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 nonsmokers are often arrogant and self-righteous and ... well, just plain rude. On the other hand, there are nonsmokers 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 nonsmoking 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 Cunard, Disney, Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises, have recently implemented new restrictions, citing evolving passenger preferences as the reason for the switch. The biggest change: In-cabin and balcony smoking has been increasingly snuffed out.
It's an issue of "spoilage" (the industry's lingo for unsold cabins) that keeps cruise lines from designating some cabins nonsmoking, 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 nonsmoking 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. Italian cruise line MSC Cruises has one of the industry's most restrictive policies on its North American ship, Divina, on which smoking is permitted only in the Cigar Lounge and on the port side of designated outside decks. Even smoking in the casino is not allowed.
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 on their cabin balconies. Currently only Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line permit passengers to light up on their balcony.
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 nonsmokers should look at booking their verandahs as far forward as possible, for the same reason. If that isn't possible, nonsmokers 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 nonsmokers 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 nonsmoking, 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 nonsmoking, including the dining room and most public rooms.
Smoking is prohibited in all cabins and, as of October 9, 2014, on all 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 Solstice class, the Lawn Club and the Sunset Bar at the Lawn Club don't 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 nonsmoking. Smoking in 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 nonsmoking
Where You Can Smoke: The only place indoor smoking is permitted is the Connoisseur Club smoking lounge. A number of outdoor areas are designated for smoking, including Decks 10, 9 and 8 aft on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity; Deck 11 aft on Crystal Serenity; the Seahorse pool area (port side only); and Promenade Deck.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in cabins, suites and on verandahs, as well as all indoor areas, with the exception of the Connoisseur Club, and non-designated outdoor areas.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar and pipe smoking is permitted on Decks 10, 9 and 8 aft on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, and Deck 11 aft on Crystal Serenity.
Where You Can Smoke: As of April 28, 2014, for Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2, and May 9, 2014 on Queen Elizabeth, smoking is only permitted in designated areas on the open decks, and certain bars and lounges.
The sole actual change in policy is the prohibition of cabin balcony smoking.
Where You Can't: As of the above dates, smoking is not permitted in cabins, on balconies, in 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).
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in all indoor areas, including cabins. Effective November 15, 2013 smoking also is prohibited on all balconies.
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 cabin balconies (not inside the cabins), open decks, the casino and Seaview Bar. E-cigarettes can be smoked inside the cabins, but not in other designated areas throughout the ship.
Where You Can't: All cabins (with the exception of balconies), restaurants and most indoor areas (including showrooms) are non-smoking.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar and pipe smoking is prohibited inside; it is only allowed on outside decks and 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. Smoking restrictions are even tighter on Divina, were passengers may only smoke in the Cigar Lounge and on the port side of designated outside decks.
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, and as of November 1, 2014, on cabin balconies.
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 certain open decks and, up until March 25, 2014, on stateroom balconies.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public areas and in the cabins. Plus, from March 26 2014, smoking will no longer be permitted on cabin balconies on Ventura and will be rolled out throughout the fleet with the last ship, Adonia, changing on 29 April 2014..
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: Cigarette smoking is only allowed in designated areas of the outdoor pool area and the following public areas on Seven Seas Voyager, Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Navigator: The Connoisseur Club, Horizon Lounge (designated area outside) and pool area (designated area opposite side of the pool bar).
Electronic cigarette smoking is permitted throughout the ship, with the exception of any enclosed dining areas.
Where You Can't: RSSC does not allow smoking in cabins, suites 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 area (opposite 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: On all Royal Caribbean ships except those based permanently in Asia, smoking is permitted only on the starboard side of open decks and in the designated smoking areas of public rooms. Ships in Asia, Mariner of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas, offer one indoor smoking venue apiece.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in all cabins and, starting January 2014, on all balconies. It's also limited to one public room on each ship. In addition, dining areas and show lounges are nonsmoking, 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: As of February 2, cigarette smoking is permitted on suite balconies only on Seabourn Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest, 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. Electronic cigarettes may be used in all suites.
Where You Can't: As of the date above, smoking is prohibited in all passenger cabins on all ships, and on balconies in category B suites on Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend. All all ships, 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 but only in designated areas.
Where You Can't: Smoking is prohibited in the restaurants, all staterooms and all public spaces on all Windstar ships.
Cigar and Pipe Smoking: Cigar and pipe smoking is permitted on the open decks in designated areas only.