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Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tampa are huge cruise hubs. Besides bringing a constantly changing roster of hotties into our state on a regular basis, there are other benefits as well. Like that little thing called The Economy. Tourists are bringing us beaucoup bucks every time they spend a night in one of our great cities.

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How the Cruising Industry Keeps Florida Afloat

Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tampa are huge cruise hubs. Besides bringing a constantly changing roster of hotties into our state on a regular basis, there are other benefits as well. Like that little thing called The Economy. Tourists are bringing us beaucoup bucks every time they spend a night in one of our great cities.

It’s definitely easy to see the appeal of taking it to the sea. Visitors get the benefit of enjoying our sunny Florida weather, beautiful sandy beaches, and outrageous nightlife for a few days and then get to embark on a trip someplace exotic on a giant sailing hotel full of entertainment and boys, boys, boys!

In the next few months, giant gay cruises will be leaving out of our state, including Atlantis, which just went to sea January 25 and will return February 5; RSVP, which will head out Feb. 12 to 19; a Memorial Day Cruise from May 23 to 25 through AlandChuck.Travel; and Source Events’ “Miami Beach Pride Cruise” on Norwegian Sky April 16 through April 20.

Although the economy has taken a hit these last few years, the cruise industry has remained untouchable. For example, last year’s Atlantis Events’ Allure of the Seas on Royal Caribbean had a sold-out and record-breaking 5,400 gay and lesbian guests on it.

“Our guest response to this first Allure of the Seas sailing was incredible, with the charter selling out in three weeks,” said Rich Campbell, CEO of Atlantis. “Our guests always want the newest and most exciting experiences in the world. We knew they would love this

cruise, but had no idea just how strong the response would be. So much of what we are creating onboard is the culmination of 20 years of experience and getting to know what our guests really love.”

John Tanzella, president/CEO of International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, said that he thinks gay cruises in general are on the upswing.

“There are a lot more options out there for gay cruises,” he explained. “It’s not just megaships, but also charters of 200-300 on smaller ships.”

Local businesses are enjoying the influx of tourists.

“Obviously it’s a boost for the local economy, particularly for the gay community,” Tanzella said. “These areas (Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Tampa) are popular all over the world, so they tend to stay early or stay late.”

“And it’s good for the local economy because they [tourists] are going to spend money here,” he added.

Several local bars and restaurants are planning parties surrounding these upcoming cruises and local business organizations are joining in on the fun.

Reece Darham, co-chair of the Rainbow Business Coalition in Fort Lauderdale, said that the organization is offering luxury shuttle service from host hotels that the cruise lines, Atlantic and RSVP, have commissioned.

Darham said that the RBC was approached by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) to help show the tourists a good time.

Josh Winston, Associate Director of Sales of Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) said that the RBC has been wonderful to work with and is excited about the shuttle service.

“It’s going to be really important because the guys who are coming in are getting ready to go on a cruise and are going to kick it off with a stay here that will set the tone,” stated Winston. “We’re trying hard to make sure they feel welcome.”

Winston said that the cruise market is incredibly important to South Florida.

“It’s one of the top gay destinations in the world and the amount of gay owned businesses, bed and breakfasts, hotels, bars, nightlife has really put us in good shape,” he said.

Tampa also is known for being a cruise hub.

“It has a growing market,” said Al Ferguson of AlandChuckTravel. “It’s the little cousin of South Florida.”

AlandChuckTravel have a weekend gay cruise coming up March 23 to 25 for only $149 plus tax and they’re offering transportation from other cities throughout the state to the port for $39 for a “seemless and easy connection.”

We say “Bon Voyage” to those lucky ones who are heading out on the one of these exciting cruises and for those locals who aren’t going to be setting sail, head out to one of our bars and restaurants and meet some new out-of-town friends.

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