When was the last time you heard someone say, "Mind if I smoke?" What used to be a common-courtesy question with a laissez-faire response ("Of course not! Go right ahead!") has become the social equivalent of asking, "Mind if I pour anthrax in your coffee?"
With cities, states, and even whole countries enacting increasingly strict smoking bans for public places, it's no surprise that cruise lines are getting on board with the new normal.
"It's a different world now -- basically a nonsmoking world to be sure. Even smokers understand that," says Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, one of the cruise lines with the most nonsmoking policies.
Once upon a time, and not very long ago at that, there were "no smoking" sections in the public rooms on many cruise ships. Today, the situation has reversed with a vengeance, and designated "smoking permitted" sections are becoming fewer and farther between.
Just this past week, three of the major cruise lines -- Carnival, Princess, and Holland America -- revised their smoking policies to ban smoking in most public spaces and all staterooms, effective Dec. 1, 2011 for Carnival and Jan. 15, 2012 for Princess and HAL.
"Considering that nearly 90% of our guests are nonsmokers, we wanted to make sure our shipboard experience aligns with today's guest preferences," says Tim Gallagher, vice president of public relations at Carnival, which based its new policy on guest surveys that showed a huge shift in the balance of smoking versu nonsmoking cruisers. "We believe our new smoking policy strikes a balance that pleases our guests, both smokers and nonsmokers alike."
Generally speaking, most cruise lines now prohibit smoking now in all restaurants, theaters, corridors, elevators, and most public areas. If you want to light up, most lines still let you do so in the smoking sections of select bars and lounges (often the casino bar and one nightclub) and in designated sections of the open decks. Increasingly, cruise lines are banning smoking in staterooms and suites, and many have extended that ban to private stateroom balconies as well.
On the other side of the coin, anti-smokers face the fact that no cruise line that still permits in-stateroom smoking maintains officially designated smoking and nonsmoking 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 staterooms going empty if not enough smokers book), but it's a potential irritant to passengers with particularly delicate and discriminating schnozzolas.
To be fair, the cruise lines' cleaning regimes do seem to do the trick: In a decade and a half of cruising, I can recall only one stateroom that betrayed lingering cigarette odors from a past sailing.
In the following sections, I'll give a gold star to cruise lines that are on the leading edge of current trends -- good for nonsmokers, 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 Nonsmokers
Cruise lines scrub their staterooms well between cruises -- shampooing the rug and using air purifiers if necessary -- so chances are you'll never notice if Don Draper (the character in the hit TV series Mad Men) had your stateroom before you.
There are certain people, though (my wife among them), who can sniff out residual smoke like master perfumers sniffing for impurities. These travelers' 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 following cruise lines.
Azamara Club Cruises and Oceania Cruises are the best cruise lines around for nonsmokers, and the worst for smokers. Both lines ban smoking in staterooms, on stateroom balconies, and in all but two small public areas aboard each of their midsize ships.
Among the megaship lines, Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises share top honors, with policies that ban smoking in all staterooms, on stateroom balconies, and in almost all public areas (save for designated smoking areas in some bars and lounges and designated sections of the open decks). Princess's updated policy goes into effect Jan. 15, 2012.
Among the smaller, more specialized lines, top honors go to Connecticut-based American Cruise Lines, whose small 50- to 140-passenger ships are all entirely smoke-free. Runners-up are Lindblad Expeditions and Windstar Cruises, which allow smoking only in designated outdoor areas. Luxe line SeaDream Yacht Club allows smoking only outside on decks 3, 4, and 6 -- except during dining hours, when the line's vessels become entirely smoke-free.
Smoking Regulations, Line by Line
Azamara Club Cruises (www.azamaraclubcruises.com)
Azamara's 710-passenger Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest each 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 nonsmoking, including all public rooms, restaurants, the majority of the pool deck, and all corridors, staterooms, and stateroom balconies. Smokers who ignore the rules and light up in their staterooms or on their balconies get slapped with a $250 cleaning fee, and "may be subject to further action pursuant to the Consequences Section of the line's Guest Conduct Policy.
Carnival Cruise Lines (www.carnival.com)
Effective just last week, cigarette smoking in public areas aboard Carnival's ships is permitted only in dance clubs, designated areas of the casino and casino bar, certain sections of the open decks, and in the jazz clubs on Carnival Destiny, Triumph, Victory, Spirit, Pride, Legend, Miracle, Conquest, Glory, Valor, Liberty, Freedom, and Splendor. Cigar smoking is also permitted in the jazz clubs and, on some vessels, in designated on-deck spaces. As of Dec. 1, 2011, smoking will be forbidden in staterooms fleetwide, though it will still be permitted on stateroom balconies (except those attached to spa staterooms aboard Carnival Splendor, Dream, and Magic).
Celebrity Cruises (www.celebrity.com)
Celebrity's 10 megaships are officially designated as nonsmoking, with smoking prohibited in staterooms, on stateroom balconies, and in most public areas. Smoking is permitted in designated sections of some public bars/lounges and designated sections of the outside decks. As aboard sister-line Azamara, smokers who ignore the rules and light up in their staterooms or on their balconies are penalized with a $250 cleaning fee and may be subject to further action, up to and including being booted off the ship at the next port of call and left to get home on their own.
Costa Cruises (www.costacruise.com)
Smoking is permitted in staterooms and private balconies and in designated areas of most public rooms on board Costa ships. It's prohibited in the restaurants, theaters, corridors, elevators, and stairwells.
