Joe Lagana

New York, New York Travel Agent

Discoveries on a Mediterranean Cruise

My most memorable trip was my first gay cruise. It was a Mediterranean cruise, and it was an important trip for me for many reasons. It was the first time I experienced how liberating it is to know that no one is judging you for being gay. I had gone to Pride events and parades, but it is not the same as enjoying a vacation where you aren’t in the minority, and you don’t have to wonder what people may be thinking or saying about you.

Since I sometimes sell LGBT travel, it was good as a travel agent to experience that first-hand, and it was helpful in my personal development. I’ve since taken my boyfriend on gay cruises, and that has been wonderful, but on my first gay cruise, I was actually surprised by how different it felt.

That trip was important for another reason as well. My family heritage is almost 100 percent Italian, and this 10-day cruise visited places I loved including Rome, Naples, Sicily, and Venice. We also stopped in Malta, Corfu, and Dubrovnik

Each place had its own charm. Malta was lovely, and it had a special surprise for me. We were on a tour and in one of the historic buildings I saw my last name in a book and learned that there are many Maltese people with my last name.   

A highlight for me was sailing up the Grand Canal in Venice. I’d been there on a land vacation and seen cruise ships sailing in; it was a great perspective to be on a ship and looking at the city, just as the Venetian traders had!

Another amazing moment was sailing through the Strait of Messina. It’s a narrow strait, and I could see the lights of Calabria on the right and Sicily on the left. I’m half Sicilian, and half Calabrese and I remember standing on the deck telling my friend, “I come from here.” It was my first time to that region of Italy, and as I explored Sicily, I felt a special thrill knowing I was in the region where my grandmother had grown up.

That cruise also gave me a taste of how easy it is to see so many bucket list places in one trip. I’ve since made cruising one of my specialties and often suggest it for clients looking for a relaxing way to see the world.