Cigar Aficionado

Proud Mary

I recently found one of the finest places on earth to smoke a cigar. The only problem? It’s not always in the same place.

The place is the Queen Mary 2, the stately ocean liner owned by Cunard. I was on the ship last week for the Britannia Ball, a fundraiser sponsored by CIT Group Inc., which benefited the New York City Opera and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The ship (never call such a glorious vessel a boat, I’ve been told) was docked in Brooklyn for the evening’s festivities, and as we pulled up to the liner it was impossible not to be awed by its sheer size. The QM2 is longer than Tiger Woods hits a golf ball (1,132 feet, or 377 yards), carries a crew of 1,253 and weighs about 151,000 gross tons.

Inside, the ship is simply gorgeous. Everything has been decorated to the hilt, with fine marble, rich woods, and grand rooms that simply awe. The ship has a spa, a planetarium, and it cost $800 million to build. (For more on the QM2, read this story from Cigar Aficionado.)

Despite being docked in New York, home to one of the most Draconian smoking bans anywhere, the ship adheres to its own rules. That means you can smoke. At a bar before dinner? No problem: the smoking section is to the left. There were ashtrays in the nightclub and on the bar. Remember those?

The evening brought 800 guests together for cocktails, entertainment, dinner and dancing. I began with much of the crowd on one of the ships myriad decks, enjoying the warm weather and having a Bombay Saffire Martini. The crowd was festive, obviously taken with the beauty of the ship. Soon it was time for the entertainment, where Patti LuPone was performing songs from The Lady with the Torch.”

I like live music, but I love cigars, so I skipped the show to go in search of Churchills, the QM2s cigar bar. Soon I was up on deck No. 9, walking the length of the ship (boy, that’s a long ship) to find the cigar bar.

It was empty, but the door was open. There were about a dozen comfortable chairs, and a nice selection of non-Cuban cigars behind glass. I had brought my own. I settled on a Bolivar Belicoso Fino, sat in my chair and clipped the head from the dark figurado. As I lit the cigar with my torch, I looked across the room, straight into the glowering eyes of a bust of Sir Winston himself. As I puffed the rich smoke, I couldn’t help but think Sir Winston would approve of my decision.

"Nice image of the Customs agents smoking Cuban cigars. " —June 3, 2007 23:15 PM
"Sounds like a wonderful evening Dave. I was a passenger on the QEII for an Atlantic crossing. The selection of cigars was wonderful. Cubans were available for purchase by the box once out of U.S. territorial waters. Even the U.S.Customs agents were smoking them." —June 3, 2007 18:40 PM