Since Antarctic expeditions began in 1820 with explorers Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, Mikhail Lazarev, and John Davis (who was the first person to step foot on Antarctica in 1821), never before has an all-LGBT+ expedition sailing taken place… until now.
Leading nearly 200 LGBT+ explorers, VACAYA boarded PONANT’s Le Boreal on December 7, 2022 in Ushuaia, Argentina and began the 2.5-day crossing of the Drake Passage, where the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Oceans converge, creating the most treacherous waters on earth. At 5:12pm on December 10, 2022, The Vacayans (those who travel with VACAYA are known as “Vacayans”) stepped foot on “The Ice” in Neko Harbor, Antarctica – making history with the first successful all-LGBT+ expedition cruise to Antarctica.
VACAYA Co-founder Randle Roper exclaimed, “It’s taken over 200 years of Antarctic exploration to get here, but with VACAYA, the LGBT+ community has now officially left their mark on the 7th continent! The incredible work of the VACAYA team, our Expedition Leaders, and our fearless Captain made this journey possible.”
In the world of gay ship captains, the total number can almost be counted on one hand. Out and proud Le Boreal Captain Florian Richard adds, “I thank VACAYA for such an open minded and fun sailing. I’m proud to be a part of this history-making expedition.”
In addition to being the first all-LGBT+ expedition cruise to Antarctica, VACAYA also released the very first kaboodle of drag queens onto the continent: Sister Helen Holy (Paul J. Williams), The Liquor Mini (Danny Cabrera), Pissi Myles (Joseph D’Angio), Mini More (Stephen Harms), and Dixie Longate (Kris Andersson) planted the pride flag onto the continent to mark the occasion.
The Vacayan explorers’ reactions to making history ranged from unadulterated joy to humble introspection:
Jacob Carson of Orlando, Florida: “Words don’t do Antarctica justice. To be part of this historic expedition with VACAYA and my queer family is beyond my wildest dreams.”
Aaron Centric & Stephen Harms of Rocklin, California: “We never imagined coming to Antarctica until VACAYA made it possible to be here with our LGBT+ family, experiencing the immeasurable beauty of this distant land. We hope this expedition inspires others to travel to places they otherwise wouldn’t.”
Christopher Chandler-Liu of Washington, DC: “Even at 28 years old, it’s really fantastic to be able to check off this most bucket-y of bucket list destinations, recognizing I’ve had incredible fortune to explore a place on earth so few people ever get to experience. I would have never been able to do this without VACAYA. I am now part of LGBT+ travel history and am humbled by the magnitude of this moment. Antarctica changes you in incalculable ways and my world will never be the same.”
Michele Booher of East Lansing, Michigan: “After first traveling to Greece with VACAYA, I just knew I had to travel with them again. As a bisexual woman, I can totally be myself without fear of judgment when I travel with VACAYA. This expedition to Antarctica has been the best trip I never really knew I wanted to take, but after visiting this beautiful place, I can’t imagine spending this type of money with anyone else. The VACAYA family is supportive, fun, and always full of so much love. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
VACAYA Cruise Director Paul J. Williams of Dallas, Texas: “Traveling to Antarctica has been a life-long dream. Merely the opportunity to do this was overwhelming, and to do it with VACAYA and my LGBT+ siblings? Simply indescribable. Upon my first sighting of the 7th continent, I wept with awe as this dream became a reality. From a strictly personal perspective, I’ve had a fascination with penguins since early adulthood, and my home is full of penguin collectibles. To finally see them up close and personal in their natural habitat has brought me infinite penguin pleasure.”
Randle Roper concluded by saying, “Although we had great fun on the journey, the significance of this voyage is just starting to sink in with the men, women, and non-binary explorers who joined VACAYA on this first-of-its-kind expedition. Their adventure with us will be a tale of discovery, friendship, and LGBT+ history they’ll be able to share for all time.”