Kicking Butts – Sometimes, flicking a cigarette overboard can be playing with fire.

Monday Mantra

Way to go, P&O … Way to go, P&O … Way to go, P&O …

Kicking Butts

Sometimes, flicking a cigarette overboard can be playing with fire.

The latest charge against the cruise industry comes in the form of a cancer-stricken 58-year-old Australian man being unceremoniously kicked off a P&O cruise because he was caught flicking a cigarette into the ocean. “He had maybe two drags because the weather was horrendous,” his pregnant daughter wailed, emphasizing her father’s age over and over again. “The captain said ‘you’re off’ – no letting my dad apologize, no option of cutting him off at the bar, no giving him a fine. Nothing,” she said. Worst of all, he was forced to make his way home on his own dime.

Let me first state that I am not a card-carrying member of the smoking police. I’d rather get a whiff of a lit Marlboro when I’m aboard ship than have some weaving drunk slobber all over me, never knowing if he’s going to pass out or puke. But I can’t begin to express all the problems I have with the way our hearts are supposed to bleed for this man while the cruise line is positioned as the bad guy.

I’ll just skirt over the fact that the man had cancer and was smoking, that the daughter seems to be blaming the cruise line for the “horrendous weather” that robbed her father of being able to smoke the entire cigarette and the emphasis on the man’s age, as though 58 suggests a feeble figure who should just get a pass for committing any questionable act. And all kinds of red flags pop up when she mentions that the captain offered no option of cutting him off at the bar….

The sad thing is that non-cruisers reading the story (which wasn’t widely covered in the U.S. but was big news in Australia and the UK last week) will come away wondering what the big deal is about throwing a cigarette butt overboard when you can see burger wrappers, plastic bags and beer bottles bobbing in the surf any day of the week.

The big deal, my dears, isn’t the pollution or worrying about some dolphin developing a pack-a-day habit. The big deal is Star Princess.

In 2006, a smoldering cigarette left by a passenger on their Star Princess balcony ignited a blaze that killed one, injured 11 and seriously damaged five decks during a Caribbean cruise. As we hear during every lifeboat drill, the ocean may seem like the safest place to extinguish a cigarette but the sea breeze can easily blow that partially lit butt back on board where it can ignite, harm, damage and even kill.

So while I’m sorry that this man didn’t have the cruise of his dreams, P&O’s decision just might have spared the other passengers a nightmare. I say bravo, captain!

— Judi Cuervo

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Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.