Greater Fort Lauderdale is preparing to set a new record in February 2023, with four, back-to-back, sold-out LGBT+ cruises welcoming more than 11,500 visitors to the destination. The economic impact of the four cruises from hotel room nights alone is estimated to be at least $8 million according to Visit Lauderdale, the official destination marketing organization or Greater Fort Lauderdale. Visitors will arrive here from around the world, with most booking local hotel reservations on both ends of their cruise itinerary for enjoying local restaurants, attractions and shopping while they are here.
“With demand for travel to LGBT+ friendly destinations at an all-time high, our reputation for welcoming ‘everyone under the sun’ has delivered a record-breaking booking of four consecutive LGBT+ cruises of this magnitude,” says Richard Gray, Visit Lauderdale’s senior vice president of inclusion & accessibility.
Greater Fort Lauderdale is Florida’s LGBT+ capital and one of the most progressive destinations in the United States. TravelPulse recently named Greater Fort Lauderdale one of the top 4 places for LGBT+ travelers post-COVID.
In October 2022, Visit Lauderdale unveiled its vibrant, new brand campaign “Everyone Under the Sun,” highlighting Greater Fort Lauderdale’s authentic welcoming vibe and its inclusive community. The destination’s commitment to inclusion is evident in the ads, staring locals of all ethnicities, disabilities and members of the area’s LGBT+ community.
Gray worked with LGBT+ cruise operators Atlantis, VACAYA and Olivia for the past year and promoted the four sailings on visitlauderdale.com/lgbtq/cruises. In addition, he arranged discounted hotel packages with area hoteliers, such as the Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Downtown and helped facilitate special marketing initiatives with VACAYA and Olivia.
Atlantis’ voyage on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas (February 4-12, 2023) is the largest gay cruise ever, with 5,400 passengers. VACAYA’s cruise package on Celebrity Reflections (February 12-19, 2023) will host 2,300 travelers and Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam will host two cruises for LGBT+ tour operator, Olivia, which is celebrating 50 years of specialized travel packages for lesbians. The cruises (February 19-26, 2023 and February 23-March 5, 2023) will carry a total of 3,800 passengers.
Luxury cruises are big business for Greater Fort Lauderdale, with Port Everglades ranked third among the busiest cruise homeports worldwide.
“Beyond our appreciation for the major economic boost to our economy, we want LGBT+ travelers to know they are truly welcome in our community,” Gray says.