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    Olivia Travel Comes Full Circle with First Ever San Francisco Port of Call

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    September 29, 2016, is a day for the LGBT history books. On that Thursday, popular lesbian travel company Olivia will have a cruise ship come to San Francisco as a port of call for the first time ever. Olivia, founded initially as a women’s music label in 1973 by visionary Judy Dlugacz, offered its initial all-woman cruise in 1990, and remains the largest company in the world that offers cruises catering to lesbians. Since the legendary company is based right here in San Francisco, the 9/29 occasion is all the more meaningful.

    “To have an Olivia trip sail into San Francisco turns my face into one big smile,” Rachel Wahba, Co-Founder of Olivia, told the San Francisco Bay Times. “We’ve come home, full circle, haven’t we? I love circles, with all of their spiritual, energetic implications, and this dance is particularly close to my heart.”

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    Even if you do not see the ship, you might see some of the passengers, all 1450 of them. Their entrance into the city will mark the single largest arrival of lesbians from different parts of the nation and world into San Francisco.

    “We are so thrilled to finally be stopping in San Francisco on an Olivia cruise with 1450 women,” Dlugacz said. “For over 40 years we have been the company that has been there for the LGBT community, creating concerts and albums so that our community could grow and see itself through a cultural movement.”

    “For 5 decades we have been in the Bay Area, and over 13 years in San Francisco at the Olivia building in SOMA,” she added. “We love our city and we look forward to celebrating this day with our guests who will be exploring the entire Bay Area, ending with a concert with Sarah McLachlan and a party onboard! Thank you, San Francisco, for so many years of love and support for Olivia.”

    Jill Cruse, Vice President of Guest Experience at the company, is also gearing up for the event. Although she is a seasoned traveler, Cruse is very excited about the groundbreaking trip.

    “After 26 years of taking our Olivia travelers to every continent on the planet, it is so exciting to finally be bringing our ladies to our backyard, the city of San Francisco,” Cruse said. “This gay-friendly city will never be the same after our ship ports here, and 1450 lesbians disembark. We hope the city comes out to show their pride and welcome our ladies!”

    To learn more about the occasion, we spoke with Tisha Floratos, Olivia’s talented Vice President of Travel.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Since your ships have traveled across the globe for so many years, why was the decision made to come into the port of San Francisco now?

    Tisha Floratos: We are always looking for new and exciting destinations all over the world. When we started our 2016 planning we thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to charter a ship in our own backyard and give women from all over the country and the world the opportunity to see some of the best West Coast cities?” We approached Holland America about the idea, and together we were able to customize a charter that would sail from Vancouver, B.C., to San Diego with incredible stops in Seattle, Astoria, San Francisco and Santa Barbara along the way.

    This cruise is a first for Olivia. Naturally, we wanted to make sure we maximized our time in our home city, so we will arrive on Thursday, September 29, and overnight before setting sail at 8 am on Friday, September 30. The idea of sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge will be a dream come true for many. With nearly 1500 women on board and over 100 joining us internationally from Australia, the U.K., Europe and more, this cruise will be a historic one.

    This cruise has a Culinary & Wine Theme. We have special guests Chef Elizabeth Falkner and Wine Expert Tracey Rose on board. Elizabeth will do culinary demos on board and her food will be featured on the nightly dinner menus. Tracey will lead Sip & Savors and other wine tasting events. They both will escort guests on customized tours in the various ports of call. We also have special guest Betty DeGeneres on board.

    San Francisco Bay Times: The entertainment lineup is also phenomenal. We encourage our readers to check out the sidebar concerning that on this page. What can you tell us about your and your team’s plans for passengers, once they come to San Francisco and head into the city?

    Tisha Floratos: In addition to cruising and stopping in some of the best West Coast cities, including our home town of San Francisco, we give our guests the opportunity to book organized optional excursions that are exclusive to Olivia guests only. We work very closely with Holland America to create custom offerings that we know our guests will enjoy. In San Francisco, guests will travel as far north as Napa and Sonoma to experience the Wine Country. They may choose to ride the organized Hop On/Hop Off tours that include a Golden Gate Bridge Cruise. They may choose to join Kathy Amendola of Cruisin’ the Castro for a tour of the Castro. Some other options are visiting the Walt Disney Museum, Rosie the Riveter Museum, going to Muir Woods and Sausalito. We have a feeling that many guests will be exploring our beautiful city on their own—exploring the Ferry Building, Pier 39, the fabulous restaurants on the Embarcadero, visiting Alcatraz, shopping in Union Square or spending the day in the Castro.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Aside from the amazing gourmet culinary and wine offerings, what activities are you planning for your passengers on board the ship while it is docked in San Francisco? It sounds like there will be opportunities to dance off some of the enjoyed calories.

    Tisha Floratos: We always book the best entertainment for each of our vacations. We are thrilled to have one of the most celebrated singer-songwriters, Grammy Award winner Sarah McLachlan, on board our ship while we’re docked in San Francisco. She will perform two shows on board the ship for all booked guests. In addition, Wilson Phillips will perform while we stop in Santa Barbara. Our previous vacations have featured headliners like Patti LaBelle, Bonnie Raitt, Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, Wanda Sykes, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, Heart, and the Indigo Girls. We’ve had Suze Orman, Dr. Maya Angelou, Billie Jean King, Edie Windsor, Diana Nyad and Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer join us as well.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Is there any other Olivia-related news that you can share with us now?

    Tisha Floratos: Olivia continues to be “the” travel company for lesbians, providing top notch cruise, resort, riverboat and adventure vacations. The Olivia experience is hard to describe; you really don’t know until you go. On every trip, new friendships are formed, partners are found and we travel the world together with a freedom to be ourselves. We will soon be celebrating our 45th Anniversary and have started the preliminary planning for 2018! As we continue to bring new vacation options to our existing guests, we are spending a great deal of attention to attracting the next generation of Olivians.

    We just introduced a new on board program called Gen-O, for guests that are Gen X, Gen Y or millennial, where we create programs and events that are geared to a younger audience. It’s our way of connecting our younger guests on our trips. We also launched a pilot Olivia Scholarship program. See this link for details: www.olivia.com/scholartrip

    Diversity on our trips continues to be an important part of our Olivia experiences, and Olivia’s Sisters at Sea and Sisters at Play program is one that creates programming for women of color and their friends to come together, meet and participate in events together. Our Solos Program continues to grow with 10–20% of our guests being solo travelers on our large cruises and resorts. Whether you just want to travel solo and meet other solo friends, or you are single and are looking to find love, our Solos Program is incredible.

    To find out more and to book a trip, go to www.olivia.com