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No Smoking Comes To Cuba

Apr 8, 2016 | By David Savona
No Smoking Comes To Cuba
Photo/Alamy

I picked up the phone in my hotel and pressed zero. A pleasant voice answered.

"Hola. Necesito un cenicero, por favor," I said. I was looking for an ashtray. My room in the Meliá Cohiba didn't have one.

"No cenicero, señor," came the voice, before switching effortlessly to English. My poor Spanish had betrayed me. "There is no smoking in the rooms here."

I asked again, to clarify, but was rebuffed. No smoking at all? In any of the rooms? No. Not anymore. No smoking in the rooms, no smoking in the lobby, no smoking anywhere inside the hotel except for the Casa del Habano and inside El Relicario, a cigar bar.

Now in most parts of the world having a cigar bar and a cigar shop with a spacious lounge would be quite satisfactory for a cigar lover. But I was in Cuba. In a hotel named after Cuba's most famous cigar brand. In a hotel where smoking was once so ubiquitous that I would occasionally bring my lit cigar into the elevator as I went from lobby to room. No smoking? Really?

Things have changed at the Meliá Cohiba hotel since my last visit in 2015. The hotel long was divided into smoking and non-smoking floors; even in a non-smoking room I was able to call for an ashtray when I wanted to smoke.

The lobby bar, a spacious area with a good rum selection and 24-hour service, was once cigar friendly, at least in spots. Gordon Mott and I would end each Habanos Festival evening with a glass of rum, a final cigar and reflections on the trip. No more.

The circular bar on the other side of the lobby, which serves a good espresso, was another spot where I would have a cigar, typically after a long day in the city, pecking away at my laptop while smoking something delicious, reflecting on what I had seen and getting my blogs back to the home office. No more.

Those two cigar-friendly areas? Fantastic. But they were both closed by the time my nights ended each evening in Havana. That cigar I was still smoking? If I wanted to continue or finish, my only option was outside.

It's a sad day when a guy has to go outside in Cuba to smoke a cigar.

We've long recommended the Meliá Cohiba to our readers: it's a modern hotel, with comfortable amenities (especially on the "Level" floors, which offer a modicum of VIP service) and a convenient location. But now, I'm pointing people in a different direction. Next time I'm in Havana, I plan to stay elsewhere. I doubt I will be the only one.

Instagram

"I recommend Penticton Lakeside Resort,Convention Centre and Casino. pentictonlakesideresort.com The rooms are nice and the view of the lake is wonderful. Time your vacations during April-August so you can catch the Northern Lights." —February 8, 2017 09:35 AM
"I hope that this might inspire your editorial staff to begin covering cigar friendliness at hotels. Many CA readers are Road Warriors. We returned to Maui after a 15 year absence this week. Imagine my surprise at the draconian anti-smoking culture of a place that brought us so much pleasure 15 years ago. Yes, I should have done more research. Even the outdoors are closed here. 4 stiff chairs in a drive around sidewalk constitutes the only legal place to smoke on the spacious Marriott Resort Wailea property. I won't be back, but, I can only bring scant attention to this failure. I've given up on indoor smoking at hotels, but, outdoors? Please consider a "Where to Stay" extension to the wonderful Where to Smoke app. Perhaps we can encourage hoteliers to try a little harder to show some hospitality to their cigar smoking guests. " —April 19, 2016 02:06 AM
"We recently smoked-up a storm at the Hotel Nacional, a nice place; however, book far in advance." —April 8, 2016 20:50 PM
"I love Cuba and I don't believe that this is Cuban policy, because then that would be the case in every hotel in Cuba and it isn't, not by a longshot! For some reason it's the Melia Cohiba's management that decided to implement this policy and I'm sure that it will backfire on them! I agree with you 100%: you should not have to go outside (even if it's great out) if you want to smoke your cigar and, next time, you should stay elsewhere (maybe the Sevilla or the Conde de Villanueva...). Thanks for keeping us informed and take care." —April 8, 2016 17:40 PM

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