But, as Just For Fans founder Dominic Ford told Buzzfeed News: “If models are careful and smart about filming, they should be fine.
“It’s a shame that sex work and pornography are still marginalised and stigmatised,” Ford continued.
“But we need to find ways of working with our friends and allies to make sure everyone’s safe spaces are protected.”
A policy preventing adult videos was reportedly requested by officials of cruise ship companies, according to Atlantis Events CEO Rich Campbell.
“The cruise lines have asked me to include that and that’s not such a strange request, he said. “They don’t want their brand featured.”
While companies such as OnlyFans have terms of service prohibiting creators from violating intellectual property rights, there are seemingly no laws against non-sexual recreational cruise photos being posted online.
The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association Foundation is holding its first symposium to discuss expanding LGBTQ+ tourism in India this week. During the free event on 2 February, members of the IGLTA team and the association’s global network join thought leaders from India to network and conduct educational sessions in the welcoming environment of The LaLiT New Delhi, one of the newest hotel members of IGLTA.
As part of its ongoing efforts to support IGLTA’s global travel community, the IGLTA Foundation is enhancing its outreach in strategic emerging destinations. In 2020, the Foundation formed a task force comprised of travel professionals in India and those who promote travel to its many cities and cultural sites, which led to this educational symposium.
“Through IGLTA Foundation efforts like our India Initiative, we can increase understanding of global LGBTQ+ tourism,” said IGLTA President/CEO John Tanzella. “We are so excited to discuss the opportunities for LGBTQ+ travel to and from India, given the huge projections for the country’s tourism growth. It is essential that this growth values all travelers and makes them feel genuinely welcome.”
Topics of the symposium include best practices for LGBTQ+ tourism and practical advice for creating more inclusive hospitality offerings. Among the speakers are: IGLTA President/CEO John Tanzella and VP-Communications LoAnn Halden; Keshav Suri, Executive Director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group; Rudrani Chhetri, LGBTQIA+ Rights Activist and Founder, Mitr Trust;
Don Heflin , Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, U.S. Embassy; Jonathan Heimer, Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs, U.S. Embassy; Tom Kiely, President/CEO, Visit West Hollywood; Elliott Ferguson, President/CEO, Destination DC; Fred Dixon, President/CEO, NYC & Company; as well as representatives from Lemon Tree Hotels, Serene Journeys, and The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group.
“We are delighted to partner with IGLTA for this first-ever symposium on expanding LGBTQ+ tourism,” said Keshav Suri, Executive Director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group. “It is a great opportunity to engage and explore the potential of pink tourism. As per World Bank data, the inclusion of an able and talented workforce from the LGBTQIA + community and the ‘Power of Pink Money’ can contribute up to 1.7% to the growth of Indian GDP. In order to achieve an egalitarian society, we as individuals and organizations must become the catalysts. As India spearheads the G20 forum this year, the theme is a reflection of our commitment towards inclusion for all: One Earth, One Family, One Future. ”
A complete list of speakers and topics for the IGLTA Foundation LGBTQ+ Travel Symposium in India can be found here.
This event would not be possible without the generous support of Visit West Hollywood, Destination DC, NYC & Company, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group and the Keshav Suri Foundation.
About IGLTA & the IGLTA Foundation
The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association is the global leader in advancing LGBTQ+ travel and a proud Affiliate Member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. IGLTA’s mission is to provide information and resources for LGBTQ+ travelers and expand LGBTQ+ tourism globally by demonstrating its significant social and economic impact. IGLTA global network includes 12,000 LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+ welcoming accommodations, destinations, service providers, travel agents, tour operators, events, and travel media in 80 countries. The philanthropic IGLTA Foundation empowers LGBTQ+ welcoming travel businesses globally through leadership, research, and education. For more information: iglta.org, igltaconvention.org or iglta.org/foundation and follow us on Facebook @IGLTA, @IGLTABusiness or @IGLTAFoundation, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram @iglta.
On Tuesday, Indonesia passed a 200-page criminal code that bans sex outside marriage. The penalty is up to one year in prison.
This code also bans cohabitation before marriage, and places new limits on freedom of speech.
Insulting the president, or expressing ideas counter to “national ideology,” carries penalties of up to five years in prison.
This new criminal code applies to citizens and foreigners alike, including tourists.
Putu Winastra, chairman of the Association of the Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies, told CNN that the laws should “make foreigners think twice” about visiting Indonesia.
Winastra expressed that foreign couples might have to prove they are married or else risk jail time. This could be trickier for same-sex couples.
There have been troubling reports about the dangers to LGBTQ+ travelers for some time in the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world.
In January 2020, an American lesbian couple were deported from Indonesia after touting the island of Bali as “queer-friendly.”
That same month, a same-sex couple in Indonesia’s Aceh province were publicly flogged 77 times after being caught having gay sex, which is forbidden under Sharia law.
