Atlantis Events was founded by Rich Campbell in 1991. Since then, Atlantis (“The Way We Play”) has “grown into the world’s largest gay and lesbian specialty vacation company, bringing together over 300,000 from our community and beyond for great times around the world. We create a gay vacation environment and experience so unexpectedly special, in so many ways, that you have to try it to fully understand why our guests often call it ‘the best vacation they’ve ever had.’” Atlantis’ success was confirmed in 2007 when it bought out its main competitor, RSVP. “Each Atlantis cruise or resort offers a carefree experience based around friendship, camaraderie, relaxation, indulgence, adventure and pure uninhibited fun. Beautiful locations, fantastic entertainment and legendary parties set the stage for the magic that happens when a diverse group comes together and everyone is free to be themselves.”

Though Atlantis offers its guests a vast variety of vacation events, from Mediterranean cruises to Club Med-style resorts, its most popular product is its “Legendary Caribbean Cruise,” which sails from Miami in late January or February. Held in some of the largest ocean liners, these floating circuit parties bring together some of the world’s most beautiful, muscular and affluent gay men. Cruise ship entertainers combine with some of the most famous gay performers, from drag acts like Dixie Longate and Miss Richfield 1981 to “surprise” guest stars like Olivia Newton-John or Charo. Some of the world’s best DJ’s spin the disks in Atlantis’ seemingly endless dance parties, which run from early afternoon tea dances to late-late discos and beyond. Since most of the dances are theme parties, guests are encouraged to dress in appropriate costume, which they do while leaving exposed as much skin as is legally allowed. One drag entertainer described the typical Atlantis costume as being “a harness and a jock strap” which is true to a large extent. Though alcohol consumption is high even for a sea cruise, Atlantis organizers frown upon illegal drug use, perhaps in reaction to a series of drug overdoses that rocked previous Caribbean cruises.

Atlantis’ 2019 Caribbean Cruise was my first one, and it lived up to my expectations. From Feb. 3-10 Royal Caribbean’s majestic Allure of the Seas ship housed 5,500 men (and a few women) from 68 countries; including some of the planet’s most spectacular specimens of manhood. Even those of us not so favored by our DNA, the gym or steroids had a fabulous time. Though our ship of dreams took us to Nassau, Cozumel, Roatan and Costa Maya, most of our adventures took place on board. And while my costumes were nowhere near the spectacular outfits wore by some of my fellow sailors, I managed my way around such events as the Champions T-Dance, the Classic Disco T-Dance, the White Party and the “Out to Sea” evening party. (Though I drew the line at the “after hours” party.) The food was good, the entertainment — which included singer Marty Thomas, the acrobatic troupe Air-Otic and “surprise guest” Andy Bell of Erasure — was great, and cocktails flowed like water. If there is anything to complain about this cruise, it’s that most people (myself included) mostly socialized with friends or acquaintances.

One complaint directed at all-gay cruises by those who have never been on one is that they are too expensive. Indeed, a stateroom on an Atlantis cruise tends to cost twice as much as one on a mainstream cruise. Eric Poole, of Brand G Vacation, gives us some “legitimate reasons” for this discrepancy. First, “when a tour company books, they’re personally guaranteeing that charter. So, they have to pony up the difference if for some reason that cruise doesn’t sell out.” Second, “bringing on high-quality entertainers for a gay cruise adds significantly to the total cost. Gay audiences are generally less than excited by the cruise line’s typical fare.” (Though I enjoyed the ship’s production of “Mamma Mia.”) Finally, LGBTQ tour companies like Brand G (or Atlantis) “offers MANY additional inclusions to their trips that are not a part of the bargain with most other tour companies, straight OR gay. They strive to make your experience as all-inclusive as possible — so the up-front price you pay is pretty much all you end up spending.” As one who once complained about the cost, I must say that the Atlantis Caribbean Cruise was worth the extra money; money that I plan to spend when I go again next year.