Not many travel agencies have a real claim to fame, but Bare Necessities Tour & Travel, an Austin, Texas based company and the recipient of national coverage by a number of mainstay and widely known publications such as The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angles Times and Chicago Tribune might very well lay claim to such a distinction. Known far and wide as the premiere operator in the emerging travel industry niche market, nude recreation, Bare Necessities is a company whose specialty is providing upscale vacations for the discriminating clothing-optional traveler. Since 1990 BNNT has produced fine clothing-optional resort vacations and luxury nude cruises for those who enjoy leaving their clothes behind and taking pleasure in experiencing vacation destinations featuring wholesome, social nudity.
From a modest beginning with a thirty-six passenger chartered dive boat offering in 1991, BNTT has since compiled an impressive record of major nude cruise offerings aboard some of the largest luxury liners available such as the Carnival Legend with 12 decks, 1,062 staterooms and a passenger capacity of 2,124. Truly, Bare Necessities has done an impressive job over the past 20 years in helping to build acceptance for nude recreation and vacationing and in dispelling the notion that social nudity is about sexual activity; demonstrating with their quality offerings that combining vacationing with social nudity allows vacationers to discover an atmosphere that is relaxing, healthful, wholesome and just plain fun.
Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting with Nancy Tiemann, owner of Bare Necessities Tour & Travel and she agreed to talk to The Emerging Nudist about her company, BNTT travel offerings and services and the nude recreation market in general. Nancy, an Austin resident for more than 35 years was a delight to speak with. Her passion for nude recreation was very evident and she very graciously answered EN’s most probing questions with complete candor, discussing at length the Bare Necessities program offerings and services. I was interested to learn that when she isn’t busy running BNTT, Nancy enjoys organic gardening, teaches Yoga and is the president of her local area Farmer’s Market. If you have ever been curious about what a Bare Necessities vacation is like, sit back and enjoy my conversation with Nancy.
[EN]: My introduction to Bare Necessities Tour & Travel was a past article I read on the Internet that you were interviewed for. The article made a passing reference to the fact that one of the circumstances that planted the seed of the idea that later blossomed into your clothing-optional travel agency was that you and your husband “accidentally stumbled” onto a nude beach one day? True story? Can you share the story with me?
[NT]: Yes! It happened on a beach in St. Martin while we were traveling. We went to the beach to see the sunrise and as the sun came up, we began to notice people coming out and they were completely naked!
[EN]: How did that then lead you to the idea for actually starting a company specializing in producing clothing-optional getaways?
[NT]: Not long after the experience at St. Martin, we went on a dive boat excursion chartered by a small nudist vacation company. It started me thinking as we talked with the others in our group of thirty-four people how great it would be if there were mainstream cruises available that catered to nudists. This was in 1989 and there just wasn’t anything like that available. Later we talked with others in the nudist community like resort owners and asked whether they thought that there might be a large enough niche market for nude cruises to make it a viable idea and whether they would support such an idea. The rest is history.
[EN]: Did you have any previous experience with the travel industry or was this a totally new direction for you?
[NT]: No, I didn’t have any previous experience with the travel industry other than we liked to travel. I was a bank officer at the time and my husband was an attorney.
[EN]: Was Bare Necessities Tour and Travel the first travel agency to offer upscale travel opportunities that catered to those interested in clothes-free vacationing?
[EN]: As far as the demographics of your past clients, are most of them seasoned nudists or would you say that more are drawn to clothing-optional vacations just out of curiosity because of the novelty of it?
[NT]: I really don’t think we get many people who try it simply out of curiosity because a cruise is a large ticket item. Most of our customers have been on nude cruises before and for the most part they don’t necessarily consider themselves nudists, they just consider clothing-optional vacations a choice. I estimate that at least fifty percent are AANR members or former members. We do have those who contact us who have never been on a nude cruise or experienced clothing-optional and we always suggest that they first visit a local resort to try out the experience first and we even help them find a resort in their local area.
[EN]: I know that people can choose to deal directly with some resorts and book their own vacations. What are some of the advantages of booking through an agency like Bare Necessities rather than trying to do it yourself?
[NT]: People are traveling more these days and many are travel savvy and can shop for there own trips. For those who don’t want to shop for travel on their own, we provide a service at no additional fee to help. When you call us you get to talk to a real person and really there is a relationship that is formed where people can feel comfortable giving someone their credit card information. Also we can often provide better deals because resorts offer specials to us that aren’t otherwise available.
[EN]: I think it would be hard to argue with the fact that Bare Necessities Tour and Travel is the undisputed leader in producing clothing-optional cruise vacations. As I understand it, the cruise lines don’t directly offer clothes-free cruises but that your agency contracts with the lines to provide the ships which are then booked exclusively for nude cruising, is that correct?
[NT]: Yes, we negotiate for the ships under a full charter contract at what the cruise lines refer to as rack rates. We then offer them for sale and book the cruises.
[EN]: Just how difficult was it back in the beginning to sell the first major cruise line on the idea of providing a ship for a nude cruise?
[NT]: It wasn’t easy! When we first started calling cruise lines some would actually hang up on us thinking it was a phony call or some kind of joke. But eventually we were able to contract for our first mainstream cruise with a Florida based line. It was a brand new ship with a 600 passenger capacity, a size we were comfortable with and actually that cruise sold out after only five months.
[EN]: A question that has occurred to me is this; why have cruise lines not opted to offer nude cruises directly on their own after seeing how wildly successful your firm has been in putting them together?
