Hi all. It has been around 18 months since my last contribution on Dick's blog so a reintroduction is in order. I am a business travelling bear who writes occasional posts drawing on my experiences to offer useful travelling information for smokers. You can read my other posts under the Bear Tripper tag.
I've just returned from a trip with a colleague to New York and thought you'd like to hear how even with Mayor Bloomberg's anti-smoking regime smokers are catered for quite adequately.
Hotels: Avoid the non-smoking hotels. Marriott banned it a few years ago for example. Do a little research when choosing your hotel and make sure you request a smoking room in the additional requests box, or if asked about room type when booking. Above all, ask when checking in. Nobody asks as they don't expect to find smoking rooms. This worked at the Crowne Plaza in Times Square. Not only did they have a smoking room, but it was available immediately (before usual check in time). Hotel Pennsylvania (opposite Penn Station) has them too. It is a basic hotel, but well situated and has the bonus of a number of smoking rooms.
Parks: Smoking is not allowed within parks but the signs are so very small you could miss them. The other issue is that there are no clear boundaries as to what is classed as the park area which is confusing in both Central Park and Battery Park. Liberty Island doesn't appear to have specific smoking areas but Ellis Island has a smokers post to left of main museum entrance which we took to mean you could smoke.
Streets: Open season for smokers. There are smokers posts here and there. There was some talk of smoking being banned at Times Square but there are smokers posts outside hotels in that area and I spotted a police car parked up in main area with driver's hand sticking out smoking a cigarette! The streets are littered with butts which looks terrible. There are smokers posts and bins which can be used. We used portable ashtrays and emptied them in bins. No point helping the anti-smoking agenda by littering!
Venues: The world famous Studio 54 were OK with you leaving to have a smoke outside at the interval. They just asked that you kept your ticket with you for re-admittance. Madison Square Garden does not allow this. You are in for the whole show. However, it was amusing that a couple sat near us flouted the ban and smoked at their seats. Nobody said anything and the people behind them asked them to blow the smoke in their direction. Still, it could have gone horribly wrong so just check the venue website for interval pass outs or commit for the evening. Contrary to popular belief, us smokers can go without a cig for a few hours.....proven by the fact you have spent 8 hours on a plane to get there in the first place!
Bars: The grandfathering law is quite unusual, but marvellous. There are bars where you can smoke. In addition, you will find outdoor areas which allow smoking. Just ask first! Downtown is more relaxed and that is where we found the smoking bars. Karma on W 4th street (Avenue 1) was a bit 'spit and sawdust' but boasted happy hour each day from 1pm till 9pm and the staff were friendly. Also, sitting at the bar meant fun conversation with smoking locals. Circa Tabac on Watts Street (end of Broome Street) was an absolute find. It was a little more expensive but a lovely place. If staying uptown, it was also handy for Spring Street subway and was a lot more comfortable during the week. The Friday night was a lot busier, but some may enjoy that more. Both bars had good music, but not loud enough to stifle conversation, so ideal.
I am off to Seoul next week for a long trip so will have some more insights to share on my return. I will try not to be a stranger here again.
In the meantime, if you have any good (or bad) experiences of New York - or any other travel information for anywhere on smoking or e-cig vaping for that matter - please share as I'd be very interested to read them.