Image Credits: ‘All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise,’ HBO (left) | ‘Dream Boat,’ Strand Releasing (center-left) | ‘Christopher At Sea,’ Vimeo (center-right), ‘Wreck,’ BBC/Hulu (right)

Spring break approaches, and if you’ve been wondering whether one of those big, LGBTQ+ cruises is the ideal way to spend your seasonal getaway, you’ve got an ocean of possibilities.

Over the years, “gays on a boat” has proven to be particularly welcoming waters for film and television, with a number of stories tapping into the ways floating out on the open seas can speak to the queer experience—either as an adventurous escape form the norm or a vessel for isolation and introspection.

So, like an all-you-can-eat-buffet, these 10 tales offer glimpses of what could await you should you choose to climb aboard: Maybe someone will catch your eye—in the unlikeliest of places. Maybe you’ll party in the sun with friends new and old. Maybe you’ll get asked to walk the plank. Or maybe you’ll wind up embroiled in a whodunit mystery where everyone on board’s suspect (given the examples below… that seems pretty likely).

Wherever the tide may want to take you, set sail with these 10 queer films and television shows that take place on a boat.

Death And Other Details (2024)

A ship adrift at sea is the perfect setting for one of our favorite genres, the whodunit—often sticking strangers from all walks of life in a confined space with nowhere to run, letting them hash things out for themselves—a theme we’ll return to a few times on this list. The latest example is Hulu’s original series, Death And Other Details, which has a fun throwback vibe (thanks especially Mandy Patinkin as an Agatha Christie-esque detective), but otherwise tells a very modern story of haves and haves-not, complete with a handful of queer characters tangled up in the mystery, any of whom could be a suspect… or the next victim.

Streaming exclusively on Hulu.

Wreck (2023 – )

Another recent high-seas whodunit is the British import Wreck, which hews closer to Scream‘s slasher-comedy mold than it does Knives Out. It follows queer teen Jamie (Oscar Kennedy) who takes a job on the luxury cruise liner Sacramentum to investigate the whereabouts of his sister, who disappeared on that same ship three months earlier. With a wicked sense of humor—Jamie and friends are stalked by a knife madman in a duck mask!—Wreck is a bloody good time, with a pretty great gay relationship in it, too, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that it’ll be setting sail for a season two, due out later this year.

Season 1 streaming on Hulu; Season 2 coming soon.

Christopher At Sea (2022)

But they’re not all luxury cruises. In the stunningly beautiful short film Christopher At Sea, we meet a young man (the titular Christopher) who comes aboard a cargo ship as a passenger on its transatlantic journey. An initial loneliness is soon washed away by obsession as he becomes infatuated with a handsome engineer who works below deck, and Christopher finds himself losing grip on reality—drowning in the fantasy of desire. An Oscar-qualifying short that racked up a number of international film festival prizes, Christopher At Sea boasts a vibrant, unique animation style that captures what’s so beautiful and haunting about life on the open waters.

Rentable on Vimeo.

1899 (2022)

In 1899, a group of European emigrants set sail on the Kerebos steamship, hoping to start a new life in New York City; that is, until the captain receives a transmission from a sister ship that went missing months earlier and decides to chart a new course. This genre-bending series brought together a sprawling international cast—including Elite hunk Miguel Bernardeau as a closeted gay man traveling with his secret lover—and set up enough compelling mysteries that it could’ve become the next great successor to LOST‘s fantasy TV throne, if only Netflix hadn’t canceled it after one season. Still, nothing can dilute the impact of its shocking final twist!

Streaming on Netflix.

Hacks Episode “The Captain’s Wife” (2022)

In the schlocky ’02 comedy Boat Trip, straight dudes panic when they realize the accidentally booked a gay cruise (but more on that in a minute). The standout season 2 episode of Hacks, “The Captain’s Wife” hilariously flips that notion on its head: Legendary comic Deborah Vance meant to book the gay cruise—the gays love her!—but wound up on an all-lesbian boat (excuse us, “ship!”) instead. Now she’s got to do her best to win over an audience that’s never liked her all that much, and must rely on the advice of her put-upon assistant Ava (Hannah Einbinder), who’d be having the time of her life on board if she wasn’t deathly afraid of the ocean.

Streaming on Max.

Dream Boat (2017)

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like on one of those all-inclusive gay cruises, there’s no better glimpse at life on deck than the 2017 Dream Boat—you know, except for booking a trip for yourself. Tristan Ferland Milewski’s film has an all access pass to the annual Dream Boat cruise, where roughly 3,000 men from all over the world will party it up for a full week out on the ocean, presumably wearing little more than flip-flops and Speedos. The doc does an excellent job of showing what a carefree escapist fantasy can be for some, while also highlighting many passengers’ insecurities and uncertainties that can bubble up to the surface.

Streaming via Kanopy, Tubi, and Vudu.

Radiant Sea (2015)

Known as Lichtes Meer in its native Germany, Radiant Sea bears some initial similarities to Christopher At Sea: The young, inexperienced Marek takes a gig on a cargo ship crossing the Atlantic (Martin Sznur) and winds up falling for an enigmatic sailor on board named Jean (Jules Sagot). Brought together by boredom, the men begin an affair, but Marek gradually realizes his new lover has had flings in just about every port the visit—are they, too, just meant to be two ships passing in the night? With its fair share of (tasteful!) male nudity, Radiant Sea tells a coming-of-age tale unafraid to embrace all the sexiness and disappointment of first love.

Unfortunately, Radiant Sea is not currently streaming online via official channels.

All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise (2006)

Back in 2003, Rosie O’Donnell and her then partner Kelli Carpenter launched R Family Vacations, a travel company focused on inclusive trips for LGBTQ+ families. HBO’s made-for-TV documentary All Aboard! invited audiences along for the company’s maiden voyage from NYC to the Bahamas, with O’Donnell’s family and some notable guests on board. More than a decade prior to the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, the special made waves during filming—the ship was met with Christians protestors when it arrived in the Bahamas—and again once it aired in 2006, earning three Emmy nominations in Nonfiction Programming categories.

Unfortunately, All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise is not currently streaming online via official channels.

Boat Trip (2002)

Boat Trip—a.k.a. “Gay Panic: The Movie”—was that aforementioned schlocky comedy about two straight guys (Cuba Gooding, Jr. & Horatio Sanz) who accidentally book a gay cruise and then proceed to freak out. Part of the movie’s message is ultimately that queer people deserve the same respect as anybody else, but it’s so riddled with stereotypes and all-around hackneyed humor we can hardly recommend this critical and box office bomb. Still, for the morbidly curious, it remains a fascinating—if completely wrong-headed—time capsule of a different time. Plus, Sir Roger “007” Moore is in it, so we guess it has that going for it?

Boat Trip is not currently streaming online via official channels.

The Last Of Sheila (1973)

And, for the oldest (and, frankly, best) watch on this list, we return to the whodunit genre with the wickedly clever The Last Of Sheila, co-written by legends Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins. Aboard a Mediterranean pleasure cruise, a group of show-business cohorts play a parlor game that slowly airs everyone’s dirty laundry and pinpoints who was behind the death of their mutual friend a year earlier. With an incredible cast—including Raquel Welch, James Coburn, Dyan Cannon, and Ian Mchane—The Last Of Sheila is a hoot, informed by the queer sensibilities of its writers (who were rumored have been lovers at the time.)

Available for digital and rental via Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube TV.

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