Olivia Celebrates 40 Years of Adventure on the High Seas

(Continued from Page 1)
by Winnie McCroy

Welcome to the Way the World Should Be

Those unfamiliar with Olivia might have a difficult time imagining how things work. Floratos explained that the company rents the entire boat or resort, and brings its own staff, including DJs, solo coordinators and lesbian entertainers, who also mingle with the guests for the entire trip.

"The first thing women can expect to see is our fearless leader Judy greeting every guest as they get on the boat or resort," Floratos said. "The minute they step onboard, we like to share Judy’s tagline, ’Welcome to the way the world should be.’ There is an immediate feeling of excitement, camaraderie and community that I believe Olivia delivers in such an incredible way."

Lesbians haven’t always been so welcome. In 1997, Dlugacz said, Olivia spent $30,000 creating a travel ad for television, meant to run during the "Ellen" show. ABC rejected it, saying that the place for same-sex lifestyle was programming, not advertising.

"Only eight affiliates in the country had the nerve to allow us to pay to run this ad," said Dlugacz. "And they wouldn’t let us use the ’touch’ version, meaning it had two women touching hands or embracing. We were that scary just a few years ago."

Olivia is now widely known as the go-to company for lesbian leisure travel and has gained respect in the wider business world. This comes in handy in foreign ports of call.

Olivia has an impact on the countries visited, some of which are not savvy about -- or friendly to -- gays and lesbians. Just by showing up, spending money and being who they are, Olivia’s clients make an important impression.

"Not everywhere we’ve gone has been open to lesbians coming to visit," Dlugacz said. "We don’t announce that we’re coming, but we are such good ambassadors and travelers, and spend such a lot of money, it really has made a difference in many parts of the world in how they see our community. We do a tremendous amount to enrich the countries we visit; we do a lot of giving when we go to different parts of the world."

Olivia Opens Up Lesbian Luxury Travel to All Women

Today, Olivia hosts vacations featuring a 99 percent lesbian clientele from the U.S., South and North America, Europe and Australia. It welcomes couples, families and ’solos,’ which comprise 15 percent of guests, and boast that 96-98 percent of past guests say they would travel with Olivia again.

"We do an entire solo program to allow them to find and meet other women," Floratos said. "We give them a ’solo’ dog tag to wear all week that identifies them as someone who is traveling by themselves and interested in meeting people."

They also host trips like "Sisters at Sea" and "Sisters at Play," giving women of color the opportunity to enjoy programming with a diversity focus.

Although the R Family Vacations cruise line has cornered that LGBT market, Olivia has plans to move into it more beginning in 2015.

Other trips include 70-person safaris to Kenya and Tanzania, of which Olivia has done four since 2007. Newer offerings include forays to Asia, Antarctica and China, and upcoming tours in Vietnam and Cambodia.

"What’s great is that women have grown with us to go to places they would have never thought to go in their life," Cruse said. "We have planned a great South American trip to Rio de Janeiro and a popular trip on the six-star boat Paul Gauguin to Tahiti."

Best of all, Olivia offers a customer-friendly payment model, with cruises often posted a year in advance and payment plans available.

"We try to make trips as accessible as we can, so women can plan a trip in advance and pay it off in smaller chunks," Dlugacz said. "It’s a very important part of what we do."

Although Olivia has 40 years under its belt, its founder continues to look toward the horizon.

"We started out with 600 passengers on a four-night trip to the Bahamas," she said. "Now, the entire world is what we look at to decide where we are going to go."

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Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog,


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