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The prickly issue of cruise-ship smoking policies.

No-one denies that smoking is a bad habit or that for non-smokers breathing in second-hand smoke is decidedly unpleasant and in some cases a potential health risk. But should smokers be banned from smoking on cruise ships altogether? What about smoking on balconies and designated areas? Is smoking in cabins acceptable?

What do you think?

A recent Cruise Passenger Facebook discussion on the matter revealed that opinions vary considerably. The most striking thing the discussion revealed, however, is just how passionately people feel about it. Smoking, it seems, leads to fire. A perusal of Cruise Critic’s message boards on the topics yielded similar results.

So what were the views expressed and do cruise line policies reflect them?

Many non-smokers take the hardline view that smoking should be banned from ships completely, bar perhaps a dingy oxygen-depleted smoking room somewhere – where hopefully the smoky intensity of the experience will convince the silly buggers to give up the stupid habit once and for all.

Others are fine with smokers, as long as they never have to smell them, which for some brings them close to the hardliners, with many complaining that despite designated areas such as balconies or one side of the deck, the smoke is carried on the breeze. Others of the olfactory school concede that a whiff bothers them little and are thankful for the happy medium zoning achieves.

Then there are the few non-smokers who say, ‘Let smokers do as they please, there are more important things to worry about.’

Cruise line policies are as varied as the online discussions, ranging from virtual bans to anything goes.

Oceania Cruises is probably the most hardline. Granted, the cruise line does allow smoking on the aft port side of Horizons, starboard forward section of the outdoor Pool Deck and two designated smoking areas.  But smoke anywhere else and you can be fined up to the fare paid for your passage and the Captain can summarily throw you off the ship!

Pullmantur Cruises, a Spain-based cruise and tour operation, is at the other extreme. Smokers can light up anywhere – in the hot tubs, at the dinner table, while taking a massage ­– and no-one can do anything about it.

Other cruise lines occupy varying positions in the territory in between.  Designated areas on the lido deck and certain parts of clubs, bars and casinos usually give smokers their freedom, but smoking is generally restricted to these areas and definitely not accepted at dinner. And while many cruise lines allow smoking in cabins and on balconies, just as many don’t.

Smokers and non-smokers who feel strongly about the issue are advised to check smoking policies before paying for their holiday.