Ship Smoking Policies are Changing

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013
Smoking Areas on Ships: Few and Far Between. Here's a look at how smoking policies are changing on a number of major cruise lines.

In 1998, Carnival Cruise Lines introduced the industry's first smoke-free ship, the Carnival Paradise, with great fanfare. Even during her construction, workers were not allowed to smoke on the ship, and when she first sailed guests were required to sign "contracts" acknowledging her smoke free status. They were given notice they would be off the ship in the next port of call if smoking materials were found in their cabins. After several years, however, the policy changed and smoking was permitted on the Paradise.

The reasons were never completely clear, but rumors abounded that she was not attracting enough of the lucrative group cruise business. Even though most people in prospective groups were non-smokers, they would resist booking space on a ship that barred those who did smoke from joining the group. Another rumor was that bar and casino revenues on the Paradise were considerably lower than on other Carnival ships in the line, perhaps because non-smokers were likely to drink and gamble less than smokers.

In the years since the Paradise floated out of the shipyard, smoking policies on land have changed significantly.

In North America, just about every U.S. state and Canadian province have enacted laws restricting smoking in public areas. Even traditionally smoke-filled pubs in Ireland can no longer allow smoking. Legislation banning smoking in many public areas is also becoming prevalent in France, Italy, and other European countries. In North America this trend seems to be having a statistical effect, with less than 20% of the population admitting to being smokers.

I recently returned from an Eastern Mediterranean cruise out of Athens to several GreekiIslands, Egypt, and Turkey - bastions where smoking is still allowed almost anywhere, even inside restaurants, cafes and bars.

Since cruise ships generally represent a microcosm of society, the question arose: Are cruise lines following this trend to restrict smoking areas on their vessels?

While the mainstream cruise lines are not rushing to match the policy initially set by the Carnival Paradise, there does seem to be a move to greatly reduce the areas on ships where smoking is allowed. We approached the cruise lines to get a current view of their smoking policies.

Fast-growing Oceania Cruise Line's policy is the closest to the one dropped by the Paradise: Smoking is allowed in only one small section of an outside deck on their ships.

Of the mass market lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines seem to be the most liberal in allowing smoking. But even they are now designating some lounges totally smoke free. Following are the current policies as explained by line officials.

*Anne Marie Mathews of NCL:

All of NCL's dining rooms are smoke-free. Additionally, we discourage smoking on open decks near food serving venues.

Smoking is permitted in designated areas in the bars and outside on open decks. All other areas onboard ship are non-smoking. On some ships, the port side of the bar is smoking and the starboard side is non-smoking.

No tables are designated as non-smoking in the casino, but a smoke-free table can be requested.

Smoking of cigarettes ONLY is allowed in guest cabins, and on private balconies.

(NOTE : There seems to be some discretion by staff on NCL ships, as on one NCL ship we found the Star Bar to be designated non-smoking, yet on a sister ship smoking was allowed in a designated area in the Star Bar.)

*Aly Bello-Cabrreriza of Carnival Cruise Lines:

Smoking is prohibited in all dining areas, as well as a number of public rooms including the aft cabaret lounge, main show room, library, and along the Promenade.

In outdoor dining areas, smoking is allowed on one side of the vessel, and smoking is allowed in guest cabins and on private balconies.

On Spirit Class ships there is a section of the slot machine area which is designated non-smoking.

(NOTE: Though Aly didn't mention it, smoking is prohibited on the main floor, the lobby of the atriums, and at the Atrium bars. Oddly, the lounge where cigar smoking is allowed on Carnival ships is immediately adjacent to one of the dining room entrances on Spirit, Destiny, and Conquest Class ships.)

*Erik Elvejord, of Holland America:

Holland America Cruise Line is apparently in transition with regard to it's smoking policies. It was one of the last mass market lines to have a smoking section in dining rooms, but it is now establishing many more totally non smoking areas.

Smoking is not permitted in any dining venues, both indoors or areas designed for al fresco dining.

There are totally smoke free areas designated on the Vista Ships: Noordam, Westerdam, Zuiderdam, Oosterdam, including: All restaurants; the Atrium Bar; Crow's nest (on Vista ships only); Explorations Cafe; Explorer's Lounge; Library; Magradome (lido pool area); Piano Bar; Queen's Lounge (Vista ships only have this area); Show Lounge; Theater; the Wine Bar; and all the public corridors inside.

There are areas onboard which have both designated smoking and non smoking areas. These are: the Casino; Northern Lights Disco Bar; Oak Room; Ocean Bar; outside decks; Seaview Bar; Sports Bar; Crow's Nest on non-Vista ships (doubles as disco)

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Smoking is allowed in guest cabins, and on private balconies

(NOTE: on a recent cruise, one of our CruiseMates staffers did report some experimentation, with some nights in the casino being designated non-smoking.)

Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruise Lines did not respond to our inquiries for this article in time to have an official response included. However, over the past 12 months we've sailed on both lines, and since I am a smoker, I am fairly current on their policies.

On Celebrity there is no smoking permitted in any dining venues or showrooms. On the Millennium class ships, Michael's Clubs, once used as the cigar bars, are now totally non-smoking lounges.

On Royal Caribbean ships the dining venues and showrooms are also smoke-free, as are several lounges onboard (it varies from ship to ship). The bars and lobby areas at the bottom of the atriums are also totally smoke-free.

Smoking is allowed in the casinos on both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines, though some areas are designated as smoke-free.

To get a perspective of the smoking policies in the Luxury ship category we approached both Seabourn Cruise Line, and Regent Seven Seas.

*Bruce Good, Seabourn:

There is no smoking at any time in the main show lounge, any dining venue (Restaurant, Veranda Cafe indoors or out), in elevators, the forward staircase or the area in front of the medical facility.

Smoking is permitted in the following locations:

The Club: port side aft only. No smoking in the bar seating area or the casino.

Observation Lounge: Port side only.

Smoking is permitted in the lobby on deck 3 aft of the Restaurant.

Smoking is permitted adjacent to the mid-ships elevators on decks 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Pipe and cigar smoking are not permitted inside the ship, including in the guest suites. Pipe and cigar smoking are permitted on open decks, except during on-deck meal service. Cigarette smoking is permitted on open deck even during meal service.

Cigarette smoking is permitted on open deck (Sky Grill) during meal service, but not in the outdoor section of the Veranda Cafe.

Smoking is not permitted in the casino, as of April 2007.

Cigarette smoking is permitted in guest suites.

*Mark Conroy, Regent Seven Seas Cruises:

We are in the process of reviewing the entire policy. It is a very hot issue.

Currently we have smoking areas in the main dining room except on the Navigator. The smoking areas are typically in the area adjacent to the galley so smoke is extracted out of the room through the kitchen.

Each ship has one bar or nightclub that allows smoking and we also have smoking and non-smoking tables in the casino.

We have a Connoisseur Club which offers wine and cigars and we also have a smoking area on the deck near the outdoor bar.

There is currently legislation pending in the U.K. and Europe that may ban smoking on balconies and even in the staterooms.

(NOTE: Mr. Conroy's comment about pending legislation in the U.K. and Europe that could affect smoking regulations on balconies is most intriguing, as it could lead to dramatic changes for ships sailing within those areas. Whether such legislation could be enforced on ships sailing in international waters, and which are registered in other countries, could certainly lead to some interesting legal arguments.)

The bottom line is that smoking policies on ships are most certainly in a state of flux, with a significant trend to more areas onboard being designated smoke-free. We'll have to wait and see if this ever evolves into a rebirth of Carnival's earlier attempt at a totally smoke-free cruise ship.

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