When Holland America's Maasdam sets sail to the Caribbean in February, the first thing most of the 1,250 passengers will do is shed their clothes. Every stitch.
And why not? They will be participating in a nudist cruise — just one of many special-interest sailings that cater to fans of everything from Star Trek to chocolate concoctions to the sound of Sinatra. The people who organize such cruises, sometimes chartering an entire ship, say they are a wonderful way for people with similar interests or lifestyles to get together.
Take the clothing-optional cruises. Nancy Tiemann, president and co-owner of Bare Necessities Tour & Travel, says that “going to sea and nudity is a perfect match.” Participants feel a level of comfort they sometimes can't find on land: Because the ship is filled with only nudist passengers, there is no snickering and no sitting by the pool in a soggy bathing suit. Passengers, however, are required to dress when the ship is in port — one reason, Tiemann says, “we like those days at sea” — and in the formal dining room.
How popular is nude cruising? In addition to the 10-night Hidden Jewels of the Caribbean sailing, which leaves from Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 3, three more such cruises are planned next year, some on ships larger than the Maasdam. No matter: “Whatever the ship's capacity is, that's what we usually sell,” says Tiemann.
Another popularly themed cruise with multiple sailings centers on Christianity. “Passengers find a family-friendly environment that enriches their religious experience,” says Honnie Korngold, president of Christian Travel Finder, which has five Christian-themed cruises coming up this year and next. One of the most popular is Cruise with a Cause, sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida, to Nassau and Coco Cay, Bahamas, June 4 through June 8 aboard Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas. “We had 2,300 participants last year,” says Korngold, “and this year we are expecting 2,600.”
Passengers keep on the sunny side with Christian music, talks by leading evangelists, special events for children, and mission work ashore. But one of the biggest attractions is what isn't there. Unlike most cruises, no alcohol is served aboard and the casinos are shut tight.
Music of all kinds plays a part in many cruises, but it is the reason for a few.
One is the seven-night Sinatra Tribute Cruise, hosted by Boston radio personality Ron Della Chiesa, and departing March 18 from Fort Lauderdale for a week in the western Caribbean aboard the Costa Mediterranea.
Della Chiesa's mellow voice has been heard Saturday nights on WPLM-FM's Strictly Sinatra for a decade in the Boston area. Among his listeners are Dan and June Weiner, who run Galaxsea Cruises and Tours in Ashland and decided there could be no better host for such a sailing.
Says Della Chiesa: “Sinatra was such an icon and he left such a legacy” that people from their 30s to their 70s are turned on by the man and his music. Of all the tribute singers who could have been welcomed aboard, Della Chiesa chose Steve Marvin, considering him simply the best. In addition, there will be talks about Sinatra, trivia contests, and, as Della Chiesa puts it, “reminiscing and tall stories” about the powerful and sometimes politically incorrect “Chairman of the Board.” Another attraction will be Della Chiesa himself because many people who have listened to him for years want to put a face to the voice.