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A Smokers' Paradise

by Douglas Terhune

Seldom do I write about controversy. Seldom do I find anything negative about cruising. Seldom do I become a nay-sayer. But there comes a time in every man's life when he must stand up for something. There is trouble in Paradise.

Carnival embarked on a very bold idea this year - one so bold that I think it's too bold. While bold is sometimes good, bold also means changes, and that part of 'this' bold move is not so good.

A ship free of smoke. A ship free of Stogies. A ship free of nicotine. But, 'not' a ship free of tar... and feathers. The new SMOKE FREE policy on the brand new MS Paradise will create controversy.

Let me make my peace here with the readers of the Sealetter. I am a 99.9% non-smoker. Occasionally the sour mash wants some southern comfort - like a hand rolled cigar. It's not a habit, it's a sport. At most I average one per month.

Ironic that for the past year my 'real' job found me writing corporate policies. I'd rather be cruising, but monetary independence will happen when the DOW doubles. So until then, this cruise reporter will be found behind the keyboard.

Policies are made to be broken. Heck, we've all heard that and understand that lesson we learned so many years ago. Policies are really guidelines. When dealing with the masses, you must give the herd direction. A policy gives the order-entry people something to fall back on, or the bouncer the right to reject the way you dress, or the Ticketmaster people the right to only sell you 4 tickets to the Stones concert.

As you increase the size of the herd, you decrease the likelihood of a policy being adhered to 100% of the time. While I applaud Carnival for their bold new policy, I truly believe that someone at Carnival has been smoking too many alternative tobacco products.

This 'smoke free policy' will fail. Not in the holistic sense, but in a limited, yet irritating way. It's not that the author wants it to fail, quite the contrary. It is just that I think I see life without the blinders on.

Ship Tip: Carnival's 100% smoke free ship will fail.

The reality I see here is that with 2000+ passengers and nearly 900 crew, someone on board is a smoker. In fact, I bet that at least 5-10% of the people that sail each week on the ship ARE currently smokers. Now maybe the non-smoking ship will keep the chain smokers off (which is a good thing), but there are tons of casual-smoking cruisers out there.

Have you ever been to a non-smoking restaurant? Have you ever noticed how many people are smoking outside the door or how many cig butts are littering the doorway? Non-smoking restaurants have smokers working and eating there. They go to these establishments because they have to - their better half made them, or they need the money - to buy more cigs.

Ship Tip: Smokers will sail the Paradise because they are told to.

Deals will come up on certain sailings and non-smokers will convince smokers to sail with them, stating that it would be impossible for them to be caught smoking in their cabin, in a bathroom or on the top deck late at night. Of course don't smoke in the public rooms, but sneaking a quick smoke would be easy - and let's all face it, it would!

Three thousand people. All together. 14 bars. Dancing. Disco music. Good food and wine. Captains parties with free cocktails. Champagne. Contraband cigars! These are the ingredients that turn the casual smoker into a smoker. The thought of lighting up a Cuban on the fantail is alluring. The need for half a cig in a locked bathroom stall grows. 3000 people and nobody, including the crew, lighting up for 7 fun-filled days? I think not.

Ship tip: You cannot find 3000 100% non-smokers.

The idea of the public rooms being free of smoke is great - I applaud that idea. Many a time in a lounge or sitting at a blackjack table I have felt intruded upon when someone next to me lit up. Some smokers just don't give a _____ what we non-smokers think - they just light up.

So let's now imagine that someone is caught smoking on the Paradise. What happens? Well, I can only assume that Carnival's policy gives a warning, but what if it doesn't or, God forbid, someone gets caught twice? I hear that Carnival drops you off at the next port. No refund. No limo to the airport. Just adios and hasta la vista.

People will and are smoking on this ship. What this comes down to, is how strictly Carnival will uphold the policy. Can you imagine this scenario:

Jane sees an ad in the paper for a cruise. The dates and money are all just right. Dick smokes occasionally, but agrees to curtail his shipboard smoking because the deal is so good. Dick gets caught smoking on this ship and is asked to leave. What does Jane do? How does Dick get back from San Juan?

I understand that Carnival is even making people sign some sort of waiver indicating that the Paradise is a non-smoking ship. If Dick loves Jane enough though, he will attempt to sacrifice his sport or habit. But, Dick might get a few drinks in him and forget about the policy, or, at least want to challenge it.

This is really not all that far fetched. I do not watch Jerry Springer nor read Danielle Steele books, so my mind is from simple America. My training is in Sales and Marketing, so I like to think that I understand human behavior pretty well. I am trying here to justify my position - guess I am just not used to preparing to defend my position when it comes to cruising.

Ship Tip: You better be an expert in human behavior if you want to argue this issue with me!

One other factor that needs to be brought to the surface here is that if any Europeans end up on the Paradise, they will smoke if in fact they are smokers. There are only very few non-smoking establishments throughout Europe - they are not as obsessed as our 50-state culture is about this. And come to think of it, one of the nice perks of cruising is meeting so many wonderful people from all over the world. The Paradise will attract a very homogeneous crowd (is this a Right Wing conspiracy ship?...!!)

Ship Tip: The Paradise will sail without many folks from other countries in attendance.

I would love to sail a ship that is 99% smoke free, or heck, even 80% is enough for moi. But for the casual smokers that wind up on the Paradise and feel the urge to smoke, the ship should accommodate them instead of reprimanding them.

The quicker Carnival recognizes the impossibility of their well-intended plan, the less controversy this ship will cause the line.

[Editor's Note: The views expressed in this article are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any one else associated with this publication. Heck, in this case, they don't even come CLOSE! (grin)]


Doug TerhuneDoug Terhune is quite the experienced "solo cruiser" and is a regular columnist and reviewer for the SeaLetter. His monthly "Ship Tips" columns are very popular with our readers.

Doug's special interest is interviewing various officers on his cruises, including interviews with the Tropicale's head chef, the Inspiration's Chief Engineer, and the Sensation's Captain. To find all of Doug's SeaLetter columns and cruise reviews, use the SeaLetter Search Engine entering "Douglas Terhune" as your search phrase.

Doug can be reached at: Doug@sealetter.com.

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