As I crossed the gangway to board the Celebrity Cruises’ Summit for VACAYA’s maiden voyage this summer, the Scissor Sisters serenading over the speakers reassured me that “a kiki is a party for calming all your nerves.” I took it as welcome foreshadowing that the first large-scale LGBTQ+ travel company to launch in decades had taken the initiative to musically score my journey from the moment I boarded. Yes, h-h-honey, they were serving and working and turning out VACAYA’s inaugural kiki.
I instantly became giddy with anticipation. This was my first gay cruise. Somehow, I’d made it this long — a seasoned gay man in his 40s — without ever specifically sailing with my community.
What was different now? VACAYA is setting out to change the existing model of queer travel. From its inception, it set the lofty goal of serving the entire LGBTQIAPK community. On its website it clearly explains and creates an alphabet soup utopia that welcomes (in its words): “Lesbian, Gay, Transgender/Transsexual, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, Asexual/Ally, Pansexual/Polyamorous and Kink.”
As VACAYA co-founder Patrick Gunn said, “If you believe love is love, you belong on our vacations.” And we did. Though the largest percentage of guests was men, they were men of all ages, shapes and sizes — another coup for inclusivity. And from my conversations with the topless ladies splashing in the pool and my new friends from East Lansing, Michigan, Jennifer and Johanna, who I met at the ship’s ice cream parlor, all shared in the joyous excitement.
On the first day, VACAYA organized meetups for every flavor and proclivity of our inclusive spectrum. From pansexual to trans to straight ally guests, everyone had the opportunity to meet their like-minded neighbors for the next seven days. However, to make friends all one had to do was step out of the stateroom. In my many years attending gay events, I can’t remember being surrounded by a more engaging, welcoming crowd.
And, truly, it was a run-your-own-race kind of experience…
“Travel is about fun and exploration, coming out to a stranger is no way to kick-off a vacation,” says Robert Geller, Founder and CEO of FabStayz. “Be your ‘FabSelf’ wherever your travels take you. No more scouring listings for clues if the host is LGBT+ welcoming, an ally or member of our community. FabStayz wants to take away all the guesswork for the LGBT+ traveler.”
According to Geller, property owners listed on FabStayz must meet the platform’s criteria of seven months minimum hosting on another major platform (like Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, TripAdvisor and HomeAway), with at least 10 great to excellent reviews. Additionally, all FabStayz hosts agree to FabStayz diversity and inclusion statement.
Within weeks of launching, FabStayz had quintupled its hosts and featured a castle in France, tiny homes in Portland, a vintage RV in Los Angeles, and rental listings throughout the United States, Brazil, Canada, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands and the U.K., among others.
Start spreadin’ the news. We all want to wake up in the city that never sleeps—just not for an early morning checkout. Please!
For guests who want to take advantage of the pulsing New York City nights, the New York Hilton Midtown is offering “The City That Never Sleeps” package through December 31, 2019. Whether you’re arriving late from a long flight or you’ve been going non-stop, you can check-in at midnight and check-out at 3pm, after some restful daytime recovery sleep…
Anna Wintour take note: the campiest event in New York City this year was not the Met Gala
The scene opens on a red carpet in the lobby of a storied New York City hotel. Models dressed in costumes representing various cultures strut down the catwalk, while an emcee describes the inspiration for their looks in a posh accent—she might be English… she’s probably English… or she might be Madonna right around the time she fell off that horse.
In an attempt to promote various cultures, the theme is “It’s a Small World,” because, it is, after all.
The event is equal parts Parade of Nations of the Miss Universe Pageant, a stroll through Epcot Center’s World Showcase and an unconventional RuPaul’s Drag Race design challenge.
The contestants vary in size, origin, gender, temperament, and socio-economic status.
It’s a level of diversity in representation the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has never achieved, or even attempted. The event is pure OPULENCE: They. Own. Everything.
Oh, and the models are all cats: like the real four-legged pet kind of cats… not Jennifer Hudson as a CGI Grizabella kind of cat.
To set the mood prior to the runway show, two opera singers accompanied by a piano performed a live duet, with full vocal commitment and physical gesturing, in a meow-like language. A reputable source reports the classical piece was written in “meow” originally and is attributed to Rossini. I can neither confirm nor deny the reporting, but it was a brilliant moment of performance art, nonetheless.
Patrons fumble, balancing a glass of champagne in one hand and a camera phone in another, maneuvering around each other for a clear photo of the feline fierceness. The woman behind me is so entranced that she spills a glass of wine down my back. At least it is white wine, and, frankly, my brain is exploding from so much excitement that I truly don’t even care.
The evening pays honor to one very special host: Hamlet VIII, The Algonquin Hotel’s resident feline, who has been greeting guests at the hotel’s reservation desk since the event began. He is adorable and a total hospitality pro.
The Algonquin Hotel has a long history of celebrating four-legged fuzzies and has counted a resident cat as a VIP guest since the 1920’s. Hamlet VIII is their 12th cat (boy cats are always named Hamlet while girl cats are always named Matilda). Our current Prince of Denmark is looked after by the hotel’s Chief Cat Officer, Alice De Almeida, and has his own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. He also has a cat therapist and reiki practitioner, Carole Wilbourn, with whom I had a twenty-minute conversation prior to the runway show in the cat green room, where pet fashion designer Ada Nieves dressed the models with precise artistry.
Ms. Wilbourn eagerly explained how she helped Hamlet become the superstar he is now. After being rescued, Hamlet lived in the offices upstairs until, after reiki and play-therapy sessions, he became comfortable enough to use the hotel’s reception desk as his personal lounge area. He is also a fan of catnip and loves all types of food. Oh, and he’s currently on a diet.
