Aruba, Curacao, and a Private Island: 4,200 Lesbians Cruise to the Caribbean

By Diane Anderson-Minshall

Originally published on Advocate.com March 01 2013 7:00 AM ET

In the 40 years since Olivia was founded, it's transitioned from Olivia Records (which recorded the first album produced by an all-women team, released 40 albums, and sold over a million records) to Olivia Travel (the largest company in the U.S. aimed at lesbians). Since it became Olivia Travel in 1990, the company has taken nearly 200,000 women on cruise, resort, luxury, and adventure vacations to all seven continents. 

The Advocate joined the Olivia women on the 40th Anniversary Southern Caribbean Cruise, a set of two cruises that went to Aruba, Curacao, and a private island in the Bahamas in January and February. More than 4,200 women were joined by 20 entertainers (from women's music legends Cris Williamson, Teresa Trull, and Meg Christian to comics Vickie Shaw, Kate Clinton, and Elvira Kurt) and a handful of powerful lesbian leaders including tennis legend Billie Jean King, DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor, military pioneer Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, and, in a surprise appearance, former Army colonel Tammy Smith, who was promoted to brigadier in late 2012, making her the first general officer to come out while serving, post-"don't ask, don't tell."

“This is the biggest celebration Olivia has produced to date," said Tisha Floratos, Olivia’s vice president of travel, calling the cruise a "giant reunion, entertainment extravaganza, and tropical vacation all rolled into one.”

Here's our look inside the Olivia experience.


Tennis legend Billie Jean King  (far left) and Olivia Travel founder Judy Dlugacz (second from right) with friends


Edie Windsor (left) and Judy Dlugacz


Some women behind the scenes at Olivia


Cara King took her partner, Maria Bertcci, on her maiden voyage. This was King’s 12th Olivia Cruise. The couple have already booked two more trips: Italy/Greece and Buenos Aires/Rio de Janeiro. 


A group of cruisers feeds stingrays.


C.C. Carter's curvalicious ladies


Dancer Sarah Bush (far left) and comic Dana Goldberg (third from right) join fellow performers and Olivia peeps on formal night.


Could they be any more dapper?


A group of gals gets down at the white party night.


From left: comics Elvira Kurt, Judy Goldman, and a sexy mystery woman


Playing rubber ducky at the poolside


The women from Sisters at Sea strike a pose. Olivia’s women of color program, Sisters at Sea, is among the company’s most popular. There’s a much-loved Solos program too, where unencumbered women can travel with other singletons.


Two women who traveled from Florida’s lesbian village, Carefree Resort, to the Olivia Cruise, which took off in Fort Lauderdale. Rosie Koch and Marilyn Shanahan were on their first Olivia cruise.


Smiles over beer


Learning to ride during one of the excursions


Does this boat make my visor look big?


Rock on, ladies!


Sharing a kiss over dinner


Back with those donkeys


Audrey, Rhona, and Steph get wet in the Bahamas.


Comic Karen Williams (second from right) and friends are all smiles.


Who doesn't love a little 'stache?


Stephanie, Olivia's copywriter, strikes a pose with friends on formal night.


Rocking the do and the oceanic scene


Bikinis ahoy!


Dressing up for '70s night. Feeling a flashback?


The crew of lesbian comics, including Gina Yashere, Lisa Koch, Michele Balan, Julie Goldman, Vickie Shaw, and more.


Doing the Hustle (OK, a more modern version of it) at the club on '70s night


The Advocate wasn’t the only queer publication on board. Robin Lowey, founder of Epochalips, a multicontributor blog for lesbians over 40, was there too. Some of the Epochalips contributors (who include Meredith Baxter, Vicki Randle, Jewelle Gomez, Marga Gomez, and more) were also on board, including Kate Clinton. Lowey’s here with musician and producer Terri Lynn Delk from We Want the Music Company, producer of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.


Yoli Farnum and Mary Gay Hutcherson were among 70 lesbians from Carefree Resort who traveled together on the Olivia cruise, wearing matching “Carefree Cruisers” T-shirts. “We chartered the bus and it came in the community to pick us up at the clubhouse,” says Hutcherson. “Much of the community was out to see us off and there were women lining the streets waving goodbye, but someone had to stay home with all those pets. We stopped in the Everglades at a bus stop and the driver was heard calling his wife and saying, ‘You won't believe this, but I am driving a busload of lesbians and they are very nice and they have a beautiful community.’ When we got to the port and saw our ship with the rainbow flag flying a cheer went up!” Carefree Resort is an all-lesbian community of about 500 in the winter and about 150 year-round. “Totally cool place!” adds Hutcherson.


Comic Julie Goldberg (center) gets sandwiched by two lovelies.


Two hotties toasting the nightlife

All smiles on the beach


Olivia Travel's founders Judy Dlugacz and Rachel Wahba (third from right) party down with performers Michele Balan and Sweet Baby Ja'i and friends,