Smoking on the High Seas

If you are in the mood to get flamed online, just go to any cruise message board and start a thread about smoking on cruise ships advocating strongly either the pro-smoking position or the non-smoking position. There will be plenty of respondents who will strongly, maybe even belligerently, disagree with your position. However, despite it being a testy subject, many cruise lines are now adopting more restrictive smoking polices and in some cases they are starting to lose money because of the new policies.

A few years ago Carnival experimented with an all nonsmoking ship, but they had trouble filling it without deep discounts. Why would a non-smoking ship have such a problem staying full when there are so many people who would even be willing to pay a premium to avoid it? Mostly because an all non-smoking policy eliminated group sales. Imagine if you were planning a family reunion, you couldn’t book a non-smoking ship if your Uncle Ted smokes. The same situation would be true for an incentive tri, or social group planning a trip together. A few people in the group are bound to be smokers, so they would have to choose a different ship.

Instead of this all non-smoking trend, the cruise lines have tried to create a compromise by having dedicated smoking areas and non-smoking areas. On most ships the theaters and dining rooms are non-smoking. However, most of the time, patrons have been allowed to smoke in the lounges, open decks, staterooms and balconies. After the Star Princess fire, which killed one passenger last year, the cruise lines are trying to redefine the acceptable smoking areas in order to ensure passenger safety. Regent Seven Seas recently changed their smoking policy to prohibit smoking in cabins and on balconies, and according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, the move is costing the company millions of dollars in cancellations. I truly feel that passenger safety should come first, and if smoking in one’s room or balcony poses a more substantial threat to that safety of the passengers, then it should be banned. The thought as to why in room and balcony smoking is dangerous is the possibility of the smoker falling asleep while smoking and the chance of a stray butt lighting a balcony on fire.

I am a non-smoker and usually cruise Celebrity. Their policy is to allow smoking in most of the lounges only on the port side of the ship. Generally this policy has worked well for me because I am generally only bothered by the smell and do not have reactions other than maybe watery eyes or runny nose.. When I stay on the starboard side I usually don’t notice the smoke. However, the casinos were so smoky I just wanted to avoid them (not all bad, I save money that way too) and if I accidentally walked down the port side of the ship, it was rather stinky. The current policy restricts smoking in the most important areas for me – the Dining Room and the Theater. However, it would be fine for me if they wanted to make it even more restrictive like they have on their sister line Azamara. On their ships, there are only two designated public smoking areas, one indoors and one outdoors, and smoking is prohibited in staterooms, suites and balconies. Here in Arizona, they have passed a law prohibiting indoor smoking in all indoor public areas. All the bars here in the state have had to set up outdoor smoking porches for their patrons. If I still went to bars, I think I would really appreciate the non-smoking atmosphere. I have noticed that restaurants that had smoking in their adjacent bars, are now much cleaner smelling now. In college, I used to get a scratchy irritated throat after going out with friends. I thought it was the consumption of beer that caused this problem, but after having the same problem even when I was the designated driver, and not drinking, I determined that it was the indoor smoke that caused the irritation. Who wants to feel like that on a cruise, when you are on vacation?

Its hard for me to say how I would feel about these new policies if I was a smoker, but the trend around the world has been to ban indoor smoking in public places and it only makes sense that for safety and comfort of all passengers, that the cruise lines would follow suit.