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 alternative restaurants, the show lounge, and the indoor portions of the buffet restaurant. Cigarette smoking is permitted in staterooms, on stateroom 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 the Lido Deck -- Deck 11 on Crystal Symphony, Deck 12 on Crystal Serenity). Pipes and cigars are prohibited in staterooms, on stateroom balconies, and in the ships' corridors.
Cunard Line (www.cunard.com)
Cunard recently amended its smoking policy and now prohibits smoking in all staterooms and all indoor public areas except Churchill's Cigar Lounge, where only cigars are welcome (no cigarettes, please). Smoking is permitted in designated sections of the open decks and from private stateroom balconies.
Disney Cruise Line (www.disneycruise.com)
Smoking is prohibited in all staterooms on Disney's three ships, though it is permitted on stateroom balconies. In the public areas, regulations vary by ship: Aboard Disney Magicand Disney Wonder, guests can light up outdoors (a) on the starboard side of Deck 4 between 6pm and 6am, and (b) on the starboard side of Decks 9 and 10, except in the "Mickey's Pool" area. Aboard the new Disney Dream, smokers can do their thing (a) on the starboard side of Deck 4 between 6pm and 6am, (b) on the starboard side of the outdoor Currents bar on Deck 13 forward, and (c) on the outdoor smoking deck attached to the Meridian Lounge on Deck 12 aft. Passengers discovered trying to smoke in their staterooms are charged a $250 "stateroom recovery fee" that covers "air filter replacement, carpet extraction and the cleaning and replacement of drapes, comforters, blankets and pillows."
Holland America Line(www.hollandamerica.com)
Holland America currently permits smoking in the casino, the sports bar, in sections of the outside decks, in staterooms, and on stateroom balconies, and in either the Northern Lights Disco (aboard Eurodam, Oosterdam, Noordam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Westerdam, and Zuiderdam) or the Crow's Nest lounge (on all the line's other ships). Cigar and pipe smoking is only permitted in sections of the outside decks. Beginning Jan. 15, 2012, smoking will be banned in all staterooms, though it will still be permitted on stateroom balconies.
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.
MSC Cruises (www.msccruises.com)Smoking is permitted in several bars on each MSC ship and on one side of the principal outdoor pool deck areas. It's also permitted (though "highly discouraged") in staterooms, but is forbidden on stateroom balconies.
Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com)
Smoking is prohibited in most public areas aboard NCL's ships. Cigarette smoking is permitted only in staterooms, on stateroom 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 four midsize ships, including staterooms, stateroom balconies, and almost all 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. Guests who flout the line's smoking policy "will be disembarked at the next port of call and may also be subject to additional fees" to cover cleaning.
Princess Cruises (www.princess.com)
Currently, Princess allows smoking in designated smoking areas that include cigar lounges, a section of the nightclub and casino, and portions of the open decks, as well as in staterooms and on stateroom balconies. After Jan. 15, 2012, smoking will be prohibited in all staterooms and stateroom balconies, and smokers who try to sneak a smoke there will be fined $250 per occurrence, charged to their stateroom account.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises (www.rssc.com)
Regent Seven Seas Cruises prohibits smoking in all staterooms and stateroom 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. Pipe smoking is only permitted in the cigar lounge, while cigars may be smoked there and in a designated section of the Pool Bar. "Failure to comply with this ban will result in guests being asked to leave the ship at their expense," says the line's FAQs, "without refund or credit for the unused portion of their cruise."
Royal Caribbean International (www.royalcaribbean.com)
Smoking is prohibited in staterooms and most public areas aboard Royal Caribbean's ships. Designated smoking areas vary by ship but are generally located outdoors on one side of the vessel, in designated areas of the ships' bars and lounges, and on private balconies (except those aboard Oasis and Allure of the Seas that face inward, toward the ships' open-air Boardwalk and Central Park neighborhoods). Pipe and cigar smoking is permitted only in cigar lounges (on ships that have them) or in another designated area (on ships that don't). A $250 cleaning fee is levied on anyone caught smoking in their staterooms or on inward-facing private balconies.
Seabourn Cruise Line (www.seabourn.com)
Aboard Seabourn's six small luxury ships, smoking is permitted in staterooms, on stateroom balconies, on the starboard sides of the Sky Bar and Observation Bar, and in designated areas on deck. Pipe and cigar smoking is permitted only outside on deck on the vessels' starboard sides, except during on-deck meal service.
SeaDream Yacht Club (www.seadreamyachtclub.com)
Smoking is prohibited in all indoor areas of SeaDream's two 110-passenger luxury ships, including their staterooms. No staterooms aboard these ships have private balconies, so that's not an option either. Smoking is only permitted outdoors on Decks 3, 4, and 6, except during meal hours.
Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com)
Aboard Silversea's luxury ships, smoking is permitted only in staterooms, at designated tables in some bars and lounges, and in specifically designated outside areas on the open deck. Cigar and pipe smoking are only permitted in the Connoisseur's Corner cigar clubs and in designated outside areas on one or two decks, depending on the ship. Smoking is not permitted on private verandas.
Star Clippers (www.starclippers.com)
The three Star Clippers sailing ships follow a no-smoking policy in the staterooms and in all 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.
Windstar Cruises (www.windstarcruises.com)
Aboard Windstar, smoking is prohibited in all staterooms and all enclosed public areas. It's permitted only in designated areas on the open decks.