Let Love Define Family Series Explores LGBT Family Vacations

Let Love Define Family Series Explores LGBT Family Vacations

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post  |  By JamesMichael Nichols

There are a few things you hear over and over again from LGBT families that take LGBT-themed vacations: “It’s completely open and comfortable and a place where you are surrounded by people who are experiencing life in a similar way. It’s not about the destination, it is all about the experience.”

Jeffrey and Chris Hietikko-Parsons and their 8 1/2 year old son, Henry, from New Jersey, have been on 10 trips so far with R Family Vacations. “We always have an amazing time,” they explained. “Everything is so well planned and there is a high caliber of activities and entertainment. It’s not like other vacations — these feel like we’re on a trip with our extended family.”

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Planning a vacation can be stressful for everyone involved: Where do we go? How do we get there? What do we do when we get there? What if we get bored? For the LGBT family, there is also the added challenge of finding a place to truly relax and feel comfortable. So, an entire industry was born to create the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure for everyone!

There is no doubt that family trips create memories and bonds that last a lifetime, but a big part of these vacations seem to be the sense of community and spending time in a place where kids, and adults, feel like their family isn’t so different.

One gay couple conveyed the story about how in just the past week, while going about their day-to-day business with their two children, they were asked by two waiters and a cashier, “Where is the woman of the house?” The quick response is that their 13 year-old daughter is our woman of the household. It can be a subtle reminder that some in society still see LGBT families as a sort of anomaly. That could be a reason why LGBT group travel is growing. It’s not just the activities, it is more about escaping to a world of acceptance and true relaxation.

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“Where we live, being a gay family is not a big deal,” said Jeremy Gransky from Massachusetts, “but there are not many other LGBT families around us, so being in that environment with other families like us makes all the difference.” Jeremy and husband John Gransky, with two kids Will and Natalie, are looking forward to their 11th trip with R Family this summer.

“The kids are a big focus for us,” explains R Family Vacations co-founder Kelli Carpenter. “The trips will look like every other family vacation, but on a bigger scale. We’re always finding ways to bring wonder and excitement to the experience for everyone, but especially the kids.”

Stephen Botte from San Jose, and his son Francesco, continue on these excursions just for the experiences they have. “In society you’re the gay family, but with these trips you just a family enjoying a vacation. It’s a total VIP experience that you get to share with thousands of people just like you.”

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Since LGBT families are growing, so is the industry. Two of these companies, R Family Vacations and Olivia Travel, are actually teaming up to provide a new inclusive package for everyone in the family!

“We’ve been in the business of lesbian travel for over 40 years and people started asking us about family trips,” explained Judy Dlugacz, founder of Olivia Travel. “Instead of trying to do it ourselves, we decided to partner with the best in the business, R Family Vacations, to create something wonderful for everybody.”

Both travel companies discussed how the LGBT travel market has changed and evolved to offer an array of destinations and options for singles, parents, kids and even extended family and friends.

Gregg Kaminsky, co-founder of R Family Vacations, said, “we started by providing trips for gay and lesbian families, but quickly discovered that people were bringing their parents, aunts and uncles, friends, and it developed into this great experience that was welcoming to all.”

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The first collaboration between Olivia Travel and R Family Vacations will be a Mexican adventure at the Hard Rock Resort in Nuevo Vallarta, July 9-16, 2016.

Stephen was recently at the resort for an Atlantis vacation with some friends. “I was at this gorgeous resort and was sitting by the pool and my only thought was I wish that Francesco could experience this. Now he can, and we’ve already got the dates marked off on our calendar!”

Judy Dlugacz sums it up best: “we’re working hard to provide the best in activities and entertainment that will have something for everyone, no matter your definition of ‘family,’ this is the family vacation for you!”

Let us plan your next LGBT Family trip!

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DRAG STARS AT SEA: EUROPE ALLSTARS – Cruising with the QUEEN

 

DRAGSTARS AT SEA: EUROPE ALLSTARS

We are very pleased to announce the 2nd Installment of Drag Stars At Sea Europe aboard the HUGE 139,000 ton Explorer of the Seas sailing from London to Barcelona featuring Southampton; Vigo, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Seville & Cadiz, Spain; and Gibraltar.  Best of all, Drag Stars At Sea Europe “Cruising With The Queen” includes the largest gathering of Drag Stars in Europe’s history, fantastic shows, incredible theme parties, unique and exclusive shore excursions, and many other special activities to make this a vacation of a lifetime.  There is NOTHING like this in Europe and it promises to be a vacation of a lifetime!

This incredible cruise experience will also feature optional tours including our famous London PILLAGE & PLUNDER “Off With Her Head” pre party.  Your 3 Day / 2 night stay is the perfect way to start your Vacation experience.  You can choose a 7 Day / 6 night Taste of Europe pre tour that includes Amsterdam, Paris, and London Pillage & Plunder or a 5 Day / 4 night Paris & London pre tour.  After the ship arrives in Barcelona you can add a 3 Day / 2 night Best of Barcelona post tour or a 5 Day / 4 night Taste of Spain tour including both Barcelona and Madrid.

Join Some Of the Worlds MOST FAMOUS QUEENS on the ALandCHUCK.travel DRAG STARS AT SEA – EUROPEAN ALLSTARS: CRUISING WITH THE QUEEN.