I tell her how my cat, Dottie, passed earlier this year and she gifts me a cat toy so that my home can be ready for when I adopt my next kitty. It was an extremely kind gesture and I now wish I could afford to hire Ms. Wilbourn to therapize me. I too love all types of food and am currently on a diet. Her business card indicates that she also makes house calls and does phone and video consultations, for those interested.
Quickly becoming my-favorite-event-I’ve-ever-attended-ever, The Algonquin Hotel’s Cat Fashion Show donates 100 percent of its proceeds to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a non-profit charity that works with more than 150 partner rescue groups and shelters that save the lives of NYC’s homeless animals.
During the event, an on-site mobile adoption unit sits outside the hotel to facilitate you meeting your new pet. Inside the hotel lobby, the $75 ticket includes cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, desserts and all the aforementioned awesomeness.
Please, if I am ever to influence you in any way, sign up for Traveling IQ’s “Email Subscription” to the right of this post so we can rejoice together when The Algonquin announces the official Cat Fashion Show date for summer 2020. And then immediately save the date on your calendar.
Enjoy some of the photos* from the event below …And you’re welcome.
“We want to be the best hotel restaurant in the world. That’s what we’re pushing for.”
Uttering that statement as he welcomes us into HA Restaurant, Chef Carlos Gaytan sets a very high bar. He then spends the next 3 hours exceeding all expectations.
After all, this isn’t your typical hotel restaurant. Carlos Gaytan is the first Mexican chef ever to receive a Michelin Star (for Mexique in Chicago). And although HA Restaurant is located within Hotel Xcaret in Riviera Maya, Mexico, it is open to all diners with a reservation and is the one restaurant not included in the hotel’s all-inclusive package. It’s a stand-alone culinary masterpiece in a resort area more commonly associated with dinner buffets.
Hilton Hotels of New York City are keeping you tipsy and sparkly this Pride.
To celebrate World Pride and the 50thanniversary of Stonewall, the crafty mixologists of Hilton have created Pride-inspired cocktails at nine NYC hotels. From sexy lounges to rooftop bars, follow their cocktail guide to sip, sample and saunter through NYC all month. I prefer my summer parties outdoors, so my favorites are the rooftops of The Bernic Hotel, DoubleTree Times Square, Conrad Downtown, Hilton Fashion District and the Embassy Suites in Midtown Manhattan.
“No one needs glitter on Gay Pride” …said no one ever. To keep you glitzy, Hilton Hotels of NYC are creating complimentary Glitter Glamour Stations throughout the city on the Sunday of the Pride Parade (June 30). Makeup artists at select hotels will be transforming dazzle-deprived hotel guests and locals from 9am-12pm, with special glitter makeup and applique. For the added shimmer head to the Glitter Glamour Stations in the lobbies of the Hilton Garden Inn New York/Tribeca, Hilton New York Fashion District, Millennium Hilton New York Downtown and New York Hilton Midtown.
Make it a Pride to remember… and remember…and remember …as you discover glitter deep into August.
We talk a good talk about the strength of a more unified community. Over the decades we’ve added letters to the movement to create a more diverse, welcoming, and clear representation of who we are. But though we’ve become more inclusive in our language, inclusiveness hasn’t necessarily applied to our travels.
Take the gay cruise as an example. There are cruises that focus on lesbians, gay men, bears, party boys, families, drag-queen enthusiasts, and even an upcoming Golden Girls cruise (it’s not specifically gay, but c’mon!). Can’t we all just vacation together?
Enter VACAYA. The first adult-only, large-scale LGBTQ+ travel company to launch in decades, VACAYA is making it its mission to welcome the entire LGBTQ spectrum…
*Read the full article published in Logo’s NewNowNext
Why merely relax when you can transform? The Muluk Spa at Hotel Xcaret Mexico is your gateway to the ancient traditions and healing practices of the Mayan culture. As you enter the spa’s expansive, open-air lobby you immediately connect with the lush topography of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Excavated from a rocky hillside of this jungle region, the spa opens onto a private river that runs through the entirety of Hotel Xcaret.
For those interested in moving beyond the pampering into the spiritual, plan to visit Muluk Spa on a Wednesday when their Shaman will guide you through the complete Temezcal experience. This traditional Mexican sweat lodge, dating back to Pre-Hispanic times, is not for the faint of heart (quite literally) or those particularly sensitive to heat (your body temperature can exceed 104°F). But it is through the sweat that you cleanse of toxins both physical and emotional… (continue)
This past January, my boyfriend and I visited San Juan for the first time and fell in love with the capital of Puerto Rico. I feel honored to have contributed to the new LGBTQ travel portal of DiscoverPuertoRico.com and, in some small way, help guide new travelers to the Caribbean’s most gay friendly destination.
As a first-time visitor, you’ll quickly realize Puerto Rico’s capital city is the LGBTQ Caribbean destination you’ve been searching for. Rich in history, breathtakingly beautiful and offering non-stop flights from 49 destinations, it is an ideal quick winter getaway.
San Juan satisfies the desire for a culturally-unique, tropical escape, combined with the ease of never leaving the United States. You don’t need a passport, will use U.S. currency, and can easily communicate in English and Spanish. It is also exceptionally gay-friendly.
Gay travelers to Mexico are increasingly becoming bi… coastal, that is.
According to the 2018 report by Community Marketing & Insights, Mexico is the second most visited international destination for LGBTQ travelers from the United States (Canada is the first). Within the country, the areas around Puerto Vallarta and Cancun/Riviera Maya are the two most popular.
Wooing our community to Mexico’s eastern coast, the UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya is prioritizing becoming the region’s most LGBTQ-friendly all-inclusive….