I think I may have discovered the only place in the UK where you can still smoke in a confined public space – a cruise ship.
Imagine our surprise when we were exploring the stunning Celebrity Eclipse as we sailed down Southampton Water heading for Cork.
The fabulous Sky Lounge, two decks above the bridge with a 15-foot high wall of glass, is also an old-fashioned smokers’ lounge.
The UK cruise market is booming. P&O, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Cunard, MSC and more all want your business.Fabulously-appointed, their ships are the grand white swans (or ugly ducklings, depending on your point of view) of the seas.
But which is the best? Well, there’s a clear difference in style between cruise ships and the Brittany Ferries and LD Lines sailings from Portsmouth.
But between cruise ships, the differences are really not that great.
Last summer we took a 14-night Mediterranean cruise on P&O’s four-star Ventura. She was fabulous and for me, the added tradition of being a P&O ship gave her an air of splendour as well as having all you’d expect on a modern-day cruise ship.
So what of the new American? Would the Celebrity Eclipse blow the P&O ship away?
Not quite. Owned by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity is its five-star line.
She’s not as brash as Independence Of The Seas, boasting amazing facilities like the ice bar, the dark, teak-lined Ensemble lounge and a two-tiered restaurant seating over 1,500 people.
She was very grand and rather opulent though.
But something was still missing. A truly great ship, but unlike the ships of P&O and Cunard, I felt she was trying too hard to have those five stars.
So to sum her up, she will wow you with her spectacular eateries and excellent bars. But after a while you’ll feel the ship lacks a certain soul. Some of the crew are aloof and your clothes will smell of smoke if you venture into the stunning Sky Lounge.
As we sailed past Portsmouth, we were followed by P&O’s elegant Oriana. I looked back longingly.