Alaska 5000 Chi Chi LaRue Jaidynn Diore Fierce
Jinkx Monsoon Kennedy Davenport Latrice Royale
Michelle Visage MiMi ImFurst Mrs. Kasha Davis
Ongina Pandora Boxx Tyra Sanchez

IMPORTANT FEATURES OF DRAG STARS AT SEA:

  • Reservations are available ONLY with exclusive booking through ALandCHUCK.travel. Guests with reservations from any other travel company or the cruise line directly will not be participants for Drag Stars At Sea. NO OTHER ALandCHUCK.travel GROUPS (or its subsidiaries) WILL BE AVAILABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS CRUISE. ONLY Drag Stars At Sea guests will be allowed to make reservations for this cruise and you will be our ONLY special guests aboard the ship.
  • WELCOME ABOARD MEETING & STARS MEET/GREET. On the day you board the cruise ALandCHUCK.travel will host a Drag Stars At Sea Welcome Aboard Presentation that will include a welcome to all guests, the latest information on the cruise and meeting all the stars of the cruise.  It is an exclusive for DSAS guests.
  • ALandCHUCK.travel CONCIERGE DESK ABOARD SHIP.  An exclusive benefit for our Drag Stars At Sea guests is a Concierge Desk that we operate daily.  It will provide information on every aspect of the cruise and goes much farther than what is available through the cruise lines Guest Services.  This concierge service is provided exclusively by ALandCHUCK.travel staff.
  • “AT A GLANCE” COMMUNICATION BULLETIN. This concise summary of all events aboard the ship will help you plan and remember every detail to ensure it is a vacation of a lifetime.
  • MAKE UP CLASS.  We offer an EXCLUSIVE Make Up Class hosted by a star that if you choose to participate can be outstanding for those in Drag or for every day needs (additional charge and advance reservations will be available on line)
  • BAR & DRINK PACKAGES WILL BE AVAILABLE.  ALandCHUCK.travel is happy to announce that unlimited soda, wine, bar and other packages will be available to Drag Stars At Sea guests. (advance reservations will be available on line).
  • DRAG STAR AT SEA JACKPOT BINGO PARTY.  During the sailing you will enjoy a Jackpot Bingo party hosted by select Queens.  It will be a fun and entertaining event aboard Drag Stars At Sea.*
  • SPECIAL MEET & GREET WITH EVERY STAR ON THE WORLD FAMOUS ROYAL PROMENADE ABOARD THIS SHIP.  This unique four story high indoor mall-like room is perhaps the most amazing public room on any ship in the world and runs nearly the entire length of the ship.  You will enjoy a special meet/greet with EVERY STAR in one place along the Royal Promenade becoming the largest photo meet/greet in history!
  • STUDIO B WHITE ICE PARTY.  During the cruise you will enjoy a special WHITE ICE PARTY that will be held in the largest Ice Skating venue aboard a ship in the world.  Enjoy skating (small additional charge for skates) and music/bar to make the party fun. Dress the part as we offer this special WHITE PARTY unlike has ever been done before.
  • BRITISH OPEN GOLF PARTY.  During the cruise you will enjoy a special round of golf (well, 9 holes of Goofy Golf) as we host a party called the “BRITISH Open.”  It promises to be lots of fun!
  • EXCLUSIVE VIP EXPERIENCE WITH THE STARS.  New to Drag Stars At Sea we are providing a very intimate experience with your favorite star.  This VIP experience is just $99.  The VIP Experience is with just a maximum of 8 guests as you interact with your star.  You will begin with a 30 minute cocktail meet/greet with your star and exclusive guests (cash bar).  Next you have a special dinner table and enjoy dinner with your star.  It is the ultimate opportunity to talk to and KiKi with the performer at your own dinner table.  Finally you enjoy a show that includes your star with VIP front/near row seating. This VIP Experience is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  (advance reservations will be available on line)
  • EXCLUSIVE SHORE EXCURSIONS WILL BE AVAILABLE ONLY TO PASSENGERS OF DRAG STARS AT SEA.  Special private tours are available in every port at special reduced pricing exclusively with ALandCHUCK.travel guests hosted by our staff and selected Queens.  You can start to make reservations for these special trips on Friday, January 9.
  • FOUR SPECIAL PARTIES ABOARD SHIP. Participating in Drag Stars At Sea will allow you to participate in our four special parties. Enjoy “OFF WITH HER HEAD PARTY” which will be our welcome aboard Masquerade party.  We also will have three additional theme & costume parties aboard ship.  These elaborate events are welcome for you to participate in however you see fit.  But if you wish to fully participate, you will enjoy some of the most amazing costumes, drag presentations and a special $500 prize to the best presentation for EACH party aboard.  It makes Drag Stars At Sea a cruise like no other.

OUTSTANDING DINING CHOICES.  Guests of Drag Stars At Sea will be able to participate in a fantastic featured dining choices including:

    • MY TIME DINING:  You enjoy open seating for dinner (all meals are included aboard ship FREE in the buffet or main dining room) to dine when you want and who you want to dine with. The ultimate choice.
    • PORTOFINO Gourmet Italian Dinner:  One evening this specialty restaurant is a feature for Drag Stars At Sea guests to enjoy with ALandCHUCK.travel staff and select Stars (small additional charge and advance reservations will be available on line)
    • CHOPS GRILLE Gourmet Steakhouse Dinner:  One evening this specialty restaurant is a feature for Drag Stars At Sea guests to enjoy with ALandCHUCK.travel staff and select Stars (small additional chargeand advance reservations will be available on line)
    • CHEFS TABLE Gourmet Dinner Experience: One evening this specialty WORLD CLASS dining experience is a feature exclusively for Drag Stars At Sea guests to enjoy.
    • DRAG STAR AT SEA JACKPOT BINGO PARTY.  During the sailing you will enjoy a jackpot Bingo party hosted by select Queens.  It will be a fun and entertaining event aboard Drag Stars At Sea.
    • STUDIO B WHITE ICE PARTY.  During the cruise you will enjoy a special WHITE ICE PARTY that will be held in the largest Ice Skating venue aboard a ship in the world.  Enjoy skating (small additional charge for skates) and music/bar to make the party fun. Dress the part as we offer this special WHITE PARTY unlike has ever been done before.
    • BRITISH OPEN GOLF PARTY.  During the cruise you will enjoy a special round of golf (well, 9 holes of Goofy Golf) as we host a party called the “British Open.”  It promises to be lots of fun!

