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ON A CRUISE, WHERE THERE'S SMOKE ...
By Michael Matthews
February 21, 2013 -- I have a personal bone to pick with Mr. Richard D. Meadows.

Who he, says you? Mr. Meadows is head honcho of Seabourn Cruise Line and my wife and I have recently returned from a 32-day cruise on one of his "yachts." Suzanne and I cruised from Bali, down the east coast of Australia, across the Tasman Sea and then around the South Island of New Zealand.

We really could not find a thing about which to complain. As part of this trip, we cruised for a couple of days with no scheduled ports so the crew planned activities for our diversion. There were cooking classes, lectures--Nimitz did not really win the battle of the Coral Sea, our lecturer insisted--bridge lessons and so on.

One activity was to form teams. There were 10 teams with 10 players on each side. We were all strangers to start, best friends to end. Our quest? A game of Trivial Pursuit with questions sourced by our amiable cruise director. An example: "How long does a pig's orgasm last?" The answer--half an hour--brought gales of jealous laughter. My team, aptly named "The Ancient Mariners," won and was duly rewarded with a set of plastic coasters. Fun times.

Not so much fun is Meadows' decision to allow smoking on his yachts. Admittedly, Mr. Meadows et. al. only permit smoking in two locations, but it's something that the majority of passengers would have preferred to do without.

That's the bone I wish to pick with Mr. Meadows. To see a group of smokers huddling in one corner of the Observation Bar like refugees and spreading their obnoxious fumes reminded me that I was once one of them. In fact, my own habit was surely the reason I contracted lung cancer.

So while I know this may sound like an insufferable case of do-what-I-say-not-what-I-once-did, I appeal to Mr. Meadows to ban smoking on his otherwise shipshape luxury cruise yachts. If Michael Bloomberg can ban smoking in New York, surely Mr. Meadows can banish the noxious habit from his cruises. Take it from me, who waited far too long to quit the habit. The vast majority of Seabourn cruisers would praise him for his actions.

I also understand that the matter of onboard smoking may seem trivial given the much-chronicled travails of the Carnival Triumph and last year's tragic and fatal events on the Costa Concordia. (Ironically, the same company, Carnival, owns Costa and Seabourn as well.) But that's partially why I bring it up. If onboard smoking is the biggest gripe I can find with my experiences on Seabourn, I can assure you that you'll enjoy cruising, too.

Until last year, I'd never been on a cruise. But I cannot recommend Seabourn more highly. We pay the full rate and don't get an upgrade, so it's not like I've got a financial stake in this. In the past two years, we've done 60 plus days with Seabourn and enjoyed every moment that I wasn't fretting about the smoking. (By the way, my 60 days is nothing compared to Sir Stirling Moss. The car-racing legend was on our trip and he told me he'd just reached 600 days. He did get an upgrade, by the way.)

Will the disastrous Triumph affair hurt cruising? Quite possibly. After all, onboard fires are not a great endorsement. Neither are 4,000 people's ablutions sloshing around the corridors for four days.

But as I say, I've become a big fan of cruising these past two years and we're already booked for a Black Sea itinerary later this year.

One of the things I like best are the shore excursions. They're quite varied and seem to cater to every taste. On this most recent cruise, I went to cooking school in Akaroa, a very small port on the South Island of New Zealand. Chef cast his line into the ocean, hooked a striped bass and taught us to clean, fillet and cook it. Result? A great lunch enhanced by a cold, local wine. Meanwhile, Suzanne went on an eight-hour four-wheel-drive trip to a sheep station.

I suppose I should touch on some hotel stuff since that is what this column is supposedly all about. Before the cruise, We flew into Denpasar and stayed at the new St. Regis Bali resort. It offers wonderful service and enormous rooms with patios and bathrooms as large as I've seen anywhere. The food and beverage service was quite fine.

The only negative is that the resort is set back from the beach and one has to hike through a jungle of plants and landscaping to reach it. When you reach it, though, you'll find a lovely, miles-long strand of sand. The pool is huge and meanders through the gardens to the beach bar.

I think I'll stop here. I have an urge to drop Mr. Meadows a note. I'm still steaming about the smoking.

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ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.

This column is Copyright 2013 by Michael Matthews. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.