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When Caribbean Cruising... 
Cigars, "Smoke 'Em If You've Got 'Em"

by Linda & Mel Coffman

September 2007, Nassau, Bahamas Not quite the craze of years past, it isn't uncommon during Caribbean cruises to notice gentlemen gathering after dinner to savor a freshly purchased Cuban cigar. Few dedicated smokers fail to succumb to the allure of a genuine—and rare for Americans—Partegas or Cohiba purchased ashore in, say, Cozumel. But are they the real thing? Probably only dedicated cigar aficionados can be sure.

Mel, a regular cigar smoker, is quite honestly not as fond of Cuban cigars as you might imagine. His preference leans toward those produced in other islands and, most recently the ones he sampled in Nassau, Bahamas. The Bahamas? Yes, there's a cigar story there that begins at Graycliff, a luxury inn, 5-star restaurant, spa, and cigar factory in Nassau.

After developing a taste for fine cigars, one of Graycliff’s owners, Enrico Garzaroli, searched in vain for the perfect blend to accompany the fine food and wine served in his restaurant. The result was the founding of Graycliff Cigar Company—a wildly successful project made legendary by octogenarian Avelino Lara, who once served as Fidel Castro's personal torcedore (cigar roller) at the El Laguito factory outside Havana. Credited with creating blends for Cohiba, Davidoff, and others, Lara now creates cigar magic for Graycliff. 

Seldom passing up the opportunity to add to his cigar knowledge when on a cruise, Mel emailed the factory requesting a tour during our Nassau port call. They were quite generous, giving him full run of the facilities and allowing him to take pictures and talk with the rollers. The factory actually began with a single roller in the lobby of the hotel. This has expanded to the ten rollers he met, including Faustino, a master roller who just completed his 50th year rolling.

Before leaving, Mel had to buy at least one cigar to sampleafter all he'd spent nearly an hour there enjoying their hospitality. He looked to Faustino and asked “what is your favorite blend and shape and why is it your favorite?” Well, Faustino really doesn’t speak English, so through the interpreter Mel learned he likes the Chateau Grand Cru-Purple label rolled in the Pirate (Pyramid) 6” X 52. This, he says, is the most like he enjoyed in Cuba. So Mel bought five and was given an additional one to smoke while walking back to the ship. Graycliff currently offers nine cigar blends in various formats.

While Mel toured the factory, Linda rested in the hotel parlor, an exquisite room furnished in late-1800s style. It was easy to imagine the Duke of Windsor, while acting as Governor of the Bahamas in the 1940s, standing with a cigar in hand at the entryway to the grand British Colonial-style manor home that now houses Graycliff. Only a few blocks uphill from the busy downtown Straw Market, Graycliff is a throwback to a gentler and more genteel time when life moved at a slower pace. How appropriate then that such a setting should produce some of the world’s finest boutique cigars.

At some point during the Disembarkation Talk at the end of your cruise, the Cruise Director will no doubt warn that any Americans with Cuban cigars should, "smoke 'em if you've got 'em." That's not the case with Graycliff Cigars—it's perfectly legal to bring home your limit and you can rest assured that they are the real deal.

Photos © Mel Coffman, Linda Coffman &

If You Go: Graycliff, 8 thru 12 West Hill Street, Nassau, Bahamas; open daily to visitors, Graycliff Cigar Factory is located just two doors from the inn itself.

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