By Anita Dunham-Potter Travel columnist
updated 5/8/2009 2:42:26 PM ET 2009-05-08T18:42:26

Texas residents Shirley Campbell and Cynthia Jeffries had planned to spend several weeks cruising Europe’s most popular sites. The friends dubbed it the trip of a lifetime and booked two back-to-back cruises. The first cruise was on Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas from Venice that visited the Greek Isles and the other was on on Costa Cruises’ Costa Concordia for a week-long journey of the Western Mediterranean.

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The Royal Caribbean cruise went without a hitch, so it came as a big disappointment when the pair boarded the Costa Concordia and smelled abundant cigarette smoke.

Up in smoke
The friends thought the smell might go away. But as the ship left port they noted the public areas had become noticeably smokier and the smell of cigarettes had unfortunately migrated to their stateroom. “In the lounges and corridors, passengers were smoking wherever the chose,” said Campbell. The pair went for pre-dinner cocktails and could not find a lounge that was non-smoking. “Clouds of smoke were hanging in the air,” added Campbell. They went to the dining room only to be accosted by smoking diners. When they returned to their stateroom the cigarette odor had increased.

Having had enough, Campbell and Jeffries visited the Purser’s Desk to complain of the smoking problems and asked to be moved to another stateroom. The crew at the desk apologized for the smoke problems and said there were no rooms left as the ship was full. When they complained about the smoke problems in public areas the crew member shrugged his shoulders and noted there were more smokers than usual on this particular sailing.

After a night of little sleep, Campbell awoke to find that she was having an allergic reaction to the cigarette smoke. She had broken out in hives, and had severe nasal and chest congestion. She went to the infirmary, and was examined by the ship’s doctor who confirmed that Campbell’s symptoms were due to the smoke. The doctor recommended that she disembark at the next port, Savona.

Campbell and Jeffries left the ship and headed to Rome where their return flight home was scheduled. Unfortunately, American Airlines was sold out and could not accommodate the pair before their scheduled flights. The friends ended up spending six nights in Rome at a cost of several thousand dollars.

When the pair returned home they wrote to Costa and demanded a refund on the cruise and for their incurred expenses. “Based on the fact that Costa did not adhere to company policy regarding smoking, which subsequently required us to disembark, we feel it only fair that Costa reimburse us the full cost of our cruise and for expenses incurred, a total of $4,067.31,” said Campbell.

Costa responds
I contacted Costa Cruises on Campbell and Jeffries’ behalf. I spoke with Dana Dominici, director of public relations for Costa Cruises North America. She noted that guest satisfaction is of the highest priority at Costa.

Dominici said in reviewing Ms. Campbell’s file it showed that various crew members tried to work to correct the problems. “Two housekeeping team members noted that traces of smoke were not apparent after visiting her stateroom twice. Moreover, there were no reports of smoking in non-designated areas by crew or guests as noted in Ms. Campbell’s letter. Smoking is explicitly prohibited in dining rooms and limited to only designated areas within public areas and lounges,” said Dominici.

In regards to Campbell’s visit to the infirmary Dominici notes that her reaction was due to a “pre-existing condition” that Campbell had not disclosed. The pre-existing medical condition is a severe reaction to cigarette smoke. What’s worse is that Campbell did not have any travel insurance. Dominici noted that if Campbell had Costa’s Guest Protection Plan it would have covered her trip interruption.

I was disappointed to hear that Campbell and Jeffries’ travel agent did not recommend the pair get travel insurance especially since they were senior citizens. The agent probably was not informed of Campbell’s allergy to cigarette smoke.

Smoky cultural differences
While many parts of Europe have enacted antismoking laws the region’s smoking culture lingers on despite the bans. Lighting up in Europe doesn’t carry the stigma as it does in the U.S. Smoking in Europe is seen as a way of life much like eating and drinking.

So what does this mean for North American cruisers used to strict smoking laws?

It means be prepared for a lot of rule-breaking on a European cruise line. While Costa and all cruise lines have smoking rules, I’ve watched those rules go up in smoke — literally — while cruising in Europe. A recent trip onboard MSC Cruises, which has much stricter smoking rules than Costa, left me gagging for air. I have cruised on Costa in both Europe and the Caribbean and did not have a problem. But I noted more smoke on the European cruise.

In the end, it’s important for cruise travelers to work closely with their travel agent to ensure the best possible cruise experience before they step onboard. This includes choosing the correct cruise line for their preferences as well as determining their special needs so that we as a cruise line may best accommodate them. It’s also important to cover your expensive trip with the right travel insurance policy.

Lastly, if you have a severe allergy to cigarette smoke you have no business being on any cruise ship. It’s simply too risky given there are hundreds if not even thousands of smokers on any one sailing.

Smoking onboard
The smoking rules vary by cruise line and can be downright confusing. One thing that is unanimous among all cruise lines is that cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco must be properly disposed of and never thrown overboard. Additionally, all cruise lines that ban smoking in staterooms will charge violators a penalty of $250 or more as a cleaning expense.

Here’s the rundown on what each line allows:

Azamara Cruises
Smoking is banned everywhere with the exception of two small areas — indoors, in the aft port-side section of the Looking Glass Lounge, outdoors, in the starboard forward section of the Pool Deck.

