Once upon a time, all the cool kids smoked -- Sinatra, JFK, even Joe DiMaggio. Smokers ruled the world and could light up pretty much anywhere: train cars, restaurants, offices, shops, and of course (duh) barrooms. It was an era when life was seen through a swirling bluish haze, and, at least in the movies, nobody ever coughed.
Today? Not so much.
Check the stats: Around the country, some thirty states have banned smoking in many public places, and nearly twenty even have no-smoking rules for bars, or will soon. Across the pond, England, Ireland, and Norway have banned smoking in most public places nationwide, including pubs. It's enough to make a smoker want to run away to sea . . . except that won't necessarily work anymore either.
As goes public opinion, so go the cruise lines, which generally prohibit smoking now in all restaurants, theaters, corridors, elevators, and many other public areas, too. If you want to light up, most lines still let you do so in the smoking sections of bars and lounges, out on the open decks, and in your cabin and private balcony, but some are even clamping down on those retreats. On the other side of the smoker/non-smoker debate, anti-puffers face the fact that no cruise line that permits in-cabin smoking has designated smoking rooms -- you just get what you get. That works nicely for the lines' sales departments, which thus avoid having to deal with two separate inventories (and the possibility of some cabins going empty if not enough smokers book), but it can be an irritant to passengers with particularly delicate and discriminating schnozzolas.
In the following sections, I'll give a gold star to cruise lines that are on the leading edge of current trends -- good for non-smokers and bad, bad, bad for smokers -- then run through the smoking rules at all the major cruise lines in the North American market, and some of the smaller contenders too.
The Best Ships for Non-Smokers AKA The Worst Ships for Smokers
Cruise lines scrub their cabins well between cruises, if necessary by shampooing the rug and using air purifiers, so chances are you'll never notice if Joe Camel or the Marlborough Man had your cabin before you. I never have, for instance, even after dozens and dozens of cruises. There are certain people, though (my wife, for one), who were born with noses meant for bloodhounds or master perfumers. For them, residual smoke left in a cabin from last week's Pall Malls is as strong as the cloud over Sartre's table at Les Deux Magots. These people hate smoke. Their ideal environment is like a microprocessor lab -- all clean surfaces, white coats, and HEPA filters.
If that sounds like you, you'll want to book with one of the cruise lines that prohibit smoking in all their cabins, fleetwide, and discourage it elsewhere on board too. Among the mainstream lines, the best for non-smokers are Azamara Cruises (the new exploratory sub-brand of Celebrity Cruises) and Oceania Cruises, each of which bans smoking in all cabins and all but two small public areas aboard each ship. The runner-up is Disney Cruise Line, which also limits smoking to two public rooms as well as on deck and on your private cabin balcony. The final mainstream standout on the non-smoking front is Royal Caribbean, which, beginning in January, will ban smoking from all cabins in its 21-ship fleet. Smoking will still be allowed in designated areas of the ships' bars and lounges, on cabin balconies, and in some areas of the outside decks. Honorable mention goes to Norwegian Cruise Line, which allows smoking in cabins but prohibits it in most public areas -- including most of its ships' bars.
Among the small luxury lines, SeaDream Yacht Club is the best, prohibiting smoking everywhere except certain outdoor decks. Beginning in December, Regent Seven Seas will also ban smoking from cabins on its mid-size luxe ships. Among the sailing-ship lines, Windstar, Star Clippers, and Windjammer Barefoot Cruises all prohibit smoking in cabins. Windjammer allows it out on deck only, though that's also where most passengers spend their days. Windstar and Star Clippers allow smoking only in designated areas of one or two public lounges and bars, and outdoors. Small-ship lines Lindblad Expeditions and Cruise West and old-timey riverboat line Majestic America ban smoking everywhere except in designated areas of the outside decks.
Smoking Regulations, Line by Line
Azamara Cruises (www.azamaracruises.com)
At Celebrity Cruises' new exploratory sub-brand, the twin, 710-passenger Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest have two designated smoking areas, located in the aft port-side section of the Looking Glass Lounge and on the starboard forward section of the Pool Deck. All other areas of the ships are non-smoking, including all public rooms, restaurants, the majority of the pool deck, and all corridors, cabins, and cabin balconies.
Carnival Cruise Lines (www.carnival.com) Aboard Carnival's 22 ships, smoking is prohibited in all dining areas as well as in a number of public rooms, including the aft cabaret lounge, main show lounge, library, and along the promenade. Unless otherwise indicated, smoking is permitted in cabins, cabin balconies, casinos, dance clubs, piano bars, cigar bars (on the ships that have them), certain other live-music venues, and in designated areas of the open decks.
Trivia: Carnival was the only cruise line to ever attempt operation of an entirely smoke-free megaship. In 1998 it launched the 2,040-passenger Paradise, which was so smoke-free that shipyard workers weren't allowed to light up during construction, and any passenger caught sneaking a butt was fined $250, booted off at the next port of call, and left to fly home at his own expense. In 2003, though, the line began allowing smoking on the ship. So what happened? Seems the ship's typical passengers not only refrained from smoking but drank a whole lot less too, depriving Carnival of onboard revenue. Guess virtue doesn't pay the bills.
Celebrity Cruises (www.celebrity.com)
Aboard Celebrity's seven megaships, cigarette smoking is permitted in all cabins, as well as in designated public areas on the port (left) side of the ship, including bars, lounges, and outside decks. Smoking is not permitted in the dining rooms, theater, cinema, conference center, elevators, or any public areas on the starboard side of the ship (either indoors or outdoors). Pipe and cigar smoking is permitted only in specifically designated areas of the outside decks.
Costa Cruises (www.costacruise.com)
Smoking is permitted in cabins and private balconies and in designated areas of most public rooms on board. It's prohibited in the restaurants and show lounges.
Cruise West (www.cruisewest.com)
Aboard Cruise West's fleet of small ships, smoking is allowed only in designated areas of the outside decks. Smoking is not permitted anywhere inside: not in your cabin, the lounge, or the dining room.
Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com)
Most public areas aboard Crystal's two midsize luxury ships are smoke-free, including the main dining room, the bistro, the indoor portions of the buffet restaurant, the alternative restaurants, and the show lounge. Cigarette smoking is permitted in cabins, on cabin balconies, and at designated tables in most bars and lounges. Pipes and cigars are permitted only in the Connoisseur Club and on most open decks (except all areas of Lido Deck -- deck 11 on Crystal Symphony, deck 12 on Crystal Serenity). Pipes and cigars may not be smoked in cabins, on cabin balconies, or in the ships' corridors.
Cunard Line (www.cunard.com)
Aboard Queen Mary 2, all restaurants are non-smoking but all public rooms and bars have designated smoking sections. Aboard the soon-to-retire QE2, all restaurants except the Princess Grill provide small smoking sections, and all public rooms and bars have designated smoking sections. The elevators, theaters, and library are designated as non-smoking. Cigar and pipe smokers can indulge in Churchill's Cigar Lounge onboard QM2 and in QE2's Chart Room, Golden Lion Pub, Crystal Bar, and on the open decks.
Disney Cruise Line (www.disneycruise.com)
Smoking is prohibited in all cabins on Disney's two ships, though it is permitted on cabin balconies. In the public areas, guests are allowed to smoke on open decks (except near the designated children's pool) and in the sports bar and piano bar.
Holland America Line (www.hollandamerica.com)
Smoking is prohibited in all dining areas and in showrooms during performances. Smoking is permitted in designated areas of most bars/lounges, in cabins, on cabin balconies, and on the open decks.
Lindblad Expeditions (www.expeditions.com)
Smoking is permitted only in designated outdoor areas on Lindblad's small, expedition-oriented ships. No smoking is permitted anywhere inside.
Majestic America Line (www.majesticamericaline.com)
Aboard Majestic America's fleet of old-timey, paddlewheel riverboats (and aboard the small ship Contessa), smoking is permitted only on the outside decks and on private cabin balconies. Smoking is prohibited everywhere inside, from cabins to public rooms.
MSC Cruises (www.msccruises.com)
Smoking is permitted in cabins, on cabin balconies, in designated areas of most public rooms (excluding dining rooms, for instance), and on the open decks.
Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com)
Smoking is prohibited in almost all public areas aboard NCL's ships, including restaurants, performance venues, and bars/lounges. Cigarette smoking is permitted only in cabins, on cabin balconies, in the casino, in the Cigar Bar (on ships that have them), and on open decks (except near food venues, sport decks, kids' pool areas, and other designated non-smoking zones). Pipe and cigar smokers must contain themselves to the Cigar Bar or designated smoking lounge and to the smoking zones on the outside decks.
