Smoke-free cruising - that fresh sea air just got fresher

This week, three major cruise lines announced changes to their smoking policies, prompting a heated debate on Facebook about the pros and cons of lighting up on board.

Compared to much of the rest of the travel industry, cruise ships lag behind when it comes to smoking regulations - it isn't unusual to find bars, clubs and casinos where smoking is still permitted, something almost unthinkable in most hotels in Europe and North America nowadays.

Princess Cruises, Holland America and Carnival Cruises all toughened their smoking policies this week, banning smoking in all cabins and, in Princess Cruises' case, even on balconies.

Smokers will be confined to specific areas of the ships, including some lounges, discos, casinos and jazz clubs in the future.

With smokers making up a steadily decreasing percentage of cruise passengers, the lines say that updating policies helps to improve the experience for everyone.

"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," explained Princess Cruises' Jan Swartz.

Although passengers on both sides of the argument have been exceptionally vocal on Princess Cruises Facebook page, it seems unlikely that smoking restrictions are going to go away for passengers any time soon.

For those who desperately want - or don't want - a puff, try CruiseCritic's excellent smoking guide: http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=225

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