I think it is primarily because they don’t know the market the way we do. It is similar to why we don’t offer gay and lesbian cruises. We just don’t have the insight into that market to know how to approach it. We have actually created this brand and know how to produce this kind of cruise. When we contract for the ship, the cruise line still gets all of the ship revenue from things like the onboard sales, gambling and shore excursions so they really get the same revenue, the same money by allowing us to fill the ship for them.
[EN]: As I understand it, the cruise industry standard for pricing cruise cabins are rates based on double occupancy. So if a single person decided to book a cruise and go alone, wouldn’t they actually have to pay a price equal to that of two passengers since the rates are based on double occupancy?
[NT]: Unfortunately, yes. Under the terms of our contracts with the cruise lines we are required to sell 85 – 90 percent of the cabins that way because that is the equation used by the cruise lines that they believe makes it profitable for them. We do sell some cabins to singles but we are restricted in the number because if we don’t meet the criteria set by the cruise lines, we would have to pay some substantial added costs.
[EN]: Are there any options available for singles that would like to take a clothing-optional cruise but just can’t afford the cost involved in occupying a cabin alone but that don’t know anyone willing to go along and share a cabin?
[NT]: Absolutely! As a free service we maintain a list for single men and women and help introduce them and put them together to share cabins which helps make it more affordable.
[EN]: After perusing the informational rates presented on your web site and making some comparisons between “textile” cruises, it seems that when comparing cruises on comparable ships visiting comparable ports, that the rates are significantly higher for booking a nude cruise than a conventional cruise. Is that accurate?
[NT]: Yes, very accurate. We have to enter into the charter contracts based on the cruise lines brochure rates, well in advance between 18 – 24 months out. So for the cruises coming up, many of the contracts were made before the bottom fell out of the economy. Since we are under contract, we don’t have the flexibility that the cruise lines have themselves for lowering rates in response to current economic conditions. But as we contract for future cruises, the prices will better reflect the current economy and should be more comparable.
[EN]: Okay, the reason I was asking was curiosity about whether nude cruises might be more expensive just because of the old “law of supply and demand”, the fact that there are simply fewer nude cruises available than conventional cruises or whether people actually are paying a bit of a premium for the novelty of the nude cruise experience.
[NT]: Well as I explained, the difference is mostly due to when contracts are signed and the changes in the economy but yes, there are many more conventional cruises than nude cruises offered so I guess we could charge even more. There is also added value in our cruises. We provide special speakers on topics of interest to nudists, Yoga classes, personal enrichment classes and the like.
[EN]: On your web site I saw a reference to an auction in connection with booking cabins for the cruises you produce. Can you tell me a little about that and how it works?
[NT]: Yes, it works pretty much like any auction. Some of them require a minimum bid but not all. Bidders can place bids similarly to how it is done in other auctions, like eBay and they are open to the general public. We send out advertisements by email every first and third Friday and that is how people become aware of them.
[EN]: All of these questions about cruises have really made me wish I was on one right now! So let’s take a “virtual” cruise here, go aboard and see what they experience might be like from the perspective of a knowledgably person like you. Can you tell me if there are major differences between a nude cruise and a conventional cruise or are the experiences pretty similar beyond the obvious difference in “attire”?
[NT]: The experiences are quite similar with the exception of attire but this is really what enhances the experience.
[EN]: Given that the same ships contracted for nude cruises are also used for conventional cruises, what is the interaction between passengers and crew like in comparison? Is the crew comfortable with all the nudity?
[NT]: We have been doing this for a while now so very often we find ourselves bumping into crew members who have sailed with our cruises before and already know our groups are a whole lot of fun. This is a real advantage because cruise ship crew members come from many different countries and have different moral standards and beliefs. Those who have been on our cruises before are very helpful in explaining it to cruise members experiencing it for the first time and helping them to feel at ease. Crew members really look forward to our cruises because they have learned that we are a whole lot of fun to work with.
[EN]: In our correspondence you mentioned that you have been quite busy with several cruises on the horizon. What offering are you currently working on now and how has the demand been for them?
[NT]: In 3 or 4 weeks, we have a 14 day cruise leaving from Rome which is already sold out. We have one leaving soon from Key West, “Fantasy Fest” which is about 90 percent sold out and in March 2010 we will be having a Hawaii cruise.
[EN]: Recently I read that world-wide, travel accounts for about seven trillion dollars in sales annually, making it the largest single global industry. In 2007, published figures reported nude recreation as a four hundred million dollar slice of that total travel industry pie. In 2006 both Forbes and the Wall Street Journal characterized nude recreation as the fastest growing niche in the travel industry. Given all that, and looking into your crystal ball, how do you see the future of nude recreation shaping up? Will it continue to grow?
[NT]: If history repeats itself it will. Nude recreation has been growing exponentially. I think we are far more open-minded than twenty years ago so I do expect the growth to continue.
[EN]: Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you would like to share about Bare Necessities Tour and Travel, nude recreation or anything you think might be good information for my readers to be aware of when considering booking a clothing-optional vacation?
[NT]: For those who might ask what makes our cruises so special, it’s the people. I mean that sincerely and it’s the absolute truth. The people who take our cruises is the reason I’m in the business. They are really the driving force and very special.
Have you been dreaming of taking a clothing-optional vacation? Then contact Bare Necessities Tour & Travel. They specialize in transforming clothing-optional travel dreams into a reality. For more information:
Reservations and Questions: (Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
1-800-743-0405 (Toll Free)
512-499-0405 (Austin, Texas area/International)
Website: Bare Necessities Tour & Travel
Clothing-optional cruise related inquiries firstname.lastname@example.org
Clothing-optional resort related inquires email@example.com
To request a clothing-optional vacation brochure firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credits: Courtesy of Bare Necessities Tour & Travel