Royal Caribbean is making its support of the LGBT community known this year by appointing its first-ever Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Grant Van Ulbrich. GayTalks sat down with the cruise industry veteran about the company’s latest efforts toward inclusion in 2016, and the life that led him to love the open seas.
Today, you’re likely to find Grant Can Ulbrich on a luxury liner. What many passengers don’t know is that Ulbrich’s life at sea began far before his relationship with Royal Caribbean—on a naval ship.
Van Ulbrich served in the Navy during the Persian Gulf War, where he told GayTalks that he learned all there is to know about the importance of diversity.
“I remember when I walked on board my very first Celebrity cruise ship,” said Van Ulbrich. “That day I met my first Serbian. He was 7 feet tall. I’d never seen anyone like him. He figured out fairly quickly that I was gay, and that just wasn’t OK in Serbia. They stone you in the streets for that. He hated me.”
But the name of the game on a luxury liner means close quarters, so Van Ulbrich and the Serbian spent much of every day together for the next four months. By the time their contracts were up, Van Ulbrich “broke down.”
“He looked at me and he said, ‘Why are you crying?’ I told him I loved him — he’d become such an important friend to me. And he looked at me and he said, ‘you don’t understand. You’ve changed my life. Now I have to go back to Serbia and tell people, gay is OK.’”
Read more about the Van Ulbrich’s unlikely friendship, and Royal Caribbean’s new offerings for LGBTs, here.