Smoked out of my suite on the Carnival Miracle

Andrew Besterman’s eight-day cruise to the Bahamas on the Carnival Miracle was something short of divine. For the duration of the journey, he was annoyed by the odor of cigarette smoke which seeped into his mini-suite from the cabin next door.

“Every time the passengers in the next stateroom lit up their cigarettes the smoke came into our room,” he says. “Since our bed shared a common wall, we could tell exactly when our neighbors smoked.”

A few days after his cruise, Carnival tightened its smoking policy, banning smoking in all staterooms. But alas, not in time for his vacation.

Now Besterman wants to be compensated for the nicotine-saturated clothes, his dry sinus and the general discomfort that non-smokers feel when they have to inhale secondhand smoke.

It’s important to acknowledge the other side of this issue, difficult as it may be. Smokers feel as if they have a right to light up, and that as long as there is no “no smoking” sign, they should be allowed to puff away to their heart’s content. Some might even be offended at fellow travelers who, they say, falsely claim they have “allergies” to cigarette smoke in an effort to stop them from smoking.

I don’t want to get drawn into that debate, although as a non-smoker, and as someone who had the identical problem on a cruise ship recently, I sympathize with this passenger. (More on my smoke-out in a second.)

Besterman did his best to address the complaint during his cruise. He believed his had a reasonable expectation of clean air in his cabin.

“I would expect that the ventilation system on the inside worked properly so that the cigarette smoke did not come into our room,” he says.

Carnival tried to address his smoke problem during the journey.

Housekeeping kept “freshening” up our room, but the issue was the smoke came through like clockwork whenever our neighbor’s lit up. I was even able to have our room steward come to our room when it was actually happening to attest I wasn’t out in left field.

Besterman appealed to several Carnival employees and managers during the week, including Guest Services and finally, to a senior supervisor.

“I realized quickly I wasn’t going to get very far,” he says.

Carnival suggested he take up the issue with corporate after he returned. So he did, putting his grievance in writing and asking for a discount off a future Carnival cruise.

The response? More of the same.

We regret to note your comments regarding your accommodations.

We know that a relaxing vacation is something you look forward to and we agree that a smoke free cabin is key to rest and relaxation.

As you are aware, effective December 20, 2011 all cabins on all the Carnival ships will be smoke free. Any guests who smoke in their cabin will be billed a $250.00 cleaning charge.

I realize this doesn’t help much with your recent cruise, but it may make it possible for you to cruise in comfort with us in the future. Unfortunately, this is not an event that we can offer compensation for. We apologize for any disappointment this may cause.

Besterman appealed to a Carnival manager, but the answer was unchanged: No compensation for a smoky room.

I feel for him. On a recent European cruise, on a ship that didn’t allow smoking in the cabins, the occupants of the room next to us were heavy smokers. We couldn’t open the door to our balconies without being hit by a cloud of carcinogens. The odor even came through the cabin door during the evening, when the couple would sit outside in the evening and consume half a pack.

We fled our cabin in response, spending most of our time in other parts of the ship or ashore. But had the cruise been any longer, and had the balcony been a more important part of the cruise experience (it isn’t when you have small children that love to climb) then I might have felt different about the whole thing.

Besterman’s request isn’t entirely unreasonable, but I’m not sure if I can — or should — try to squeeze anything out of Carnival. I think it may view its policy change as a concession, if not a form of compensation, for passengers like Besterman.

(Photo: Steamboats dot org/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • TiaMa

    While he may not have been covered under the revised policy, Carnival staff were able to see he was not making it up.  He isn’t asking for *gasp* a full refund, only a discount on a future cruise.  I think that’s a fairly reasonable request.

  • Caitlin Fitzsimmons

    The smell of smoke in my room would ruin the vacation for me. No allergies, just an aversion to foul smells.

    I would have tried to be moved whilst on board the ship. If nothing were available I would certainly want compensation.

  • sirwired

    What is there to mediate?  Yes, it’s unfortunate that the smoke bothered him so much, but it’s a smoking ship.  That’s the risk you take.

    The idea that each cabin is going to be hermetically sealed from the rest is absurd.

