15/06/2011...9:33 am

Smokers on ships: Friends or foes?

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On a cruise, do you find that there’s always one bar, or one part of the ship, that has a natural aura of fun?

On my last cruise, people bonded in, of all places, the smoking corner

On my mini-cruise on Seabourn Quest last week, that spot every day was the corner of the starboard side of the Sky Bar; a nice vantage point overlooking the pool, above the band, with great views of the ocean and a friendly, attentive bartender.

Conversation buzzed as passers-by stopped to greet their friends and joined tables, while Stephanie behind the bar mixed more huge mojitos.

So? Well, what was unusual was that this is the smoking corner.

Smokers on ships always share a common bond. Whatever you feel about the habit, it’s an ice-breaker. All outcasts together, the smokers get chatting and the smoking corner on a ship, a bit like the launderette, is one of the best places to get shipboard gossip.

For the record, I don’t smoke, although my cruising friend does. And as one smoker on the cruise said (possibly controversially), if you’re going to take the same money from smokers as you do from non-smokers, then at least provide them with somewhere pleasant to smoke, not some wind-blown corner of the promenade deck under a lifeboat.

To that end, Seabourn seems particularly smoker-friendly without the smoking becoming intrusive; there were three places outdoors on Quest where smoking was allowed, as well as balconies (which is another discussion point altogether). But interestingly, although there seemed to be a lot of smokers on my cruise, there wasn’t any conflict with the non-smokers. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Maybe it was because of their strategic position by the Sky Bar that the smokers created the ‘in’ spot on the ship. I’m not suggesting that these people are any more fun because they smoke. But the camaraderie was infectious and their corner just seemed to catch the passing traffic.

This was never more amusing than on the sailaway from St Tropez. A dazzling sunset quickly turned into a crashing thunderstorm. People who’d been sunbathing all along the sides of the deck fled the rain, all congregating in the sheltered smoking corner. After a few minutes, there was quite a party going as everybody squeezed in to avoid the now bucketing rain. But what was telling was that nobody chose to sit out the storm on the identical, but smoke-free port side of the bar. It was completely empty.

Instead of the smoking, the rain and the spontaneous party had become the common bond.


For Cruise Critic’s guide to cruise lines’ smoking policies, click here


  • Seabourn still has a crazy non 21st century smoking policy. We are booked on the Quest in August to test it out. Even Princess has announced that in 2012, they will disconintue smoking in most public places but more importantly also in the cabins and suites. Why can’t Seabourn do the same thing since they have the same owners.

  • Ron Jefford

    It is high time more cruise lines, if not invoking complete smoking bans, at least designate, smoke free ships, then the non-smoking public would have a choice.

  • dave lancaster

    sounds like non smokers like cruises that only suit themselves thats selfish if i spend the same amount of money on a cruise as they do i expect to be able to have a cigarette if i want to and im a non smoker .if they ban smoking then the cruise lines will lose thousands of pounds on my part because i will not cruise (3 cruises a year) and before non smokers say good job if all smokers stopped cruising then non smokers cruise would cost a lot more

  • In this day and age when it is clearly understood by all that smoking is a health hazard and secondary smoke is also a danger I take my hat off to companies who have the courage to stop smoking on their ships. The quicker they ban smoking on the entire ship the better, why should none smokers throught no choice of theirs be subjected to others smoke which is not only a health hazard but leaves clothing smelling of the stuff. Amazingly cruise lines seem to relax these rules in the casino which seems silly or are they implying the persons most likely to gamble will be smokers, which in turn restricts this area to persons who are prepared to tolerate it. We are booked on a Princess Pacific cruise next year and thankfully smoking is now banned from balconies and staterooms, but unfortunately not the casino.

    • Simple answer, Don’t go on a ship that allows smoking. Simple

      • Firstly why should I, its smoking that is anti social in todays society and also a health hazard and secondly can you think of any ship that is smoke free. Hopefully in the not too distant future they will all be that way.

  • I was seriously thinking of booking with Seabourn but just changed my mind.

  • Let the smokers have a place to smoke as long as they do not pollute cabins or parts of the promenade deck where people are walking past. Also make these areas comfortable to encourage the smoker to stay there whilst doing it and ventilate them properly so that fresh air is drawn into these areas and foul air is exhausted away from other passengers. So often smoke drifts out of open doors or open areas into other areas because of poor ventilation.

