Can I Sunbathe Topless on a Cruise?

Are you allowed avoid the tan lines and sunbathe topless during a Caribbean cruise? Usually the answer is no, but there are some exceptions you’ll want to know about.

If you’re headed on a cruise to the Caribbean, being in a swimsuit for much of it and definitely getting some sun. Meanwhile, you have the pool, loungers, warm weather, and free-flowing drinks. No wonder some people like to let loose on their trip, be a little more relaxed on the vacation, and maybe show a little more skin.

Pool deck on cruise ship

It’s not unusual for some folks to be a little more revealing on the cruise ship than they might be at home. Or in some cases, many people are simply comfortable baring a little bit more — including sunbathing topless.

So what doing this on a cruise ship? Are you allowed to go topless on the ship? Or are there laws or rules against it? We’ve already covered wearing a thong bikini on a cruise (it’s allowed), but what about not wearing a top at all?

Rules Regarding Toplessness on a Cruise

Truth is there are rumors that years ago topless sunbathing was common on cruise ships. Today — at least on cruises from North America — that’s not the case. In some cases it is explicitly against the rules, with one notable exception. 

We went searching for the policies of a number of cruise lines in regards to topless tanning. Here’s what we found.

Carnival has no specific mention banning the practice. That said, they do have a broad statement in regarding clothing for passengers:

“All guests are expected to ensure their clothing and accessories are respectful to fellow guests. Specifically, items worn during the cruise should not contain any message that may be considered offensive or contain nudity, profanity, sexual innuendos/suggestions. In addition, clothing and accessories should not promote negative ethnic or racial, commentary, hatred, or violence in any form.”

Having sailed Carnival regularly, we can tell you that sunbathing topless is something we’ve personally never seen on the ship. 

Royal Caribbean does mention toplessness explicitly in its Guest Conduct Policy, but keeps the door open (not surprisingly, Celebrity, a sister cruise line to Royal Caribbean has the same policy):

“Public nudity is not permitted. Guests must be appropriately attired including while on
stateroom balconies if visible to others onboard, on other vessels or ashore. Topless
sunbathing is not permitted except on selected itineraries, and in those itineraries will
only be allowed in designated areas.”

If sailing from North America, we’ve never seen any designated areas for toplessness, nor seen/heard of any passengers doing it on Royal Caribbean. However, if sailing Europe or South American itineraries, it may be allowed.

Norwegian Cruise Lines also flatly has rules against taking off your top:

“Pool, deck and theater chairs may not be reserved. Topless sunbathing is not permitted. Boom boxes or loud radios are not permitted.”

Sunbathing Topless Is Expressly Allowed on One Cruise Line

From personal experience, we’ve been on cruises from all the major lines in North America. And while some ships have exclusive sundecks high above the pool deck that seem more private and tailor-made for topless sunbathing, we have never seen anyone bare-chested getting sun.

That said, it is common to see people laying on their stomachs with the back of their swimsuit untied.

There is one cruise line in North America that does expressly allow topless sunbathing on its ships: Adults-only cruise line Virgin Voyages.

The Virgin website states “We have a beautiful sun deck on Deck 17, called The Perch, where you can feel comfortable sunbathing topless at sea.”

So if having fewer tan lines is important to you, then it’s the cruise line you’ll want to sail.

What to Do if You Want to Sunbathe Topless… And It’s Not Allowed On the Ship

If you want to get some sun and the cruise line has made explicit that it’s against the rules, what should you do?

In this case, you have a couple of options.

First, we suggest having a balcony cabin and sunning yourself in the (relative) privacy of your own balcony. It’s not as sun-drenched as the top of the ship but it does offer some seclusion.

Of course, there’s also your time off the ship as well. Some ports of call do have specific beaches that are known for allowing you to tan without a top. For instance, Orient Beach in St. Martin is known for allowing less clothing. So are some beaches in St. Barts, Guadeloupe, and in Mexico. (A quick Google search can lead you to finding out where toplessness is ok.)

That means even if you sail on a cruise where you need to be a little more covered, there’s still a possible option for you.

Bottom line: If you want to sunbathe topless on a cruise, know that it’s not common at all. While you might be able to on some sailings, you’ll likely be more comfortable in the privacy of your own balcony or simply wearing your top at all times. Laying out on your stomach with the back of your swimsuit untied is no issue at all.

If it is something that’s important to you, check out Virgin Voyages, which explicitly allows sunbathers a little more freedom.

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