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Building Community: Finding Lifelong Friendships on Olivia Vacations

Joining an LGBTQ+ women’s trip is as much, if not more about being surrounded by our community as it is about experiencing the destination. 

We sat down and asked the team at Olivia Travel to describe what makes their business stand out and they explained the meaning behind their motto “Beautiful Together”. This phrase sums up the deep sense of inclusivity and an open-armed invitation for guests to show up as their full, authentic selves. 

Olivia Travel goes all out to make sure every LGBTQ+ woman traveler feels both united and safe. How? By chartering entire ships and booking out whole resorts. That way, everyone you bump into, from guests to staff, is part of the Olivia family (“Olivians”). This setup is key to letting everyone be themselves while on vacation—something that might be tough to find in everyday life.

It’s pretty amazing to see people come alive, sometimes literally bursting out of their shells in a safe and welcoming place. One of the best parts about getting so many folks together and allowing them to be their true selves is the chance to connect on a deeper level. As is the case with most queer women, living outside queer hotspots like NYC and LA, a lot of women who join the trips come from places without big LGBTQ+ communities, so an Olivia vacation is like a breath of fresh air. It gives people a chance to meet a wide variety of queer folks who have many shared experiences, creating a sense of belonging that can be hard to come by back home. Judy Dlugacz says, “Olivia is the world as it should be,” and warns first-timers that the feeling of leaving your first Olivia trip can be startling. This kind of environment doesn’t just spur personal growth; it also helps forge deep, meaningful friendships—and of course, relationships if that’s what you’re looking for.

Solo Traveler Programming

Olivia makes an effort to create places on their trips where connections can take root and grow. One of the coolest things they’ve done is set up the Solos Traveler program. Let’s face it, hopping into a group vacation solo can be pretty daunting. In fact, “What’s it like for solo travelers?” is probably the top question we get in our Lesbian Travel Facebook group anytime someone brings up group trips. Olivia has really taken this to heart and tackled the solo travel jitters head-on. There are lots of parts to the Solo Traveler program, but the first thing you’ll notice is the room-share options. They not only cut down on costs but also pair you up with a built-in buddy right from the start.

A few years back, I met this young Canadian, about 30, who’d just been on an Olivia cruise a few months before we ran into each other. When I asked her about it, the first thing she brought up was her roommate from the cruise and how they’ve been chatting at least once a week since they got back. Time’s flown by, but what sticks with me isn’t the exotic places she visited or how swanky the cruise ship was. It was the sheer excitement in her voice as she talked about being a queer woman from rural Northern Alberta, suddenly in a bunch of other LGBTQ women. Her story really hit home for me—here was this introverted lesbian from a quiet part of Canada, on her first trip abroad, and it just highlighted how Olivia really knows how to knit people together and create a sense of community.

Once guests are on board, the Solo Traveler program kicks off with a friendly face—a Solo Travel Coordinator from the Olivia team who’s there to simply help out, so nobody feels lonely.  You’ll also get a dog tag, making it super easy to spot other solo travelers who are probably just as pumped to make new friends. Plus, there are events and special areas set up where solo travelers can meet up at meals and shows, so you never have to worry about sitting alone—unless you want some quiet time. The program is really about making everyone feel included and part of the group, and empowering solo LGBTQ+ travel.

Signature Programs

The Solo Traveler program isn’t the only thing Olivia has cooked up to help people connect. They’ve got a whole lineup of awesome programs, like Sisters At Sea and Sisters At Play, Gen-O, Women in Uniform, and the OWLs, each with their own dedicated events, all ready and waiting on their larger cruises and at resorts. Each program is about creating great opportunities for like-minded Olivians to meet new friends and have some shared adventures.

Sisters At Sea and Sisters At Play gives BIPOC women a space to connect at lunches and spoken word events. Then there’s Gen-O, that’s tailor-made for women under 40. Think mixologist parties, karaoke nights, and guaranteed good times. They’ve also got something special for the OWLs— Older, Wiser Lesbians. They get to enjoy laid-back breakfasts and cocktail get-togethers, perfect for guests over 60. It’s a wonderful chance to swap stories and bond over life experiences. And these two groups also interact – there’s almost always an OWL vs Gen-O competition event – providing sorely needed intergenerational mingling and conversations. 

On an Olivia trip, you’ll find yourself surrounded by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of LGBTQ+ women, any of whom could become friends for life. It’s the kind of setup where shared passion for travel and shared personal experience allows for deep connections to happen organically. You know, the type of people you end up gushing about long before you mention the cool places you visited, the tasty food you ate, or those strong cocktails.

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