Carnival Cruise Lines
Smoking is prohibited in all dining areas as well as in a number of public rooms, including the show lounge, library, in some other lounges, and along the promenade deck. Smoking is permitted in staterooms, stateroom balconies, casinos, dance clubs, piano bars, cigar bars, and in designated areas on open decks. Spa staterooms and suites aboard Carnival Splendor are totally non-smoking.

Celebrity Cruises
Smoking is prohibited in staterooms, on stateroom balconies, in all dining venues, and in the casino, theater, corridors, and elevators. Cigarette smoking is permitted only in a few designated indoor and outdoor areas of each ship.

Costa Cruises
Smoking is permitted in staterooms and private balconies and in designated areas of most public rooms on board. It’s prohibited in the restaurants and show lounges.

Cruise West
Smoking is allowed only in designated areas of outside decks. Smoking is not permitted anywhere inside.

Crystal Cruises
Cigarette smoking is permitted in staterooms and at designated tables in most bars and lounges. Smoking is not permitted in most public areas, including the main dining room, the bistro, and the indoor portions of the buffet restaurant, the alternative restaurants, the show lounge, and all private balconies.

Cunard Line
Elevators and all restaurants are designated as totally non-smoking, while public rooms offer both smoking and non-smoking areas.

Disney Cruise Line
Smoking is permitted only in designated areas of the ship. Guests are allowed to smoke on designated areas on open decks, on their stateroom balcony, and in the designated adult-only lounges.

Holland America Line – Smoking is prohibited in all dining areas and in showrooms. Smoking is permitted in designated areas of most bars/lounges and open decks and in staterooms and on stateroom balconies.

Lindblad Expeditions
Smoking is permitted only in designated outdoor areas. No smoking is permitted anywhere inside.

MSC Cruises
On all MSC vessels, smoking is permitted only in the cigar lounge, the casino, in one dedicated lounge, and on one side of the sun deck. Smoking is prohibited in all staterooms and stateroom balconies.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)
Smoking is prohibited in almost all public areas aboard NCL’s ships, including restaurants, performance venues, and bars/lounges. Cigarette smoking is permitted only in staterooms, on stateroom balconies, in the casino, in the Cigar Bar, and on most open decks where permitted.

Oceania Cruises
Cigarette smoking is prohibited with the exception of two designated areas — the aft port corner of Horizons observation lounge, and outdoors, in the forward starboard corner of the Pool Deck.

Princess Cruises
Smoking is prohibited in the dining rooms and other food service areas and in the show lounges and theaters. Smoking is permitted in staterooms, on stateroom balconies, on the outside decks, and in designated areas of most public rooms.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Smoking is prohibited in all staterooms and stateroom balconies, in all enclosed dining areas, and in most public rooms. Cigarette smoking is permitted only in designated areas of the outdoor deck areas, and in the casino, the cigar lounge, and the pool bar, as well as in a designated area of the nightclub and an outside portion of the observation lounge.

Royal Caribbean International
Smoking is prohibited in staterooms and in all restaurants, corridors, entertainment venues, and most other public spaces. Cigarette smoking is permitted only in designated areas of the ships’ bars and lounges, on ocean-facing stateroom balconies and on outside decks on the starboard side of the ship. One lounge aboard each ship is designated totally non-smoking.

Seabourn Cruise Line
Smoking is prohibited in most public areas, including all restaurants, the show lounge, the casino, the nightclub, the spa, the ships’ elevators, corridors, lobbies, and the port side of the Observation Lounge. Cigarette smoking is permitted in staterooms and on stateroom balconies.

SeaDream Yacht Club
Smoking is prohibited in all indoor areas, including staterooms. No staterooms aboard these ships have private balconies. Smoking is permitted outdoors only on specific decks.

Silversea Cruises
Most public areas are non-smoking. Cigarette smoking is permitted only at designated smoking tables in some bars and lounges and in certain areas on open decks, as well as staterooms and stateroom balconies.

Star Clippers
Star Clippers follows a nonsmoking policy in all staterooms and indoor public areas except a portion of the piano bar lounge. Smoking is permitted on outside decks.

Windstar Cruises
Smoking is prohibited in all staterooms and public spaces. Smoking is permitted only in designated areas of the outside decks.

If you’re wondering if there have been any non-smoking ships — there has been. In November 1998, Carnival Cruise Lines launched theParadise, the world’s first completely nonsmoking ship. The ship was designed and built by nonsmokers and smoking on board was verboten; in fact, anyone caught smoking was given the heave-ho at the next port and was slapped with a $250 fine. Fast-forward seven years: Now the Paradise has been moved to the West coast, where it sails three- and four-day cruises to Mexico — smoking permitted.

“With only one ship operating this itinerary, we couldn’t limit the vessel to nonsmokers,” says Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen. While that may be true, cruise industry insiders say the decision to go smoking came down to money. Where there’s smoke, there’s revenue — specifically, gambling revenue. Turns out nonsmokers don’t drink or gamble as much as their nicotine-addicted shipmates.

Sound off! Do you have a comment, an idea, a complaint or a problem for Anita to solve? Send her an e-mail and you might find yourself in her next column. And check out her blog, ExpertCruiser.com.

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