Popular Cruise Lines Are Changing Smoking Policies- But Not in the Way You Might Think

By: Lauren Fokas | Last updated: Jun 14, 2024

Although cruise ships are massive and can sleep thousands of people while on vacation, they can also feel extremely cramped at times. The wide open decks and expansive buffet lines often trick passengers into feeling like they have more space than they really do. 

However, being stuck on board with someone lighting a cigarette constantly can make the space feel even smaller. Fortunately, two major cruise lines have changed their smoking policies.

Small Spaces Mean There’s Nowhere To Move

When someone encounters something they might not like while on a cruise, they usually have the option to move. Things like a mess in the locker room or the smell of a banana daiquiri might seem annoying but can easily be avoided. 

An exterior cruise deck with dark wood plants, white walls, and white window rails

Source: Micheal/Unsplash

But the boat can start to feel smaller and smaller as more problems arise. The wide, open-top deck is usually a spot for people to retreat and relax. However, after selecting the perfect chair by the pool, moving away from a smoker may feel extremely inconvenient. 

Everyone Knows the Dangers of Smoking

The dangers of smoking and, more recently, vaping have been studied extensively over the years. 

A close up view of a man lighting a cigarette using both hands

Source: Donny Jian/Unsplash

It seems like anyone who chooses to still smoke does so, knowing that it harms their lungs and increases their risk of heart attack, stroke, and various forms of cancer. 

What Are the Harms of Second-Hand Smoke?

We also know that secondhand smoke can be just as dangerous, especially when inhaled in close proximity. 

A hand holding a cigarette next to a pile of already smoked cigarettes

Source: Freepik

The Cleveland Clinic estimates that second-hand smoke causes over 7,000 deaths from lung cancer and 33,000 deaths from heart attack and stroke every year in the United States.

Smoking Used To Be Allowed Everywhere on Cruises

Smoking and drinking heavily used to be considered perfectly healthy and allowed almost anywhere. When cruises were the preferred method of intercontinental travel, smoking was allowed in bedrooms, dining areas, and cafes.

A darkly lit room with red walls, an illuminated cigar sign and leather chairs

Source: Jon Tyson/Unsplash

But norms change incredibly fast. By the time the Titanic set sail, it had a non-smoking section and designated smoking rooms for first-class members to relax with a cigar.

Popular Cruise Lines Have Surprising Rules Around Smoking on Board

Most American cruise lines operate ships with designated smoking areas on the outer and upper decks. However, some actually allow guests to light up in the casino, bars, and designated smoking rooms, such as a cigar lounge.

A large white cruise ship in the water taken from the water line

Source: Jonathan Leonardo/Unsplash

Previously, Carnival Cruise Lines was one of the companies that allowed guests to smoke inside these establishments and the ship’s nightclub.


Powerful Filtration Systems Do Not Always Work

The ships allow smoking in certain places on board because of the expansive filtration systems used on large boats.

A view of the side of a cruise ship with rows of individual balconies, windows and orange life rafts

Source: Nico Smit/Unsplash

Aside from smoking, these cruise ships would have effective methods to filter the air to stop the spread of airborne viruses and illnesses. However, many people say that the filtration systems do not always work, and the strong smell of smoke can permeate cabins and bedrooms on lower decks.


Family Friendly Cruise Lines Have More Rules

If someone needs to avoid smoking altogether, they might want to consider choosing a more family-friendly cruise line.

The side of a black and white cruise ship with orange letters that read "Disney DREAM"

Source: Christian Lambert/Unsplash

Disney cruises, for example, do not allow smoking anywhere on board, but they also lack adult amenities like a casino and nightclub.


Which Cruise Lines Updated the Rules?

Two major cruise lines made headlines after they decided to update their smoking policy on all ships.

A large white cruise ship in the port of a small island with blue water and green tree topped mountains

Source: @asaelliot/X

Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines have changed their smoking policies. Previously, both lines allowed passengers to smoke around the pool, on upper decks, in designated indoor areas, and in the onboard casinos and nightclubs. 


What Are the Policy Changes?

Now, both of these popular cruise lines have experimented with adding smoke-free casinos to their roster of amenities.

The interior of a brightly lit casino with rows of slot machines and chandeliers

Source: Kvnga/Unsplash

Recently, Royal Caribbean has tested the new smoke-free sections in casinos on its Oasis-class ships and Carnival has already changed 10 of their ships to reflect the new rule.


Carnival Boats That Have Already Made the Change

John Heald, a Carnival Cruise ambassador, shared the news on his popular Facebook page.

The back side of a large white cruise ship on the water

Source: Peter Hansen/Unsplash

In his post, he shared the boats where the change has taken effect: The newest Excel Class ships, Carnival Jubilee, Carnival Celebration, and Carnival Mardi Gras, already have designated smoke-free casinos in addition to the other casinos that allow smoking. Six other ships, Carnival Firenze, Carnival Venezia, Carnival Vista, Carnival Dream, Carnival Magic, and Carnival Breeze, also added secondary smoke-free casinos.


Cruise Liners Aren't Forbidding Smoking

It’s important to note that these cruise lines have in no way forbidden smoking. They’ve simply separated their casinos into sections: smoking and nonsmoking.

Two man hanging out on the balcony of a cruise ship smoking and drinking

Source: Getty Images

The idea is to keep both sets of customers happy and comfortable during their trip, but more specifically, while they’re enjoying time (and spending money) in the casino.


Most Cruise Lines Will Remain Smoker-Friendly

These ships, which market towards a more adult audience, will remain friendly toward smokers and continue to allow the practice in multiple indoor areas as well as most outer walkways and decks.

A small boat moves down a river in front of old brick style buildings

But they are trying to adjust their policies to ensure all customers feel safe and comfortable aboard, not just the smokers.


Forbidding Smoking Entirely May Be Bad for Business

Although those who don’t smoke may be frustrated to find people smoking on board, the truth is that making an entire ship “non-smoking” could absolutely deter business.

A faceless man in a black t-shirt holding a pack of cigarettes and a sign that reads "no-smoking"

Source: Freepik

There is still a large percentage of people who smoke cigarettes and vapes, and if they cannot light up for days or even weeks on end, they certainly wouldn’t be booking that vacation.


Is Vaping Allowed on Cruise Ships?

Speaking of vaping, you might be wondering what the rules are on cruise ships. When vapes first became popular, there were very few regulations for them. People would vape on plans, in restaurants, and at concerts. But now, at least in the US, vaping is outlawed in all indoor spaces.

A man sitting in a green lounge chair smoking a vape

Source: Freepik

Cruise ships, like other indoor spaces, have also created rules surrounding vapes. Right now, the vast majority of cruise liners have regulations that say vacationers can only vape in the smoking sections, such as the casinos, smoking rooms, or balconies.


Is Vaping Allowed on Smoke-Free Cruise Ships?

It’s interesting to note that while on most ships, vaping is treated like smoking, many non-smoking cruise liners, like Disney Cruises, actually do allow vapes.

A man holding a vape up next to his face

Source: Freepik

However, there are very specific places on board where someone can use their vape. They absolutely cannot vape in any indoor spaces or outside of designated vaping areas.


Smoking Will Remain in Casinos Throughout Popular Ships

Realistically, even if the rules get stricter, there will likely always be smoking and vaping casinos on most cruise ships.

A red poker table with a dealer and multiple guests standing around it

Source: Dusan Kipic/Unsplash

Las Vegas strip casinos acknowledged that smoking and gambling go hand-in-hand, so it appears that for the time being, smoking will remain allowed in at least some of the ships’ casinos.


Royal Caribbean Says People Want Smoking Casinos

In 2022, the CEO of Royal Caribbean, Michael Bayley, explained in an interview why there will always at least be a separate smoking casino on the company’s cruise ships.

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the ocean during sunset

Source: Royal Caribbean

He said, “The dilemma is that there are many people who do want to smoke in the casino. I know that’s not the popular response, but it’s the truth. I’m not judging anyone or anything, but there’s a large group of people who do want to smoke in the casino.


Will Smoking Ever Be Forbidden on Cruise Ships?

Additionally, it’s highly unlikely that most cruise liners, with the exception of those marketed toward families, will ever completely outlaw smoking.

A close-up photograph of a non-smoking sign in front of an indoor space

Source: Freepik

That being said, as fewer and fewer people smoke actual cigarettes, the rules may get even stricter than they are now.


Smoking on the Balcony Isn't Prohibited... Yet

As previously mentioned, the only new rule on both Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise ships is that there will now be a non-smoking casino alongside a smoking casino.

Two people smoking off the side of a boat balcony

Source: Adobe Stock

Neither company has announced that it will be restricting smoking or vaping on deck or on the balconies. Though some say those regulations are not far behind.


The Designated Smoking Areas on Cruise Ships

It should be understood that that the vast majority of cruise liners don’t just allow smoking everywhere and anywhere.

A non-smoking sign on the glass door of a room

Source: Freepik

There are already fairly strict regulations regarding where a person can light up. Certain bars, decks, and balconies are allotted as smoking areas, whereas smoking is still prohibited on the rest of the ship, usually at busier locations like the pool.


Should Smoking and Vaping Be Allowed on Cruise Ships?

Like any debate, there are two sides to this argument. Some, mostly smokers, believe that they should have the right to smoke or vape, at least somewhere on a cruise ship.

Man Smoking Inside Room

Source: Maurício Eugênio/Pexels

The majority of the boat is open-air, and as long as they are not blowing smoke directly into someone’s face, it will simply dissipate over the ocean, bothering no one at all.


Smoking Is Harmful to Everyone

On the other hand, some people, mostly non-smokers, believe that smoking shouldn’t be allowed somewhere where people are living, eating, and relaxing in such close quarters.

A man is smoking a cigarette inside his room

Source: Verywellmind

They might argue that secondhand smoke is not only incredibly dangerous but also that the smell, smoke, and ash are not pleasant and could negatively affect their hard-earned vacation.


Choose Your Cruise Ship Wisely

Fortunately for everyone, there are hundreds of cruise ships visiting beautiful locations all over the world to choose from. Within this large selection, there are some with very loose smoking policies and others that are completely smoke-free.

A large white cruise ship moves away from a cement dock where a second cruise ship is tied up

Source: Stephanie Klepacki/Unsplash

Therefore, it’s extremely important to choose your cruise ship wisely if smoking or non-smoking will affect your experience.