People may claim they are accepting of traveling gay couples but this is before they stare at a gay couple expressing affection on a romantic cruise line when straight couples are happily enjoying the atmosphere, not worried about stares or whispers.
Even though people like to spew how inclusive they are, the issue of judgment when displaying affection on a public cruise is still prevalent in the stories displayed by the media. Anteros Cruises aims to solve this problem with an all-inclusive, literally, cruise line specifically designed for members of the LGBT community.
I had a chance to sit down with Tyler Sminkey, Account Manager, for an interview. Here's what he had to say.
Tell me how this project started?
The genesis of Anteros Cruises was essentially based on the concept that everyone needs a place that is safe, welcoming and warm...a place where they can be who they want to be and feel accepted. There is therapeutic value in living a welcoming environment, I experienced this attending a HBCU. The affinity I shared with fellow students truly made me feel welcome, celebrated and accepted. Similarly, Anteros is supporting that all-embracing affinity that is shared among the LGBT community and creating a cruise vacation environment that is just as welcoming, inclusive and comfortable for them and their loved ones.
Why did you want to make this cruise line targeting LGBT people?
The reality is that this concept is long-overdue. The LGBT community still has not been adequately addressed when it comes to cruise travel, especially in mass market cruise products. Many companies see LGBT travelers as a highly desirable group of consumers and vie for their dollars but often, in a mass market environment, they are not fully permitted to enjoy the full experience...to be themselves. It seems, at a fundamental level, less than equal treatment when a LGBT vacation consumer -- who has paid the same tariff for their travel experience as other guests -- may be looked upon disapprovingly if they display their affection publicly, while the mainstream couple, standing right next to them, taking the same selfies, is being encouraged to hug and kiss and express fun and affection. Anteros is creating an on-board environment in which everyone can enjoy an exciting, life-rejuvenating cruise experience that is authentic and memorable. Everyone is treated with respect and compassion. The LGBT cruise vacation consumer and their loved ones, friends and allies, will feel comfortable on-board an Anteros ship. The moment they board the ship they will know this cruise experience -- amenities, activities, entertainment, excursions, our vessel and more -- has been created with them in mind.
Why make your own cruise line rather than advocate for existing cruise lines to be more inclusive?
Unfortunately, recent news speaks to the lack of true LGBT acceptance and understanding found in some mainstream hospitality venues. There are many individuals within the mass market that are less accepting and make negative comments or even gestures towards members of the LGBT community that can cause discomfort, negative confrontations and even ruin the travel experience for LGBT travelers. Our number one priority is making our guests feel relaxed and comfortable, so they can be themselves while exploring amazing destinations, having memorable experiences, making new friends and enjoying their vacation time in an open and accepting environment every step of the way.
Detail some features that makes this accessible to the LGBT community specifically.
What makes Anteros Cruises unique in the world is our distinctive dedication to and focus on making all members of the LGBT community as well as their friends, family and allies feel welcome. Celebrating diversity within the LGBT community, we have designed every aspect of the Anteros Cruises experience so that LGBT travelers can be their authentic self, without concern or judgment. From celebrity-designer interiors and stylishly-sophisticated soft goods, to unparalleled personalized service...From creature comfort amenities, such as plush cabin terry cloth robes and slippers in each stateroom, to special pleasures not often experienced such as gourmet evening tea service...every element of guest treatment is aimed at embracing the LGBT community and making them feel right at home. Itineraries are additionally being coordinated with PRIDE, CSD and other LGBT-oriented events.
As well, we are developing a comprehensive training program for our crew -- produced by and with the participation of members from all segments of the LGBT community -- to ensure that our team members understand the lifestyles and nuances of LGBT sub-communities in order best accommodate them, treat all of our guests in a respectful and accepting manner and make them feel welcome always.
Also the size of our vessel, which accommodates approximately 400 guests, offers a more intimate and friendly ambiance that makes it easier for guests to become familiar with each other and with our hospitable crew to further enhance their comfort. Additionally, our onboard program developers are not only cruise industry veterans, but are also part of the LGBT community -- they are continuously crafting a comprehensive experience that is welcoming to LGBT consumers!
What are your plans to expand this cruise line?
In our first year we are launching to the North America and European traveler markets and will sail year round to LGBT friendly destinations in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. As we look forward to the future, there are clearly some destinations that are emerging markets for LGBT travelers and we are looking into these, such as South Africa and the Pacific. As well, we are investing in research to define the top 'wish list' destinations of interest to LGBT travelers in order to deliver the experiences the LGBT community is seeking.
Will it dock at more places? Internationally?
Sailing year-round in exotic regions we will offer an amazing range of destinations for guests to explore the open seas with Anteros Cruises. We will be cruising to destinations in the Mediterranean during summer and fall months, featuring Barcelona and Piraeus (Athens) as homeports. In the winter months the ship will sail in the Caribbean and will include homeports in St. Maarten and Colon. On our distinctive itineraries, Anteros Cruises will take passengers to discover many popular ports of call as well as exciting destinations not as frequently visited by mass market cruise lines -- including forward thinking LGBT friendly islands and destinations such as Saba in Windward Islands as an example. Currently, we are in final product development stages, finalizing our itineraries for our first sailing season which is slated for May 2017. We continue listening closely to the LGBT community to uncover the places they want to go in order to deliver the experiences they are looking for.
What plans do you have to make this cruise accessible to disabled riders?
Our promise of inclusivity also extends to travelers with disabilities. The crew, on a ship with a boutique capacity of 400 passengers, quickly learns the needs of their guest. If a guest requires additional assistance, we are positioned ideally to be able to provide support and attention. Our vessel features many single cabins offering premium space -- all of which makes travel easier for guest with special needs. For travelers with hearing impairments and/or for the visually challenged we will provide the appropriate resources to make their experience complete and enjoyable.
How can disabled riders provide feedback or become consultants for your company?
We invite all members of the LGBT community including those with disabilities to engage with us via our social media channels on Twitter @twitter.com/anteros_cruises and via the company's page on Facebook at facebook.com/AnterosCruisesUSA. We are all ears and look forward to hearing from and engaging with our prospective travelers.