Put out that cigarette: Smoking bans in cruise ship casinos are among the changes being made in response to the omicron variant.
Carnival Cruise Line has banned smoking in its casino through January 31, 2022. Holland America Line and Princess Cruises have also nixed smoking in the casino, in updated health and safety protocols that are in force through March 31, 2022, for both brands. Royal Caribbean has also followed suit in recent days.
Princess has also banned smoking in Churchill's Cigar Lounge, an enclave of scotch-and-cigars found aboard some Princess Cruises' vessels.
The smoking ban is in addition to other changes that cruise lines are making, now that omicron case numbers are on the rise in the U.S. Many cruise lines are now requiring everyone onboard, whether they are vaccinated or not, to wear masks in public places.
Smoking is not allowed indoors on most U.S. cruise ships, with the exception of the casino (ships do have designated outdoor areas where people can light up). While some lines, such as Celebrity Cruises, have made a point of creating smoke-free casinos, you're still allowed to smoke in areas of the casino on many cruise ships.
The temporary change resulted in an outcry from smokers, which Carnival's Brand Ambassador John Heald addressed on Facebook:
"This of course had loads of you writing to me sharing your disappointment and some sharing their anger. ... I understand. I am glad that she and many others are writing to me and taking their frustration out on me rather than someone at the call center or indeed on a crew member.
"I am here for you. Some wrote to me saying that the casino would lose revenue and that they would take their business elsewhere. Again, I understand that this is all based on frustration and as someone who enjoys a good cigar I really do get it.
"But let’s be clear, this new Omicron variant is highly contagious. Here in the UK we have a huge number of cases and much of Europe has gone back to lock downs. Luckily for those who have been fully vaccinated the symptoms are not severe but the threat is there for sure. So casino revenue is not the motivation.
"The safety of you and your family is and if we get this wrong, if we do not make these changes it could possibly be devastating for this cruise line and indeed the entire cruise industry.
"This is not forever, the beards will reevaluate and we will update you as always. I know smoking is important to some of you and we do of course have safe outdoor smoking areas on each ship. Our motivation continues to be to provide the safest form of vacation in the world and at the same time continue to provide you with the fun you all deserve so very much."
On the Cruise Critic message boards, some members applauded the change.
"Very happy to see that they have finally stopped smoking in the casino," said azbirdmom on a Princess Cruises thread. "It made no sense to me that people would be allowed to remove their masks to smoke when other rules indicated that they could only be removed while eating or drinking in places like the casino.
"When we were on the Majestic in August there were so many people lighting up one cigarette after another to avoid wearing their masks some of them weren't even playing. Needless to say, I didn't spend much time in the casino even though I was there as part of a casino VIP event."
"Amen to that!" replied ChangeOrder. "I’m excited to have a chance to spend time in the casino now. Usually I can only manage up to 30 min before the smoke gets me, though a good mask did help that a bit."
Cruise Critic will update this story with more information if necessary.