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    2023: A Year of Olivia Milestones

    By Autumn Nazarian–

    There’s an old saying – wherever you go, there you are. It’s usually coined as a negative sentiment about escapism, but in the case of Olivia Records and Olivia Travel, it is fundamentally the strength that has defined its pioneering spirit. For lesbians and LGBTQ+ women, the act of showing up and being visible is powerful. Representation matters, particularly because there are few spaces that are designated as wholly theirs. This year was, in part, about the renaissance of Olivia Travel—showing up stronger than ever after a confining few years. But it was also a year of incredible milestones and celebrations centered around representation and community.

    2023 kicked off with two Olivia adventures centered in nature and discovery: Costa Rica/Panama Canal and Whales and the Sea of Cortez. Both were a feast for the senses, adventures marked by the exploration of marine wonders, rainforest ecosystems, and a feat of engineering that is one of the wonders of the world. 

    Next came the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of Olivia Records. Many articles, documentaries, podcasts, and movements have been created in the past five years about the disappearing lesbian bars and community centers in this country. Olivia may be less of a brick-and-mortar space, but it has stood the test of time as an entity with staying power and growth, first as women’s music label Olivia Records and second as Olivia Travel, a company that charters ships, resorts, and tours, and takes LGBTQ+ women all over the world on vacations where they can fully be themselves. Reaching a 50 Year Anniversary is rare and no small feat.

    The 50th Anniversary Cruises were a crescendo—so popular that the first cruise sold out quickly and a second week was added. These were monumental celebrations reverberating across Caribbean waters. Over 4,200 Olivians embarked on celebratory weeks filled with extraordinary entertainment and a profound sense of history. The Anniversary stage held incredible moments between the original founders of Olivia Records including Judy Dlugacz, Jenna Woodul, and Ginny Berson, and artist performances that bridged decades from Olivia Records’ luminaries including Cris Williamson, Linda Tillery, and Teresa Trull.

    Olivia passengers viewed the passing scenery from the deck during the Amsterdam to Switzerland Riverboat cruise.

    The cruise wasn’t just a celebration of Olivia’s past; it was a testament to the enduring bond formed over 50 years that is still as vital and collective as it ever was. The familial atmosphere onboard was palpable, with artists and guests alike expressing love and appreciation for the journeys (vacations and otherwise) Olivia had taken them on. After all, Olivia Music wasn’t just about music; it was about building a legacy that could withstand the test of time.

    As the cruise sailed, the group reminisced about Olivia Record’s foray into their own uncharted waters back in the 1970s, learning as they went, unafraid to acknowledge the hardships without sugarcoating history. The cruise became a living testament to Olivia’s endurance, both retrospective and forward-looking. Where has Olivia been, where are they going, and what might it yet become? The diversity of talent mirrored the diversity of Olivia’s community, creating an unforgettable experience for both seasoned Olivia travelers and the astounding 40% first-time Olivia guests on the second week cruise. 

    The 50th Anniversary festivities continued with a resort escape to Mexico in April, where 1,300 Olivians reveled in the ambiance of Hard Rock Los Cabos. Despite encountering earth/wind/fire challenges like unexpected weather and a fire evacuation mid-week, the entertainment and programming lineup was sensational, and the community was enlightened—the Olivia spirit prevailed.

    Before and after these anniversary celebrations were Olivia’s coveted riverboat experiences, including the Brussels to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Switzerland trips in April. The Taste of France Riverboat in August whisked Olivia enthusiasts through the Parisian waterways and offered a blend of culinary immersion and Olivian camaraderie. The riverboat’s canvas provides an intimate setting for the Olivia community to connect with each other, explore some of the most picturesque landscapes of the region, and savor the incredible flavors of Europe.

    Rounding into fall, The Dreams Onyx Punta Cana Resort presented a sun-drenched paradise for 1,500+ Olivians. Although this trip was not an anniversary celebration for Olivia, it marked a centennial milestone for one of Olivia’s most visible leaders, Tisha Floratos-Silano, Vice President of Travel and Operations.

    Tisha is the face of Olivia’s large cruise and resort trips, and her wife Tina is an Olivia and Bay Area/New York mainstay—the dynamic and talented DJ Rockaway. Together they represent an Olivia power couple who are recognized and beloved by everyone in the Olivia community. Tisha has been with Olivia since 2002, and yes, celebrated her 100th trip in Punta Cana this year! On each of these trips, Tisha has been a driving force, creating lifechanging and empowering vacation experiences for Olivia guests.

    After Punta Cana, Olivia took guests to two incredible bucket list destinations: an amazing Galapagos adventure in November, immersing Olivians in the unique biodiversity of the islands, and a Nile Cruise through Egypt with a stop in Jordan, tracing the timeline of Egyptian civilization, learning about Jordanian culture, and touring local marketplaces.

    What a year! Despite the incredible variety of destinations and experiences, one thing binds them: Olivia and our guests showed up in large numbers and represented the community in foreign lands—each culture ranging from warm and embracing to potentially hostile.

    While some criticize tourism within economies that don’t embrace LGBTQ+ people, Olivia has always held a different perspective. After all, if they had started with that boundary, the first cruise in 1990 would not have happened. In Mexico, members of the hotel staff felt safe enough to come out to us, and in the Dominican Republic, our hotel and transportation vendors said Olivia was one of the best partners they had ever had.

    Olivians show up and challenge stereotypes and change hearts and minds by their very presence. Olivia makes the act of group travel part pleasure, part exploration, and part activism—because there is strength in numbers and in representation. Wherever we go, there we are—and that is powerful. On to 2024. Travel safely and Happy New Year!

    Autumn Nazarian is the Vice President of Marketing for Olivia Travel.

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