 

PRE TOUR OPTIONS Available for Drag Stars At Sea Europe

    • LONDON PILLAGE & PLUNDER “OFF WITH HER HEAD” PARTY. This 3 Day / 2 Night package is just $299 and additional nights are just $99.  Your pre stay includes: first class city center hotel, Pillage & Plunder Party, London Sightseeing, Transfers from hotel to Southampton pier.
    • TASTE OF EUROPE PLUS LONDON PILLAGE & PLUNDER. This 7 Day / 6 Night package is just $899. Your pre stay includes 2 nights in Amsterdam, 2 nights in Paris, 2 nights in London (all first class city center hotels), Sightseeing in each city, Transfers from Amsterdam to Paris, Paris to London, and from hotel to Southampton pier.  Of course, you also enjoy the London Pillage & Plunder Party.
    • BEST OF PARIS PLUS LONDON PILLAGE & PLUNDER. This 5 Day / 4 Night package is just $599.  Your pre stay includes 2 nights in Paris, 2 nights in London (all first class city center hotels), Sightseeing in each city, and Transfers from Paris to London, and from hotel to Southampton pier.

 

POST TOUR OPTIONS Available for Drag Stars At Sea Europe

  • BEST OF BARCELONA. This 3 Day / 2 Night package is just $299.  Your post stay includes 2 nights in Barcelona at first class city center hotel, Barcelona Sightseeing, Transfers from pier to hotel and transfers hotel to airport.
  • TASTE OF SPAIN. This 5 Day / 4 Night package is just $699.  This post stay includes 2 nights in Barcelona and 2 nights in Madrid (all first class city center hotels), Sightseeing in each city, Airfare from Barcelona to Madrid, and all transfers in Spain.

SAILING ITINERARY FOR DRAG STARS AT SEA EUROPE:

Friday  /  October 2, 2015  /  Sail from Southampton, England  /  4:30 pm

Saturday  /  October 3, 2015  /  Fun day at sea

Sunday  /  October 4, 2015  /  Vigo, Spain  /  10 am – 5 pm

Monday  /  October 5, 2015  /  Lisbon, Portugal  /  9 am – 5 pm

Tuesday  /  October 6, 2015  /  Seville (Cadiz), Spain  /  10 am – 8 pm

Wednesday  /  October 7, 2015  /  Gibraltar  /  8 am – 5 pm

Thursday  /  October 8, 2015  /  Fun day at sea

Friday  /  October 9, 2015  /  Barcelona, Spain  /  6 am arrival

*special events are subject to change or modification as required for the operation of the ship.

 


Incredible Rates Available! For a short time ONLY !!!

 

1-866-949-1429  

Due to an overwhelming response to our exciting ALandCHUCK.travel trips, we are experiencing an unusually high call volume. You may make your reservation directly online at www.alandchuck.travel or email us with any questions or concerns at [email protected], or stay on the line and leave us a message. All Messages and emails will be returned within 24 hours in the ORDER RECIEVED.

 

Best Gay Bars In Paris !

 

Paris is a European capital for all things gay and fabulous, from extravagant local personalities to a neighborhood teeming with addresses for a night of cavorting. The Marais, centrally-located just north of the Hôtel de Ville and south of the Place de la République, is the epicenter for nightlife catering to boys and men of all walks, but it’s just the beginning. Starting an evening in or around the Marais is the best way to find out from the locals what’s going on in other gay bars around town. Whether you’re looking to share casual drinks, dance until dawn, or have a brush with a local Parisian, there’s fun to be had any night of the week.

Les Souffleurs

Les Souffleurs is all about relaxation, refinement and modernity, a hip little gay bar in the centre of the Marais that would be difficult to spot if you didn’t already know it was there. Once inside, you almost feel that you’re in Berlin: hyper-styled barmen, classy décor and carefully selected music. In the daytime, it’s a quiet escape from the frenetic Marais, welcoming to groups and people going solo, settled comfortably in leather sofas. But the temperature goes up quickly at night, with some out-there DJ mixes, and it gets seriously busy, so come early. Some evenings feature concerts, aftershows and performances.

Aim for the happy hour between 6pm and 9pm for prices much lower than you’ll usually find in the area (punch at €3 a glass). Mostly for masculine gays (but not exclusively), the clientele is young but open to variety.

 (© Romain Pomian)

Le Spyce Bar

More than an essential gay bar and club in the Marais, Le Spyce is a rallying cry. You can’t miss it, the frontage ornamented with a huge screen that flashes up the name of the current night in rainbow colours. It gets boiling hot inside especially on weekends, with no a/c – it’s a young, happy, sweaty, undressed, excitable crowd, ready to dance and take people home on a whim. There’s an informal (read barely-there) dress code on the dance floor, with bold guys welcome to take a place on a podium and dance til 4am. It’s busy and happening every night of the week, but Thursdays through Fridays are the best.

Entry is free, and the drinks reasonably priced: allow €10 for a vodka red bull or €4 for a demi, served by smiling topless staff. The music is house and current hits, with plenty of themed nights – we like Tuesday’s ‘SMS Video Mix’, when you can text your song requests to the DJ.

Banana Café

Banana Cafe

Banana Café, an institution the Les Halles neighbourhood, attracts a younger set of locals, suburban Parisians, and travellers who have strayed from the core gay scene of the Marais. With themed soirées, drag shows and go-go boys that could have taught Joséphine Baker a few moves, it’s a solid choice for any night on the town. The ground floor bar and adjacent terrace serve up happy hour drinks including €3 pints from 6-11pm, though service is far from attentive. After happy hour, patrons are ushered inside from the terrace and, eventually, downstairs for some dancing and go-go boy antics, should you be so interested. Depending on the soirée, there’s a cover fee for those who arrive later, but the relaxed ambiance and club-like atmosphere will make up for it.

FreeDJ

FreeDJ

If you want to dance, and claustrophobia is no issue, FreeDJ, right around the corner from Open Café, is a top choice for an all-nighter with no cover to pay. Upstairs, the bar and a foosball table occupy those looking to chat or share a cigarette in the glassed-in smoking room. Head downstairs and the intimate cellar welcomes those looking to hit the dance floor with like-minded gentlemen. Soirées like Wednesday’s RnB night keep the weeknights new and fresh while house and pop take over the downstairs, pumping Madonna and Lady Gaga through the speakers while the bartender pours Red Bull and vodka all night long.  It’s a relaxed and not overtly-cruisey scene that’s better fun with a few pals than solo, but don’t try to smuggle in any lady friends. The bouncer at the door notoriously turns away anyone with a menstrual cycle.

