Sunday, January 16, 2011

Saturday at the Hut - 1/15/11

Carnival Inspiration (click to enlarge)
I think I've done more smoking in the last week than I have in a long time. Paula and I were on a 5-night Caribbean cruise from Monday through Saturday and I enjoyed either a cigar or pipe pretty much every day on board the ship. We sailed on the Carnival Inspiration out of Tampa with stops at Grand Cayman and Cozumel. The weather was kind of crappy on Monday, chilly with on again-off again rain. Tuesday at sea and Wednesday in Grand Cayman were picture-perfect. Highs in the 70s and sunny. Thursday in Cozumel was in the low 60s, rainy, and very windy. We caught breaks in the rain though and explored downtown Cozumel, bartering with shopkeepers and enjoying a fantastic lunch at Pancho's Backyard, a place Paula discovered on a cruise ten years ago.

I was pleased to find a decent-sized cigar lounge on the ship. When we cruised a few years ago on Royal Caribbean, when I finally found the cigar bar, it was closed. This time I smoked a couple pipefuls and a few cigars. Paula joined me for a couple cigars as well. Unfortunately, I was the only pipe smoker. But I did meet a very nice older gentleman from upstate New York. We chatted awhile and discovered quite a few things in common, including auto racing. Years ago I used to write for an auto racing newspaper, Gater Racing News, out of Syracuse, and he said he reads it every week. We knew a lot of the same drivers racing the short tracks in the area and his son and daughter run the dirt track circuit throughout central New York. Small world! On board, I smoked Tinder Box Reserve 1928 in my Cavicchi volcano and I brought along an Ashton, Oliva, and La Gloria Cubana Serie R to enjoy. There was nothing quite like relaxing with a good cigar or pipe and watching the water glide by.

La Casa del Habano (click to enlarge)
I ran across a couple cigar stores while in Grand Cayman. The one pictured here, La Casa del Habano, was the only one that actually looked nice and well-stocked. Unfortunately for me, they had nothing in the way of pipe tobacco, although they did sell estate Meerschaum pipes. In Cozumel on our way from the pier to lunch, we probably walked past a dozen or more cigar stands or shops, all advertising "Authentic Cuban Cigars." It struck me that if they have to emphasize that they sell "authentic" Cubans, they probably aren't. I ignored the barkers and pressed on to lunch.

Paula and I on the Inspiration's bridge
with the captain.
Probably the highlight of the cruise was the behind-the-scenes tour we took. It's not advertised at all - Paula found out about it reading the forums on Carnival's website - and very limited. There were only 18 people on the tour, which lasted three hours, but we got to see a lot of the inner workings of the ship. We toured the galley, backstage at the theater, crew mess halls, crew lounge, cargo holds, engine control room, and bridge. We got to meet the captain and had our picture taken with him on the bridge. When we arrived back in our cabin there was a plate of pastries and sweets from the head chef, who we also met in the tour. All in all, it was very impressive and interesting. 

We arrived back in Tampa on Saturday and Joe K was kind enough to pick us up. We disembarked very quickly from the ship and were home by 11:00 or so. Joe went off to The Tobacco Hut and I joined him an hour later. We were joined by Peter G, Ed B, and Darryl G. Nothing too exciting happened at the Hut, although I promised I would include what Joe, Peter, and Lou thought was my "conversion" back to the Christian fold. 

I explained that our first day on the ship we had lunch at the buffet on the Lido deck. While waiting in line we saw this loud, bald redneck sporting probably a 60" waist, goatee, wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and covered with tattoos. Paula and I feared that he and his hillbilly family would be our dinner companions, since everyone shares a table with others at dinner each night. The story went something like this, "I looked at this disgusting guy and thought, 'If there is a God, please don't have him sit with us at dinner.'" Well, that brought the house down, because we ended up having quite normal dinner-mates. Well, sorry to disappoint you, guys, but it was just an expression. There was no momentary lapse or conversion. Just a figure of speech!

Nice to see Peter as he's been under the weather lately and seems to be on the mend now. Darryl has made it two visits in as many weeks and Ed has been stopping by pretty regularly. I was hoping to see Adrian so we could perhaps do battle over the chessboard again. I wanted to see Steve B as well to thank him for replacing another section of my back fence. Not sure how he did it since the back gate was locked, but thank you!

I had smoked quite a bit of the Tinder Box Reserve 1928 on our cruise, which is a nice cross between aromatic and English, but I was ready for a true English blend, so at the Hut I loaded up a Crown Winslow freehand with Lou's most-excellent Baker Street blend. I can't say enough about this tobacco. It's got just the right amount of Latakia and was really enjoyable.

That's all for now. Hope to see everyone next Saturday!

 - Bob

1 comment:

  1. Counting down from 30 day to my cruise in the Carribbean. Hoping to find a store that sells Condor tobacco. I guess I can dream huh?
    David Chicago