Rules about cigarette smoking on cruise ships are changing this year, but not in a uniform way. Each cruise line has its own plan for dodging the opposing forces -- vacationers who want to smoke aboard ship and folks who demand not to inhale even a puff of second-hand tobacco smoke.
What cruisers need is an industry-wide policy banning cigarette smoking in cabins and in most public places where passengers gather.
The issues are both health and safety, because careless smoking is a major cause of fires at sea. Cruise lines have been slow to respond to the national trend of prohibiting smoking where people work, relax, eat and drink. The only ships that prohibited smoking have not been successful economically, partly because some tour companies will not book a group of cabins on such a ship.
Until the industry decides on a uniform policy, cruise lines will continue to wallow.
Don't look for any agreement soon, especially now that vacationers from Europe and Asia are booking cruises in growing numbers. As the website Cruise Critic points out in its recent analysis of smoking policies, any ship that sails with a large European or Asian contingent is bound to be smokier than a ship filled with North Americans.
Before you book a cruise, you may want to ask about smoking policies. In general, passengers may smoke in their cabins on most ships, on their private balconies on most ships, and in most bars and lounges, but not in most dining rooms.
Celebrity leads with new anti-smoking policies
Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Royal Caribbean have issued new smoking policies this year.
Celebrity and its partner Azamara clearly are on the right track, an industry leader and far ahead of most cruise lines, including their parent company, Royal Caribbean.
Celebrity, which reported that 90 percent of its passengers do not smoke, banned smoking in cabins and on private balconies starting Oct. 1. Designated indoor areas where guests may smoke cigarettes will include the port (left) side of one lounge per ship, and a designated slot machine area in each ship’s casino. Azamara allows smoking only in two areas outdoors.
Crystal, which allows smoking in cabins, has banned smoking on balconies.
But Royal Caribbean seems to have the whole idea backwards. While Royal Caribbean banned smoking in cabins starting next month, ships will allow smoking in most bars and lounges and on outside private balconies, a terrible idea if you happen to be downwind of smokers. Banning smoking in cabins -- no doubt to reduce cleaning charges -- merely encourages smokers to go outside to spoil their neighbors' holidays.
I have been forced off my balcony on several cruise ships by clouds of cigarette smoke from next door; if I left the balcony door open, smoke was sucked into my cabin.
Wake up cruise industry: On this issue, you are not operating in the best interests of your passengers.
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Molyneaux is editor of TravelMavens.net. CLICK for articles on cruising, Florida, Europe, adventure and travel gear and gadgets.