A look at the history of the world's first lesbian travel brand

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Olivia brand has become the world’s premier travel company for lesbians.

The image shows a crowd of people waving rainbow flags in front of the docked Olivia cruise boat.

Since its arrival in 1990, lesbian travel brand Olivia has produced trips for more than 350,000 customers on cruises and resort holidays spanning Europe and Africa, earning them a well-known reputation.

It all started 50 years ago when the brand found its roots as Olivia Records, a revolutionary women’s music label co-founded by Judy Dlugacz and nine other lesbians. This ground-breaking label not only transformed perspectives but also propelled the careers of numerous iconic female artists.

However, due to financial constraints, most of the group left and Dlugacz was the only one remaining to run the ship.

From Dlugacz’s experience of seeing the positive impact of the record label, she channelled the same ethos of lesbian community and connection by founding the revamped brand, Olivia Travel.



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A post shared by Olivia Travel (@oliviatravels)

Olivia’s first cruise took place in the 1990’s, with travellers enjoying a four-night stay in the Bahamas.

“It became quite a spiritual experience because women were able to be free, to be themselves, really for many, for the very first time,” Dlugacz said in an interview with Euronews Travel,

To ensure the safety of their clientele, the word “lesbian” wasn’t initially used in Olivia’s branding and communication was very discrete – with all correspondence delivered in plain brown packaging.

In the 1990’s many LGBTQ+ women wouldn’t come out for fear of discrimination and losing their livelihood. The cruise allowed them the chance to feel the freedom of expressing their sexuality, finding community and showing affection to the people they loved without the worry of being outed.

Speaking to The Guardian, Dlugacz said, “We had an understanding of how careful we needed to be – to protect the women that were part of us”.

Olivia Lesbian Travel Cruise photo featuring the founder and president, Judy Dlugacz. The image shows Judy standing on the deck of the cruise ship, dressed all in white and the view of the sea behind her.
Judy Dlugacz, founder and president of Olivia Travel. Image: @OliviaTravel via X.

Each journey is accompanied by a team of staff who call themselves the Olivians and they curate a package tailored exclusively to people’s preferences, managing every aspect of the vacation. As well as their famous cruises, they also offer riverboat trips, all-inclusive resorts and adventure vacations.

The travel itinerary typically features a wide array of activities and entertainment options and in recent years they welcomed live performances by well-known artists such as LP, the Indigo Girls, KT Tunstall and k.d. lang.

They also offer workshops addressing LGBTQ+ issues, and events designed to celebrate the strength of the community. Dr Maya Angelou and Billie Jean King have previously appeared as guest speakers.

If you’re a fan of the lesbian TV series The L Word, you may remember the 2004 premiere which was set on an Olivia cruise, as well as the entire episode ‘Land Ahoy’ from Season 2.



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There are also packages for solo travellers, with specially designed events and programming that provide them with many opportunities to meet and get to know others.

Importantly, Olivia lesbian travel cruises offer a respite from potential discrimination or judgment that LGBTQ+ individuals might face in other travel scenarios.

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