    We non-smokers have a free choice not to enter a designated smoking area as long as it is not in a place that we have to walk through. What we are not free to do is breath fresh air where smoke drifts across public areas, or where it has got into furnishings.

    On most ships there is no problem, but on the Grand Princess smoke was drifting out of the bar into one entrance to the theatre which was most unpleasant, especially for those with breathing problems or asthma.

  • why persecute smokers – they have also paid to be on the ship and outside they are not harming anyone, and for the record no I dont smoke, I agree no smoking in cabins as it clings to curtains/carpets and the cabin stewards cant do anything about this so rooms basically stink

    • Have you not heard about the health hazard caused by passive smoke, so they are actually harming you, I for one value my health before anyones need to inhale smoke.

      • The so-called health hazards of passive smoke are vastly overstated. For example, read here

        Other people’s smoke may be irritating or unpleasant to some folks on a cruise (much as the smell of other people’s perfume and meat and coffee are irritating to me – as a migraineur, I’m particularly vulnerable to smells I don’t like), but it’s not going to cause them a scintilla of harm. I don’t go around expecting people to stop drinking coffee or eating meat or wearing perfumes. What’s wrong with a bit of tolerance?

  • You were right to say smoking on balconies was another issue.

    I have a sister who is a smoker so have sympathy with the way smokers are forced outside to smoke.

    I’d not like to spend a week with my sister in the next cabin though. Seabourn balconies are too close together.

    On our last Seabourn cruise I well remember the early morning smokers as the coughed, hacked and choked on the balconies each day. Like a dying dawn chorus.

    The doors were slammed and some smokers can out before their bath (door opening, cough, hack, choke, cough door slam) and after their bath (door opening, cough, etc, door slam).

    Earplugs don’t do much for the doors slamming (vibrations) and my ears just end up painful and infected. Being woken like this each morning on a well deserved and supposed to be relaxing break isn’t much fun.

    There must be a solution to this but I don’t know what it is.

  • Hooray for Seabourn is all I can say. As a smoker, I admit that we were inconsiderate to those who did not share our habit in the past but times have changed. Restaurants, public areas and many bars are smoke-free these days and rightly so. However, to ban all smoking completely is an over-reaction to a perceived need that just isn’t there. All we ask is somewhere we can enjoy ourselves without feeling like pariahs. Surely if a properly ventilated area is made available where we can go to do so, surely we should be allowed to use it? Non-smokers are welcome to join us there but please don’t lecture us any more as we don’t deserve it. I will never sail on Princess now that they have banned smoking completely. They have made a commercial decision and it is my choice to decline sailing with them as a result. Everyone else is free to sail with them by all means but don’t try and force your views on me or anyone else.

    • Well said! Non smokers are just spitting out their dummies because they cant have it ALL their own way!

      We smokers have listened & obeyed we no longer smoke in confined areas and are banned from almost everywhere don’t be so damn selfish & give us an area and you lot stay away from it! We pay full price too you know!


    As a smoker (as is my wife) I take a fairly relaxed view on this subject and agree that where smoking is allowed ships should make some effort to offer suitable places and suitable equipment, ie ashtrays. Our last cruise on Ventura allowed smoking in certain areas but failed to provide ashtrays, bins etc which resulted in the mess of ash and cigarette ends giving smokers a further bad name. When I enquired of a crew member for a supply of ash trays I was told “what you see is what you get”.

    There is a simple solution – if ships want to ban smoking then they should do so and I like others would avoid said ships. Those who will allow in a limited areas should provide proper facilities. The traveller will decide which ships they will go on!

  • I agree with people who prefer not have smokers on board!!! It is dirty unhealthy habit, which should not be forced on other people, inside or outside….it is still a fire risk also onboard passenger liners.

    • No smoking should be the norm as it is and always has been a fire risk

      • steve bucmkley

        so lets ban everything that is a potential fire risk – lets not cook – oh better not have engines that use nasty inflamable stuff. aerosols – they can explode. Glasses well if they are left on a table they could focus the sun and set light to something.
        get the idea – rather a spurious reason to ban smoking.
        separate smoking areas are fine if you don’t want to go where the smoke is don’t go in those areas ( keep away from the diesel fumes from the funnels ( check out how carciogentic they are). simple really – or is this all about the natural tendency of the do gooders, health and safety passionistas to just ban it if they don’t like it.
        Yes I do smoke but then again I am allergic to most perfumes so should we ban you from smelling nice?
        ah just live and let live

  • As confirmed Smokers and avide cruisers we alway pay the extra for a balcony as we think we are considerate smokers and never smoke in the cabins even when we are allowed to, but we still get the coughs and comments about smoker.