Le CUD Bar

Le CUD Bar

When the bars and restaurants start close, the party is far from over in the Marais. Things at the Cud, an unfortunately-named but sinfully fun venue, start to heat up around 2am as party-seekers leave other venues for this classic and basic cave bar. Located off Rue du Temple on a tiny street, this is one of the best late-night spots in the Marais. The seating area upstairs is for amateurs, since the real party is in the vaulted cave below. Two bars serve pricey drinks all night long as the DJ spins a fun and current mix of pop tracks and house music – and he sometimes takes requests if you’re polite. The clientele, as per usual, is mixed, but notably younger and very friendly, sometimes too friendly, with a lot more cruising than many of the other bars. Those looking to get up close and personal with a Parisian shouldn’t have too hard of a time here, since space is at a premium, but a healthy dose of international men also frequent Cud since late night options in the Marais are few. Make sure you check your coat, it gets hot down there.

Sly

Sly

A newcomer to the gay scene, Sly is a kitschy bar down the street from the Bear’s Den that attracts a much younger set of guys and their gal friends. It seems trendy with its flashy lights and risqué videos on the flat screen inside, but there’s nothing pretentious about the bar or its patrons. The best spot is on the tiny heated terrace, offering some of Paris’s most eclectic people-watching on Rue des Lombards, but the seating inside is cozy and inviting if it’s too late to snag a seat outside. With cost-effective happy hours (€3.50 for a pint) and attentive service, it’s a great change of pace from some of the other overly-cruisey bars. That said, each Thursday is a special after-work party, ‘Single or Not’, where you can wear a colour-coded bracelet identifying your relationship status. Green means ‘go for it’, so give it a shot.

Cafe Cox

Cafe Cox

The Pearl achieves a rare balance between all-day and late-night venue, and has a good gay? straight? whatever vibe. In the morning, it draws early risers; lunchtime is for a business crowd; the afternoon reels in retired locals, and in the evening, screenwriters rub elbows with young dandies, keeping one eye on the mirror and an ear on the electrorock. The menu runs from omelettes to seafood salad. Expect a DJ later on in the night.
La Perle

La Perle

The aptly named Cox bar is a mainstay, centrally located in the Marais on Rue des Archives where, on warmer evenings, the crowd spills onto the pavements with only a feeble chain rope to keep patrons from taking over the street. This watering hole attracts a manlier set of slightly older bikers and leather fans that seems intimidating at first, but if it’s your scene, prepare for a hearty welcome, even if you’re a bit younger with a full head of hair. And no, it hasn’t changed hands since it opened in 1995, but the décor does alternate every three months to keep things fresh. Ambiance is everything, after all. DJs spin on Thursday nights and a lengthy happy hour on Sunday keeps the beer flowing until 2am before the crowds head elsewhere.

Raidd Bar
La Perle

Although this bar is kinda expensive, this is one of the best bars in Paris.

The infamous ‘shower bar’, Raidd welcomes a trendy mix of younger locals, innocent study abroad students, and other voyeuristic internationals to the Marais who don’t just come for the pricey drinks. Instead, they crowd around to ogle the scantily-clad go-go boys who make you feel dirty while they get clean, stripping down and lathering up in the glass shower by the bar. Each Thursday, Raidd has an extended shower show, featuring four different male specimens who take their time cleaning everywhere to make sure they get squeaky clean. Themed nights, including Disco Tuesdays and Brazilian Wednesdays keep the party going all week. It’s not the place for intimate conversation or a relaxed evening, but the crowds are thick enough that you could pick up a number or two. Men queue up on the weekends, but there’s no cover to enter, so prepare to wait patiently, and quietly, on the sidewalk and play nice with the bouncer.

Le Feeling
Le Feeling

An unusual combination, Le Feeling is a low-key gay and lesbian hangout with the atmosphere of a small local bar. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the rainbow décor, Dalida soundtrack and easy-going staff are the perfect antidote to the tumult at Spyce just over the road. It’s at its best in summer, when the long bar is open onto the street. The mixed clientele includes a lot of regulars, and the general atmosphere is chatty and welcoming. On the other hand, there’s no wasting time – it’s an enthusiastic pick-up joint for people of all tastes (the bar staff ensure that everyone is respected). Prices are very reasonable (a demi at €3.50), and during happy hour (daily from 7pm-9pm and 11pm-12mid), it’s buy one get one free.

Vienna’s Got Balls !

Queen-2015_Web_slider

Vienna’s Got Balls

BY MATTHEW BREEN via OutTravler

Between the Life Ball and Eurovision, Vienna may be having it’s gayest week ever! Here are the other offerings in the historic Austrian capital.

My first visit to Vienna was under less than ideal circumstances. It was 1995, and after studying at a summer program at Cambridge University in England, my friend with whom I was going to backpack aroun Europe cut his stay short and flew home, leaving me with my train pass and some half-baked plans for a month on the continent.

I had been primed to travel in the classic student style, armed with a shoestring budget, a list of hostels in various capitals, and my first real attempt at growing a beard, which was coming in meagerly. I wasn’t opposed to traveling alone, and having just turned 21, I was feeling liberated, even if that milestone was looked upon as rather quaint by Europeans who at age 16 had grown accustomed to ordering a beer without even a sideways glance from a bartender.

Nevertheless, I was a little frightened by the prospect of finding my own lodging in Prague when I didn’t even know the Czech word for “hello” or negotiating train travel in France when I could barely read a timetable in English. I had spent summers abroad before, but never entirely on my own. My plans were all pretty flexible, so I agreed to meet an ex-girlfriend in Austria. I suspect she may have been hoping to rekindle something (I was at least a year from coming out), as Vienna, an Old World romantic city, was high on her list of destinations. But that trip was kind of a bust.

