Several cruise lines have further limited smoking on ships, leaving a few designated areas as the last refuge to light up at sea. Princess Cruises’ guests won’t be allowed to smoke in staterooms or on balconies starting with sailings on Monday. Three other lines recently tightened their smoking rules or will join Princess in doing so next week. “Our consumer studies now show that smokers are a small minority of our passengers, and that the large majority of passengers value having their primary living space onboard smoke-free,” Executive Vice President Jan Swartz said in a statement.
In 2010, only 19.3 percent of Americans, or 45.3 million adults, smoked cigarettes, down from 20.9 percent in 2005, according to federal health regulators.
The new smoking policy also reflects a worldwide effort to restrict areas where smoking is allowed, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based cruise operator said.
At Delray Beach’s iCruise.com cruise agency, Co-President Don Walker has seen a drop in customer complaints about smoky cabins and balconies in the past three months.
Walker attributed the decline partly to the new push for an almost smoke-free ship environment and to smokers’ acceptance of the restrictions placed on them. “It appears to be working,” he said.
Here’s a look at the most recent changes at four cruise lines:
Princess: With cabins now off-limits, smokers will be able to smoke in designated areas only including Churchill’s cigar lounge and sections of the disco, casino and open decks.
Holland America Line: Starting Sunday, the cruise line will also ban smoking in staterooms fleet-wide.
Norwegian Cruise Line: As of Jan. 1, no smoking in cabins, but balcony stateroom guests can light up on balconies. Cigar and pipe smoking isn’t permitted in either area.
Guests can smoke in designated areas such as sections of the casino and in some outdoor public spaces and open decks.
Carnival Cruise Lines: Since Dec. 1, smoking is banned in all cabins across its 23-ship fleet, but not on outside balconies, except for Spa staterooms. Guest surveys showed less than 5 percent of guests opted to smoke in their cabins.
These new smoking rules vary when it comes to a certain segment of guests — former smokers who now use electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, to try to kick their habit.
Some lump them with traditional cigarette smokers, but others give them near-free rein in their revamped policies.
The policies pose a quandary for anyone who wants to enjoy a cruise but is trying hard to stay smoke-free.
“I know I’d cancel any plans of a cruise vacation if I thought my electronic cigarette wasn’t welcome on board the cruise ship, and I know I’m not alone,” said Laurel O’Neill of Nokomis, Fla.
No official user data are available, but industry research indicates at least a million Americans are using them, Elaine Keller, president of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, said.
Princess will allow e-cigarette users, sometimes called “vapers,” to smoke in staterooms and balconies but plans to ban traditional smoking in these areas when its new policy kicks in Monday.
That’s as it should be, said Keller, a 45-year smoker until 2009. “It seems awfully silly to ban their use inside a cabin.” With no tar or second-hand smoke residue, “there’s no way a cruise line could tell if a guest has used one in a cabin,” Keller added.
Princess is allowing e-cigarettes in these areas because “unlike real cigarettes, there are no second-hand effects for other passengers,” spokeswoman Julie Benson said. Still, there are limits. E-cigarettes can’t be used in dining rooms or the Princess Theatre.
Tobacco-use policies at Carnival and Norwegian restrict e-cigarettes to designated smoking areas only.
Since e-cigarettes are relatively new and still being evaluated, Carnival’s policy is to allow them in the same venues and areas where smoking is allowed, spokesman Vance Gulliksen said.
But e-cigarette users and sellers contend the vapor that’s exhaled is harmless to others nearby.
Gregory Gangitano, 44, of Greenacres, tries to educate people about e-cigarettes every chance he gets.
Gangitano smoked nearly two packs of cigarettes daily for two decades before converting to e-cigarettes a year ago. “My health has improved. I’m reducing the nicotine levels I use and don’t have the smell of smoke permeating my clothing.”
Gangitano is planning to cruise with his fiancee soon but said it’s a drag that some lines are treating vapers like regular smokers. “I’d hope that the one I’d choose would allow me to vape.”