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Stogie Tip: Smoking and Smiling in St. Thomas

16 Jun 2008

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, ST. THOMAS — I am happy to tell you from firsthand experience that the capital and largest city in the U.S. Virgin Islands makes for an absolutely wonderful vacation. That is, of course, if you’re into gorgeous beaches, terrific seafood, unyielding sunshine, and a laid back atmosphere that almost gives Jamaica a run for its money.

I happen to enjoy all of those things, and I’m having an unforgettable time catching up with my family in this Caribbean paradise. But I thought I’d take a quick break in the shade and share a few cigar-related travel tips about St. Thomas in case you’re planning a trip. And if you’re not, this photo I snapped a few days ago might entice you to consider the journey.

First thing’s first: St. Thomas is a wonderful place to smoke cigars. Finding a nice spot under a palm tree midday is as easy as finding sand in a desert—and the view is likely to be spectacular. If you didn’t bring your own cooler, beachside bars are happy to pour your favorite libation or any of their frozen specialties.

When you need a break from the sun and decide to head indoors, cigar smoking is likely to be welcome there too, especially since most bars and restaurants are of the open air variety. Unlike the British Virgin Islands, which enacted a smoking ban in 2006, St. Thomas continues to embrace freedom of choice and property rights. As a result, “No Smoking” signs are awfully hard to come by.

This, I think, is all part of the island’s easy-going lifestyle, which includes a widespread tolerance of open bottles in automobiles, drinking in public, and marijuana. Service will be slow at restaurants but, for reasons beyond my understanding, taxi drivers are excessively speedy on the island’s narrow, winding roads.

While St. Thomas is an exceptional place to smoke cigars, it is not a great place to buy them. Cubans are hard to come by (remember: it’s still the U.S.), Cuban counterfeits are readily available, and premiums will cost quite a bit more than at your local B&M. Since nonsmokers are more willing to try cigars at such a beautiful locale, prices are high.

So what’s a stogie enthusiast to do on such a smoker friendly, buyer beware island? Bring your own from home. I packed a hefty bundle for my father and I and that proved to be the right strategy. And since you only go through customs on the way back to the mainland, feel free to bring some Cubans in your checked luggage—just be sure to smoke ’em before your return flight.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate