In Wilton Manors, we know when the snow falls in the north. The snow birds return and the increase in traffic is quite evident. Restaurants, bars, stores become more crowded and social apps become more populated with seasonal faces.
We also know when it is cruise time. It seems all hotels are booked solid and bars that were already crowded are now sporting lines, more security, and bars three deep.
And all of this is nothing to complain about, especially if you own a business in Broward County.
Greater Fort Lauderdale's growing LGBT-friendly reputation is making it a popular departure spot for gay and lesbian cruises. On Sunday, more than 2,000 gay travelers will sail from Port Everglades on RSVP Vacations' seven-night Caribbean cruise aboard Holland America Line's ms Nieuw Amsterdam. It's the third LGBT cruise in recent weeks to sail from Fort Lauderdale, all of them sold out.
"Those sailings just always go like hot cakes," said Richard Gray, LGBTQ managing director for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It's a nice bit of bread and butter business for us."
On Jan. 30, Olivia Travel of San Francisco had more than 1,900 travelers on its Caribbean Escape lesbian cruise on Holland America' ms Westerdam cruise ship.
A week earlier, Atlantis Events' winter Caribbean cruise aboard Royal Caribbean International's Navigator of the Seas sailed from Port Everglades with more than 3,000 gay and lesbian passengers.
LGBT travel specialists like RSVP, Olivia and Atlantis vacations typically charter an entire ship for their cruises, with several sailing from South Florida ports in recent years. Combined, the three large LGBT cruises are expected to have a $14 million economic impact on the area, Gray said. That includes the dollars spent on pre- and –post cruise hotel stays and dining, shopping and entertainment and other services in the region. – sun-sentinel.com
The article goes on to say LGBT households are traditionally double income couples and spend twice as much as the "mainstream" couples. Statistics for last year show that "some 1.5 million LGBT travelers visited Greater Fort Lauderdale in 2014, spending roughly $1.5 billion." So $1,000 bucks a pop (or $2,000 for two pops)? Not too shabby at all.
Greater Fort Lauderdale has the highest concentration of same-sex households in the U.S. and is home to hundreds of gay-owned and -operated businesses, according to bureau records.
The destination also has several significant attractions and organizations that serve the LGBT community, including the Stonewall Museum, which offers exhibitions relating to LGBTQ history and culture; the world's first AIDS museum; and the global headquarters of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.
Local businesses generally benefit from walk-in visits by LGBT cruise passengers and by hosting special events before and after they sail.
The RSVP group's schedule includes partying and dining at gay-friendly businesses in Wilton Manors such as the Village Pub, Hunters and The Manor nightclubs and Rosie's Bar & Grill.
I tried to get a table last Sunday at Rosie's and it was over an hour and a half wait since many out of towners were there eating. The piles of luggage outside the restaurant definitely signaled the cruise was over, but the boys were still here spending their cash. It looks like I will either to get there early next week or find another place to dine. We did the latter last week and went across the street to Hobo's Grill at Rumors Bar where we sat outside and enjoyed our meal while watching all the Ubers bounce all over the place carting off cruisers and their luggage.
"It's great business [for us], and we love when they come in," said a manager at Rosie's Bar, which expects to host RSVP cruisers Feb. 14 for Sunday brunch when they return to Fort Lauderdale.
Atlantis and Olivia cruisers also patronized Rosie's during recent cruises.
LGBT cruisers also tend to book pre- and post-cruise stays in hotels and guest houses.
Recommended hotels for RSVP travelers included the W Fort Lauderdale, GalleryOne-A DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel and Hilton Garden Inn Fort Lauderdale Airport-Cruise Port in Dania Beach, according to rsvpvacations.com.
"The LGBT travel market/business has been a huge part of our success story," said Anna MacDiarmid, general manager at W Fort Lauderdale, which is hosting RSVP group's official Sail Away event Saturday. "We're elevating the experience and creating a wow atmosphere that is guaranteed to become a highlight of their weeklong cruise experience."
Meanwhile, Olivia's hotel partners were the Embassy Suites by Hilton 17th Street and Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty Six in Fort Lauderdale.
Smaller organized LGBT groups also cruise out of Fort Lauderdale.
Next Friday, Pied Piper Travel will have about 64 people sailing on its Ultimate Caribbean Gay cruise aboard Celebrity Equinox from Port Everglades, said Bruce Levy, director of sales and marketing.
Before I moved to the Fort Lauderdale Area, I had been here one other time and just for one night. It was a drunken blur the night before we left for an RSVP cruise the next morning. Boy was that an early morning. Four years later, I would set my sober eyes on the city I would call home for the past 2 1/2 years. I am very happy with my move so there are no regrets for not planning more time here before or after my last cruise. But now, with hotels like the W, restaurants like Rosie's, and other businesses going after those cruise dollars, planning your cruise to include a little time on each end is looking like a no brainer. Not only do you get out of your frozen home on your de-iced and delayed plane with no worries of missing the boat, you'll find a city and a county that welcomes you and will treat you right.
For more from the Sun Sentinel, go to the full article here.
firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-356-4209 or Twitter@TheSatchreport