R Family Vacations
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|Gregg Kaminsky (co-founder)|
Kelli O'Donnell (co-founder)
Rosie O'Donnell (creative input)
|Products||all-inclusive cruise-ship-based vacations, events, related products|
R Family Vacations is a LGBT vacation entertainment company that provides luxury cruise ship trips with a focus on inclusive activities for children and services including same-sex marriage ceremonies.
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In 2003, Rosie O'Donnell and her then partner Kelli Carpenter-O'Donnell partnered with travel entrepreneur Gregg Kaminsky to launch R Family Vacations catering to both gays and lesbians, "the very first all gay and lesbian family vacation packages" where "gays and lesbians can bring their kids, their friends, and their parents." O'Donnell is not involved on a day-to-day basis, but provides marketing and promotional advice. She came up with the idea for the company when she filled in as a last-minute replacement headliner on a gay cruise being promoted by Kaminsky. Kaminsky's partner is a business partner of O'Donnell's.
Maiden voyage (2004)
On July 11, 2004, the first cruise was held aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines's Norwegian Dawn with 1600 passengers including 600 children. By the third year, the cruise was selling out to a maximum capacity of 2,600 passengers. In addition to traditional entertainment and recreational activities, the company partnered with Provincetown’s Family Pride, a 25-year-old Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for GLBT families, to host discussions on "adoption, insemination, surrogacy, and everything else that would be helpful to gay parenting. Metropolitan Community Church, the predominantly GLBT Christian denomination, had clergy on board to perform wedding ceremonies and conduct interfaith services and there was also discussion groups for kids and a panel discussion where teens could share their experiences of growing up with gay and lesbian parents.
In 2007, the company considered making Suresh one of its stops. Recalling a 2004 incident between Norwegian Cruise Lines' all gay cruises and Christian "protesters chanting anti-gay slogans" in Nassau, Bahamas, Kaminsky claimed that Bermuda, which he incorrectly believed had tourism as its main industry, would face economic repercussions if a similar event occurred in the British overseas territory, which has long held a reputation for being anti-gay and only the year before the local legislature refused to even consider outlawing sexuality-based discrimination. While the trip was supported by Premier and Minister of Tourism and Transportation Dr. Ewart Brown, it was opposed by one of his close political allies, Andre Curtis, the organiser of a controversial "Faith-Based Tourism" initiative, who organised some eighty churches into an interfaith group called "United by Faith" to oppose the planned visit alongside local African Methodist Episcopal churches. R Families decided to change the itinerary to replace Bermuda with two stops in Florida and a private island. Kaminsky stated
"If we didn't have kids on board and there were protesters, we would go, but we did not want to expose kids to that hatred while they were on vacation."
Ironically, Bermuda has actually been the host of gay tourism for many years. The LGBT travel company Pied Piper, for example, has been organising trips — albeit on a smaller scale — to the country since 1990, without incident.
In January 2008, Pink Pea, a production company, announced that "Dottie", "the star of Dottie's Magic Pockets — the first children's program for kids in gay and lesbian families" will be part of the entertainment. Dottie's Magic Pockets is "set in a lesbian household" and started airing in September 2007. "Dottie", portrayed by actor Jen Plante, will appear on the cruise to the Mexican Riviera, March 15–22, 2008 and marks the first time the LGBT families and friends will be "entertained by the main character of a kids' show that is set in a lesbian household". Also in 2008 a cruise to Canada and New England took place from July 13–20 with "gay-friendly" stops including Provincetown, Halifax and Bar Harbor.
All Aboard: Rosie's Family Cruise
A documentary film about the trip looked inside the lives of some of the 500 families that cruised from New York to the Bahamas. The documentary, All Aboard: Rosie's Family Cruise, debuted 6 April 2006 on HBO and is now available on DVD. The film was nominated for three Emmy Awards. Of the experience O'Donnell stated "We didn’t really realize the magic that was going to take place. People who had never met another gay family met other families and it was powerful."
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