    I will mention that if he left his balcony door open (trying to air out the cabin), it WILL draw air from the hallway and adjacent cabins.  Lots of it.  When the ship is moving, it creates a “slipstream” on the side of the ship that results in reduced air pressure.  Even leaving the balcony door cracked will cause lots of airflow due to the difference in pressure.  Paradoxically, this can make the problem you are trying to solve (get smoke-free air into the cabin) even worse, since the air will be drawn through the hallway and the ventilation system in adjacent cabins.

    And “nicotine-saturated” clothes?  I know that clothes contaminated with secondhand smoke don’t necessarily smell great, but the laundering and/or dry cleaning you’d have to do anyway when you get home will take care of that just fine.  He’s going to far here…

  • $16635417

    I’m a non-smoker, but I voted no to mediate. I would not be happy if I were in the OP’s shoes either, but was any rule broken by the smoking guests that went ignored by Carnival onboard staff?

    Was the OP actually booked into a nonsmoking room and just unlucky enough to be located next to a smoking room? 

  • Anne Durham

    I voted no. At the time he took his cruise, this was a smoking ship.  If cigarette smoke bothers him that much, weren’t there non-smoking ships in existence when he took his cruise?

  • An Even Newer Alan Gore

    Whenever people report trouble on a cruise, the name Carnival seems to keep coming up. You get what you pay for, folks.

  • Charlie Funk

    I voted “no” to mediation, not because the Besterman’s claim is invalid, but because “mediating” suggests some expectation of compromise.  That expectation, ultimately unfulfilled, would almost certainly lead to frustration. Carnival has clearly stated their position. A goodwill gesture of a future cruise discount would have been warranted I believe.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Re the clothes: if the OP had planned to wear any of the clothes again during the trip, they would have smelled.  I’m one of those whose sinuses clog immediately at the smell; migraine isn’t too far behind.  This topic is very much on my mind at the moment: I’m going to have to travel out of town for a funeral with my pack and a half a day father-in-law.  He doesn’t get how badly the smell affects me.  I can’t wash my clothes mid-travel, so I’m packing lots of meds.

  • cowboyinbrla

    Except that if the clothes get smoke-saturated before he’s even worn them on the ship… it means he either can’t wear them or he’s got to go around smelling like smoke himself. Anything he sends to the ship’s laundry is going to be in the same condition after it’s been in his cabin for a few hours.

    I am personally becoming less and less interested in hearing about “smoker’s rights” as I believe a non-intrusive preference always takes precedence over an intrusive one. Many, many states ban smoking in all commercial buildings (or all but a few, like bars) and people cope just fine going outside and away some distance from the doors to smoke. That ought to be general policy everywhere. On a ship, it should be restricted to the topmost rear deck, in my view, if not banned entirely.

  • absherlock

    People doing something that bothers you isn’t always actionable. I vote no.

  • Tygar

    I absolutely can not stand to be around any tobacco smokers.  This would surely ruin any vacation for me.
    In fact, if someone would smoke around me in a “non smoking” environment & would not stop when asked, there would be big trouble.
    I don’t care about “smokers rights”, they don’t trump my right not to be subjected to cancer causing smoke & the extreme discomfort caused by the smoke.
    I can enter a room or car that had been smoked in previously & will start coughing, even though it has had air circulated thru it, so I can understand the smoke in clothes, hair etc.
    I had to put up with my parents smoking, it caused me many respiratory problems.  My mother died at 60 & my dad at 68, both from smoking & related problems.
    Your right to polute your lungs & the air around you does not give you ANY right to do it to me!
    Absolutely, mediate!

  • S E Tammela

    To me this isn’t about smoking or people’s right to smoke. It’s about something someone else did, in the privacy of their cabin, that irritated someone else. It would be the same if it were rotten egg smell, toilet smells, or bad perfume. None of us want those things in our clothes and hair and there was obviously a problem with the rooms allowing these smells to come through.

    So let’s see. Carnival apparently:

    (1) agreed it was happening,
    (2) acknowledge that it was irritating,
    (3) tried, ineffectually, to do something about it,
    (4) somehow don’t think it was worth giving any gift, partial refund or monetary apology on, at all,
    (5) then had the gall to suggest he travel with them AGAIN, paying full price.

    If they actually cared in ANY way, shape or form, they would at the very least offer a substantial discount while trying to get an UNHAPPY customer to stay their customer.

