When you think of all the smoking laws and restrictions on land, it's surprising the venerable family cruise line, Disney, is just getting around to ending smoking on its balconies.
Mickey's line will butt out come Nov. 15. And if you don't comply, well, it will cost $250 if you're caught. Special areas will be designated for smoking.
Disney isn't the only one to throw the smokes overboard. Cunard and P&O will make their balconies smoke-free starting in the spring of 2014. Cruise lines that previously joined the "no smoking on the balcony" club are Celebrity, Crystal, Oceania and Princess. Still allowing smoking outside are Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival.
Another hot-button issue is dining attire. Disney is throwing away the rule book by allowing you to wear shorts in the main dining rooms even on formal nights.
Shorts remain a no-no in the specialty restaurants Palo and Remy.
Glenn Moroney, founder and managing director of Scenic Tours (parent company of Scenic Cruises), has done a pretty good job of keeping pace with the competition on the rivers of Europe.
This year, he was the first to go completely all-inclusive to differentiate his river-cruise line from competitors. Some "all-inclusive" services are offered by others but when Moroney says all-inclusive he means ALL.
Moroney also has a brand-new line he's launching next year, taking on Viking Cruises with a ship capacity of 182 -- Viking's is 190. Emerald Waterways is the name of the new venture and it's the first new river cruise line in six years. To make it stand out, Moroney is adding a lot of extras, such as a heated small swimming pool and a top-deck movie theatre.
And in billing Emerald as a value line, quite a few amenities are included, such as gratuities, Wi-Fi, tours, and wine and beer with lunch and dinner.
The new ships, Emerald Star and Emerald Sky, will launch next April. Add this pair to all the new ships being built next year and the European rivers are facing the busiest season in history.
Meanwhile, Moroney's upscale line, Scenic Cruises, is stretching out some of its Amsterdam-to-Budapest trips on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. Most lines make the journey in 14 or 15 days, but Scenic is adding stops at Volendam, Hoorn and Edam in The Netherlands to stretch this three-river itinerary to 19 days.