- A chance modeling gig introduced Kat Whitmire to nude cruises in 1997. Now she organizes them.
- Whitmire owned a singing-telegram business before becoming a sales associate for Bare Necessities.
- She described what her job — organizing cruises where all the guests can be naked — is like.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kat Whitmire, a 61-year-old vice president of sales for a nudist-cruise company. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I’m a cruise organizer for Bare Necessities Tour and Travela nudist-cruise company. I spend all year as part of a team planning our two cruises: a February trip aboard our Big Nude Boat, a large cruise ship that has 2,100 passengers, and a smaller cruise in the summer.
Back in 1997, a friend who was a staff photographer with Bare Necessities was looking for a married couple to join their next cruise and appear in some promotional photos.
My husband and I are confident in front of an audience. I have a background in theater and was running a singing-telegram company while he worked as an on-air meteorologist. We’d been skinny-dipping with friends before and felt comfortable, and the cruise was in Tahiti, which sealed the deal.
I went on their cruises and volunteered for more than a decade before becoming a full-time employee
We worked as models on our first cruise, and decided to return over the next decade to work as general staff. We’d answer questions and help with small things, like making sure guests keep a towel between themselves and their seats.
In 2010, the company wanted to hire a sales associate who spoke German — nudism is very big in Germany. My German is good enough, so I threw my hat in the ring.
I’m based in Austin, and I’ve been a full-time employee of Bare Necessities since 2010.
Now I’m the vice president of sales for two Bare Necessities cruises. I also help with staffing and organizing the cruise activities while we’re sailing.
For each cruise, I create schedules so our staffers know when they need to man the information booth, perform “dinner duty” to make sure guests comply with the dress code, and join the dance club at night to make sure things go smoothly.
I also help coordinate sign-ups for shore excursions. We typically have about 10 to 15 excursions to choose from at each port. There are new challenges every day at sea, including dealing with weather, and arriving at the port at a different time than planned — which means we need to make sure the teams behind shore excursions are in the loop.
Not everyone understands what nudism is
To us, being nude is not sexual or anything to be ashamed of.
Nudism is about leaving judgment behind. When you’re not wearing clothes, you can’t immediately tell someone’s economic status or how they vote; you have to talk to them to find out who they are. Our guests form deep friendships that I don’t think form as readily on a textile cruise.
We’re not a swingers’ cruise. This is not lifestyle travel. There are plenty of those travel opportunities out there, but that’s not what we do.
There are rules for nude travel
We have rules aboard the ship. The most important one is that you have to ask permission before taking a photo with someone else in it.
Men can’t be overly excited. We say that if they start to feel things around moving down there, jump in cold water, or think about baseball.
Dinner in the formal dining room has a dress code, largely because the waitstaff carries trays of hot food. “No nips, no bits, and no butts” is what I always say to remind people of our dinner-dress code.
Dinner is the only time guests must wear real clothes — no mesh, nothing see-through, and nothing made of string.
The captain and the crew aren’t nude. Our first day aboard is always a little bit of a shock for the crew, but after that it’s fun for everyone. We also aren’t nude at the ports except for designated nude excursions or if we’ve arranged to have exclusive use of the port.
We’ve been to some incredible places
I’ve made some incredible memories working for Bare Necessities. One of my most memorable days was when we visited Tanna, a South Pacific island in Vanuatu.
Our ship was the first big cruise vessel to anchor in their bay. As we gathered on the beach to meet the locals, a group of men wearing leaves performed some of their island’s traditional dances. It was incredible.
Through the years we’ve been to loads of warm places, including Fiji, Tahiti, and the Med.
But my favorite of the nearly 50 sailings I’ve done was in Alaska. It was a hard sell at the time because nudists and the cold don’t always mix, but it worked well. The ship extended the roof over the pool deck so we could stay warm and enjoy swimming in the buff. In port, we explored some sulfur hot springs.
Each cruise takes a lot of planning
Putting on a cruise is like putting on a major-theater production.
I work hard behind the scenes with guest lecturers and the staff of the cruise company. Then we run for a week, and we’re done. We immediately start all over again.
The cruise has to be fresh each year, yet we also have to keep enough of the major successes — for example, during the cruise we just finished we had private islands in the Bahamas all to ourselves.
We’ve repeated some theme nights that have been wildly popular. Nudists, surprisingly, love costumes.
On our Big Nude Boat, we have several theme nights and one massive costume party. My favorite costume ever was a man who dressed as a tequila bottle. He had a cork on his head. His body was the bottle. You just have to imagine what the worm was. I never laughed so hard in my life.
We’ve done mash-ups of themes, like “‘Wizard of Oz’ meets ‘Alice in Wonderland.'” We just finished a cruise where each night at dinner represented a different historical decade — it was a huge hit, so I suspect we may do that again.
The cruises are great for people curious about nudism
Our way of traveling isn’t for everyone. Not everyone understands what nudism is all about, and that’s OK. If you’re curious, this way of travel might be what you’re looking for.
I joke that skinny-dipping is our gateway drug.
On our Big Nude Boat with a little more than 2,100 passengers, about 70% of guests on board are repeat guests. Our boutique small-ship sailings sell out very quickly. That tells me we’re doing something right.
Correction: April 20, 2023 — An earlier version of this story misstated the number of passengers. It is 2,100, not 3,000. It also misstated Kat Whitemire’s husband’s role. He no longer works at Bare Necessities. Passengers do have occasional designated nude excursions. The earlier version stated they did not.