Update: Non-Smoking Cigar Bars? Carnival Tests More Restrictive Smoking Policy

July 21, 2010

Update, 3:30 p.m.: Carnival spokesperson Jennifer De La Cruz issued a response to our request for more information on potential changes to the line's onboard smoking policy. "We're going to be experimenting off and on with some potential tweaks to the smoking policy. This is typical. We occasionally try stuff out for a short period and see how it works -- or doesn't -- whichever the case may be. Our smoking policy is under evaluation right now. We've done some initial testing and our guest experience folks are now analyzing the results. It is likely we will do some more testing going forward. At this time we have not implemented any formal across the board changes and I would point out that even during testing periods, every ship continues to provide options for both cigarette and cigar smokers."

In a second e-mail, De La Cruz noted that "The testing period was scheduled to run through this week. So it is winding down and ending now and the ships in question are reverting back to the previous rules while we evaluate the results. It's too premature to say when we may run another test." The three cigar bars that were made non-smoking during the testing period will revert to their traditional roles by the end of the week.

(July 19, 7:05 p.m. EDT) -- Few cruise subjects stoke the fires of debate like onboard smoking policies -- but this latest report has real incendiary potential. In a recent post, John Heald, Carnival's famed blogger and senior cruise director, revealed that Carnival Cruise Lines is testing a more restrictive smoking policy -- including smoke-free cigar bars.

"There is a trial on a few of our ships where we have introduced more restrictive indoor smoking areas....for both cigarettes and cigars," wrote Heald on Friday. "This means that the cigar bars on Carnival Glory, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Destiny are now totally 100% non-smoking and on other classes of ships some lounges that were smoking are now non-smoking. Now, no final decision has been made and won't be for some time."

Carnival has yet to respond to Cruise Critic's request for details on the trial policy, but Heald noted that the line has established new locations specifically for cigar smoking on the three ships where it's testing the rather incongruous smoke-free cigar bars. These new cigar smoking spots vary from the sports bar to an open deck space, depending on the vessel.

"I have mixed feelings about this," Heald, a self-described cigar lover, wrote in the daily Q&A section of an earlier blog post. "On the one hand, I understand that for non-smokers it is not pleasant to enjoy the music there [in the cigar lounge] and access the [adjacent] Internet cafe."

Editor's note: In order to access the Internet cafe on many of Carnival's ships, including the five Conquest-class ships and Carnival Splendor, passengers have no other choice but to walk through the cigar bar.

Carnival's smoking policy is generally considered one of the industry's least restrictive among mainstream, big-ship cruise lines. Smoking has been until now permitted in cabins, casinos, dance clubs, piano bars and other live music venues, as well as designated areas on open decks. NCL, which is slightly more restrictive, decrees that all indoor areas are smoke-free except cabins, casinos and cigar bars. Celebrity and Royal Caribbean are further restrictive, and do not allow passengers to light up in cabins, with Celebrity actually prohibiting smoking on balconies. Disney Cruise Line forbids passengers from smoking in all indoor areas.

"Look, I know that smoking is the most controversial of subjects....apart from global warming and my underpants fetish," Heald concluded in Friday's blog post, "....but as we continue to try and do what is best for you, our guests, then who better to comment and help us make the right choices than you."

Heald is conducting his own onboard smoking opinion polls on his blog (scroll about halfway down to find them) -- but we also encourage you to comment on this story on the Cruise Critic Message Boards.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor

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