The rain was incessant, and the temperature was unseasonably cold for late summer. The Viennese people I encountered were either made grumpy by the inclement weather or determined to live up to a tired stereotype about their haughtiness. In either case, I was overwhelmed by the deluge and underwhelmed by the attitude. So after only one day running from cathedrals to cafés, we called it quits. The highlights were some amazing gulaschsuppe (beef and paprika stew) and mélange (half coffee, half milk), and a ride on the Riesenrad (the giant Ferris wheel that makes appearances in The Third Man and Scorpio). After that we departed for a warmer location.

Sixteen years later, my second visit changed my mind so thoroughly about the city and its people that I returned a third time just seven months later. I encountered a city determined to maintain its rich cultural heritage all the while forging the foundation for a modern European center, fostering young artists, and rolling out the red carpet for tourists, especially LGBT visitors.

The occasion for my visit in early spring 2011 was the culmination of the ball season, Vienna’s grand tradition of glorious formal waltzes, where tails and tiaras are de rigueur. There are dozens of such balls thrown by all manner of groups: The Vienna Philharmonic hosts one, the professional organization of pharmacists hosts one — and naturally, the gays throw a few. And each year, the most formal and the queerest of the season’s events share a calendar date.

The Opera Ball, held at the magnificent Vienna State Opera, is the undisputed pinnacle of the ball season, and European cultural icons, high society, and international heads of state are likely to be found there. The formal dress code is strictly enforced, and rigorous tryouts are required for anyone wishing to take part in the traditional polonaise dance that opens nearly every ball in Vienna. It’s stately but, I’m told, stuffy.

The annual Rosenball (“Rose Ball,” pcitured above), on the other hand, is a massive queer party. The 2011 event was its 20th anniversary, and the dress code was more of an anything-goes affair — specifically, anything fabulous goes. Dressed in everything from tuxes to drag to wild, glittery, and outrageously skimpy costumes, guests are everything but casual.

The event simultaneously mocks and takes part in the notable elements of the ball tradition. The setting, the Palais Auersperg, a baroque palace completed in 1710, is suitably grand. But the evening opens with a comic drag polonaise, revelers dance under laser lights to thumping disco instead of Strauss, and DJs and house divas take the place of orchestral accompaniment. And you can bet this is the only ball where the dancers on the stage are hunky go-go guys. After 1 a.m., I noticed a trickle of more formally attired guests arriving; having sampled the more staid traditions of the Opera Ball, these folks were ready to get a little sweaty dancing with the flamboyant crowd at the Rosenball.

After enough gin-and-tonics to reinforce my courage and bolster my rusty German, I spoke to a handsome Austrian who was stationed at the main dance floor bar while his female friend tried to get the attention of the straight, shirtless bartender. His first sly glances across the bar belied the beaming smile I’d soon discover, and I was quickly disabused of the notion of any Viennese arrogance. (Truth be told, whatever was true of that reputation has since faded. I found the Viennese to be as friendly as people in many European cities, and far friendlier than those in many other places I’ve visited.)

The event went into the wee hours and included a very late after-party. Night owls never fear: You’ll have options until dawn.

The other LGBT events of the season include the more ceremonial Regenbogenball (“Rainbow Ball”), where formal attire is required, even if one is cross-dressing. The traditional waltz is the order of the day, and event proceeds go to the Homosexual Initiative Vienna. The Mauerblümechenball (“Wallflower Ball”) is free and informal, and has a more ironic dress code of nerdy cardigans and horn-rimmed glasses, as exemplified by the organizers’ professed love of beige.

Though outside the ball season, the Life Ball (in May) is another gay-popular event, and one of the best-known AIDS events in the world, drawing celebrity entertainers and guests. Revelers get a discounted ticket if they dress in the costume described in the party’s “Style Bible,” and shirtless men often get a discount on their entry ticket sometime after 2 a.m.

After a long night out, some hearty food was in order. Vienna’s cuisine is a blend of traditional and modern, a mix emblematic of the entire city. Meeting over a meal is key to gay life in Vienna, and while a true bon vivant might have known this, it had to be pointed out to me that Viennese cuisine is the only cuisine in the world to be named after a city. It’s often to be found in a classic beisl, like a bistro, with dark wood paneling, a bar, and simple tables and chairs. Schnitzel (veal or pork pounded flat, breaded, and fried), pastries, soup with pancake strips, and goulash constitute the basis of menus.

Motto is a chic, gay-owned restaurant, with decor drenched in purple and black, with pops of orange and teal. As a fashion student, Helmut Lang once served patrons there. The floor-to-ceiling-mirrored bathroom is a somewhat pleasantly overwhelming sight to behold. The menu offers elegant presentations of classic Austrian dishes like tafelspitz (simmered tri-tip with root vegetables) and schinkenfleckerl (noodle casserole). Meals here often start with an Aperol spritz, a champagne cocktail spiked with an Italian aperitif that turns the drink a vivid orange. The restaurant’s sister location, Motto am Fluss has a restaurant and café right over the Danube Canal and draws an urbane young crowd for beer, cocktails, and dinner.

Ein Wiener Salon (pictured above) is an intimate and upscale restaurant, dominated by a portrait of Empress Maria Theresa — though her face has cheekily been replaced by the gay owner’s, taking any remnants of fuss out of the decorous atmosphere. The tasting menu is seasonal, and a meal often ends with regional schnapps.

Schon-Schön is a hybrid of a most unusual kind: a restaurant, fashion boutique, and hair salon. The menu is limited to two or three daily specials, and the fresh fare is served at a large stark-white communal table. While the food is good, the draw for the hipper-than-thou crowd is undoubtedly the atmosphere.

The Palmenhaus (Palmenhaus.at) was the ideal setting for a pre-Rosenball dinner, and the night I was there the dining hall was filled with men in tuxedos and women in glittering cocktail dresses and wraps. While architecture lovers are drawn to the 1901 art nouveau greenhouse, it’s the osso buco that brings in the foodies.

My new Austrian friend with the killer smile took me to a Saturday brunch at Deli in the Naschmarkt, the large outdoor market along the Vienna River. Dotted with fishmongers, cheese and produce stands, bakeries, and restaurants of every stripe, Naschmarkt is a must-see, a prime people-watching spot on the very busy Saturdays. It’s frustratingly closed on Sundays. Deli is crowded but friendly, and my brunch of lamb chops and mélange was accompanied by a DJ’s breakbeats.

