Cruises have become big business over the last few decades, with ever-larger ships and cruise lines introducing novel ways to fill them. Offering the very best in entertainment, dining, and onboard activities, along with cool shore excursions, cruise lines now also offer “themed” charters catering to special interest groups… or in other words, like-minded people.
Beyond the traditional “families with kids and seniors” or “adults only” groups, themed cruises vary on almost any topic you can think of. From music-centered voyages (think hard rock or disco to country music and jazz) and wine lovers’ getaways to Star Trek enthusiasts, Disney die-hards, cat lovers, and Broadway fans — the list is endless. Therefore, not surprisingly, given the increasing recognition of the benefits and popularity of nude vacations, you can hit the high seas au naturel on a charter nude cruise.
My wife and I were recently invited to join the Bare Necessities 14-day “Big Nude Boat” cruise around the Caribbean. Whilst we had sailed naked before, this was our first experience of joining 1,600 like-minded naturists aboard a large passenger ship — in this case the Carnival Pride. We sailed from Tampa — stopping off at various Caribbean islands and private cruise line islands — and enjoyed a wide variety of activities on board. We met wonderful people, visited a couple of UNESCO World Heritage sites, relaxed on the most idyllic beaches in the world, and returned home totally relaxed and without tan lines.
Here are a few things to know before you take the plunge and book your nude cruise.
1. Confirm What Type Of Cruise You Are Booking
This is essential. Do not confuse a “nude” or “naturist” cruise with a “lifestyle” cruise. Naturist/nudist cruises allow you to be on the ship without clothes (except in restaurants where clothing is appropriate) and are for people who appreciate the freedom of not having to wear clothes. “Lifestyle” cruises are more likely to be for swingers and “clothing optional” cruises are usually not naturist/nudist-oriented but cater more to adults seeking a more erotic experience. Words matter, so read the cruise description carefully to not be surprised or offended.
2. Bring Clothes
Although you are likely to be naked most of the time, there are times when you need to cover up. Generally, nudity is not allowed in sit-down restaurants. When docked in port, you must be dressed as others may be able to see you. The same applies when a pilot is on board to help guide the ship in or out of the port. The intention is not to offend, so pay attention to announcements made over the ship’s PA system. A wrap or sarong are ideal for this. Appropriate deck shoes are also required.
3. Bring More Clothes
Yes, really! Many of these cruises involve theme nights where naturists like to dress up in costumes. My limit was to use a bedsheet and pretend to wear a toga, but others brought a suitcase full of gear for every occasion. Who knew naturists liked to dress up? Remember that shore excursions also require appropriate clothing.
4. Protect Yourself
Nude cruises don’t typically sail to Alaska — for obvious reasons. It’s going to be hot and there are likely parts of your body that will not have seen so much sun. Protect them. The first two items on your packing list should be a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen — lots of it. Sunscreen can be very expensive to buy on board, so pack more than you think you will need.
5. No Need To Pack Towels
Although naturist etiquette demands you always sit on a towel when nude, there is no need to bring your own. Cruise lines have plenty and frequently will have them located all over the ship for you to pick up.
6. It’s Ok To Take Photographs (Sort Of)
You’re on vacation and it’s natural you would want to take some snaps to capture the moment. Taking photos of your fellow nude passengers is only ever ok if you have their explicit permission and even then, be careful not to capture fellow travelers in your picture. It is never ok just to snap away, and you will likely lose your camera if you do. If others happen to be in your line of sight, a simple word to them usually puts their mind at rest. There are “No Photo” zones on the ship (the pool and nightclub are examples) where photography is verboten.
7. Leave The Lingerie At Home
Being nude on board is fine — that’s why you are there. Wearing lingerie around the ship (at any time) is not appropriate for a naturist cruise.
8. Nudity Is Not Mandatory
Naturists love being naked but they’re not stupid. If it’s cold, they put on clothes. Some areas of the ship (theaters for example) are often over-cooled with the air conditioning running full blast, so it makes sense to throw on some clothes. Since you lose most of your body heat through your top half, you’ll find people donning a shirt whilst maintaining the freedom down low.
Not everyone on board will be an experienced nudist. It may take a while for some people to become comfortable being completely nude around others; no one will tell you to get naked.
9. Respect The Crew
The crew respects our choice to be nude even if some of them may feel a little uncomfortable. Chatting naked to staff is fine but do not behave like an exhibitionist and make others uncomfortable.
10. Bring Cash
There is no need for cash while on board — all purchases are done quickly by swiping your room key card. Charges appear on your final bill and are posted directly to your credit card on file. However, when visiting local businesses on shore excursions (including local taxi drivers) cash is a must as many businesses do not accept credit cards. Tipping the cabin and restaurant staff is also most easily done with cash and U.S. dollars are much appreciated.
11. Be Prepared To Get Involved
In addition to the usual cruise line entertainment activities (endless bingo, trivia quizzes, comedy shows, etc.) Bare Necessities added many other activities — often hosted by fellow naturist guests. We made jewelry, tried ballroom dancing, learned about the night sky overhead, and worked on our pickleball skills. I photographed a number of models during a photography workshop, and I conveniently went missing when called to aquarobics.
12. Don’t Be Anonymous
I have a good memory — it’s just that the older I get the shorter it becomes and the fewer names I can recall. Some people wear a neat necklace with their name made of Scrabble-like blocks on it. A perfect accessory to help people remember you saves a lot of embarrassing head scratching later.
13. Check If You Can Bring Drinks On Board
This applies to any cruise and if ever there was a time to create an excel spreadsheet, this is it. Figure out if a drinks package is worth it. You may balk at paying $12 for a glass of wine at dinner, but do the math and you may find it is way cheaper to pay per drink than to establish a second mortgage to quench your thirst. Some cruise lines allow you to bring some drinks on board: Carnival allowed us to bring some bottled water, wine, and sodas on board but amounts vary so do check beforehand.
If you enjoy cruising and want to experience the ultimate in freedom and relaxation with like-minded, non-judgmental people who accept others how they are, then it’s time to book that nude cruise and free your mind and body.