We were gliding at 6 knots heading due east. On the horizon, a thin sliver of land was just visible. The only sound was the gentle flapping of the three triangular jib sails in the breeze keeping us steady on course. I was standing on deck with my camera in hand. 

The sun was teasing us, waiting to peek from behind the Italian coastline we were now approaching. After what seemed like an age of waiting, a fiery, bright red sun lifted itself into the sky. Still no sound. A few steps to my right stood a man, coffee mug in hand, watching. Over on the left, a lady was sitting cross-legged, straight back and eyes closed. I wondered if anything she was imagining could be as beautiful, calm and as awesome as the birth of a new day. We were all naked. 

A couple wades through waist-high ocean water completely nude, though the man is wearing shades and the lady is wearing a baseball caps and sunglasses. There is a large schooner boat in the distance; nude cruise
Aside from a little nudity, little separates a naturist cruise from any other type of cruise © Chris Moore / Lonely Planet

This was the most perfect, natural way to start the day and we would experience the same sensation each day for the next 12 days as we sailed on the world’s largest square rigger around the Mediterranean – in the nude. 

We joined 218 fellow passengers aboard the Royal Clipper – a 440-foot schooner which, with five masts and 42 sails, is indeed a regal sight. She was chartered by Bare Necessities – a US-based nude travel company that pioneered nude cruising almost 30 years ago. The first cruise of 300 like-minded naturists unlocked a travel niche that has grown ever since. 

Today, Bare Necessities operates three or four nude cruise charters annually taking naturists all over the world; from unique sailing experiences around the Mediterranean to small cruise ships exploring Tahiti and the South Pacific to 3,000-people mega liners cruising around the Caribbean. And here’s the thing, the passenger return rate is a phenomenal 75%, a number that other companies only dream about.

A large schooner glides across a body of water as a smaller speeds past. In the background is a small range of mountains; nude cruise
The Royal Clipper is a 440-foot schooner with five masts and 42 sails © Chris Moore / Lonely Planet

For most of us, vacations are a time to relax, unwind, explore new places, learn new things and meet new people – all at a comfortable, unhurried pace. Sadly, sometimes we get it wrong and return home stressed beyond belief but with a long, completely checked-off itinerary in our pockets. 

On our Mediterranean odyssey, we sailed from Cannes to Barcelona and back to Monaco. We climbed, fully clothed, the leaning tower at the Unesco World Heritage site in Pisa, wandered around picturesque old towns on the Spanish islands of Menorca, Mallorca and Ibiza, visited Napoleon’s exile home on Elba (there are worse places to be exiled), marveled at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and strolled along Barcelona’s famed La Rambla. 

A wonderful and varied itinerary. Stressful? Not a chance. In between the shore excursions, days at sea were spent relaxing on deck beneath large, white, gently billowing sails, dipping toes into the seawater pools when it became too hot, climbing the rigging to get a better view or lying on the net at the prow of the ship to spy dolphins and the occasional fin whale. 

As with any cruise, food was plentiful, excellent (how could it not be when you have your own Michelin-star chef aboard?) and available at all hours around the clock. Colorful, oddly named drinks only added to the sense of relaxation. On this voyage, all the drinks were included in your ticket price, so no need to carry cash or your onboard credit card which, for naturists, was a real godsend.

A nude couple looks out on the sea while standing on the deck of a boat; nude cruise
Relaxation hits new heights when doing it the naturist way © Chris Moore / Lonely Planet

One day we weighed anchor offshore and were tendered directly to a nude beach in Corsica, waded through 12 inches of water up onto the beach armed with nothing more than towels, umbrellas and smiles from ear to ear ready for another day of strenuous relaxation. On another occasion at sea, the marina at the back of the boat was opened so we could swim, kayak or just lazily float directly in the sea. This is about as stressful as it got. 

So why do so many guests keep re-booking and coming back for more? According to co-founder of Bare Necessities, Nancy Tiemann, ‘people enjoy doing things with like-minded people. So if you have a good time with other naturists on the cruise, you’re going to go back home and tell your friends to join you on the next cruise.’ 

Fellow passengers agreed, “We love the people on these cruises’ and the cruise director told me ‘Naturists are the most relaxed, open and fun group we have on board. We love them.’

And it’s true; losing your clothes frees your mind of prejudices and judgements and, with glorious sunshine bathing your body, stress rapidly melts away. Naturists are, in general, friendly and easy going and having that common love of freedom from clothing, you can’t help but want to spend time together. It’s a fun, happy, relaxed atmosphere on a nude cruise and add to that exploring new and interesting places, trying new things and making new friends and you have a winning recipe. 

A topless woman sits on a wooden bench with her eyes close as she faces the rising sun. She is wearing a sarong and ear phones; nude cruise
If you're looking to try social nudity for the first time, try a nude beach before booking a nude cruise © Chris Moore / Lonely Planet

If you have never tried social nudity, being stuck on a ship surrounded by naked people may seem a bit daunting. It’s perhaps best to try a nude beach first just in case this isn’t for you. One lady on the last cruise lasted two days before finally getting naked and never looking back.

If you want a relaxing, fun, honest to goodness, get-away-from-it-all-nude vacation, then a big nude cruise stopping off at idyllic islands is one option. If you have the inquisitive travel bug and want to explore new places and cultures, and where naturism is a theme but not the only reason for travel, a voyage on a smaller schooner may be for you. Either way, pack light – hat, sunscreen, pareo (a wrap-around skirt), towel and flip flops. Leave the swimsuit behind … forever. 

Bring an open mind, try new foods and experiences (I tried nude yoga on deck every morning and learned how to make a toga out of my bedsheet), listen and engage. As hundreds of prior travelers have already proven, you will enjoy the experience so much, you’ll be coming back for more. 

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