    • Wish it was illegal. I don’t want to inhale your polluting fumes!!!

    • I suppose you were the person underneath my cabin – that forced me to stay in my cabin, with the door closed to avoid the smoke (which makes me heave) from your cigarettes I can’t do anything about my problem, except avoid cigarettes. How I wished I had known about people being able to smoke on their balconies, puffing away, ignorant to others who have issues. I also care passionately about my health.

  • I am 63 and have smoked for 50 years. I have aslo been sailing since 1956, which is 55 years. Both my parents smoked and I was brought up with an attitude of being courteous towards non-smokers. having done over 40 cruises I can tell you that the problem today is called by the people who are new to cruising and don’t understand the basic good manners required to be a smoker on a ship.
    I am not asking for the “good old days” because I remember on a particular cruise when there was a loud mouth Yank at the next table who always enjoyed his after meal cigar. I was 12 and feeling poorly because of the rough weather and his smoking was enough to make my stomach flip. So I did the only thing I could, I shakily stood up from the table and threw up, mainly on him.
    When he tried to argue with my mother about my conduct the maitre ‘d intervened and told him it was his fault and to stop picking on a little boy. He also barred him from smoking in the dining room for the remainder of the cruise.
    So you see common sense prevailed, and I for one would find it unacceptable for there to be smoking in any dining area but I also object to people telling me to not smoke. There should be, as there is, smoking areas set up by the cruise ship and they know it best to suit the needs of the smokers as well as the needs of non-smokers. I don’t need health advice from strangers interfering in my life.

    • while i do not condone smoking in areas where food is served as i think there is nothing worse than some person smoking behind you when you are eating, i have smoked since i was 13 when i left school i worked underground for 21years and when underground never looked for a smoke, even when hospitalised, i never smoked, i can honestly say that when my wife and i went to the carribean on sea princess the smoking regs were in force, in as much that the only places you could have a smoke was in the cigar lounge or up on deck, my wife does not smoke but she never once complained as we went through the ship in different lounges and bars, and the casino and theatre, and if when in the cabin if i wanted a smoke i would go out on to the balcony where i had an ashtray provided and it was cleaned every day with no problem, if as they say princess are going to inflict more regs on the patrons that do smoke i think they are going to lose a large percentage of custom, and also on our cruise it seemed that where there were people having a smoke whether it was a cigar or cigarette there was more of a lively atmosphere the people were a lot more friendly as well so i would say to these people who are trying to isolate the do gooders of this world from what i would call most normal people BEWARE it could work against you also.

  • To Peter Scott, I would say this. If you want to see the price of cruises go up by at least 20% as a minimum then opt for non-smoking ships. You cannot have it both ways because the smokers on a ship are approximately 20% of the passengers so the cruise line would need to find another similar amount to replace them.
    Why not be a little more magnanimous and just not use that area? I personally have started doing more cruises in the Far East to get away from attitudes like yours. Live and let live. And by the way Peter, there has never been a major fire on any passenger ship that resulted from a smoker, so get your facts right.

    • Non-smoking please

    • Graham

      I have been also been cruising for years, way back on Union Castle Line included, am a smoker and have never experienced a fire on board. Much exaggeration here….if the cruise lines continue to ban smoking even more so than they are doing now, then I will stop cruising – simple as that. Cruising isnt the be all and end all of spending one’s leisure time. I am totally fed up with the selfishness of non-smokers and their continuous nit-picking. Keep away from us if we are so contagious! End of.

  • Suppose I like to drink contaminated water? Does that give me a right to contaminate the water of others and to call them selfish if they wish to drink uncontaminated water? Air is the most important thing we have and we should be seeking to keep it as clean as possible. It is ridiculous to suggest that those that do not want their air contaminated are selfish. Would these same people object if I took a pee in the swimming pool they were in, after all, my money is as good as theirs and I like to pee in the pool!

    • Robert Back

      Well said Keith. I totally agree.

      • Due to the fact that we currently live in a democratic society, it is your god given right to do what is legally allowed. Smoking is allowed , contaminating a pool is not illegal as far as I know, but morally I would questions your thought process.

        If you must do this, can I suggest you let those people in the pool or are about to go in the pool that you have cantaminated the water. At least then they have a choice to go in the water or not.

