Almost 50 years ago, a collective of lesbians came together to create Olivia, a record company producing music by and for women. In 1990, that group had the opportunity to host a concert on a cruise ship. The four-night lesbian cruise quickly sold out and a travel company was born.
Today, Olivia produces incredible, worldwide trips specifically catering to LGBTQ women. Its vacations include cruises, riverboats, resorts, and adventure land packages spanning a diverse array of countries and continents. In its 30+ years of travel, Olivia has taken over 350,000 women on over 350 trips across the globe.
Olivia trips are specifically designed with queer women in mind, from the entertainment to the activity programming. All entertainment and activities are by and for the LGBTQ community: music, comedy, DJs, dance parties, themed parties, and more, all centered around LGBTQ women.
“The minute you step foot on an Olivia vacation, there’s a sense of community, of belonging, of validation,” Tisha Floratos-Salano, the Vice President of Travel and Business Operations at Olivia, told Georgia Voice. “We’re all saying hello to one another. There’s this joy and excitement and energy that you feel. For one week, we get to be with one another, create community, and build visibility wherever we go. At the same time, you’re having an incredible vacation that’s filled with entertainment that’s for our community.”
Team Olivia looks after each guest’s needs. There are specific needs coordinators on trips to take care of guests with extra dietary, medical, and mobility needs. There is also specific programming aimed at empowering solo travelers.
“Anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of our guests are solo travelers,” Floratos-Salano said. “So, we create a whole program just for our solo [travelers] so they have an opportunity to connect with other women, so they don’t feel alone on their vacation unless they want to just chill out and be by themselves.”
While Olivia advertises specifically to LGBTQ women, the company values diversity and inclusivity. Floratos-Salano told Georgia Voice that nonbinary and gender-expansive guests are welcomed with open arms. There is also programming created by and for women of color with the Sisters at Sea and Sisters at Play coordinators.
All of this translates into a vacation that is not only fun, but also affirming. As the Olivia hashtag #YouDon’tKnowUntilYouGo illustrates, the sense of community created on these trips is more impactful than new guests even realize.
“I think we all live our day-to-day lives, and sometimes we don’t know that we need this space, we need this community, where we can celebrate one another and be with one another,” Floratos-Salano said. “It’s almost a sacred space for our guests. The fact that Olivia can provide this affirming space, it’s transformational for some guests … [T]here are women who still live in places where they’re not really out in their everyday lives or there’s not any community where they live. To be able to provide that space for women is pretty powerful.”
This fall, Olivia is taking LGBTQ women to places like Machu Picchu, Amsterdam, India, and even Antarctica. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, many of these trips have been rescheduled from 2020 and are therefore sold out. However, destinations planned for next year include Switzerland, France, the Galapagos, and Egypt, as well as Olivia’s 50th anniversary Caribbean Cruise and Hard Rock Hotel Cabo trips, both recommended by Floratos-Salano. Olivia will also be announcing vacations for 2024 soon.
It is only through the unwavering support of the LGBTQ community that Olivia has been able to provide this life-changing opportunity for both global travel and interpersonal empowerment for so many years.
“Olivia has been there for the community because the community has been here for us,” Floratos-Salano said. “We are this small travel company that has grown because friends tell friends who tell friends. It’s been a remarkable journey to see so many women travel around the world, make lifelong friendships, and come back again and again.”
Due to limited space, it is suggested to book your trip far in advance. This can also be a more budget-friendly option; through a partnership with the buy-now, pay-later program Uplift, Olivia customers can put their vacation on an extended payment plan instead of paying for it upfront in full. View the entire vacation lineup and book your trip today at olivia.com.