    If you are not prepared to do anything for a customer then don’t pay them some silly, useless, unsympathetic lip service… and then suggest they come back!

  • S E Tammela

    I don’t really see it as trying to punish the smokers. Note that nobody suggested telling them not to smoke, or wanted to interfere with their right to smoke in their own room. The OP merely wanted to enjoy a cruise without the smell. I guess we could imagine if it wasn’t cigarette smoke and were something else that smelled bad – would we want to have, say, revolting perfume or rotten eggs coming through the wall every day and getting into our hair and clothes? Probably not.

  • Elmo Clarity

    When I took a cruise with Carnival 10+ years ago, I know they did have non-smoking ships because that is what I booked on to avoid this very situation.

  • Stewart Sheinfeld

    Carnival is always offering discounts to past cruisers. It would be a smart move on their part to offer vouchers toward a future cruise not expensive for them and create a lot of goodwill

  • sdir

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.  This wasn’t a case of someone smoking on the balcony and having it seep into another guest’s open window.  Guests were exercising their right to privately smoke in their room and the smell seeped into an adjoining guestroom.

    Chris, I’m curious what the LW could’ve done differently during the cruise?  I feel that Carnival should’ve at least given them a token discount. Suggesting that policy change was due to this one situation is a little ridiculous.

  • Nancy Dickinson

    I’m a smoker so I sympathize with the folks in the adjoining room – they were perfectly within their right to smoke in their rooms as this was permitted by the cruise line.

    However, I can’t stand the heavy odor of cigarette smoke either.  When I travel, I ask for a non-smoking room every time.  The odor permeates every nook and cranny in the room and it’s almost nauseating to walk into a smoking-allowed room.

    But I don’t think this deserves mediation.  I also feel the staff on the ship should have moved the OP to a room further away from the smoking rooms.  I’ve never taken a cruise so I can’t comment too much on them however, in reading comments below, I noted a poster wrote there are non-smoking ships available.  

    Could the OP have done more to avoid this situation?  Yes.  Should he have to?  Depends on his level of contempt for smoke.  To be honest, this guy seems almost rabid and I can’t believe the ship staff didn’t do more to shut him up.  Sounds like he was making quite a nuisance of himself.

  • Crissy

    Since the cruise staff was not able to find a solution I do think a future credit would be the right thing to do.

  • y_p_w

    Smoking is no longer allowed in staterooms.  If he were to get a credit for a future stay, the smell of smoke should theoretically not be an issue.

  • y_p_w

    The someone smoked next door may be one thing.  However, I would think it could also be a matter of degree.  It’s perfectly alright that someone talks in their room, but doing it all night and keeping up patrons in adjoining rooms is something that should be addressed by the provider, whether it’s a hotel or a cruise line.

    A small voucher good for a new cruise would appear to be appropriate.

  • $16635417

    I didn’t say they should be punished, unless they were smoking in a non-smoking cabin. 

  • ViviWang

    Let me begin by saying I quit smoking several years ago,
    cigarette smoke doesn’t bother me but I fully appreciate and support those who
    are made ill or bothered it by it in their efforts to ban it in public areas.


    I’m certain the smoking couple booked with Carnival
    specifically because it allowed smoking in the cabin.  Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Princess,
    among others, have all banned smoking in cabins and the majority of enclosed
    areas on ships.  Open air deck areas also
    ban smoking except for limited areas. 
    Carnival and Holland America
    (starting 1/15/12) were the last main line cruise lines to ban smoking in
    cabins and other areas.  There is a huge
    debate going on about allowing smoking on balconies.  Some suggest smoking should only be allowed
    on one side of a ship and other want it banned outright.  I expect within the next five years or so
    smoking on main line cruise ship balconies will be banned, as it has been since
    2008 on Celebrity.


    As for Chris’s experience, virtually all ships continue to
    allow smoking on balconies.  On my last cruise
    the balcony cabins on both sides of me (two across each way) and the one above
    me had smokers.  My next door neighbors
    were cigar smokers.  Yes, smoke seeped
    into my cabin when I left the balcony door open while in port but not through
    the walls as the OP stated happened to him. 
    Crew members are instructed not to disagree with passengers so having
    the cabin attendant agree with the OP isn’t significant.  I suspect the smoke smell came from leaving
    the balcony door open and I doubt it was enough to make his clothing smell.  Carnival’s smoking policy was clear.  If the OP were concerned in any way about
    cigarette smoke (and who isn’t these days) he could have/should have done his
    research (as you all like to say) and booked with a cruise line that bans
    smoking in cabins and the majority of other areas on their ships.  Carnival owes him nothing.

