Dry Tortugas National Park
Lack of freshwater in this park led to it being named dry. This is a small island located a few miles offshore and only accessible by boat or airplane. It hosted a very strategic military fort in the 19th century.
This piece of land, which was once the functional Fort Jefferson, is now turned into a park with rich beauty and teeming with marine life.
The park and marine sanctuary consist of submerged coral reefs that are home to plenty of aquatic life. You can swim, dive and snorkel offshore of this parks beaches. Make sure to explore Fort Jefferson while you are at it and take a self-guided tour.
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Best Attractions Near The Cruise Port In Key West
BY Claudia MillerKey West Local Expert
Even if you only have half of a day to spend in Key Weston a cruise excursion, there are plenty of attractions near the port that make it easy to enjoy the islands unique history, architecture, marine life and culture. For a quick primer, take the Conch Tour Train, which lazily winds through the side streets past the quaint Victorian homes and notable sights. In Mallory Square there are several attractions within feet of each other, like the Key West Aquarium, with its popular marine life touch-tank, and the Key West Shipwreck Museum, where costumed storytellers share the tales of 400 local shipwrecks. The nearby Mel Fisher Museum exhibits the mother lode of treasure pulled from some of those same ships.
A stroll along the scenic boardwalk of the historic seaport allows you to peruse funky shops and indulge at seafood restaurants in the ocean breezes. At the opposite end of Duval, the Butterfly Conservatory offers a magical respite with hundreds of butterflies and chirping birds in a peaceful garden. On Whitehead Street, you can hit the 1847 Key West Lighthouse and the Hemingway Home , which are across the street from each other. A little more off-the-beaten path is the free Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, 6,000 square feet of interactive exhibits about the dynamic Keys eco-systems. For a morning at the beach, rent a bike and head to Ft. Zachary State Park for a picnic on the sandy shores in the shadow of a Civil War fort.
Rough Waters In Key West As City Cruise Industry And State Lawmakers Tangle Over Its Future
It was another balmy day in paradise when Key West, Fla., voters decided theyd had enough of the thousands of here-today, gone-tonight tourists who regularly pour from giant cruise ships onto the streets of their iconic city.
I am so furious that I can hardly see straight, said Kate Miano, owner of the luxe Gardens Hotel, where century-old brick walkways wind past orchid-festooned trees. We battled the big cruise ship companies, and now theyre taking away my vote? I cant understand how they can possibly do that.
Yes, they can, say legislators now meeting in Tallahassee. And theres a good chance they will soon succeed.
We cant simply have a group of 10,000 people closing down the port of Key West and holding the state of Florida hostage, Rep. Spencer Roach said at a hearing this month, his number referring to the total votes cast in support of the three city charter changes.
The maneuvering in the state Capitol has at times been both blatant and blundering, marked by dueling statistics, charges of betrayal, threats of retribution and alternating predictions of economic or environmental doom. It has fueled editorial outrage in newspapers statewide with Roach, one of the bills sponsors, accused with other Republicans of trampling on democracy.
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Cruise Ships Just Returned To Key West After The Covid Shutdown Are More Coming
- Gwen FilosaMiami Herald
MIAMI Two cruise ships arrived in Key West over the weekend, ending a 20-month absence during the COVID-19 pandemic that brought the industry to a halt.
The Crystal Serenity docked Saturday morning at the privately owned Pier B at the Opal Key West Resort and Marina. The smaller Azamara Quest arrived at the nearby city-owned Mallory Pier.
The return marked a milestone in Key West, where the relationship between cruise ships and local people is complicated.
This is what we voted against, said Stuart Strickland of Key West, at Pier B viewing the Crystal Serenity. Today is not going to be a huge impact as far as the number of people, but its just the beginning.
Key West residents and business owners continue to argue over the environmental impact of the ships and whether the local economy needs the influx of passengers. City commissioners are awaiting proposed ordinances written by municipal administrators that keep in place the cruise traffic limits approved by voters.
The two ships had approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S Coast Guard, and COVID protocols were strictly adhered to on both, said John Wells, founder of Caribe Nautical.
Some celebrated the return of cruising to Key West.
Determining Cruising Standards In A Post
The Key West Committee for Safer and Cleaner Ships said health and safety standards will be easy for the City to determine per the CDCs Vessel Sanitation Program. But how will Key West monitor ships environmental records?
A place like Key West, theyd want to be really cautious, Megan Epler Wood, director of the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Skift. I think water testing is the easiest way to show what the problems are. They need to do water quality testing in the cruise port that looks at the specific chemicals that are associated with the emissions from the scrubbers.
