Key West, the southernmost city in the continental U.S., is the largest and most vibrant of a chain of tiny islands called the Florida Keys that are scattered, like a string of pearls, south of Miami. Closer to Cuba than to Miami, Key West, dubbed the “Conch Republic” is easily one of the funkiest and wackiest ports of call in all of cruising. Getting around in Key West is as easy as key lime pie! Most of the most popular bars, T-shirt shops and art galleries can be found from the 200 block to the end of Mallory Square. By the way, it’s legal to drink along the streets if Key West-just make sure it’s in a paper cup. Bikes (about$10-$12 for the day) and mopeds (about $25) are the most popular modes of transportation, both for locals and visitors. You can rent a bike at dockside with a fully refundable $100 deposit or cruise key. For first timers, the Old trolley Tour and the Conch Tour Train offer on-and-off all-day transportation.
SHOPPING: There’s no need to advise you on souvenir shops, they are everywhere and easy to find, but for more discerning discoveries there are numerous art galleries, fun boutiques and craft emporiums.
LUNCHING: As with shopping, there are numerous restaurants lining the main drag from casual to more up-scale. Be sure to have a piece of Key Lime pie for dessert wherever you decide to eat.
FAMOUS RESIDENTS: Ernest Hemingway made Key West his home and wrote his novels in the 1930’s. President Truman, who lived on Front Street also made his winter home here and we can’t forget about Jimmy Buffet.
A must see for adults will probably be the internationally renowned bar called, Sloppy Joe’s. Located on the corner of Greene and Duval Streets, this bar was a favorite hang out of Ernest Hemingway. Called, the “best party in town”, you can have lunch, have a drink, buy a T-shirt and people watch. Another tradition in Key West is to watch the sunset. The Sunset Celebration takes place every night at Mallory Square about 2 hours before sunset. Arts and craft exhibitors, street performers, food carts and even psychics gather along with hundreds of visitors and locals to watch the famous Key West sunset. It is a multicultural experience to watch the people and the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico. If your ship leaves port before the sunsets, be sure to go on deck and watch the breathtaking view.
Key West is famously appealing for all types and especially is a magnet for artists and hippies as well as cruise ships. It’s a colorful and magical visit any time of the year, so put on your most colorful flip-flops, get your sunglasses, slap on the sunscreen and start humming Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville.