Cruise lines face a lot of challenges that traditional hotels don't deal with. A cruise ship is an enclosed space that's moving. This means that passengers impact each other more than they might in a traditional hotel, and the cruise line has to make decisions that some passengers may not like because they support the bottom line.
In addition, cruise lines face an age-old problem that every land-based casino operator has to deal with -- people like to smoke in casinos, but non-smokers hate smoky casinos. That creates a conundrum that's easier for a large land-based casino to solve than it is for a cruise line.
A land-based casino can have meaningful smoke-free areas. That can mean having a floor or a very distinct room designated smoke-free. It's possible to have meaningful separation because you have actual separate spaces.
That's much harder to do on a cruise. In most cases, there are smoking sections on a Royal Caribbean International (RCL) ship, but smoke travels and sensitive non-smokers can't avoid it. The Wonder of the Seas does have a separate smaller casino (originally meant for high-rollers when the ship was supposed to sail out of China, but that's the only ship in the fleet that has two truly separated casino areas.
It's a problem the Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley addressed during his company's annual President's Cruise.
Will Royal Caribbean Ban Smoking in its Casinos?
There was a period during the omicron variant section of the pandemic where Royal Caribbean tightened its mask rules and banned smoking in the casino. That was a practical concern because, at that time, the company was requiring customers to put their mask on between sips of a drink.
When that period ended, the cruise line reinstated smoking in its casinos. "It's a bit of a conundrum," Bayley said during a question and answer session on Ovation of the Seas during the President's Cruise, the Royal Caribbean Blog reported.
"The dilemma is that there are many people who do want to smoke in the casino. I know that's not a popular response, but it's it's the truth. I'm not judging anyone or anything, but there's a large group of people who do want to smoke in the casino," he said.
Banning smoking, which the company has tested, produces lower revenue in the casino.
"Every, I would say every couple of years, we do test this and we take one or two or three ships and we ban smoking in the casino. And the result is less people go in the casino and that's the reality of it," he explained.
Bayley does not expect a smoking ban to happen, but said the cruise line is looking at ways to make more area in the casino smoke free.
Will Royal Caribbean Add a Fuel Surcharge?
That's something Royal Caribbean has a legal right to do (it's in the long cruise contract you didn't read) but has held off so far on doing that. Bayley shut down fears of the cruise line adding one (at least right now), according to the Royal Caribbean Blog, which is not affiliated with the cruise line.
"The fuel fuel bill for Royal Caribbean is, as you can imagine, it's massive and it's gone up by I don't know what the percentages, but it's a huge chunk. It's hundreds of millions of dollars," he said. "But at the moment, we're not planning on putting a fuel surcharge on."