Much of Viennese social life takes place in cafés. Coffee isn’t unique to Vienna, of course, but nowhere have I seen such attention paid to a cup, in classic 19th-century and art nouveau settings. Cafés come in a few varieties, and it pays to know the difference. A Café-Konditorei also serves pastries and sweets; a Café-Restaurant serves food, sometimes remarkably good food — not just something to soak up the caffeine; a Nacht-Café is a bar. I find the experience of coming in from the cold, peeling off layers of jackets and sweaters, sitting down on a red velvet banquette to a cup of einspänner (espresso with whipped cream) and a slice of Sachertorte (chocolate cake with apricot jam filling) served on a silver tray to be a lush experience. And it’s the perfect remedy for a sightseer’s aching feet.

Also near the Naschtmarkt is the official center of LGBT life, the Rosa Lila Villa, the gay and lesbian center. It’s a good place to pick up the local gay publications and take a look at fliers for club nights, parties, and other, more earnest gatherings. It’s also a good spot for women to find events, because offerings for gay men outnumber those for lesbians.

Nightlife often begins with a coffee, beer, or cocktail at Café Savoy, a café in the grand, traditional Viennese style. From Café Savoy, many head to Village Bar, a small but reliable video bar, or Felixx an ambient cocktail lounge with theme nights. Pitbull is a monthly party for bears and admirers. Younger gays often head to the boisterous Mango Bar, which shares its website with dance club Why Not. Another large dance club with weekly parties is Heaven Vienna.

The Frauencafé is a trans-friendly women’s bar founded by a feminist collective in 1977 and open on weekends, and Marea Alta is a lesbian bar furnished in a flea market style, offering performances, parties, and DJs.

Vienna may be a refined and sophisticated city, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place for some less genteel action. Fetish and cruising bars with darkrooms include Eagle Bar, Sling, and others. The city isn’t squeamish about sex-positive venues, so lists of bars with darkrooms, sex shops, gay cinemas, and bathhouses are easy to find on gay city maps and at GayNet.at.

Art abounds, but for one-stop shopping the Museumsquartier has no rival. One of the largest complexes for modern art and culture in the world, it contains the Leopold Museum (which displays the works of Austrian modernists Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt), the MUMOK (Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation Vienna), and the contemporary dance space Tanzquartier, and it hosts numerous festivals. But art is everywhere, from imperial public works to modern pieces. Even my hotel, the new Levante Parliament, incorporates a gallery exhibiting glasswork by Romanian artist Ioan Nemtoi.

Vienna is also a centrally located starting point for day-tripping. On a weeklong trip in the autumn of 2011, my Austrian beau and I visited Bratislava, Slovakia, just a 45-minute drive away; the picturesque Austrian cities of Salzburg and Graz, and Hungarian metropolis Budapest, which shares Vienna’s imperial heritage, are all just two hours’ drive. While I wouldn’t suggest one needs a local paramour to properly see the sights, if you’re looking for one, this romantic capital is a capital place to look.

Originally published on Advocate.com January 11, 2012

This Week’s RUveal For Drag Stars At Sea North America

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LOOK AND SEE SOME OF THE QUEENS
WE HAVE RUVEALED !!!

 

ACT NOW Don’t miss an opportunity like this !!

Drag Stars At Sea: Europe
Cruise aboard Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas. October 2 – 9, 2015Sailing London, Southampton, Vigo, Lisbon, Gibraltar, Barcelona

8 DAYS FROM JUST $799

For more Information or to Book Online
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SALE – RHINE & MOSEL RIVER CRUISES 8 – 11 NIGHT FROM $799

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OPTION 1


Rhine & Mosel River to Holland – 11 DAYS FROM $799

Arnhem, Holland cruising to Rotterdam, Amsterdam Tulip Time! 11 Days from $799 enjoy cruising aboard the Select Voyages Deluxe SWITZERLAND II sailing RHINE & MOSEL RIVER from Arnhem, Holland to Cologne, Andernach, Cochem, Bernkastel, Trier, Remich Luxembourg, Zell, Koblenz, Dusseldorf and Rotterdam. Don’t miss it! Ask your ALandCHUCK.Travel agent for details.


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RHINE & MOSEL RIVER ITINERARY
11 Days from $799
1 April 2015 to 11 April 2015

Day 1 | Arnhem, Holland & Board the Switzerland II
THE RHINE RIVER
Today you set out to begin your spectacular river cruise adventure. On arrival to Arnhem, you board the lovely 108 passenger SWITZERLAND II. This evening enjoy a special Welcome Aboard Dinner. Set sail this evening southbound on the Rhine River.

Day 2 | Cologne, Germany
THE RHINE RIVER
One of Germany’s largest cities and capital of the Rhineland, Cologne straddles both sides of the Rhine. Enjoy the day here as you can visit the magnificent cathedral and so much more.

Day 3 | Andernach & Cochem
THE MOSEL RIVER
Overnight visit to lovely Andernach. Next your floating hotel arrives in Cochem. Here you will see a charming and picturesque town with half-timbered houses and winding streets full of history and legends. Dominated by the Reichsburg Castle (built in 1000 AD) you begin to enjoy the world famous MOSEL. Step mountains and gorges will be seen everywhere.

Day 4 | Bernkastel
THE MOSEL RIVER
In the middle of the Mosel region is this charming wine village complete with fascinating narrow streets and halftimbered houses that have stood since the middle ages. Enjoy the beautiful marketplace with its renaissance-style town hall that was built in 1416. This region is Germany’s most prolific wine growing area. Perhaps you visit the interesting wine museum.

Day 5 | Trier
THE MOSEL RIVER

This is the most spectacular visit on the Mosel. Trier, Germany’s oldest city may even be older than Rome. Some say Trier was populated over a thousand years before the Romans arrived. But it was Constantine from Rome that makes Trier so famous today. Many Roman remains have survived, including a 20,000 seat amphitheater, the Porta Nigra, the only surviving fortified gate from the original Roman settlement; the imperial baths; and the Roman bridge… Germany’s oldest bridge. The entire historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you will understand why.

