Leave your worries --and your clothes-- behind!
Leave your worries --and your clothes-- behind!

Cruise lovers come in all shapes, sizes and inclinations. Some climb aboard for the pleasure of getting decked out in their sharpest evening wear. Others like to keep it as casual as they can.

Dress codes, indeed, vary from ship to ship. UK-owned Cunard Cruises may still require tuxedos and evening gowns on its ocean liners, but most four and five-star ships now accept jackets and trousers for men, while women no longer have to wear long dresses at the gala dinners.

On some lower-priced cruise ships, though, vacationers will show up for dinner in shorts and tennis socks.

And then...if that dress code is not casual enough, you can book a cruise through Texas-based Bare Necessities. On their ships, you don’t have to bother with outfits at all. Come as you are – in your birthday suit.

The company hopes to fill the 14-deck, 3,000-passenger Carnival Freedom – renamed "The Big Nude Boat" – for the world’s biggest nudist cruise in February 2013: eight days to and from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with stopovers in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama.

The offer is part of a new strategy by cruise lines worldwide to come up with themed events for special-interest clients of all age groups. Popular clichés about cruises as floating retirement homes or only-for-the-rich are officially a thing of the past.

Head-bangers and foodies can cruise too

What organizers are dubbing “the world’s biggest heavy metal cruise -- 70000 TONS OF METAL” is another case in point: the Majesty of the Seas will be turned into the "Barge to Hell" for a five-day cruise out of Miami to the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2013.

Another tactic is to draw clients with star chefs, cooking courses and ever more sophisticated specialty restaurants. Together with the editors of Bon Appétit magazine, Oceania Cruises have put together a Bon Appétit Wine & Food Festival for its two newest liners, Riviera and Marina, on 10-day cruises from Athens to Rome and Athens to Istanbul respectively.

The Swiss cruise line MSC Kreuzfahrten has found another niche. It provides halal and kosher meals. Another cruise line, Holland America, prides itself on having “the largest vegetarian selection at sea.”

And to counter claims that the giant ships are environmental nightmares, some companies are turning sustainability into a sales pitch. Swiss Aida is positioning its Aidamaras one of the world’s most environmentally friendly ships. According to the company, its heat recovery system uses waste heat to run the air-conditioning system and provide hot water, saving a metric ton of fuel every day.

*This is a digest item. Original article by Hans Schloemer

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Geopolitics

Taliban Redux, Cleaned-Up Image Can't Mask Their Cruel Reality

Twenty years later the Islamist group is back in power in Afghanistan, but trying this time to win international support. Now that several months have passed, experts on the ground can offer a clear assessment if the group has genuinely transformed on such issues as women's rights and free speech.

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Atal Ahmadzai and Faten Ghosn

The international community is closely monitoring the Taliban, after the group re-seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

There is legitimate reason for concern. The Taliban are again ruling through fear and draconian rules.

The Taliban’s last regime, in the mid-1990s, was marked by human rights violations, including massacres, mass detentions and rape. The regime collapsed on Nov. 14, 2001, shortly after the U.S. launched its global war on terrorism.

Even after the Taliban officially fell from power, their subsequent two decades of insurgency produced various gross human rights violations, an encompassing term under international human rights law.

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