Paul Stalbaum was raised in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, and went on to Penn State University for a degree in pre-veterinary medicine and psychology. He then went to Villanova University School of Law for 1 1/2 years before he realized how much he hated it. After leaving law school he took a few months to ponder what he wanted to do and then bought a very small travel agency that was doing about $3M in total business.
Paul Stalbaum was raised in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, and went on to Penn State University for a degree in pre-veterinary medicine and psychology. He then went to Villanova University School of Law for 1 1/2 years before he realized how much he hated it. After leaving law school he took a few months to ponder what he wanted to do and then bought a very small travel agency that was doing about $3M in total business. Shortly after that his older brother joined him and together they built it into the second largest travel agency in Philly and 11th largest in the country. They sold it in 1986 after they increased business to $178M, 7 offices, a wholesale agency and a travel school. After his restrictive non-compete ended two years later, he opened a boutique agency in one of the most affluent suburbs in Philly catering to the upscale traveler and it was immediately successful. In 2000 he sold the agency to American Express and after his one year contract ended he moved to Ft. Lauderdale in August of 2001 to retire. A couple years later he realized he needed to be busy, so he joined Rita Olwell Travel and was the first one out the door when the agency was taken over by Jacob Torossian.
In 2003 Paul got together with Chumley Singer, an event planner, who had the idea of a bear cruise to give the bear community, who felt uncomfortable going on regular gay cruises, a cruise of their own. On the first cruise they had 117 people; the 7th yearly Bear Cruise will take place this year from November 6th to the 13th and they already have 350 passengers with deposits. This year will clearly be the biggest year ever! The cruise is on the Crown Princess and is a very respectable cruise, although they do have 2 nights that they get the disco all to themselves, so the bears can take their shirts off and be themselves.
The bears tend to be the largest group on each ship and in all the years they have never had any homophobic incidents. As a matter of fact, they generally get the straight cruisers to want to join in and hang out with them. The Bear Cruise has become international as they have people coming from 7 countries and counting.
A few years ago Paul started the Poz Cruise for people who are HIV positive and it was met with huge success. The cruise provides a safe, non-judgmental environment for HIV positive people. In addition to all the fantastic social stuff, the Poz Cruise also provides medical and mental health lectures. The cruise is booked as a social organization so that nobody on the ship knows its an HIV positive group. The cruise is also a fundraiser and in the past 5 years it has given over $45,000 back to organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Center for Positive Connections in Miami and many more. The steering committee has recently decided to cut back a bit on giving the proceeds out in order to grant some scholarships for free cruises for people that cannot afford it and can use the experience.
Proof that the Poz Cruise is growing is last year: they had 4 lesbians and 1 transgendered person on the cruise. Many of the people on the Poz Cruise come from small towns who don’t know anyone else who is positive. This provides them an opportunity to drop all barriers and several people have found their partners.
Starting this year they now have 2 Poz Cruises a year: one departing from LA and the original one departing Fort Lauderdale. Each cruise averages around 200 people. Paul also organizes shore excursions exclusively for the poz people and charges much less for this then the regular excursions.
Last year Paul purchased interest in Jacaranda Travel/American Express and plans to open an agency in the Wilton Manors area in 2011 and is looking for experienced gay and lesbian agents.
Paul has become known to be one of the very top gay travel agents and has established a reputation for specialty/niche cruises. The cruises, which are 8-nights/8-day cruises are very reasonably priced. For more information visit HIVCruise.com or BearCruiseFL.com or feel free to e—mail Paul at [email protected] or call him at 954-473-6611.