  • ViviWang

    Carnival’s no-smoking ship (there was only one) was
    discontinued b/c they couldn’t sell it out.  Now many ships ban smoking in
    cabins, the majority of enclosed space (leaving a bar and the casino for
    smokers), as well as limiting smoking significantly on open air decks like the

  • ViviWang

    (1) Carnival didn’t agree it was happening, the OP said the cabin attendant could attest to it.  Crew are told not to disagree with passengers. 
    (2) Carnival acknowledged cigarette smoke can be irritating and they are changing their policy but their policy at the time was to allow smoking in the cabin.  The OP should have booked with one of the other main line cruise lines that ban smoking in cabins and the majority of common areas.
    (4) no it wasn’t worth compensation as the OP should have done his research, the information about smoking on Carnival ships was readily available to him on their site and the paperwork they sent with his booking materials.
    (5)  YES, I totally agree suggesting he cruise with them again was stupid but that is standard language when responding to any complaint.

    No, if cruise lines compensated every unhappy cruiser they would be out of business.  Cruising is different from staying at a hotel as many first time cruiser’s expectations are through the roof.  Reports say 60% of passengers on any given ship are first time cruisers.  Most, amazingly enough, return even if all their expectations were met but those who don’t are loss business anyway.

  • J

    Except the ship is registered in Panama, the OP was in Europe and the majority of people on the ship may not have been American. If cigarette smoke is that much of an issue, don’t travel internationally.

  • Asiansm Dan

    I never smoke but when traveling internationally I expect a smoking environment and  even there are not-smoking places, usually, there are not enforced because local police are heavy smokers too.
    But I think Carnival should have move them to another cabin or offer some compensation but not a full refund. If they initially and specifically asked for a non-smoking cabin, in that case, they should have a full refund.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Do you really believe that the cruise line would have done anything, even if it were a nonsmoking room next door?  No.  They would have charged the smoking fee to the offending party and then told the wheezing OP sorry nothing we can do.

    Yet another reason why I will never go on a cruise.  I think I’m up to about 22 reasons now.

  • cowboyinbrla

    I see nothing in the original post that suggests the OP was from Europe (there’s a note about CHRIS having a similar problem on a EUROPEAN cruise, however). In fact, I don’t think it would be physically possible for a ship to leave Europe and reach the Bahamas, then return, within 8 days. There are simply no cruise ships that fast. In point of fact, the Carnival website makes it clear that the ship sails from New York to Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas. I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of passengers on that ship were Americans who boarded in the United States.

    The registry of the ship is irrelevant (not in a legal sense, but it doesn’t mean that the ship actually ever spent one minute in Panama, it’s just a country of convenience for registry).

  • jim6555

    One of my closest friends is a travel agent specializing in cruises. It’s been a long time since my wide and I cruised on Carnival because of a bad experience. My friend is trying to get us to “give them another chance” on a seven day Western Caribbean cruise this spring. After reading about the way that Carnival has handled Mr. Besterman’s problem, I have decided to call my friend and ask him to book our trip on a Celebrity Cruise lines ship.

  • sffilk

    I don’t know if your attempting to mediate this case is going to help.  Honestly?  I think the only way these people are going to get satisfaction is to put their complaint out there on youtube and LJ and FB, etc., and get the word out that way.  Yes, people will call them “whiners,” etc., but Carnival is going to get the message FAST.

  • Lindabator

    I agree – I am a nonsmoker, but this was NOT a nonsmoking cruise, so there is nothing TO mediate!  Just because he was unhappy with the situation doesn’t mean he is entitled to compensation!

  • Lindabator

    Umm.. smokers appear on other cruise lines as well, you know.  This isn’t a problem with Carnival, but with the fact the passenger doesn’t like the smell of cigarette smoke.

  • Lindabator

    Mediate what?  This was NOT a nonsmoking ship, so if he did not want to risk smelling smoke, he should have chosen a different sailing.  His decision also doesn’t mean Carnival owes him because he was unhappy with another guest exercising their rights.