In August, 2022, Rodrigo Ventocilla, a transgender Harvard Kennedy School student from Peru, died while on honeymoon in Bali after being detained at customs. The circumstances surrounding his death remain unknown.
If you do travel to hostile places like Indonesia, do your research first, share your plans with others, and try to avoid anything that could put you in danger.
But honestly? I don’t think we look anything alike. Michael has a full head of silver hair — and I’m bald. Michael is at least three inches taller than I am.
And yet, as we travel, I’ve literally lost track of the number of times people have mistaken us for brothers. People often — often — even assume we’re twins!
Here’s the explanation I’ve come up with for why this happens: it’s unusual for two middle-aged men to be traveling together, especially if we’re sharing a room. If we’re in a country or culture where out same-sex couples are unusual or non-existent, people search for a label to apply to us. “Brothers” is the best explanation they can come up with that makes sense to them.
Plus, we act very comfortable and familiar together, like, well, brothers.
Truthfully, if this is the worst thing that ever happens to us on our travels, we’ll be very lucky. And so far, it is the worst thing, at least when it comes to our being gay.
In fact, we’ve found the world to be far more gay-tolerant than we expected, even in countries known for LGBTQ bigotry.
Then again, we’re relatively wealthy Westerners, and the locals in most countries have a financial interest in treating us well. Things are often very different for resident LGBTQ people.
We’re also men, who don’t have to deal with sexism, and we’re conventionally masculine, which means we can easily maneuver in cultures with more traditional gender roles.
We also try to do our due diligence before going anywhere, and we always approach travel with the idea that we’re guests in the places that we visit. That means we try to learn about and respect local customs and values — within reason, of course.
But this doesn’t mean there aren’t still challenges to travel while being LGBTQ.
For one thing, something serious probably will go wrong at some point in our travels, and we’ll have to deal with the local authorities and/or police.
If it’s obvious we’re a gay couple, and there’s some kind of dispute, will the authorities take our side? If the problem involves homophobia, might the authorities even take the side of the bigot?
It’s a scary thought.
Then there’s the general discomfort of constantly having to decide whether or not to come out — and exactly how “out” we want to be in any given situation.
When we were living in Tbilisi, Georgia, we decided to hire a driver to take us and some friends on a road trip into neighboring Armenia for three days. The deal was the driver would supply the car and his expertise, and we would pay him a fee — and also pay for his food and lodging along the way.
But when Michael was making the arrangements via text, he asked me, “Do you think I should tell the driver we’re gay?”
“Why would you do that?” I responded.
“Well, we’re all going to be together in his car for three days. If he’s got an issue, I’d rather know now than once we’re in Armenia.”
“Don’t tell him,” I said. “That seems weird. ‘By the way, we’re gay’? He’ll probably be more freaked out by that than anything.”
“But if I don’t tell him, then it’ll come up during the trip. And how weird would that be? We’re all staying in the same hotels. He’ll see you and I are sharing a bed.”
This was a very familiar conversation — the kind of thing Michael and I discuss all the time. I’m generally more cautious than he is. And in this particular case, the driver had come with a very reasonable price and a strong recommendation from someone we knew. I really didn’t want to lose him, and I said so.
“What if he asks us directly?” Michael asked me.
“If we’re gay?” I said. “Please. He won’t ask. And if he does, we can always lie.”
I could tell Michael didn’t agree with me, but he went ahead and booked the driver without mentioning our being a couple.
And a few weeks later, when we finally met the driver in person, literally the first thing he said, once we were all settled into his car, was, “So, Michael, are you married?”
I was sitting in the back seat with our two friends, which was a good thing because I was pretty sure Michael wanted to strangle me. He lied and told the driver he wasn’t married, just like I had instructed, but even that didn’t help matters. For the next three days, our driver repeatedly peppered Michael — and only Michael — with questions about his love life.
During those three days, I was also very aware how often LGBTQ issues — or details about Michael’s and my relationship — came up in casual conversations with our friends.
By the time we returned to Tbilisi, our driver must have figured out we were a couple. But whether he had or hadn’t, Michael was right: we should have told him in advance.
Still, who needs all that stress?
Then there’s the fact that, safety issues aside, we genuinely want to be out. It’s undignified and humiliating to have to pretend you’re someone you’re not.
And, frankly, we’re from a generation where we’ve always seen our being out as a political act — about yourself but also about a greater “cause”; younger generations seem to see it as more about individual expression, but that’s cool too.
Either way, visibility matters. In homophobic countries, it matters even more. By being out and proud, we can act as role models for younger LGBTQ folks, and we can confound the stereotypes or misinformation that straight people might have about us.
But that’s complicated too. When we lived in Istanbul, Michael got to know the man who ran the bakery near our apartment.
In his regular chats with the man, Michael revealed the details of his and my travels, and the two of them shared social media profiles. But Michael was always unsure how this traditional Muslim family man might react if Michael specifically referred to me as his “husband.”