Reducing ship sizes and limiting crowds are also likely to mute the bulk of environmental risks. The controlling depth in our harbor is about 28.5 feet and we used to get a lot of ships that draw 26-27 feet, Haskell said. And going forward the small ships that qualify, the average is less than 20 feet so its a major difference in terms of immediate bottom impacts. And then of course in terms of waste water discharge, air emissions, it goes down when the size of the ship goes down. Its the size restrictions themselves that are the most potent environmental benefit.
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The Best Way To See Key West
Cruise ships offer tours to many of the highlights of this lovely tropical town, but the best way to see Key West is aboard the Old Town Trolley and Conch Tour Trains. The hour-long ride takes you all around the important sites of Key West, including the Hemingway House, Southernmost Point of the U.S., Harry Truman Little White House, and Duval Street. The trolley/train covers over 14 miles of old Key West and is narrated with entertaining stories about the city. Walking or biking the back streets of Key West is also a good way to tour the small city. An organized tour is not really necessary to enjoy Key West, but the Old Town Trolley and Conch Tour Train are both certainly entertaining!
Florida Governor Signs Bill To Overrule Key West Cruise Ship Ban
Key West’s cruise ship ban is apparently no more.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed FL CS/CS/CS/SB 1194 Transportation Bill, which includes a provision that would not allow local referendums to impact commerce in Florida ports.
In November 2020, Key West residents voted to approve a limit on cruise ship traffic to Key West. The three proposals effectively ban large cruise ships from Key West, such as the entire fleet of Royal Caribbean vessels.
Key West’s referendums limited cruise ship visitors to a total of 1,500 per day prohibited ships with a capacity of 1,300 or more from disembarking passengers and gave priority docking to cruise lines with the best environmental and health records.
S. 1194 includes new legislation that says a ‘local ballot initiative or referendum may not restrict maritime commerce’ in Florida ports ports.
The new law says a local ballot initiative or referendum may not restrict ships based on “vessel type, size, number, or capacity.”
It also does not allow prohibiting a ship based on “number, origin, nationality, embarkation, or disembarkation of passengers or crew.”
Originally, Florida State Senator Jim Boyd of District 21 introduced a bill to overturn Key West’s ban, but that bill ended up stuck in the Florida House.
State Senator Boyd indicated in the bill that allowing cities to have its own rules about “maritime commerce” could create a problem for the state.
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Shop Art And Souvenirs
There are many art galleries at your disposal, whether you intend to buy or just be inspired. Streets like Duval, showcase plenty of mind-bogglingly beautiful art. Every month there are art events that showcase new artists. So be on the lookout for something new and otherworldly beautiful.
Get all your Key West souvenirs online, so you dont have to worry when in port.
Key West Florida Weather
The Florida Key regions normally have a tropical climate with the dry season running in late fall. Some months like August and September occasionally experience Hurricane disruptions. Best time to cruise through would be in winter or early spring when the tropical weather is calm.
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Cruise Shore Excursions And Tours
Obviously, all cruise lines callling at Key West offer many and diverse shore excursions in Key West. Royal Caribbean offers 13 shore excursions,Norwegian Cruise Line has available 11 shore tours, and Carnival lists 15 cruise excursions.
Although most luxury cruise lines include shore excursions with the cruise fare, Regent, Seabourn and Silversea offer unique and diverse explorations ashore in Key West. Regent lists 11 port excursions, and Silversea offers 3 excursions.
There are also excursions offered by the following reputable private online services and local tour operators:
Cruise Ships / Marine Services
There have been some exciting changes to the Citys approach to managing our waterfront. The concept of these changes called for the consolidation of City waterfront responsibilities. This includes the deep-water port activities of Cruise Ships and of Navy vessel activity coordination.
The objective of the Plan is to make our City waterfront operate more efficiently, as well as effectively. As the Citys mission statement states, we are ” to maximize services to our customers in the most cost effective way.” Not only does the consolidation make for a more efficient and effective operation, it also provides for better accountability and a more consistent approach in the interpretations of policy and procedures affecting the waterfront environment.
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Three Important Historical And Geographical Sites In Key West
When you only have a day in port, it’s important to use your time wisely. Many guests find a bar and just enjoy the relaxed Key West atmosphere. Others enjoy strolling the streets and checking out some of the interesting shops. Those who want to experience some history and have a photo taken at Key West’s most photographed site should visit these three sites.
