Sailing Au Naturel on a Cruise in the Adriatic
By Chris Moore
The warm breeze was just enough to ripple the 42 canvas sails stretched taut above me. The sun lifted over the horizon as I stood on deck with coffee in hand.
Next to me, a woman was sitting, cross-legged, straight-backed, and with eyes closed – I wondered what she was thinking. A few yards away, a couple stood together watching the start of another day in paradise. We did not speak – we did not need to.
We were warm, comfortable, and naked. This was day eight of our two-week nude Aegean adventure aboard the world’s largest Clipper and we were sailing down Europe’s southernmost fjord.
We had left our worries and clothes behind and wore nothing but a smile. If we had been any more relaxed, we would have been horizontal.
Sailaway on the Royal Clipper
A week earlier, on a steamy Saturday afternoon in late June, my wife and I joined 200 other guests in Venice’s San Basilio terminal to board our magnificent, temporary floating home. With its five masts, the majestic Clipper was turning heads as tourists and locals sped by on the vaporettos.
We greeted friends old and new like excited school children on the first day of term. We had migrated from all over the world – Canada, Germany, Australia, USA, South Africa, and the UK and were now standing on deck, champagne in hand as Vangelis’ 1492 Conquest of Paradise boomed over the ship’s speakers – a sure sign we were about to leave land behind.
“Sailaway” – that magic moment when the captain gives the nod to weigh the anchor and set the sails – is a grand occasion. As the crew hoist the sails (somewhat disappointingly with a push of a button rather than a hearty heave-ho) and assisted by a couple of tugs, we floated gracefully past the tourists in St. Mark’s Square.
Soon, we were gliding past San Giorgio Maggiore and into open water. The tugs left us and, finally, with a long aaaaagh that sounded like “Freeeedom”, we lost our clothes. We turned south and headed to Ravenna.
A Peek into Naturism
There are any number of themed cruises available today and when it comes to those advertised as “clothing optional” or “nude”, it’s best to be very clear about the nature of the cruise. Our Bare Necessities cruise was naturist – not clothing optional, “lifestyle”, “Swingers” or anything else.
Naturism is about being comfortable naked in a social environment and respecting others without judgment. Losing one’s clothes is a very liberating feeling. As our clothes fell to the floor, so did our inhibitions and many of our life’s stresses.
You really have nothing to hide, and without the adornment of clothing, it’s very difficult to judge people or peg them into a certain box.
It doesn’t matter what title you have (we’ve met doctors, professors, and reverends), what job you do (there were three anesthetists, teachers, and a part-time janitor), or how much money you have – we are all the same.
Removing our Prejudices
Removing our prejudices along with our underwear is a great leveler and makes for a much more open, tolerant, and respectful environment.
Many of the passengers were seasoned naturists and returning sailors. In fact, according to Bare Necessities – the US travel company that has been chartering ships and organizing nude cruises for over 25 years – the passenger return rate is almost 80%. A staggering number given the industry average is nearer 30%. Two similar tours for 2024 are already fully booked. There’s a reason people keep on returning.
Star Clippers – a privately owned Swedish company – owns and operates three tall ships, the largest of these being the 440-foot steel-hulled Royal Clipper which, with five masts and 42 sails, is indeed a regal sight. Our ocean-view stateroom was more spacious than we had anticipated – a double bed, wardrobe, and plenty of cupboard space.
A large space under the bed was ideal for storing empty suitcases. (Yes, even naturists have suitcases.) A separate bathroom with a shower completed our temporary home. The clever use of mirrors made it seem larger than it really was and, with two portholes, light and airy.
We were given our “pass” – a plastic “credit card” that would be key to everything over the next couple of weeks; it opened our cabin door and was the “key” to getting on and off the ship. We learned not to leave home without it!
A Naked Itinerary
Our itinerary would take us east to Croatia then south towards Montenegro before heading back north to San Marino and finally Venice.
We could be nude anywhere on board except in the dining room when docked at port, or when there was a pilot on board.
We had two sea days with long, lazy hours sprawled out on a sun lounger with a multicolored drink in hand, laughing and building friendships with like-minded, happy, and equally naked people.
Our first stop was Pula on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, famous for its impressive and wonderfully preserved Roman amphitheater.
Shore excursions were available at every port of call for those keen to walk like sheep behind a flag-carrying guide. This is not our thing, so we wandered off to explore on our own.
In a number of places, the ship was unable to enter the small-town harbors, so we were tendered to shore; the tenders shuttled back and forth to the ship giving us enormous flexibility.
Tours to local naturist resorts or nude beaches were also offered for those who wished to feel the sand between their toes. The water was clear, sparkling, and beautifully warm. However, much of the Croatian coastline is rocky and pebbly and sand is only to be found at the bottom of the sea some yards away.
Leaving Pula, we hop-scotched down the coast to “Game of Thrones” fans’ favorite, Dubrovnik, popping into Krk, Zadar, Split, and Korcula along the way. Each stop offered Instagram-ready photos of colourful harbors, ancient ruins, magnificent churches, and impressive walled cities.
In Dubrovnik – in grave danger of becoming “over touristy” – my wife and I hired a local guide from WithLocals for a personal tour. This is a much more intimate, fun, and rewarding way to see a new place, and well worth an extra few Euros. We met Anastasia the cat (Google Anastasia Dubrovnik Cat), a local couple still living within the walls of the Old City selling an array of herbs and spices, and walked the route of Cersei’s Walk of Shame – GOT fans will know what I’m talking about.
Returning hot and sweaty from one of the excursions, we approached the ship on a tender and could see the marina platform at the back of the ship was open.
We boarded the ship and immediately made our way straight to the stern removing our clothing almost without breaking stride.
We were on the marina deck and ready to skinny dip in the inviting, gin-clear Adriatic in seconds. Our eagle-eyed crew was on hand to look out for our safety.
Now this is the way to cool off after a very hot and sticky morning of plodding around historic, picturesque towns. We climbed out of the water, toweled off, and stopped off at the “we never close” bar before collapsing on our sun loungers.
“Where did we leave our clothes?” I asked my wife. “Can’t remember” she shrugged. Never mind.
Sailing north back towards Venice, we stopped off in San Marino – a rather mythical place I thought, lost somewhere in Italy. I knew very little about it but what a delightful place.
The charming medieval walled old town and quaint, narrow cobblestone streets set on a mountain top from where you can see for miles are worth the effort of a short hilly climb. You can also get your passport stamped here from one of the world’s oldest, and smallest, republics though, strictly speaking, it’s a tourist stamp, and some killjoy governments will tell you it’s illegal to “deface” a passport. We paid 5 Euros and got ours stamped anyway.
Sailing on this beautiful tall ship is a truly unique experience whether you are clothed or not. The Michelin-starred chef prepared delicious food and our sommelier provided us with the perfect wine pairings. We visited interesting places and enjoyed the company of like-minded people and the ability to do this sans clothes gave us a tremendous sense of freedom, relaxation, and wellbeing.
Our favorite location was at the stern of the ship where we would watch land slip away or the sun dip below the horizon. We sipped drinks with names like “Hugo” and “Yellowbird”, exchanged war stories with new friends, and put the world to rights, blissfully unaware that we were all still naked.
We stretched out like cats in front of the hearth and didn’t want the sun to go down – ever. The sky was cloudless, and we hadn’t a care in the world.
Originally from the UK and with a five-year sojourn in the Great White North, Chris Moore is currently located in the Greater Detroit area. After 37 years in chemical manufacturing leadership, Chris is now pursuing his love of travel and photography, sharing his stories through illustrated travel articles.