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Guide to the Cruise Port of Key West, Florida

Carnival Celebration is one of the dozens of cruise ships that dock in Key West for port calls. Carnival Celebration is one of the dozens of cruise ships that dock in Key West for port calls. Photo shared by dpzynski on Photobucket.

By Costa Marcos

Introducing Key West

Key West is the USA’s southernmost settlement, located at bottom end of the island chain known as the Florida Keys. The town is well known for its unique spirit; it harbors a populace which prides itself for free thinking and tolerance. After a railroad connected all the Keys in 1912, and a road in 1938, the town still stood as a a home to the independently minded.

The community is composed of a diverse population – Conchs (from the Bahamas), freshwater Conchs (long-serving residents) Hispanics (immigrants from Cuba) and a large helping of drifters, hobos and dropouts. You’d be hard-pressed to find such a diverse blend of people outside New York or San Francisco.

As recently as 1982 you’ll find a good example of the residents’ power of independent thinking. The US Border Patrol established random searches for cars running through Key Largo, to search for drugs. This had a bad effect on business down in Key West. The town seceded from the United States Union, founded the Conch Republic, and declared war on the United States. They then immediately surrendered and asked for foreign aid! The roadblock was rapidly taken down.

Key West attracts many cruise passengers with its atmosphere, character-strewn history and dependable gulf climate. Throw in a bit of Ernest Hemingway, a few treasure hunting tales and the cosmopolitan locals, to give you a brilliant tourist destination.

Key West Cruise Port

1969 saw the first ever call of a cruise ship to Key West, and at first the town was not a popular destination. Nowadays over five hundred cruise ships a year berth at the port.

The port of Key West has 3 ship piers, Mallory Square, Pier B and Outermole (or Navy Mole), abbreviated as M, B and OM. Mallory Square and Pier B are but a short stroll from town, but if your ship moors at Outermole, you have drawn the short straw because it’s a 10 minute bus journey into town.

5 Best Things To Do in Key West (Editor’s choice!)

1 Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Ernest Hemingway House and Museum in Key West, Florida | Photo by adamsvacation on Photobucket Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, Florida.

In his 30s Hemingway lved in the Keys for the fall and winter and in Wyoming for the summer. His famous novel To Have and Have Not is centered on the depression years in Key West. (A good book to pack for your cruise!). The author was a well-known personality in the town, with his enthusiasm for marlin fishing, heavy drinking, and mutant cats. Hemingway’s Key West house is now a museum with many items bringing back those turbulent years.

2 Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

In 1622 a fleet of 28 galleons laden with riches from South America foundered in a hurricane fifty miles off the Keys. In 1985 diver Mel Fisher and his team salvaged the treasures from 2 of the missing ships, the Nuestra Senora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita. The treasure retrieved formed part of the stolen wealth of a civilisation, silver from Mexico and Peru, and gold and emeralds from Colombia. The fascinating story of the quest for the wrecks is just about as amazing as the riches you’ll see. A further educational display concerns the Henrietta Marie a British slave ship. The wreck was located at the same time as the search for the treasure galleons, and the recovered items give astonishing detail about the shocking trade in slaves from Africa to the Caribbean.

Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square in Key West, Florida | Photo by tsalerts Jugglers, magicians and other street performers entertain tourists at Mallory Square in Key West at sunset.

3 Mallory Square

As the sun sets over the most southerly location in the continental United States, Mallory Square sees an evening jamboree, with clowns, psychics, magicians, jugglers and mimes. Enjoy the fun, if your cruise ship’s itinerary permits!

4 Sloppy Joe’s on Duval Street

This infamous bar officially opened its doors on the same day that Prohibition ended. At first it was called Russells, followed by the Silver Slipper. Then it was Ernest Hemingway himself who encouraged the patron John Russell to update the name again to Sloppy Joe’s. The bar has also once moved location, in 1937, when in typical Key West style, the patrons carried their drinks from the old spot to the new. Sloppy Joe’s offers an extensive food menu, with just one dessert, Key Lime pie.

Key West Old Town Sightseeing Trolley | Photo by GretchenHeinle - Photobucket Key West’s Old Town Trolley is a popular sightseeing option.

5 Trolley Tour

The trolley tour terminus is in the heart of Old town, and you can obtain tickets for the tour at the station office. This is also a great place to get maps of the town and leaflets. The tour runs about every 30 minutes. There are 9 stops along the tour route – you are allowed to leave and join the trolley as you want. The trolleys take a circular route round the town, and the guide introduces you to the sites of interest, including Hemingway’s House, Sloppy Joe’s and the Southernmost point Buoy.

Picking a Cruise to Key West

Key West is a popular destination, and is included in many cruises from Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, Tampa and Miami. Itineraries departing from Jacksonville also stop at Key West. The port is often the first day stop in an itinerary to the Bahamas. A further popular route is the loop around Cuba, stopping at Key West, Grand Cayman and Jamaica. Holland America, Carnival and Royal Caribbean offer all these routes.

For hardened seafarers, Key West is often a port included in lengthier through Panama canal routes, voyaging from the West to the East coast of the United States.

Hi, I’m Costa Marcos and I am the webmaster of Cruise Schedules, an invaluable resource for all cruise vacationers. Quickly find all the cruises leaving from or visiting a specific port, together with comprehensive itinerary timetables. For cruises visiting Key West see cruises to Key West.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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