5 surprising ports every gay cruiser should visit

My favorite gay port cities — Vancouver, Fort Lauderdale, Barcelona — are popular with many LGBTQ travelers, with good reason. But five surprising lesser-known ports should also top all gay travel lists. If you’re thinking of cruising to a region which could include one of these ports, ask your travel agent to book you on an itinerary that does so! You can thank me later.

Taipei (Keelung), Taiwan

Taiwan is arguably the best-kept secret in all of East Asia, and is surprisingly gay-friendly. Taiwan is vibrant and colorful, with insanely good food, and the people are among the world’s friendliest. Taipei is the largest city, and the nearest port is called Keelung, about an hour outside Taipei. Three things to do there: 1. Eat Taiwanese-style beef noodle soup. 2. Visit the Red House LGBT district where there are several gay-owned shops and bars. 3. Hang out at Long Shan Temple, one of the oldest operating Chinese folk religion complexes in Asia.

A cruise ship at Keelung, the main harbor for Taipei, Taiwan. Photo Max Ding/Flickr Creative Commons

A cruise ship at Keelung, the main harbor for Taipei, Taiwan. Photo Max Ding/Flickr Creative Commons

Montevideo, Uruguay

This South American country decriminalized homosexuality waaaay back in 1934, and same-sex couples have been able to marry there since 2013. Montevideo hasn’t yet gained the popularity of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Visit it now before it becomes a tourist hot spot. Three things to do there: 1. The city’s cruise terminal is in walking distance of its old town—so you’ll want to explore and get a sense of that colonial style area. 2. Dive into tango. Argentina doesn’t have an exclusive on the world’s sexiest dance, and Montevideo has gay tango options. 3. Have lunch and people watch at gay-popular La Fonda.

Montevideo is a mix of old-world character and modern style. Photo: Alejandro Valdez Sanabria/Flickr Creative Commons

Montevideo is a mix of old-world character and modern style. Photo: Alejandro Valdez Sanabria/Flickr Creative Commons

Helsinki, Finland

The gay-friendly Finnish capital city seems to be having a moment as travelers look for new-to-us destinations. If possible, book a cruise that docks at Helsinki’s South Harbor, and you’ll be practically in the middle of the city (a second cruise terminal is a ways out of the city). Helsinki shares the visual character of its northern neighbors, and there’s plenty to do, including these three options: 1. Get naked and take a sauna! You can find many public saunas, including, of course, gay saunas. The Finns claim to have originated, or at least perfected, the concept of sauna, so do it! 2. Experience Tom of Finland’s Helsinki. 3. Check out the Design Museum. Like other Scandinavians, the Finns have a unique and often very progressive sense of design…sounds like lots of my gay friends!

Wander the streets of Helsinki and feel the spirit of Tom of Finland. Photo: Mariano Mantel/Flickr Creative Commons

Wander the streets of Helsinki and feel the spirit of Tom of Finland. Photo: Mariano Mantel/Flickr Creative Commons

Quebec City, Canada

Often referred to as a “European” city in North America, lovely Quebec City is very, very special. While it might be slightly more conservative than much-larger Montreal, Quebec City is still plenty liberal and plenty of fun and super gay-friendly. It’s visually, and your ship will dock right in the ultra-wanderable town. Three things you should do: 1. Eat Poutine. Quebec invented the French fry-cheese curd-gravy combo, so snarf some while you’re here. (If you prioritize a svelte figure, you’ll have to work out in the ship’s gym both before and after!). 2. Shop for unusual fashion. I’ve always found that Quebec’s department store Simon and its many small boutiques offer affordable clothes in styles that aren’t always cookie cutter. 3. Visit the oldest grocery store in North America — a visit to J.A. Moisan feels a bit like time travel.

Quebec City: cruise ships dock right in the center of the most "European feeling" city in North America. Photo: Dany/Flickr Creative Commons

Quebec City: cruise ships dock right in the center of the most “European feeling” city in North America. Photo: Dany/Flickr Creative Commons

Auckland, New Zealand

While gays have flocked to Sydney for decades, smart travelers have added laid-back Auckland to their down-under itineraries. Your ship will dock in the lovely city center, making Auckland easy to visit. New Zealand is gay-friendly, and marriage equality has been the law there since 2013. Here are three things you should do during Auckland port time: 1. Take a Maori walking tour. The Maori people are known for being accepting of gay family members. 2. Check out the players’ sexy legs while taking in a match of the city’s gay rugby team, the New Zealand Falcons. 3. Go for a wander around Auckland’s gay-ish neighborhood, Newton, where you’ll find a variety of bars, eateries, and shops.

Viewing Auckland from the water is a rich experience. Photo: Mark Gunn/Flickr Creative Commons

Viewing Auckland from the water is a rich experience. Photo: Mark Gunn/Flickr Creative Commons

What ports do you think should be on a future version of this list? Let us know in the comments section below.