Day Nine: Cruise Log | Key West, Florida
If there is one place in the world that is epitomised by the word ‘eclectic,’ it is Key West at the very southern tip of Florida. This bustling tourist centre that is just 105 miles from Havana revels in its idiosyncratic, even bizarre, nature, and it makes for a wonderful day visit on a cruise.
It all starts in ideal fashion as our Silver Muse docks at Pier B next to Mallory Square, the quintessential heart of the city, and nothing is more than a 15 to 20-minute walk from here. Even better, both the Old Town Trolley and the Conch Train Tour, which crisscross Key West every 15 to 20 minutes, have stops by Mallory Square to ensure you don’t even have to go far to enjoy the introductory experience.
And, if you have never been to Key West before, you will definitely want to start with one of the narrated tours that provides the perfect overview, complete with detailed history, in just 90 minutes or so. This is not a sprawling metropolis, hence you can easily get to grips with the human scale of the city, with most buildings rising to only two or three storeys.
The area immediately around Pier B is also full of shopping, which means you can give your wallet a thorough workout without having to stagger back too far with your purchases.
In addition to the shops (and plentiful bars and restaurants – you really can’t go more than 10 yards here without bumping into a bar of some kind, as there are in excess of 250 in the city), the other must-see attraction right on the cruise-ship doorstep is the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, which tells the amazing story of Fisher’s 16-year crusade to discover the 17th century bullion-filled wreck of Spanish treasure ship Nuestra Senora de Atocha. It is a truly remarkable exhibit, but totally in keeping with Key West’s fascinating history.
Once you have explored the immediate environs of the cruise port, you will want to branch out – as we did – and take in more of the essential heritage of this unique destination, which continues to draw visitors from all over the world to its mixture of offbeat charms and artsy character.
The magnificent Ernest Hemingway House & Museum fits the bill on both counts, as this homage to the great writer remains home to around 50 of his trademark cats – many of them purposely of the six-toed variety – as well as presenting the life-story of a man who wrote 70 per cent of his great works here in the tip of Florida between the ages of 31 and 40.
If you get the chance, look out for the museum’s Executive Director Dave Gonzalez, who is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the life and times of Hemingway and is an absolute font of knowledge on the subject. Even if you think you have no great interest in this literary genius, go anyway as there will be plenty to surprise you.
There’s also more to Key West – much more – when you dig into the city’s fishing and boating culture, as well as its own Rum distillery, the Harry S Truman ‘Little White House,’ the Key West Lighthouse with its fabulous views and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, which was built between 1845 and 1866 and boasts significant Civil War history.
For more retail therapy, Duval Street is basically one long exercise in shopping, eating and drinking, but, if there’s one obvious tourist site you can avoid, it is the iconic over-sized painted concrete buoy of The Southernmost Point. Tourists queue up in a fairly desultory long line here for much of the day, waiting for that one quick snap or selfie and, frankly, we just don’t see the point.
However, Key West remains a hugely compelling cruise ship port of call and, unless you hit it on a day when there are three or four ships in the harbor (as we didn’t), you should be able to see much of it in a full day.
Back on board, we completed our daily tradition of the Trivia Contest with our by-now-famous Group of Eight and arranged to meet up for dinner at La Terrazza at 7.30. Seeing as this is our last day aboard (a state of affairs that leaves us truly despondent), we had to go through the dreaded ritual of packing before dinner, ready to leave our cases outside our suite door by 11pm.
Our final dinner at the Italian-themed restaurant was as utterly memorable as the first, and a jolly good time was definitely had by one and all, as we were, again, one of the last groups to leave.
If there has been one highlight that has equalled the quality of the cruise itself, it is the wonderfully convivial nature of the voyage, with some serious friendships that have developed, especially as it turns out several couples are also Florida residents like ourselves.
All that only leaves us to sign off with the hope you have enjoyed travelling along with us on this nine-day Silversea extravaganza. It hardly seems we have gone more than a few days, but there it is, another cruise in the record books.
Please feel free to ask any questions about Silversea or the ship in the Comments section below, and we will have a final summary – under the heading of Our Top 10 Features of Silver Muse – next week once we have properly collected our thoughts. All aboard, now….!