Carnival's Paradise pioneers smoke-free niche


Writers Shirley Slater and Harry Basch took a one-week Caribbean cruise on Carnival's new Paradise to find out what it is like to sail on the world's first smoke-free vessel. Their report follows:

ABOARD THE PARADISE -- Her blue T-shirt proclaimed her a participant in the Massachusetts Senior Olympic Games, and 76-year-old Valerie Webber said she picked this cruise specifically for its smoke-free ambience. I always try to avoid smokers," she said, adding that she's done "probably a dozen cruises" over the years.

Bill and Betty Boughton, retirees from Clearwater, Fla., also picked this cruise specifically because of the nonsmoking policy of the ship. Bill has bronchial asthma. They said they really like the clean air aboard, although as longtime Royal Caribbean loyals, Betty confided, they wished Royal Caribbean would bring out its own nonsmoking vessel.

Although hotel manager Miles Willis said approximately half the passengers aboard our Dec. 13 cruise, the ship's second regular revenue sailing, were Carnival repeat passengers, the other half appeared to be anything but Carnival veterans.

There were numerous families with young children, even babies in strollers, as well as many seniors, wheelchair passengers, a woman with a seeing-eye dog, plus several passengers with oxygen tanks and kidney dialysis machines.

We came across Branden and Neesa Iden from Big Spring, Texas, sunning on the pool deck of Carnival's Paradise with their youngest child, who's "just a couple of weeks short of 2" and so not yet old enough to participate in the children's program. Their older children, ages 5 and 8, were in the Children's World, the ship's 2,500-square-foot playroom.

Cruise veterans themselves (Branden's family owned a travel agency for some years), they had hesitated about bringing their kids on cruises before because they didn't want to expose them to second-hand smoke. They were aboard the Paradise with a family group of seven. "The casino," Branden said, "is a real treat because of the absence of smoke."

Next to us in the Elation dining room was a lively table of 10 young singles -- four men and six women, only two of whom, pretty twenty-somethings from Boston, were on their first cruise.

The women were overwhelmingly in favor of the nonsmoking atmosphere, especially two women from San Francisco.

A couple of the men who traveled with Carnival before said they felt there is "a little less action than usual" on the Paradise but added "maybe it's just the particular sailing and the age of some of the passengers."

Although it is too early to post any trends, bar managers on the ship admitted drink revenues were down, and casino table games were less crowded, although slot machines seemed to be getting almost as much action as usual.

There were more shore excursions sold than usual, said Willis, and attendance at all the shows and activities on board was higher than usual.

The spa and gym were busy, and more passengers lined up at lunchtime for the salad bar than for the hot dogs and hamburgers.

A big question in the travel community has been, is Carnival serious? Will the line strictly enforce the no-smoking rule all over the ship? So far, it seems Carnival will.

In its first month and a half of operating weeklong cruises, eight passengers were put off the Paradise at the next port of call for smoking, six on one sailing (in unrelated incidents), and had to pay their own way home, a spokesman for the line said.

Passengers, before each sailing, are issued an agreement letter that outlines Carnival's no-smoking policy and requires the passenger's signature.

In addition to removal from the ship, the line, starting with the Jan. 10 sailing, set a "liquidated damages" fine of $250 for each infraction, to pay for the cleaning and replacing of drapes, bedding and other soft furnishings.

Hotel manager Willis said the cruise line reimburses stewards full gratuities for any passengers evicted for smoking.

The ship's captain, Carlo Queirolo, told us that he had quit smoking when assigned to Kvaerner Masa-Yard to oversee the vessel's construction. "It wasn't difficult, since I never smoked more than six or seven cigarettes a day," he said.

Shipyard workers were not permitted to smoke inside the ship while it was under construction.

Today, Paradise crew members who are caught smoking while on shore are transferred to another ship, Capt. Queirolo said. They face firing if they are caught smoking on the ship.

A hairdresser in the Steiner beauty salon aboard said this was her first job at sea and, as a nonsmoker, she didn't think much about it until the Paradise happened to be docked alongside Cunard's QE2. "The Steiner staff over there invited us aboard, and all I could think of was how bad the ship smelled compared to ours."


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