Nude Cruise: A First-Timer's Top 10 Lessons

A non-nudist feared the worst heading aboard a Bare Necessities cruise. Instead, she found new friends and freedoms. Apart from the obvious reason that nudists aren't like most people, there's also a more wholesome tell. They have a seemingly care-free mentality, judging and complaining less in everyday life.

Even on nudist cruises with thousands of naked people, your acclimation to the nudist culture and environment will be quick. Everyone's welcoming, inviting, and there are also implied and official rules that the community (and staff) enforces. If you choose to cruise nude, be ready to make new friends. Don't worry: Not everyone's a swinger.

While nude cruises are not for everyone, these top takeaways will most definitely raise eyebrows.

The first thing to know: You won't feel fat

You'd think showing it all, or even just some of it, would expose what your inner critic calls your "problem areas" and that a nude cruise might make you feel unattractive. Give yourself about two hours aboard, and you'll find the opposite. Clothes are evil. You wouldn't have a muffin top if it weren't for jeans. Lose the bar, and say goodbye to back bulges. Why do you think artists prefer painting their subjects au naturel?


10. Nudists love costume parties

When I received the Bare Necessities' Big Nude Cruise itinerary, I was surprised to find Oscar night and Mardi Gras-themed parties, among others. How does one wear and not wear a costume? (For the Oscar party, a friend suggested I attend as Rose from Titanic, and I did, with a replica necklace from Turns out, you must dress for dinner, and, for themed parties, you wear as much (or as little) clothing as you'd like.


9. Down there, less is more when it comes to grooming

I figured more hair would act as a curtain, giving me a bit of privacy, but my waxer figured otherwise. And thank goodness — I would've stood out big time. But even that would be okay; nobody is more accepting than a nudist.


8. It's usually his idea — at first

Of the dozens of couples I met, only one pair shared that going nude was her idea. But get this: After a twosome had become comfortable in a nudist environment, it was she who was hooked. Total body acceptance is something most women don't get elsewhere.


7. Nudists don't look a certain way

Unlike how you can peg a crafter from a record snob from a tech geek, nudists look about as similar to one another as all the people who like caramel.

6. It's hard to start a conversation with a nudist

Don't get me wrong — it's not that they're not nice. It's that they're not wearing T-shirts from Telluride or Lakers jerseys. At first glance, your only commonality is that you're both naked. So, you find yourself asking and being asked, "Where are you from?" which, as it turns out, is really nice. I travel alone a lot, and people don't often strike up conversations with me. On the Big Nude Cruise, I found myself laughing everywhere from the elevator to the lunch line for noodles.


5. You don't have to be a swinger to be a nudist

In fact, the overwhelming majority of folks I met were not swingers. They were wholesome couples looking to add innocent spice to their relationship. My reaction tended toward "aw," not "ew." At the end of the cruise, I couldn't decide if I was relieved or disappointed that I hadn't been propositioned.


4. People have back-up plans

If the idea of a few days with nudists makes you nervous, know that you're not alone. I met several people traveling alone for their first nude vacation, and they admitted having formulated emergency strategies (i.e., flying home from the first destination in case they didn't feel comfortable). When I asked Nancy Tiemann, president of Bare Necessities, about this, she nodded and shared this: "Nobody has ever walked off one of our cruises."


3. It's not a free-for-all

There are rules — official and implied — to make everyone more comfortable. An example of an official rule is that body contact isn't allowed on the nightclub dance floor, and staff will enforce this. An implied rule is one your mother taught you: Staring isn't polite.


2. Nudists don't complain

I figured nudists would be like everyone else I meet at resorts: People who pass judgment on the coffee, sheet thread count, etc. In 10 days on a ship with 2,800 passengers, I heard two complaints. Two.


1. Nudists have the key to happiness

It could be that they don't complain because they're happier than your average person. A study led by Matthew A. Killingsworth, Ph.D., and Daniel T. Gilbert, Ph.D., revealed that most people aren't focusing on the present moment 47% of the time. And happiness can only be experienced in the moment. Perhaps the greatest gift of the nude lifestyle is that, with each breeze, with each dip in the hot top or with each mere glance downward, we can't help but remember to live in the moment.