        The same can be said for smoking. You can see people doing it, can possibly smell it but also have the god given right to avoid it by staying upwind of it or walking around it.

  • Graham, please Google Star Princess fire 2006. Maybe no definitive proof, but extremely strong circumstantial evidence.

  • great article and so true about the comraderie, and the buzz, you get on the smoking side of the ship, ive done some 13 cruises and wouldnt change a thing that cruise ships do, after all in the open space the smoker has the same rights as anyone else, quite rightly and if youve paid for a balcony sure thats acceptable too because its an open space, they have options of only smoking cruises and non-smoking cruises if necessary, but it works fine, and if it works dont fix it : )

  • There is no way that smokers should be punished or banished any more than the chubbies should be limited in their food intake and prevented from their daily stampedes to the food arenas. I have actually seen NON smokers walk out into the smoking area on the back of the ship…just so they could make faces and whine and complain! You have the entire INTERIOR of the ship, and half of the back deck on a HAL ship. Smokers on a HAL ship have a quarter of the Crowsnest, half the back deck and the Casino. And if you’re paying for a balcony, you should be able to smoke on it, run naked on it, or howl at the moon. We’re all paying the same prices, people. My husband smokes, I do not…but I’m fed up with the non-smokers and their whining.

    • Robert Back

      Don’t smoke then Deb. I dont see why I should have to breathe your husbands exhaled tobacco smoke if I am downwind of your balcony. If you don’t like the rules don’t go on cruise ships.

  • Thank you SJB. How nice to read something that does not demonise smokers for a change, and shows that we can all get along with a little tolerance, common sense and goodwill – which I fear some of the comments are sadly lacking.

  • I think smokers have had it to good to long, so move over for non smokers.
    In fact better still let us try the smokers & non smokers cruieses & I will put money on the non smokers ships being standing room only!!

  • Fine! Sail with Princess line and let smokers book with Seabourn. That way both groups are happy.

  • Smokers must realise that their unhealthy habit affects other non smokers in their vicinity. I always have a balcony – usually princess cruises – to date have not had a problem but only because I have been lucky not to have had smokers on the balcony next door. Fantastic news Princess now banning smoking on balconies.
    The fact smokers pay the same money is irrelevant – basically they have the run of the whole ship while we none smokers have to avoid the areas they are able to smoke.

  • I am a non-smoker. I had a balcony cabin for the first time in April (and probably the last time as I could only afford this one on single supplement because it was a last-minute deal and the same price as restricted view). I found it frustrating to sit outside and smell the cigarette smoke from the people around me.

    Yes, smokers, your smoke DOES affect me. It affects my health and it affects the aesthetics of my environment. Would you like it if I kept farting right next to you? Cigarette smoke is just as intrusive and just as unpleasant to a non-smoker.

    I grew up with parents who smoked continually. I know how difficult it is to give it up. All I ask is that you indulge in your habit in places where I don’t have to smell it.

    • Why don’t they make the port side balconies smoking and the starboard side non-smoking balconies…..

  • My wife smokes and we always book a balcanony so she can enjoy a cigarette and realx, however since Celebrity and Royal Caribean implemented there bans we no longer use those lines we have done some 15 cruises with them, we now use Cunard and recently travelled on the Grand Princess which was quite smoking friendly and enjoyed the ship and the fact thatthe smokers werewere catered for that we intended to book on the Grand again next year aswell as Queen Victoria which we are travelling on in September, however it seems another cruise line will now lose our business as then privacy of our balcony was an ideal place to relax and my wife could have her cigarette in peace.
    I honestly think that the cruise lines may well regret there actions in the future as at the moment they are all struggling to sell there cabins , hence the dropping prices by Royal Caribean which in turn has opened up cruising to another class of people who have now turned Independance of the Seas into the new Benidorm. (it was recently moored alongside us and i heard only reports of horror from some guests i chatted to )
    Si live and let live i say , my yearly cruise budget is a mere 6K and will in no way ahhfect the cruise lines if in the end we chose not to travel on them any more, the pity is both me and my good wife enjoy it so much and fear going back to a package holiday in a hotel would be a rather backward step and no where near as enjoyable as cruising.Seems like my Tux will end up on Ebay at this rate oh such a shame i think.But Bravo to you non smokers i say especially the ones who flout the dress code and believe as always they are in the right.
    The thoughts of a very dissolousioned cruiser

  • The remarks that people wont cruise if smoking is banned will only affect a few. I remember the remarks that the pubs would be killed off if they banned smoking in public places. – Well the pubs are as busy if not busier in many places. It will be interesting to see if people who don’t cruise because smoking is allowed on board will choose to cruise. – As has happened in pubs. The re are many who now visit pubs who didn’t before. So I personally don’t think that a smoking ban will change prices too much.

