To smoke ... or not to smoke. Nothing fires up cruise travelers more than this issue. Indeed, check out the posts on Cruise Critic's message boards -- but we warn you: Put on your oven mitts before you open any thread with "smoking" in the title. It'll be red hot.
This issue is so incendiary (pun intended) that smokers often feel bruised and battered and slink away in shame, and non-smokers are often arrogant and self-righteous and ... well, just plain rude. On the other hand, there are non-smokers whose response is to live and let live and smokers who take the position that "hell, it's still legal, so leave me alone."
In the United States, the number of smokers is dropping -- and young people aren't starting to smoke as much as they used to -- but one in four adults still lights up. (In California, the number is closer to one in seven.) In Europe and Asia, smoking is much more prevalent, although that's changing too. In the last few years, the governments of France, Ireland, Italy and the U.K. have banned all indoor smoking countrywide. Still, any ship that sails with a large European or Asian contingent is bound to be smokier than a ship filled with North Americans.
Cruise lines, though, have generally taken a more moderate approach to smoking policies. Renaissance Cruises, an entirely non-smoking line, no longer exists. Carnival's Paradise, which started life as a smoke-free vessel and stayed that way for six years, now allows smoking onboard. But, while Paradise may have been ahead of its time, the pendulum is certainly moving back toward a more prohibitive stance.
Several major cruise lines, including Carnival, NCL, Cunard and Princess, have recently implemented new restrictions, citing evolving passenger preferences as the reason for the switch. The biggest change: In-cabin smoking has been increasingly snuffed out. (Royal Caribbean, of course, has long prohibited in-cabin smoking.)
It's an issue of "spoilage" (the industry's lingo for unsold cabins) that keeps cruise lines from designating some cabins non-smoking, in the fashion of hotel rooms. "It would present an inventory mess," says a spokesperson for CLIA, the cruise industry's official trade association. "The cruise lines' yield management people want the ships to sail full at all times; you can't do that if you set aside non-smoking rooms."
We're presenting the policies for you in one neat, tidy package, but first, here are a couple of pointers:
Most Restrictive: Renaissance Cruises (and its groundbreaking "no smoking anywhere" policies) may now be defunct, but the premise is alive and well, to a point, on Oceania Cruises. That cruise line not only hails Renaissance's former president as its leader but also sails with Renaissance's former ships! And while smoking is permitted in two small areas only, its restrictive policies can strike fear in the heart of even the most obsessive walking chimney. All seven of U.K.-based P&O Cruises ships -- Artemis, Oceana, Ventura, Aurora, Oriana and Arcadia -- are completely smoke-free in inside spaces, with lighting up limited to some outside areas and on cabin balconies. Another U.K. line, Fred. Olsen, also bans indoor smoking fleetwide.
What happens if you get caught smoking in your cabin or on your balcony? Check out this little ditty in the Oceania Cruises Guest Ticket Contract:
"Guests choosing to disregard the policy may be subject to monetary penalties -- up to the fare paid for passage -- that will be imposed to cover the costs associated with the required cleaning of stateroom furnishings, verandas and surrounding deck and accommodation areas. Guests are also kindly reminded that the Master of the vessel reserves the right to disembark any guests, without prior warning, for violation of this policy and said guest(s) shall be responsible for all fees levied by governmental or quasi-governmental authorities, all costs associated with repatriation and vessel's loss of revenues from said forced disembarkation or costs associated with repairs or replacement of furnishings as a result of combustion of accommodation areas found to be caused by said guest(s)."
Don't say you weren't warned.
Least Restrictive: Given the shift toward increasingly prohibitive policies, the attitude of smoke wherever you like -- especially with regards to European lines -- has all but disappeared. These days, the big distinction in policies comes down to which lines still allow passengers to smoke in their cabins. A small few, including Seabourn, do.
Balconies: Considerate smokers who want to least offend their neighbors should look at getting a balconied stateroom as far aft as possible since the smoke tends to drift back while the ship is underway. Conversely, sensitive non-smokers should look at booking their verandahs as far forward as possible, for the same reason. If that isn't possible, non-smokers need to adjust their balcony-use schedule or just tolerate the smoke.
Public Spaces: Most ships have designated smoking areas, usually on one side or another of the ship. If smoking is permitted on deck on the port side, that's where smokers should go to light up and where non-smokers should avoid sitting. You'd think that's pretty basic, but many a fight has started over cigarette smoke because one side or another is in the "wrong" space.
