One of the world's largest cruise lines has decided to ban cigarette smoking in cabins starting in 2008. Sounds like great news, but it isn't.
Royal Caribbean's new policy may merely force smokers out of their cabins for all their cigarette breaks, so the rest of us can inhale their smoke in bars, lounges, on deck, and -- get this -- on the private balconies outside our ocean-view cabins.
The problem with tiptoeing into smoking policies is that the smoke doesn't go away. The air from second-hand cigarette smoke gets worse somewhere else. Royal Caribbean's new smoking policy is a mistake. It won't help cruise passengers avoid the smell of smoke or calm their worries about the effects of second-hand smoke on their health.
"Guests wishing to smoke may still do so from starboard (right side) outer decks, in designated areas in bars and lounges, and on stateroom and suite balconies," says Royal Caribbean. Smoking already was prohibited in guest hallways and corridors, restaurants, theaters and most of the ship's interior public spaces. The new policy will add one smoke-free bar or lounge on each Royal Caribbean ship. Non-smokers can only hope the smoke ban will be in their favorite lounge.
Of course, we nonsmokers and former smokers are victims of our own successes. As the air in places where we work and play continues to get cleaner, our antismoking demands grow because noxious cigarette smoke becomes even more obvious and nauseous.
When a cruise line sends smokers outside to light up, the ship is designating a place where non-smokers won't want to go. That includes the hugely popular private balconies, which cruise lines have spent millions of dollars to add to their best cabins on each new ship and for which cruisers pay a hefty premium.
Why a cruise line would decrease the value of private balconies by allowing smoking next door is baffling.
On a recent cruise, I was forced inside from my balcony to my cabin every evening before dinner as my next door neighbors enjoyed their cocktails and numerous cigarettes outside. Their fumes wafted onto my balcony. As I get older, second-hand cigarette smoke catches in my throat, and I begin to hack. The smoke on my balcony was too strong for me to stay outside on those beautiful evenings and followed me inside, sucked into my cabin when I opened the door. I know other cruisers who have had similar experiences.
"These changes reflect a more contemporary approach to healthier lifestyles and will significantly improve the cruise vacation experience for our guests," said Alice Norsworthy, senior vice president, Marketing, Royal Caribbean International, in a news release.
My guess is that the new Royal Caribbean policy, like those in land-based hotels with smoke-free rooms, is driven by cleaning costs. Smoke-free rooms are easier and cheaper to clean. "Violations of the smoking policy will result in cleaning charges to the guest's onboard account," says Royal Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean's new policy is not nearly strong enough. Allowing smoking on cruise ships is not healthy or safe. Allowing smoking on private balconies is also not smart. Last year, a deadly fire on the new Star Princess during a cruise probably was caused by a careless smoker who tossed a cigarette from a balcony.
Wake up cruise industry: This is not a Royal Caribbean problem. I have faced clouds of nasty smoke on Norwegian, Carnival and Celebrity cruise ships.
Smoking should be forbidden in all passenger areas of all cruise ships, as both a health and a fire hazard. At the least, offer smokers a designated room or a private deck up near the ship's smoke stack, so the rest of us can breath easier.
Molyneaux is editor of the website, www.TravelMavens.net.
Additional resources: The cruising Website, CruiseCritic.com, recently updated a survey of cruise lines and their smoking policies. On the site's Quick Search, type: Cruise line smoking policies.