Oceania Cruises (www.oceaniacruises.com)
Smoking is banned practically everywhere aboard Oceania's three midsize ships, including cabins, cabin balconies, restaurants, the Casino, and almost all other public areas. Cigarette smoking is permitted only in the forward starboard corner of the Pool Deck (Deck 9) and in the aft port corner of Horizons observation lounge (Deck 10). Cigar and pipe smoking is only permitted on the forward starboard corner of the Pool Deck.
Princess Cruises (www.princess.com)
Smoking is prohibited in the dining rooms and other food-service areas and in the show lounges and theaters. Smoking is permitted in cabins, on cabin balconies, on the outside decks, and in designated areas of most public rooms. Pipe and cigar smoking is prohibited in all public rooms.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises (www.rssc.com)
In late December 2007, Regent will be significantly tightening smoking rules aboard its fleet of midsize luxury vessels, prohibiting smoking in all cabins and cabin balconies, as well as in most public rooms and all food-service areas (except designated areas of the pool grills). Smoking is permitted on outdoor decks and in the casino, the cigar lounge, and the pool bar, as well as in a designated area of the nightclub and an outside portion of the observation lounge. Smoking areas are much more limited aboard the vessels Paul Gauguin (which sails year-round in the South Pacific) and Explorer II (which Regent charters for yearly Antarctica trips). Cigar and pipe smoking is only permitted in the cigar lounge aboard Seven Seas Voyager, Mariner, and Navigator. Cigars may also be smoked in a designated section of the Pool Bar.
Royal Caribbean International (www.royalcaribbean.com)
Big news on some of the cruise world's biggest ships: As of January 2008, in-cabin smoking will be prohibited on 18 of the 21 ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, and one lounge aboard each ship will be designated totally smoke-free. Smoking is also prohibited in all restaurants, corridors, entertainment venues, and most other public spaces. Smoking is permitted in designated areas of the ships' bars and lounges, on cabin balconies, and on outside decks on the starboard (right) side of the ship.
The three ships not initially affected by the policy change -- Legend of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, and Splendour of the Seas -- will adopt the new rules in summer 2008.
Seabourn Cruise Line (www.seabourn.com)
Aboard Seabourn's three small luxury ships, smoking is prohibited in all dining areas, in the main show lounge during performances and lectures, in the ships' elevators, and in the starboard sections of the Observation Lounge and The Club lounge. Cigarette smoking is permitted in cabins and on cabin balconies. Pipe and cigar smoking is prohibited in all indoor areas of the ship, including cabins. After dinner, an area of the Sky Bar is set aside as a cigar- and pipe-friendly zone.
SeaDream Yacht Club (www.seadreamyachtclub.com)
Smoking is prohibited in all indoor areas of SeaDream's two small, 110-passenger luxury ships, including their cabins. No cabins aboard these ships have private balconies, so that's not an option either. Smoking is only permitted outdoors on Decks 3, 4, and 6.
Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com)
Aboard Silversea's four luxury ships, smokers can light up in their cabins, on their cabin balconies, and in designated areas of The Bar, the Panorama Lounge, the Casino Bar, the pool area, and outside at the Terrace Cafe (plus the cigar lounges on Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper). All other areas are smoke-free. Cigar and pipe smoking is permitted only in designated areas outside at the Terrace Cafe and in The Champagne Room (aboard Silver Cloud and Silver Wind) or the cigar lounge (Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper).
Star Clippers (www.starclippers.com)
The three Star Clippers sailing ships follow a no-smoking policy in the cabins, dining room, and all other public areas except the outside decks and a designated portion of the piano bar lounge. Pipe and cigar smoking is allowed only on open decks.
Windjammer Barefoot Cruises (www.windjammer.com)
Smoking is prohibited in all cabins, in the dining room, and in the few other indoor areas on these small sailing ships. Smoking is allowed on the open decks, where almost all passenger activities take place.
Windstar Cruises (www.windstarcruises.com)
Smoking is prohibited in all cabins, all restaurants, and most public areas. Aboard the small Wind Star and Wind Spirit, smoking is permitted on deck and on the starboard side of the Lounge. On the larger Wind Surf, smoking is permitted on deck, in the casino, and on the port side of the main lounge and indoor/outdoor Compass Rose bar. Aboard all three vessels, pipe and cigar smoking is allowed only out on deck and (aboard Wind Surf only) in the terrace bar.
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