No Cruise Ship for Cigar Men
Posted: Dec 1, 2008 4:10pm ET
Just returned from a Caribbean cruise refreshed, but slightly disappointed. The Solstice, newest addition to the Celebrity cruise ship fleet on which I sailed, was magnificent in all respects but one: it was almost bereft of smoking venues.
One of the great pleasures to cruise ships for me has always been the opportunity to smoke on board. Most have a cigar bar or some reasonable facsimile thereof located on the highest deck so the smoke wafts harmlessly up. And if you are lucky enough to have a room with a balcony, you can sit out there and puff away as well. Most ships sell cigars at duty free and their ports of call typically have Havanas available, so smoking is doubly attractive.
However, upon boarding the Solstice I was informed via memo that no inside smoking venue existed and that smoking was limited to the outdoors on certain decks, which did not include balconies in private staterooms.
"That's a bitter pill," I thought, but swallowed it anyway, chalking it up to another encroachment of the vice police. I did all right for a few days, but then encountered a bar on the third day that offered a flight of the Jim Beam Small Batch Bourbon collection (Basil Hayden, Knob Creek, Baker's and Booker's). Now, tasting that selection without a cigar to go with it is kind of like visiting a hat store that has no mirrors. But I bit at the bullet and determined on the fourth day to have a smoke ashore.
That smoke came on St. Kitts, which at 68 square miles is one of the smaller and more peaceful islands you are likely to dock at on a cruise ship. Stepping off at the little port of Basseterre and into the Pelican Mall, I spied a shop named Smoke N' Booze and immediately intuited it as a sign from above. Inside, the store had plenty of the latter and a medium-sized walk-in humidor with a fair selection of the former (in the Cuban variety). Knowing I wouldn't have good smoking opportunities back on board, I chose only one cigar—a Montecristo Edmundo—and went in search of a friendly place to smoke.
This I found at an open-air bar, called the Rum Barrel, in the center of the shopping area. I made sure it was all right to smoke, ordered a Bourbon and was gratified to get a Wild Turkey 101. From this serene vantage point, I could sip my drink and look up to the green tropical hills and out across the blues waters. The cigar was lush and leathery, and I felt I had brought together all of the components of one of those cigar reveries we all search out.
After a while, three crew members from the Solstice happened by and sat next to me at the circular bar smoking cigarettes. I endeavored to get to the bottom of the—I thought—rather strict smoking policy on board and struck up a conversation with the inhalers. Their answer regarding the situation wasn't what I expected and. And was also rather disturbing.
I thought I would hear a tale of woe concerning smoke fascists who impose their views on us. But that wasn't the story. It seems that two years ago on the Star Princess (not a Celebrity ship) someone left a lit cigarette on a balcony (or possibly tossed it overboard only to have it blown onto another balcony). However it began, the lit butt set a fire that damaged 250 cabins across four decks and caused a mass evacuation as well as 11 casualties and one death from smoke inhalation.
That set me back on my no-longer indignant heels.
In such a context, one might understand Celebrity's antismoking position—and rethink our own. If we are to enjoy this adult pleasure of smoking—whether it be with cigars or cigarettes—we must be aware that responsibilities go along with it. As well as the courtesies that we should all afford nonsmokers, remember that anything you smoke is a true fire hazard and treat it as such. Properly extinguish all smoking materials to avoid tragedies such as this or we will face further incursions on our smoking rights—and with good reason.
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