  • Lindabator

    Why do we expect them to compensate a NONSMOKER who chose to take a SMOKING cruise?  His choice, his decision, he lives with the consequences!  The idea that Carnival needs to police everyone exercising what was allowed becaue this customer didn’t like it is ridiculous!

  • Lindabator

    The ships today are actually sailing FULL, so I could see a problem with accommodating him to another room.  But yes, he chose a SMOKING cruise, and if it is THAT bad for him, then he should have chosen something else.  I don’t feel he is entitled to anything.

  • Lindabator

    But they couldn’t have asked for a nonsmoking cabin, as the ship at the time didn’t offer them — so they aren’t entitled to compensation because they didn’t like the consequences of their decision to sail on this ship — no one forced them to sail with them, there are other options, after all.

  • Lindabator

    What message?  That they should have to pay a customer who was on a SMOKING ship, and who was a viral NONSMOKER (he chose this ship, remember) – because he didn’t like the smell of smoke?  Hwen are people going to take responsibility for their actions/decisions in this world?

  • TouchyFeely

    What is ambiguous about no-smoking?  if it was that strong they could have the manager confront the offenders and de-boat them!

  • TouchyFeely

    oh, i missed which cruises were no-smoking.  nevermind.

  • Mel65

    I voted to mediate.  Ok, it wasn’t a non-smoking cruise, but there shouldn’t be a smoking room sharing a wall with a non-smoking room.  If a cruiseline chooses to have both types of rooms, they should be separted on alternating floors or something; heck even hotels back in the day separated them to the extent possible.  I’m not allergic to cigarette smoke, but the smell makes me nauseated and I begin to feel like I can’t get enough oxygen after a while.  Maybe it’s all in my head, but I know that it would have made me miserable if I were in the LWs shoes. He’s asking for a reasonable resolution. I hope you help him get it.  

  • mszabo

    So have you ever been able to get something out of a Cruise Line?  Seems like the Cruise industry may have a somewhat massive PR problem looming and in this case a somewhat simple token gesture could have put them in the right for perhaps the first time on your blog.  

    I’m somewhat convinced that I will never go on a cruise, just the thought of giving a single company that much power over my vacation is a bit scary, and not worth worrying about.

  • Lindabator

    But this wasn’t a NONSMOKING ROOM situation – he just didn’t LIKE smoke!

  • Lindabator

    It didn’t – there was NO NONSMOKING POLICY in effect when he sailed, which meant ANYONE could smoke in their cabin – even next to his.

  • Lindabator

    Why should they “GET” something at all?  This was a SMOKING ship, with SMOKING cabins, and the nonsmoker gets peeved because he has to smell smoke?  Give me a break – he chose the wrong ship, and wants someone else to face the consequences of his decision – I work as a travel agent, and I ensure my clients are on the right cruise for their particular desires/needs.  As a nonsmoker who sails all the time, I make sure to choose the right ship for my vacation – hence, I don’t (and neither do my clients) have this problem!

  • mszabo

    Personally I have never seen Carnival advertise that it is a smoking ship and you can smoke everywhere.  I would think it is natural to assume that they have smoking/non-smoking cabins just like the hotel industry.  If they don’t well then the Cruise industry is more backwards than I had thought.   

    As for this point I’d say if you can smell the people in the next cabin over, well then that is a problem with the ventilation system and they are owed something.  

  • IGoEverywhere

    Andrew should go straight to the travel agent that booked his cruise and have them intervene with their sales rep. Mine has done wonders with assisting sticky little problems. The sales rep for Carnival lnows who has the powqer and the desire, to help. If he booked on his ownthen he does not get to use this wonderful system.

  • Mel65

    I’m not sure what “it didn’t” is in reference to that I said, but I didn’t say there was a non-smoking policy, or that smokers COULDN’T smoke. What I said was that I believe common sense and courtesy dictate that smokers and non-smokers shouldn’t be right next to each other.  The OP never made it clear if he had requested and been assured of receiving, a non-smoking room.  But, I have a hard time believing that EVERY cabin on that ship was designated as smoking permitted, and if they weren’t, then my point still stands, smoking and non-smoking cabins shouldn’t have been sharing a wall, or even a corridor. *shrug* Just my opinion.