The Truman Little White House and the tourist trams are both within an easy walking distance from Mallory Square. President Harry S. Truman made 11 trips to this old home at the Key West Naval Station and often used it as a place to get away in the winter to work and avoid the weather in Washington, DC. Today the Little White House is a museum. It’s an interesting place to visit for those who love learning more about the U.S. presidents and politics.
The most famous resident of Key West was probably the writer Ernest Hemingway, who lived in a lovely old house, which is now called the Hemingway Home, in the heart of the town for about ten years. Hemingway and his wife Pauline moved to Key West in 1928, and he continued his habit of writing in the early morning hours and then exploring the town later in the day. Soon after moving to Key West, he discovered the joys of deep sea fishing, which was very popular in the area. A tour of the home is a step back to almost 100 years ago, and seeing Hemingway’s office, the famous swimming pool , and the 6-toed cats who still inhabit the grounds is a great way to spend a few hours.
Cruise Fans Not Happy With New Laws
Cruise fans that enjoyed being able to visit Key West on a cruise without the long drive from Miami shared their displeasure with the new laws on the RoyalCaribbeanBlog message boards.
karl_nj lamented that he may never visit Key West as a result of the laws, “I had always wanted to visit Key West, but never got around to it. I figured visiting via cruise ship would have been my best bet i don’t really envision myself flying to Florida, renting a car, and driving all the way down to Key West. Oh well, plenty of other places to visit and spend money.”
FManke was surprised any city would want to turn away business given the current economic climate, “With what’s going on these days and the uncertain future, I can’t see anybody turning away business.”
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The Beaches In Key West
Unless you are planning to book a full-day excursion to the Bahia Honda State Park or the Dry Tortugas National Park, the cruise traveler that is an avid beachgoer may be a bit disappointed to discover that Key West doesn’t have the spectacular type of beaches found in Caribbean Islands like Grand Cayman or Antigua. There are a few very nice beaches but none that compares to Magens Bay or Orient Beach .
Beach in Key West
There are a few small sand strips with shallow waters and nice beach-bars like South Beach or Lagerheads Beach Bar in the Old Town at the end of Simonton Street, but the best are slightly off track. The good news is that on the larger beaches you will find all sorts of watersports, renting of chairs, umbrellas, kayaks, paddle-boards. All have public restrooms, nice seaside bars, and restaurants. But you should expect shallow waters and, depending on the season, sometimes rocky and with seaweeds.
Higgs Beach in Key West
In the Fort Zachary Taylor Park, besides the Historical Fort, you will find one of the nicest beaches in Key West and the closest to the Cruise Port – slightly over 1-mile . It is great for snorkeling. Entrance to the park is $2.50 per person if walking or biking . Higgs Beach is on the Atlantic side, east of Duval Street or 2-miles from the Cruise Port. Great for cruise travelers with kids, Higgs Beach has a distinctive wooden pier and lots of watersports are available.
Key West Tours Shore Excursions Hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
Next are listed the most popular Carnival Cruise Lines tours in Key West, with USD prices per adult:
- catamaran and snorkeling tour
- Butterfly Conservatory
- Trolley and Train tours
- History tours
- biking tour
- boat rides
Port Key West cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port’s schedule lists all ships with cruises going to or leaving from Key West, Florida. To see the full itineraries and their lowest rates just follow the corresponding ship-link.
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Cruise Ship Makes Medevac Stop Becoming First To Return To Key West
PublishedOct 20, 2021 9:01 PM by The Maritime Executive
Royal Caribbean Internationals cruise ship Serenade of the Seas made an emergency medical diversion this afternoon and in doing so became the first cruise ship to call in Key West since the beginning of the pandemic. The diversion required the coordination of the U.S. Coast Guard, Key West authorities, the Key West Police, and the harbor pilots.
These situations are always about saving an individuals life, said U.S. Coast Guard Captain Adam Chamie. We took extra care to look at all aspects, talking with all our partners to be sure it was feasible. We want to be sensitive to the communitys wishes, but at the end of the day, its about saving a life.
The Serenade of the Seas had departed the Port of Tampa on October 16 on its first cruise from Tampa and the first for the port since March 2020. The captain of the Serenade of the Seas reported that an 81-year-old male passenger was in critical condition with septic shock. The passenger required urgent medical care.
The U.S. Coast Guard cleared the way for an emergency stop by the Serenade of the Seas this afternoon in order to save a life. According to Captain Chamie, the decision to evacuate the man at Pier B in Key West was the only way the individual would have a chance of surviving.
We understand the Coast Guards decision, said City Manager Patti McLauchlin, and we fully support this emergency if it means the difference of life and death.