Day 6 | Remich, Luxembourg
THE MOSEL RIVER

Today enjoy one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, Luxembourg. Remich is the Mosel gateway for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and you will have many choices for Sightseeing and shopping and more.

Day 7 | Trier
THE MOSEL RIVER

Today you return to Trier for another opportunity to visit this grand historic city.

Day 8 | Zell
THE MOSEL RIVER

Many consider Zell “the photograph” of beautiful villages on The Mosel. With only 5000 inhabitants the village sits between the river and a steep mountain and is only approximately 500 yards in width and 1 mile long. But the beauty of the village is stunning. Ample time to explore here.

Day 9 | Koblenz
RHINE & MOSEL RIVERS

Situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel Rivers, 2000 year old Koblenz is the cultural and business center of the mid-Rhine region. There is so much history here and so much to see and do.

Day 10 | Dusseldorf
THE RHINE RIVER

Dusseldorf is a major hub of Germany’s upper Rhine. Known for great shopping and fashionable coffee cafes you are sure to enjoy your final day on the river. Tonight you enjoy a Farewell dinner celebration.

Day 11 | Rotterdam
This morning after breakfast aboard SWITZERLAND II you will arrive in lovely Rotterdam. Today you return home with many wonderful memories of cruising on the Rhine and Mosel Rivers!


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FEATURES:

  • 11 Day Cruise on deluxe Select Voyages Cruise Lines SWITZERLAND II as a PRIVATE CHARTER exclusively for ALandCHUCK guests. All meals included aboard ship including breakfast buffet, lunch served menu or buffet, dinner served menu or buffet; Special Welcome Dinner Celebration; Special Captains Dinner.
  • AIRFARE ADDITIONAL: $1299 Low Cost Airfare available from Tampa, Orlando, Miami, & Jacksonville (other cities on request) to Amsterdam including all transfers. (Upgrade to $49 Premium Air plus flight change costs and you select number of stops, times, airlines, or any flight preferences. Ask your ALandCHUCK agent for details). Book your own airfare and schedule arrival and departure airport transfers for $49 (both transfers included).
  • OPTIONAL: Ask your ALandCHUCK agent about adding pre & post hotel stays for added convenience!

PLEASE NOTE: If arranging your own air, please arrive on April 1, 2015 – most flights depart March 31, 2015 and fly overnight, arriving April 1, 2015


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CRUISE RATES:

RUN OF SHIP: $799* per person (*Rates after BOGO discount starting at $1598)

EMERALD DECK
Category On Ship: Category EM Main Deck: $849

RUBY DECK
Category On Ship: Category RU Upper Deck Outside: $899

RATES ALREADY INCLUDE government taxes & vendor fees.

ADDITIONAL CRUISE GRATUITIES: $99 per person and must be prepaid at final payment by all guests.

NO HIDDEN CHARGES! These charges are HIDDEN FROM YOU by others.
Ask them for a total rate & compare!

PAYMENTS: Full payment due upon time of booking.

CANCELLATION PENALTIES:
Deposit is non-refundable
100 – 61 days prior 50%
60 – 31 days prior 75%
Within 30 days 100%

CANCELLATION INSURANCE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


 

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ABOUT SELECT VOYAGES & SWITZERLAND II
Length 300 feet ~ Width 34 feet ~ Speed 15 mph ~ Crew Members 30 ~
Staterooms 53 including standard, mini-suites & suites ~ 3 passenger decks
Restaurant ~ Bar ~ Lounge ~ Shop ~ Library ~ Chair Lift ~ Guests 108

The ms Switzerland II is an excellent river cruise vessel full of style and character. It has helped to create cherished holiday memories for countless passengers. Offering 4 star accommodation, you can relax among the attractive interiors and with a maximum capacity of 108 passengers, you can enjoy an intimate environment combined with the excellent service delivered by the friendly and professional crew.

Lounge Bar: The stylish lounge is surrounded by windows and has comfortable seating, making for a light and spacious place to relax. There is also a bar and dance floor which become popular during the evening entertainment. Restaurant: Enjoy a combination of buffets and themed dinners in the elegant restaurant located on the Emerald Deck.

Sun Deck: Play a game of table tennis or lie back in a sun lounger – the Sun Deck is the perfect place to unwind in the fresh air and soak up the scenery.

Stair Lift: leads from the Ruby Deck to the Sun Deck and the restaurant on the Emerald Deck to the Ruby Deck. The cabins on the Emerald Deck are only accessible via a stairway.


 

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OPTION 2


President’s River Cruise || Ultra Deluxe European Charters – 8 DAYS FROM $799

An EXCLUSIVE Private Cruise Charter!
Sail aboard the brand new and ultra-deluxe Emerald Star on the RHINE RIVER on this Private Charter! This incredible 8 day trip including all government taxes & fees. Sail with top escorts on this EXCLUSIVE private charter for just 182 guests. Enjoy Amsterdam, Cologne, Koblenz, Rhine Gorge, Strasbourg, Black Forest and Basel on one of the most luxurious river ships in the world complete with multiple restaurants, movie theater, heated swimming pool with retractable macrodome and many suites with glass walls on the river and retractable glass balconies. BEST OF ALL, enjoy BOGO – Buy 1 Cruise Get 1 Cruise FREE with per person rates (after BOGO) for 8 days from $799. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a fantastic value!


RHINE RIVER
8 Days from $799
March 23, 2015 – March 30, 2015

ITINERARY

Day 1 | Amsterdam & board the EMERALD STAR
Today you will board your deluxe rivership. Overnight in Amsterdam. All meals on your deluxe Rivership.

Day 2 | Rhine River to Cologne, Germany
All meals included. Enjoy beautiful cruise of the Dutch countryside and cross the border to Germany. Overnight in Cologne and visit the magnificent Cathedral.