Which is precisely the point. For me, the best part of our travels has been the connections I’ve made with all the people I’ve met along the way.
But in more conservative countries, being gay — and feeling anxious how people might react to that fact — makes those connections more difficult. How close can you get to someone if you can’t be honest about something so basic about yourself?
On the other hand, sometimes being gay has made those connections even deeper.
That Turkish baker Michael met? Not long after we left town, the baker “liked” a picture of Michael and me being affectionate on social media.
An ever better example came in Vietnam, where we lived several years ago. Michael and I joined a local co-working space, which was run by a Vietnamese woman.
Michael does the grocery shopping in our family, and he also knows that I liked the fruit smoothies made by a vendor there. So every time he made a trip to the local market, he would pick up a mango smoothie for me and stop by the co-working space on his bike to drop it off on his way home.
Before long, the Vietnamese woman began to notice, and she would smile every time Michael delivered me another mango smoothie.
Finally, one day the woman said to me, “You two are a couple, yes?”
I was surprised she’d said this out of the blue, and it made me a little nervous. I knew this woman hadn’t traveled much, and I suspected she didn’t know many out gay people.
But I nodded and said, “Yes. We’ve been together twenty-five years now.”
“He is very loving,” she said. “You are very lucky. You are both loving to each other.”
At that, I couldn’t help but blush. I wasn’t so sure about my always being loving to Michael, but I could absolutely agree with the other part.
And so I laughed and said that. “Well, you’re definitely right about Michael.”
She shook her head. “No. I watch, and I see. You are one of the best couples I’ve ever met.”
I loved that she’d been observing us and had come to such a nice conclusion. Now, more than anything, I felt seen. “Well, thank you very much. That’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to us.”
“I am just saying the truth.”
It was another one of those elusive but wonderful travel connections. And if I wasn’t gay — and if Michael wasn’t such a thoughtful person — it might never have happened at all.
The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association and the IGLTA Foundation celebrate transgender and gender-expansive people, in all their diversity, for their empowering contributions to societies across the planet. We strive to eradicate the discrimination that still prevents many gender-diverse individuals from living openly and fully as their authentic selves.
“We are very aware of underrepresentation in travel, whether it’s overall marketing that fails to include transgender and gender-diverse travelers or lack of visibility in our business network,” said IGLTA President/CEO John Tanzella. “We need to develop more inclusive resources to help tourism professionals better understand the needs of transgender and gender-expansive clients.”
“There are so many safety issues and concerns specific to transgender and gender-diverse travelers that need to receive more attention globally, and we want to ensure that the tool kit we develop is informed by those we wish to serve,” said IGLTA Foundation Board Chair Theresa Belpulsi.
Please join us in elevating trans and gender-expansive people today, Transgender Day of Visibility, and every day. If you’re interested in joining this group or would like to refer a new member, please email [email protected].
The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association is the global leader in advancing LGBTQ+ travel and a proud Affiliate Member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. IGLTA’s mission is to provide information and resources for LGBTQ+ travelers and expand LGBTQ+ tourism globally by demonstrating its significant social and economic impact. The association’s professional network includes 10,000+ LGBTQ+ welcoming accommodations, destinations, service providers, travel agents, tour operators, events and travel media, and its members can be found in nearly 80 countries. The philanthropic IGLTA Foundation empowers LGBTQ+ welcoming travel businesses globally through leadership, research, and education. For more information: iglta.org, igltaconvention.org or iglta.org/foundation and follow us on Facebook @IGLTA, @IGLTABusiness or @IGLTAFoundation, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram @iglta
A new queer festival, LGBT+ Music Festival, is launching in Porto, Portugal this summer.
The three-day music event will take place between 1-3 July across four stages in the city.
Porto will host 35,000 festival goers, with music, DJs, drag and more on the lineup of the inclusive festival.
The lineup features Iggy Azalea, Bebe Rexha, Melanie C, Drag Race UK’sBimini Bon Boulash and Jodie Harsh to name a few.
The festival has also teamed up with local clubs, bars, restaurants and hotels in Porto to create a “unique and inclusive experience”.
As well as live music there’s also afterparties, boat parties that dock at the main stage venue, pool parties and helicopter rides over the ocean.
“This will be a festival that remembers the past, celebrates the present and prepares for the future. Bringing people from all over the world together, it will create a truly safe space for everyone who knows and understands that music is an act of liberation,” says Diogo Vieria da Silva, executive director of Variações for Portugal’s LGBTI Commerce and Tourism Association.
“Combining inclusion with fun, the festival will help the city of Porto and local organizations to raise their support for LGBT+ people and will be the epicentre of the celebration of equality values. It will give a stage to LGBT+ artists and their allies, whilst elevating national artists to new heights,” they add.
You can find out the full lineup, ticket info and more below for LGBT+ Music Festival.
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