For my previous posts about smoking policies while travelling abroad, check out the Bear Tripper tag. So far, I've focussed on air travel and hotels, so this is a slight departure which I hope some might find useful.
Being out of the country for much of the year on business, it is always nice to be able to holiday travel in a more leisurely manner. For me, this means cruising and I usually book trips and take my Mother along with me for company as well as a treat which she enjoys very much.
I used to love to go on cruises, it was such a marvellous way to travel, but have found it to be a trial these days for the smoker. Or a bit of a 'carry on' you could say.
You usually need to keep up to date with the cruise line websites as their policies change quite quickly. I had a great time on the Holland America Line on a cruise to Hawaii. There were a couple of bars where you could smoke. There were a few of us who always went to one of the bars for happy hour and pre-dinner drinks. The bar staff got to know us all very well and got to know what we were drinking. One of the American chaps was actually a stunt double for a very well known character on a show in the 1970s. He was AA so the bar staff had a stash of non-alcoholic beer for him. He smoked like a chimney, was a great guy and had some fun stories to tell. His seat was the one at the bar near the window - nobody else would sit there when we came to realise that was his perch. He told us that he had found out that the bar was to go non-smoking after our cruise. I wonder how that affected profits at that particular bar. People used to come in there and complain to each other loudly about the smoking. However, there were other bars where smoking was not allowed. It really started me thinking how intolerant anti smokers are. Why didn't they go elsewhere? It was probably because I usually sat in smoking bars on the ships with other like minded folks that I hadn't really considered this. It took me back to a cruise about 15 years ago around the Caribbean. One chap was complaining that there were not enough chocolate chips in the choc chip cookies…..I put that down to some folks just wanting to complain.
I was on a trip from New York to Southampton on the QM2 and there were still smoking areas on the ship. In addition you could smoke in the cabins and on the balconies. I was holidaying with my Mother (and, as she didn't smoke, I just went out to the balcony. She was OK with sitting in the smoking areas in the bars. On one occasion a chap came into the bar and complained that there was nowhere to sit. He was pretty loud about it too. The staff offered him a seat and he proclaimed that it was in the smoking area and that he was not going to sit there and demanded a seat in non-smoking. The staff were excellent, moved some seats and sorted it out. Mum said to me that if she ever got that intolerant about anything and made such a fuss then I had full permission to chuck her overboard! We went back on the QM2 more recently for a three week trip and things had changed. For me, no more lounging on the comfy seats in the Commodore bar reading a good book with a cocktail or wine and a cig. It was all non-smoking. However, you could smoke in the Churchill Cigar Lounge which is located in the Commodore bar area. Pre dinner, I would go there and get a drink and chat with fellow passengers. Again it was a close little 'family' and the staff got to know us all. When Mum came to the bar, the staff would come in and tell me that she was there and at which table she was sat. I would then sit with her and go for a cig before we left for dinner.
The other thing that we discovered was that the disco area had a smoking area. That wasn't on the website….but I was pleased to find it was there. The only other smoking areas on the ship were a couple of huddled areas at the back on two of the decks. Still, the QM2 was better than a lot of other ships.
Another thing to be aware of if you cruise transatlantic is that you cannot buy duty free on board to smoke during the trip. If you buy duty free (tobacco or alcohol) it is delivered to your cabin the day before you disembark. On other cruises in other destinations you could buy them and smoke them while aboard.
I also started looking at one of the cruise websites which highlighted smoking friendly ships. I would like to do another cruise but the idea of having to try to find some little area where smoking was allowed was not appealing. The site was an eye opener. I found that some cruise lines had banned smoking in the cabins. Come on folks, can't you hear the 'kerching'? This, of course, meant that the smokers would be 'forced' into paying for balcony cabins. However, those with balconies complained that folks were smoking around them and it ruined their holiday. Even asking them to stop didn't work. Surprised? If someone paid for a balcony so they can smoke, they are going to smoke there. Some apparently complained to the staff and asked them to stop folks smoking. They didn't as they couldn't. Anyway, if you are in the middle of, for example, the Atlantic, and you are moving at a fair rate - how does the cig smoke then gather and go into the room of the next person from your balcony?
The outcome was predictable - cruise lines are now stopping smoking even on balconies so all that's provided is a miserable little area on deck where you can smoke. In bad weather, if there is a 'lockdown' you won't even be able to go use that! Even at that, these cruisers are not happy. They want it banned completely. I wonder if they have considered the 'chimneys' on the ships which push out all sorts of smoke. No? Of course not. It is easier to pick on the smoker.
Apparently Spanish cruise ships are the most tolerant and I also heard that RCI Serenade of the Seas had a lot of complaints (http://tinyurl.com/p68n83v) about the amount of places where smoking is allowed - that sounds like the cruise ship to go on!
Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas
I will keep an eye open for any other complaints about the amount of smoking areas on ships and plan accordingly or perhaps I will just have to go with the memories of my cruises when smoking was allowed in a couple of bars and a few more places on deck. I am never short of places to go on holiday - other destinations which don't huddle you in a windy corner outside will probably be very happy to benefit from my cash.
If you have any good (or bad) holiday experiences yourselves - not necessarily restricted to cruising - please share as I'd be very interested to read them.