Australia’s first all-gay ocean cruise set for March next year sailed into stormy waters earlier this week when The Daily Telegraph reported holidaying families had been forced to cancel their bookings because of the floating Mardi Gras.

Gay travel group NaviGAYtion had bookings for 200 and a waitlist of 400 passengers for the 29 March cruise on the P&O ship Pacific Sun. When P&O realised the gay group accounted for 90 percent of total bookings, it was decided to turn the journey into an all-gay charter.

Cruise organiser Peter Oxford of said he had previously been in negotiations with P&O for months, but the shipping organisation wasn’t keen on arranging a full charter of the ship.

When NaviGAYtion bookings proved so strong, however, new negotiations were held to allow NaviGAYtion to take over the entire cruise. But in chartering the ship, other passengers were told they had to either re-book or choose another cruise.

Because we have taken over the charter, we have had to take over the bookings, Oxford told Sydney Star Observer. P&O said it wouldn’t affect too many people as there were not that many on there anyway, apart from our group. We basically were the ship.

There have only been a few families affected, and now that we are a gay cruise, it is over 18, so they couldn’t have come on anyway. Being so far out from the 29 March sailing date, P&O was confident the effect was going to be minor.

Some of the other passengers who were affected have actually re-booked with us and are coming on the cruise.

The NaviGAYtion cruise heads out of Sydney Heads on 29 March for three days of partying off the city coastline.

Dance parties will be held on board, with a variety of entertainment being arranged to cater to the all-gay clientele.

Oxford said he had tried to arrange a gay cruise in Australia after experiencing the Atlantis ocean expeditions in Hawaii and the Caribbean a few years back.

After those trips, I thought we had to have something like that here, but Atlantis were not that interested, he said. So I made it my mission to do a charter cruise so Australians would be able to experience that kind of travel closer to home.

We are so excited to be producing one amazing party at sea. The phone did not stop ringing after the (Telegraph) article, with keen interest from the gay community all wanting to book as well as congratulating us. The travel industry has also been ringing to say it was about time someone had done this.

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