Day 3 | Cologne to Koblenz
All meals included. Today arrive in the 2000 year old town of Koblenz, which is situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. This is the most beautiful part of the Rhine Valley.

Day 4 | Koblenz to Heildelberg & Mainz
All meals included. Sailing past the world famous Lorelei Rock and Heildelberg Castle to the Rhine Gorge are the highlights today.

Day 5 | Strasbourg, France
All meals included. Today is dedicated to lovely Strasbourg. Enjoy one of France’s most beautiful cities.

Day 6 | Breisach & Black Forest
All meals included. Germany’s beautiful Black Forest region is our focus today and many unique and picturesque villages to visit.

Day 7 | Basel, Switzerland
All meals included. Cross the border into Switzerland and enjoy an overnight in this lovely city.

Day 8 | Basel, Switzerland
Breakfast aboard this morning. Today you return home with many wonderful memories of your river cruise.


FEATURES:

  • 8 Day Cruise on ultra deluxe EMERALD STAR as a PRIVATE CHARTER exclusively for ALandCHUCK guests. Features include: All meals aboard ship including breakfast buffet, 4 course lunch served menu or buffet, 4 course dinner served menu or buffet
  • AIRFARE ADDITIONAL: $1299 Low Cost Airfare available from Tampa, Orlando, Miami, & Jacksonville (other cities on request) to Amsterdam including all transfers. (Upgrade to $49 Premium Air plus flight change costs and you select number of stops, times, airlines, or any flight preferences. Ask your ALandCHUCK agent for details). Book your own airfare and schedule arrival and departure airport transfers for $49 (both transfers included).
  • OPTIONAL: Ask your ALandCHUCK agent about adding pre & post hotel stays for added convenience!

PLEASE NOTE: If arranging your own air, please arrive on March 23, 2015 – most flights depart March 22, 2015 and fly overnight, arriving March 23, 2015


CRUISE RATES:

RUN OF SHIP: $799* per person (*Rates after BOGO discount starting at $1598)

RIVIERA DECK
Category On Ship: Category E Outside: $849
Category On Ship: Category D Outside : $899

VISTA DECK
Category On Ship: Category C Balcony: $949
Category On Ship: Category B Balcony: $999
Category On Ship: Category A Balcony: $1049

HORIZON DECK
Category On Ship: Category R Balcony: $1099
Category On Ship: Category P Balcony: $1149
Category On Ship: Category S Balcony Suite: $1199
Category On Ship: Category SA Owners Suite: $1249

(NOTE: BOGO is capacity controlled and can be withdrawn without notice and full rates will be in effect.)

RATES ALREADY INCLUDE government taxes & vendor fees.

ADDITIONAL CRUISE GRATUITIES: $99 per person and must be prepaid at final payment by all guests.

NO HIDDEN CHARGES! These charges are HIDDEN FROM YOU by others.
Ask them for a total rate & compare!

PAYMENTS: Full payment due upon booking.

CANCELLATION PENALTIES:
Deposit is non-refundable
100 – 61 days prior 50%
60 – 31 days prior 75%
Within 30 days 100%

CANCELLATION INSURANCE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


About SCENIC CRUISES & EMERALD WATERWAYS
Brand New EMERALD STAR
Length 443 feet ~ Width 38 feet ~ Speed 15 mph ~ Crew Members 47
Staterooms 20 ~ Suites 72 ~ Guests 182

In 2014 Emerald Waterways will be making its debut on Europe’s rivers and you’re invited to be among the very first guests to experience the next generation of river cruising. As the first new river cruise company to take to the waters in more than six years, they have created an exceptional river cruising experience that surpasses all expectations.

NEW FEATURES NEVER SEEN BEFORE
Launching a new fleet of custom-built Star-Class Ships gave a blank canvas to create a completely new design, and introduce an array of spectacular innovations you wouldn’t expect on a river cruise ship. To begin with, the ship boasts an ONBOARD HEATED SWIMMING POOL WITH RETRACTABLE ROOF, which in the evening, transforms into a cinema. And as an alternative to the main restaurant, Reflections, they offer ALFRESCO DINING ON THE TERRACE at breakfast and lunch.

GLASS WALL BALCONIES (NOT FRENCH BALCONIES LIKE EVERYONE ELSE)
The ship offers a great range of cabins for you to choose from, including the Emerald Panorama Balcony Suite – A COMPLETELY NEW TYPE OF CABIN. To replace the run-of-the-mill French Balcony (where you can only stand at a partial railing) that is commonplace on river cruise ships, you can experience A NEW KIND OF INDOOR BALCONY, COMPLETE WITH A DECKED AREA AND THE INGENIOUS OPEN-AIR SYSTEM. WITH THE TOUCH OF A BUTTON, THE UPPER HALF OF THE CABINS FLOOR-TO-CEILING WINDOW DROPS DOWN TO LET IN FRESH AIR AND PROVIDE FULL PANORAMIC VIEWS OF THE LANDSCAPE. It is unique in the entire world on this ship.

INCREDIBLE OPEN SPACES ON EMERALD
The moment you step onboard your ship, you’ll be met with an overwhelming sense of light and space. The Horizon Bar and Lounge features floor-to-ceiling windows. The Terrace looking out onto the river is lined with the most comfortable lounge chairs and the Sun Deck has 360 degree views of the ever changing scenery. Enjoy the stylish Sky Bar and the most amazing (and only) pool and cinema complex on a rivership (complete with retractable dome).

TWO INCREDIBLE DINING OPTIONS
Reflections Restaurant features table service and buffets beyond compare. Unique is a second dining option The Terrace Restaurant which features alfresco dining for breakfast and lunch.

INCREDIBLE CABIN OPTIONS
Owners One-Bedroom Suites include two rooms with every appointment imaginable. Grand Balcony Suites are large suites that will make the cruise experience outstanding. You may choose Panorama Balcony Suites that are incredible bedrooms with the amazing (one button touch) retractable glass walls on the river (all suites also have this feature.) And finally you can choose Emerald Staterooms that have picture windows. The cabin choices are the best of any river cruise ship in Europe!


 

For More Information Please Call 866-949-1429