Cigar Aficionado

No Cruise Ship for Cigar Men

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.

"I personally find it deplorable and unacceptable when an establishment allows cigarette smoking but not cigar smoking. That said, this blog is several years old and policies change. Please pick up a copy of our December 2015 issue for a far more recent account of cruise ships, which has not only a ranking of top cruises but information about those that have proper cigar lounges for you to enjoy. " —December 2, 2015 11:53 AM
"We recently cruised on RCC ( Royal Carribean) and were actually angry that outdoor smoking was allowed for cigarettes only, and no smoking was allowed on our private balcony. The indoor lounge (small and very uncomfortable) was for both cigar and cigarettes. Is there a sensible explanation for this apparent/obvious discrimination between cigar and cigarette smoking? Though we understand the implications and seriousness of fire/ health hazards and smoking, your blog example noted the cruise ship fire was started by a cigarette, not a cigar. Does the cigar industry have plans to address these bans?" —December 2, 2015 11:46 AM
"I realize this is months later... however, as a travel agent I can tell you there are ships available that are cigar friendly, just very few. If you have a travel agent, ask them to assure you are booking on a friendly line, if you are not...consider it. " —April 6, 2009 19:36 PM
"Jack and Christian, I have cruise on many ships over the past 29 years. In fact my wife and I have been on over 200 cruises. Celebrity used to have a cigar lounge named "Michaels" that was when the Chandris family owned the cruise line. When Celebrity sold to Royal Caribbean their new ship builds did not have a cigar lounge and the cigar lounges on board were converted to shops or bars during the ships refurbishment. Princess Cruises has indoor cigar lounges and there is smoking on certain decks outside. Most of the ships today allow cigar or pipe smoking outdoors, but not inside unless there is a smokers lounge. Cunard, Regent Seven Seas and several other cruise lines do have indoor smoking lounges. On most ships, that do not sail round trip from the United States, you can buy Cuban cigars on board in the lounge or on in the duty free stores. In the caribbean many stores sell Cuban counterfit cigars, so you have to know what you're looking for. It's wise to check the counterfeit gallery on this site before you purchase cigars in other countries. I have also found that Dominican, Hounduran and Nicaraguan cigars are less expensive in the United States than they are in the country where they are made. If either of you have a specific question about travel or cruising I'm happy to try and answer it for you. Have a wornderful Holiday Season.........Shelly" —December 5, 2008 17:24 PM
"Much appreciated with the info thus far. I too will be searching for an indoor cigar friendly ship and/or cruise line. " —December 2, 2008 16:38 PM
"Hello Jack and all: - I recently went on a couple of cruise ship vacations and the Norwegian Cruise lines have the Corona Cigar club and Havana Club cigar bars and lounges where they allow cigar smoking and also you can purchase premium cigars. The other cruise line is Carnival that allows cigar smoking in their Alfred's Bar and Winston's Cigar bar. I guess you just need to research any particular cruise line and see what ships have indoor smoking bars and lounges, and hope that ship is the one with the itinerary you want to travel. I always take my own cigars from my personal humidor, but if I travel to Mexico, then I get some Cuban smokes at La Casa del Habano since I want to avoid counterfeits. Other countries such as D.R., I rely on duty free stores to get premium cigars.Happy Holidays to All!" —December 11, 2008 14:33 PM
"Christian,First I hasten to say that I did not write that the ship I was on (the Solstice) was non-smoking, rather that its smoking venues were limited to the outdoors and only on certain decks. However, I have just visited Celebrity's site (, which says in its FAQ section that each specific ship will have a specific indoor cigarette-smoking venue (apparently in the slots section of the casino). Pipes and cigars, however, are relegated to the outdoors. So, yeah, for our purposes it's only outdoors for smoking. I am looking into your second question on the relative smoking leniency of other cruise lines." —December 2, 2008 09:25 AM
"Jack sorry to hear about that. I am fan of Celebrity cruise lines and regard them as one of the best. However if they all are now non-smoking I will have to seek out a new cruise line. Do you know if all Celebrity ships are smoke free? Also do you our anyone else know what cruise lines allow smoking? " —December 1, 2008 16:30 PM