PHOTO: Non-smoking cruise ships are becoming easier to find. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

Smoking on cruises has been a struggle for some time, but company policies and ship designs are finally beginning to eradicate conflicts.

The reality is that smokers are now fewer and further between. Still, their presence—even in small numbers—greatly affects the experience of remaining passengers.

Having just disembarked Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Inspiration, it’s amazing to note how one little casino bar at the center of an open deck plan can quickly spread second-hand smoke well beyond to the forward and aft ends of the ship.

To non-smokers, it’s truly a nuisance and a health hazard (one that almost immediately causes me to suffer from headaches). Unfortunately, it’s hard to escape on a mostly confined cruise ship when at sea.

Some vessels are better designed than others in controlling the proliferation of fumes, and even the Inspiration featured a number of air purifiers nearby to help. The worst are those that allow it by a multilevel atrium where it can quickly drift to several decks. The only real answer is to completely enclose it or prohibit smoking entirely.

Thankfully, more and more cruise lines are disallowing it on cabin balconies, which is as much a safety measure as a courtesy to the majority of guests. After all, fire is a serious danger at sea.

READ MORE: Throwback Thursday: Do You Remember Carnival’s Non-Smoking Cruise Ship?

Consider the massive outbreak of flames that overtook the side of Princess Cruises’ Star Princess in 2006 when a burning cigarette was the likely cause of ignited balconies and over a hundred cabins. The devastation ultimately resulted in the death of one elderly passenger.

From a less dramatic perspective, smoking is becoming increasingly incongruent with cruising’s wellness concept. It has never gone hand in hand with onboard spas, nor does it line up with fresh focuses on fitness. Arguably, you could say the same thing about ship buffets, but even dining is starting to skew much healthier these days.

The Carnival Inspiration once had a Fantasy-class sister-ship that was exclusively non-smoking. The Carnival Paradise was sadly ahead of its time, though, and the cruise line succumbed to economic pressure and has since allowed smokers free rein in select areas onboard. (I’m hopeful it will one day revert back.)

In the meantime, smoking is seemingly less prevalent on newer ships by design. Cigar lounges have traditionally been encapsulated, but cigarette smoking zones are starting to head in the same direction.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ latest Seven Seas Explorer was smart to realize that earmarking one side of the pool deck for smoking hardly contains the smell there. It thus has a separate glass-enclosed deck area for the practice.

READ MORE: The Current and Future State of Cruise Smoking Policies

Next, Norwegian Cruise Line will dedicate casino space on its upcoming new Norwegian Bliss for smokers and nonsmokers, also physically apart. The company has discussed this as an option for awhile on its Breakaway- and Breakaway Plus-class ships, retroactively, but it has not yet happened. These new plans are making good on the earlier ones, hopefully with goals to still roll it back on existing vessels.

In either case, it’s refreshing to see a change of approach among cruise lines favoring much cleaner air for their passengers.

Until the time a completely non-smoking ship once again sets sail, Viking Ocean Cruises is the closest to what the Carnival Paradise once offered thanks to the absence of a casino and very limited smoking permissions.

For anyone desiring such an atmosphere at sea, its ships are highly recommended.

This post first appeared on TravelPulse.

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