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Banana hammocks, sandy beaches, mai tais, and maybe an afternoon of sightseeing for those willing to put on shirts are all things you can expect on a gay cruise--but maybe not the homeland of Chairman Mao.
Shanghai, home of one of the world's busiest ports, will be the launching pad for what's being called the first gay cruise in mainland China. Despite the fact that a government-backed gay bar is in the works, China isn't exactly known for its progress on human rights or freedom of expression. Nonetheless, Atlantis CEO Rich Campbell told Advocate.com that local businesses, like hotels and clubs, are "literally falling all over themselves" for gay dollars.
"I've been doing this now for 20 years, and there are very few places on the planet that have issues with gay people coming there," Campbell said. "First of all, we wouldn't pick those places. We wouldn't do a gay cruise to Saudi Arabia, nor is it really easy to get there by ship. We've gone to places where people are like, 'Why would you go there?' We go there because they're great tourist destinations."
Campbell promises a highly customized itinerary for travelers on this 10-day cruise. Since Atlantis's customers tend to be younger than the typical cruising set for a luxury-style destination like Asia, guests would likely be more interested in exploring more and experiencing more intimate parts of the culture. Travelers will be encouraged to shop in Kyoto, revel in Shanghai's rapidly developed landscape (linked to a Beijing-style makeover for Expo 2010), or hit the gay nightlife in Taipei.
The 10-day cruise sets off March 20. Customers who reserve space on the ship before January 12 can take advantage of a $399 roundtrip airfare offer from any continental U.S. or Canadian city. More information on the cruise and the airfare is available at atlantisevents.com.