Cruise lines asking passengers to butt out

By Phil, The Leader-Post

The cruise lines of the world all have a variety of policies when it comes to smoking on cruise ships. Changes have been a long time coming and, in some cases, it’s one small step rather than a large one.

Three lines – Princess, Carnival and Holland America, all owned by Carnival Corporation – have recently banned smoking in cabins.

The new policies won’t happen immediately. The start date for Carnival is Dec. 1, with Princess and Holland America following on Jan. 15.

Princess will prohibit smoking in staterooms and balconies.

On Holland America and Carnival ships, smoking will still be allowed on balconies.

Most of the lines are changing their policies as a result of guest surveys that have been ongoing for several months.

As for other major cruise lines, Celebrity does not allow smoking in either cabins or balconies. Royal Caribbean bans smoking in cabins and only allows it on oceanfacing balconies.

The adjective “ocean-facing” may sound peculiar, but Royal’s mega-ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, also have inside-facing balconies.

While all these changes apply to your living accommodations on a ship, you can still smoke in several designated areas, both inside and on open decks.

The new rules may satisfy some passengers, but you can be sure the subject of smoking on cruise ships will continue to be a hot topic.

The Cruise Lines International Association, an umbrella organization representing many cruise lines, covers many topics of interest to cruise lines, from lobbying to travel-agent education.

Recently, CLIA completed a survey of member travel agents about the most important “lifestyle attribute” for clients in choosing a cruise vacation.

There were 900 agents who participated in the survey, so it has some depth.

Accommodation was No. 1 on the list of why people would pick a particular cruise line.

This was followed by cuisine, entertainment, spa/wellness facilities, and the last item on the list was shore excursions.

In the cuisine category, restaurant choice was the principal topic, of course.

In the mix of the spa/wellness category were adult-only facilities.

That accommodation was the No. 1 reason for choosing a cruise line or cruise ship surprises me. Many cruisers tell me they look upon their stateroom as a place to sleep and change clothes, and that they spend the rest of their time enjoying the ship or taking shore excursions.

I have, obviously, been talking to a minority of cruisers.

The fact that shore excursions were last in priority is no surprise, as today, many cruisers use the Internet to build their own shore excursions.

During a recent brainstorming session, representatives of Canadian and New England ports did their best to convince cruise lines to spend more time cruising the regions beyond the fall-foliage season.

While a few cruise lines currently do cruise the area outside of autumn – Holland America, for one – the group was left with little hope that lines would be expanding anytime soon.

Dan Hanrahan, CEO of Celebrity Cruise Lines, told the representatives that to get beyond the fall-foliage cruises, they would have to be the ones promoting the reasons for cruising New England and Eastern Canada outside of late summer and fall.

Peter Shanks, the head of Cunard Cruises, said there was a high degree of interest by the British in these cruises, and stressed that half his ships were made up of British cruisers.

Not surprising when you consider many of the cruises start in Southampton.

On a fall-foliage cruise last year, I inquired about the breakdown by country of the passenger manifest.

Most were Americans, with Canadians finishing third on this particular cruise, behind the large contingent of Japanese tourists.

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