While most people spend days on end planning their perfect cruise outfits, others shun the need for clothing altogether. Sound strange? To the average passenger a nudist cruise is a seriously weird concept, however to the 2000 ‘au naturel’ guests on-board the latest naturist cruise hosted by a Holland America Line ship, it was a dream come true!
American writer and self-confessed ‘reluctant nudist’ Mark Haskell Smith was invited to strip down to his birthday suit and find out first-hand what all the fuss was about. So how did he find it? Read on as we take a look at his unique at-sea experience, as well as his latest book, ‘Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World.’
An eccentric start
While passengers were free to hang, sag and dangle as they pleased, the Captain wasn’t obliged to steer the ship in the buff. Smith found it particularly amusing when he welcomed guests aboard on the loudspeaker, only to find himself a little tongue tied. He writes, “We are safely away and you can now enjoy a…” There was a pause, as if the cruise director was having trouble choosing what, exactly, he should call what was about to happen. Finally he said, “…a carefree environment.”
Open to all shapes and sizes
For Smith, one of the most liberating things about the cruise was the fact that it welcomed nudists of all shapes, sizes, ages and colours. It was definitely not just beautifully bronzed bums gracing the sun deck. Smith recalls that “A skeletal man in his eighties wandered around the ship wearing only a fluorescent thong, his loose skin draped around his bones in cascades that looked like freckled frosting, and a gigantic, barrel-chested man – he looked like he’d eaten an actual barrel – lumbered around the lido deck on an industrial-strength cane, wearing only a loincloth.”
60 seemed to be the average age of cruisers, with Smith reporting he met people from all walks of life. From a Harvard professor and a radiologist to a tools salesman and active members of the armed forces, the guest list was vast and varied! “There were pharmaceutical sales reps, retail clerks, photographers, scientists, doctors, corporate executives, teachers, lawyers, paralegals and people who really didn’t want to talk about work while they were on holiday.”
A new take on nudism
To really appreciate the cruise, Smith had to develop an in-depth understanding of what nudism actually is. While some simply consider it the act of being naked in public, cruising with a ship full of anti-textile aficionados gave Smith a new appreciation for the concept, musing that all passengers “pretty much agree that nudism is a social activity.” He adds, “If you’re alone, you’re just naked, but if you are in a mixed group of men and women engaged in the conscious practice of standing around in the buff, then you are a nudist practising nudism.”
Clothing NOT an option
While at no stage were passengers forced to strip down, there were a few occasions that did call for mandatory clothing. In dining rooms health and safety regulations required passengers to be adequately dressed, while the yoga instructor also felt that downward dogs called for a little modesty. “In the fitness centre someone asked the ship’s in-house yoga teacher if people had to wear clothes in the yoga classes,” writes Smith. “The teacher gave her a curious look and then, as the true reality of the question sunk in – what I can only imagine was the image of a roomful of naked people doing downward-facing-dog flashing through her head – her face bloomed in panic and she said: “Oh yeah. In the class. Clothes. You have to wear clothes.”
A stark naked success!
So overall, did Smith enjoy his experience as a naked cruiser? The answer is a categorical yes! While he started off feeling a little awkward his apprehensions soon melted away as he realised that all 2000 of his fellow cruisers wouldn’t blink twice at a naked 50 something strolling around the decks of Holland America Line’s ultra-luxurious Nieuw Amsterdam ship. “It felt good to let the sun and the warm desert breeze dry my skin after a dip in the water without the feeling of clammy fabric sticking to my body. Admittedly, it was strange to look around and see naked people, but they were doing a pretty standard version of what people on vacation do, reading or snoozing or drinking cocktails and laughing – all in a non-sexual way, naturally. Nobody gawked, nobody said anything offensive or racy, it was all very proper.”
Want to experience the luxury of Nieuw Amsterdam without having to strip down? Cruise 1st is currently offering incredible deals on Holland America Line cruises that cruise through Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, the USA, Europe and more.
Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: alobos Life, John DellAngelo, Steven2358