On a cruise, do you find that there’s always one bar, or one part of the ship, that has a natural aura of fun?
On my mini-cruise on Seabourn Quest last week, that spot every day was the corner of the starboard side of the Sky Bar; a nice vantage point overlooking the pool, above the band, with great views of the ocean and a friendly, attentive bartender.
Conversation buzzed as passers-by stopped to greet their friends and joined tables, while Stephanie behind the bar mixed more huge mojitos.
So? Well, what was unusual was that this is the smoking corner.
Smokers on ships always share a common bond. Whatever you feel about the habit, it’s an ice-breaker. All outcasts together, the smokers get chatting and the smoking corner on a ship, a bit like the launderette, is one of the best places to get shipboard gossip.
For the record, I don’t smoke, although my cruising friend does. And as one smoker on the cruise said (possibly controversially), if you’re going to take the same money from smokers as you do from non-smokers, then at least provide them with somewhere pleasant to smoke, not some wind-blown corner of the promenade deck under a lifeboat.
To that end, Seabourn seems particularly smoker-friendly without the smoking becoming intrusive; there were three places outdoors on Quest where smoking was allowed, as well as balconies (which is another discussion point altogether). But interestingly, although there seemed to be a lot of smokers on my cruise, there wasn’t any conflict with the non-smokers. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Maybe it was because of their strategic position by the Sky Bar that the smokers created the ‘in’ spot on the ship. I’m not suggesting that these people are any more fun because they smoke. But the camaraderie was infectious and their corner just seemed to catch the passing traffic.
This was never more amusing than on the sailaway from St Tropez. A dazzling sunset quickly turned into a crashing thunderstorm. People who’d been sunbathing all along the sides of the deck fled the rain, all congregating in the sheltered smoking corner. After a few minutes, there was quite a party going as everybody squeezed in to avoid the now bucketing rain. But what was telling was that nobody chose to sit out the storm on the identical, but smoke-free port side of the bar. It was completely empty.
Instead of the smoking, the rain and the spontaneous party had become the common bond.
For Cruise Critic’s guide to cruise lines’ smoking policies, click here