It's important to note that shipboard personnel cannot change policy. For example, they cannot and will not ask someone to stop smoking on that person's balcony (except on cruise lines where it's prohibited), but they can and will ask someone to move to a smoking area if that person is in one that is clearly non-smoking. Avoid confrontation; let the ship's personnel handle the asking.
And now, on to our line-by-line roundup of policies (policies are ambiguous with regard to cigar or pipe smoking except where noted):
Azamara Club Cruises
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted in the port side aft section of the Looking Glass Lounge and the starboard forward section of the pool deck.
Where You Can't: The rest of the ship is completely non-smoking, including all cabins and balconies.
Carnival Cruise Lines
Where You Can Smoke: Cigarette smoking in public venues is only permitted in Carnival's dance clubs as well as in designated areas within the casino and casino bar. Smoking (including cigars) is permitted in designated exterior open deck areas (starboard side) of all ships. Additionally, smoking is allowed in the jazz clubs of the following ships: Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Victory, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Freedom, and Carnival Splendor.
Where You Can't: Everywhere but above enumerated spaces are non-smoking, including the dining room and most public rooms.
Smoking is prohibited in all cabins. Passengers in balcony accommodations are permitted to smoke cigarettes and cigars outside on the balcony. Spa cabins -- currently featured on Carnival Splendor, Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic -- are entirely smoke-free, including on the balconies.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar smoking is permitted in the jazz clubs.
Where You Can Smoke: Cigarette smoking is only permitted in designated indoor and outdoor areas. Examples include the port side of the pool deck and sundecks on each ship; the port side of the Sunset Bar on Celebrity Century and on Celebrity's Millennium class of ships; and the port side, aft, outside of Winter Garden on Celebrity Galaxy and Celebrity Mercury.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in cabins and on balconies. Also, smoking is not permitted in any dining venue, casino, theater, hallway, elevator or corridor. On Celebrity's new Solstice, the Lawn Club and the Sunset Bar at the Lawn Club will not allow smoking.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar and pipe smoking is allowed only in specially designated sections of the open decks.
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted on the open decks, and in designated smoking areas in most public rooms.
Where You Can't: All restaurants and show lounges are non-smoking. Smoking is cabins an on balconies is also prohibited.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted on two designated areas on the open decks.
Where You Can't: All cabins, restaurants, public rooms and show lounges are non-smoking
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted in cabins, on open decks, and in designated smoking areas in most bars and lounges.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited on verandahs of all cabins and suites aboard. As well, all dining venues, including the Crystal Dining Room, Bistro, Lido Cafe and alternative restaurants, are non-smoking, as is the Galaxy Lounge (the main show lounge).
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar and pipe smoking is permitted either in the Connoisseur Club or on the open decks (except for Lido Deck).
Where You Can Smoke: As of April 27, 2012, for Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth, and March 24, 2012 for Queen Victoria, smoking is only permitted on cabin balconies, designated areas on the open decks, and certain bars and lounges.
The sole actual change in policy is the prohibition of in-cabin smoking.
Where You Can't: As of the above dates, smoking is not permitted in cabins, any public area with the exception of Churchill's Cigar Lounge (cigars and pipes only), designated areas on the open decks, and the upper level of the G32 nightclub on Queen Mary 2. Smoking is also prohibited in the Casino Bar as well as the entire Casino area. The obvious -- elevators, theaters, the library, restaurants -- are likewise non-smoking spaces.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar and pipe smoking is permitted in Churchill's Cigar Lounge aboard Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted on the starboard side of all open decks (except near Mickey's Pool) and cabin balconies.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in all indoor areas, including cabins.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Line
Where You Can Smoke: Guests are only be able to smoke on cabin balconies and in specially designated areas on open-air decks.
Where You Can't: Smoking is banned in all indoor areas on all Fred. Olsen ships.
Holland America Line
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted on open decks and in designated areas in most public spaces.
Where You Can't: All restaurants are non-smoking, as is the show lounge during performances. HAL's smoking policy designates cabins as non-smoking areas. Smoking is still, however, permitted on cabin balconies.
Louis Cruise Lines
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted on the open decks and in designated smoking areas in most public rooms.
Where You Can't: All cabins are non-smoking, as well as the dining room.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar smoking is permitted only on the open decks.
