Sailing the seas au naturel
By STEVE HUETTEL, Times Staff Writer
TAMPA -- You won't notice anything special about the 1,500 passengers boarding the Carnival Cruise Lines' Jubilee on Saturday in the Port of Tampa. Except that they pack a little light.
But when the ship crosses into international waters, passengers will be free to wear -- or, more important, not wear -- whatever they choose.
Bare Necessities Tour and Travel of Austin, Texas, chartered the ship from Carnival for a nine-day nude Mardi Gras cruise.
Passengers paid between $895 and $3,300 each for the trip that includes visits to Key West, New Orleans on Fat Tuesday and Jamaica on the day after Valentine's Day, according to Nancy Tiemann, owner of Bare Necessities.
The company, which also sells nude beach resort vacations, has sponsored nude cruises since 1992. This is the third Bare Necessities cruise from Tampa, Tiemann said. Although the cruise market dried up immediately after Sept. 11, she said, this year's trip sold out a month ago.
"We're providing a luxury that was not before available on off-shore vacations: the luxury of (deciding) what not to wear," Tiemann said.
Tampa port officials don't treat the business any differently than other "specialty cruises" that cruise lines and tour operators offer for jazz buffs, golfers or sports team fans, said port spokeswoman Lori Rafer.
Last year, a ship chartered for a convention of strip club owners and businesses that cater to them left from Tampa after being spurned by nearby Port Manatee.
"Unless there are concerns about anything illegal going on . . . or they expect a (protest) demonstration, we aren't advised about specialty cruises," Rafter said.
Tiemann said there is one place a dress code applies on the nude cruise: the ship's formal dining room. The issue is comfort more than propriety. Nude diners get cold, and it wouldn't be fair to crank up the heat and make waiters in tuxedos swelter, she said.
"Shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops are fine," Tiemann said. "And there are other places on board you can eat au natural."
-- Steve Huettel can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3384.
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