    • The promised influx of non-smokers didn’t happen. Pubs are closing at unprecendented levels because of the smoking ban, and others are empty. Soon, there won’t be pubs to go to anymore in many communities; meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people have had their social lives ruined. All because many non-smokers can’t get their heads around the idea of choice and live and let live. What a sad world we live in.

    • Pubs ARE closing down by the bucket load!??
      Where do you live? Never never land?

  • Got a solution for Robert Black
    Only smokers in balcony cabins,afterall you have forced smokers outside
    non smokers inside cabins only,no up or downwind for you non smokers to contend with.

  • My right to swing my fists around rightly ends at another persons face and my right to play music loud in my house rightly ends when my neighbours are disturbed by it. Should I be saying they should “live and let live” with regard to my music? Why should it be any different with cigarette smoke? I believe this mentality (asserting that you have a moral right to pollute the air that others breathe) is a mechanism by which smokers attempt to avoid the truth of the selfishness of polluting the air of others.
    Fortunately, the tide is turning and soon smokers will not be able to defile other peoples air in any public place. I have no objection to them defiling their own air and bodies but I prefer fresh air. It is the worlds most precious commodity .

  • A year ago we cancelled a Cruise on P.& O Aurora because of their Smoking Policy .When we Booked we were not aware of the CHANGE in Smoking Policy…..No Smoking ,except outside on the Open Deck.No smoking also on Balconies.
    My husband is a non smoker and I am what you call an after dark smoker and only smoke with a pre dinner drink and no way am I standing outside with a drink and a cigarette .How degrading !
    I cancelled a week after we made the Booking which was about 164 days before departure,but little did we know that once you have paid a Deposit you are never refunded . We subsequently lost GBP 630.
    After several threatening letter written to P&O we realised they were not going to do anything about it (Not even offering another Cruise ) and Booked a Cruise with H.A.L where I could indulge !
    Needless to say we will never go on P&O again !
    Their Smoking Policy and attitude to blame ! !

  • I have just come back from a cruise on Adventure of the Seas (RCCL). I used to like to use the Schooner bar as they had quiz nights and nice entertainment. There was a small corner which was smoking and often that was the only corner left as non-smokers had taken other seats, and you were often forced into the corner and were then surrounded by smokers. By the time the evening was over, your clothes smelt of smoke and you have no way of getting rid of the smell! Why should I pay laundry charges just because of smokers? I think that all ships should have a smoking lounge for smokers. You never know, it may put smokers off when they realise how smelly it is.
    Also I would have thought it would be a fire hazard should there be a badly discarded cigarette.
    Fortunately a lot of the smokers had the kindness to smoke out on secluded area’s of the decks. Smoking where people are allowed to eat should also be banned!

    • Define smelly, I find perfume & aftershave give off highly offensive stench & it gives me a very bad allergic reaction?
      Shall we ban them too?

      Smells good or bad are only defined by the individual?

  • Personally, I can put up with the fact that smokers smell obnoxious to me . I just avoid being in their vicinity just as I would avoid an obnoxious perfume though personally I have been troubled far less by errant perfume wearers than smokers.
    Cigarette ‘smoke’ contains lethal carcinogens however, unlike perfume, which is why I differentiate between the smell of a smoker that is not smoking (which is tolerable and harmless)and the fumes of smoker that is smoking which are intolerable harmful and inconsiderate.

  • captain Bly

    Lets hang ’em from the yard-arm, I say – and listen to the little devils cough their hearts out. (the non smokers that is) gizza fag!!!

  • I am really quite amazed at the intolerance of some people towards smokers on this thread.

    I really can’t understand why it causes such a problem. Absolutely when smoking was allowed in bars and restaurants and everywhere was a fog. THAT was passive smoking, but a few passing strands of smoke outdoors is not going to harm anyone that’s not already about to expire within imminent seconds anyway. I wonder how many of these ‘saints’ drive a car. Or drench themselves in stinking scent. Really – get a grip.

    The term ‘passive smoking’ should really be made redundant in public situations now it actually is now longer relevant.

    Oh, and I don’t smoke by the way. I’m more concerned that a plane is going to fall out of the sky and land on my little toe.

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