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is only allowed indoors in the cigar rooms, the casinos and one dedicated lounge, and outdoors on one side of the sun deck.
Where You Can't: Each MSC ship is now 90 percent smoke-free. Smoking is prohibited in dining rooms, theaters and cabins (including cabin balconies).
Norwegian Cruise Line
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted in designated ares on open decks, in casinos and in cigar bars. Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Spirit have cigar bars.
Where You Can't: All indoor public areas except casinos and cigar bars are non-smoking. Smoking is also prohibited in cabins. Cigarette smoking is still allowed on balconies; however, cigar and pipe smoking on balconies is prohibited.
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted only in the aft port side of Horizons, and the starboard forward section of the outdoor Pool Deck.
Where You Can't: All other areas are smoke-free. This includes all cabins and balconies, restaurants, public rooms and open decks except for the two designated smoking areas.
P & O Cruises
Where You Can Smoke: Passengers who wish to light up can smoke on stateroom balconies and on certain open decks.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public areas and in the cabins.
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted in the Churchill's cigar lounge, a section of the disco and casino, and a portion of the open decks.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in show lounges, elevators, dining rooms and all food service areas. Princess also prohibits smoking in cabins and balconies across its fleet.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar and pipe smoking is permitted only on the open decks.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Where You Can Smoke: RSSC allows smoking on open decks, in casinos and at all pool bars. Smoking is also permitted in the Connoisseur Club on Seven Seas Mariner, Navigator and Voyager, and in designated smoking areas in lounges on each ship.
Where You Can't: RSSC does not allow smoking in suites, staterooms or on private balconies. Smoking is also not permitted in any enclosed dining areas.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar smoking is permitted in the Connoisseur Club on Seven Seas Mariner, Navigator and Voyager, and in the designated area of the pool bar on those three ships. Pipe smoking is permitted only in the Connoisseur Club on Mariner, Navigator and Voyager, and is prohibited in open deck areas and on all other ships.
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted only on cabin balconies, on the starboard side of open decks and in the designated smoking areas of public rooms.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in all cabins (except on balconies) and in one public room on each ship. In addition, as always, dining areas and show lounges will be non-smoking, along with the port side of open decks.
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted on open decks in designated areas and on cabin balconies.
Where You Can't: Smoking is not permitted anywhere inside Saga's ships.
Seabourn Cruise Line
Where You Can Smoke: Cigarette smoking is permitted in suites and balconies, and, depending on ship, on one side of Observation Bar/Lounge (except during coffee and tea service hours), one side of the Sky Bar (except during Sky Grill food service on Seabourn Pride, Spirit & Legend) and one side of Seabourn Square Terrace and Club Terrace.
Where You Can't: Most public areas are smoke-free.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Passengers are prohibited from smoking pipes and cigars anywhere inside the ship, including in suites and on balconies. Cigar and pipe smoking is permitted only on open decks (Seabourn Pride, Spirit & Legend) and only on the starboard side deck area of Seabourn Square Terrace on Seabourn Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest.
SeaDream Yacht Club
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted outdoors on Decks 3, 4 and 6.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in all indoor spaces, including cabins, and outdoors on Decks 2 and 5.
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is permitted in specifically designated tables in some bars and lounges and specifically designated outside areas on the open deck. Cigarette smoking is also permitted in cabins. Starting January 1, 2013, smoking will only be allowed in the Connoisseur's Corner, the cigar and cognac bar found on all Silversea ships, and specifically designated areas on open decks.
Where You Can't: Cabin balconies, The Restaurant, indoors at the Terrace Cafe, Saletta, the Show Lounge, Card/Conference Room, Library, Spa/Fitness Centre, Internet Point and Gift Shops/Boutiques are smoke-free. Starting January 1, 2013, passengers will no longer be permitted to smoke in their cabins.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar and pipe smoking are only permitted in the Connoisseur's Corner and in specifically designated outside areas on open Decks 9 and 10 aboard Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper and Silver Spirit, and open Deck 9 aboard Silver Cloud and Silver Wind
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is only permitted in strictly designated areas of the open deck.
Where You Can't: Smoking is not permitted anywhere inside the ship.
Where You Can Smoke: Smoking is allowed on the open decks, in cabins and on the port side of the lounge on all ships. It is also permitted in the casino and on the port side of the Compass Rose on Wind Surf only.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in the restaurants on all Windstar ships.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar and pipe smoking is permitted on the open decks only.