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The Bahamas & Key West
February 15, 2007
We found a great deal on Delta & WestJet for a flight to Florida, so we decided to take a mini-vacation to get away from the cold.
For some reason I also decided we should try a short cruise over to the Bahamas.
We don't really fit the cruising profile, nor was I certain we would enjoy a cruise at all, but it was only 3 days, and a good price, so we gave it a shot.
It was a long flight through Salt Lake, Atlanta, and then on to Ft. Lauderdale, but we made it, just a little worse for wear.
Tired from the flight, we rented a car in Ft. Lauderdale and headed down to Miami. Traffic was crawling the whole way, as it always does.
I had chosen the closest car rental drop-off point to the Port of Miami. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a horrible choice.
The office was the size of a broom-closet, and it took the guy about 30 minutes to process each customer ahead of us. There was also
no room to drop off our car in their tiny parking lot, so we parked on the street, and surprise, surprise, the meter maid gave us a
ticket. "She's a bitch," the car-rental guy informed us.
Oh well, we headed to Port and got the first outside glimpse of our home for the next 3 nights, "The Majesty Of The Seas", a Royal Caribbean
ship. An older ship, it had been drydocked for the past month, and completely overhauled. We were only the second group to board since
Stepping on we marveled at it's size, it didn't really feel like you were on a ship, more like a giant floating hotel, which it is I suppose.
It certainly looked brand new. What's the first thing you should do on a cruise ship? Eat of course! We headed to one of the many "feeding troughs" that
are placed throughout the ship, and piled up our plates.
After that, we checked into our room, and took a nap, as we were weary from our travels. After the standard safety drill every cruise ship
makes you do we headed to the top deck to watch our departure. Passing by South Beach we left Miami behind and set sail for the Bahamas.
Next we jumped in the hot tub, as we figured it was probably the only time it wouldn't be crowded in the next 3 days, and we were right. After that
we got ready for dinner in the formal dining room. We were paired up with a couple from Miami, and it was just the 4 of us at a table. They
were really nice, although we both noted that they only seemed to enjoy talking about themselves.
We would make small talk about their day, their
jobs, their lives, etc, but I don't think they asked us a single question about ourselves! Like I said, really nice though. I don't think
we could have stretched our small talk out for any more than 3 days though! That was why I had requested a large table seating, but it didn't happen.
We woke up to find ourselves in Coco Cay, the private island owned by Royal Caribbean. We were tendered out, a painless process, with
boats leaving every 30 minutes. The island was beautiful, in a manufactured Disney sort of way, with a lot of activities, and of course,
more food. You can rent jet skis, kayaks, snorkels, basically any water activity you can think of.
We decided to try kayaking and paddled ourselves around the island. We didn't see much marine life, but it was still very nice. Back on
land I took off my shoes, and we attempted to walk around the entire island. We made it about 75% of the way, and took a shortcut back
to make it in time for the BBQ that Royal Caribbean provides.
Shortly after we headed back to the cruise ship, and met up with our dinner companions for, well, more food of course. That night we
watched an impressionist, who was about as good an impressionist as you would expect for a cruise ship act. Meanwhile our ship was
actually making it's way for Nassau.
At about midnight we docked in Nassau, and we decided to venture in for some nightlife. We got about as far as the gringo nightclub trap known
as Senor Frogs, which looked pretty busy. After a yard length of "Bahama Mama" we were feeling good.
We had heard not-so-great things about Nassau, apparently a lot of cruisers even just stay on the boat for this port-of-call. We decided
to try a walking tour that we'd found in a guide book. The Queen's Staircase was interesting, and some guy gave us a history lesson for a dollar.
Not long after our walking tour a ferocious storm hit Nassau, and there wasn't much point in sticking around, so we headed back to the boat (for more food).
We played some backgammon up on the top (inside) as our brave captain attempted to leave port during the storm.
That night, as the ship headed back to Miami we watched a 70's Music show, which was about as good as you can expect for a cruise ship.
Then we hit the cruise ship nightclub, which was actually pretty good, and bought some $8.00 bottles of vodka to take home.
We headed to Miami airport to pick up our car rental, which was a whole new car rental ordeal. Why does it take so long to process car rentals? Why does
the guy behind the counter suddenly pretend to not understand English when I try to decline the extra insurance?
No matter, we had rented a convertible, which I thought would be fun for a drive down to Key West. On the way we stopped at Mrs. Macs Kitchen
in Key Largo for some delicious key lime pie. Putting the top down, we continued on across 7 mile bridge, and stopped near 'No Name Key' to
look for Key Deer.
Key Deer are really tiny deer that became isolated down in the Florida Keys, and because of this isolation, they evolved into a very tiny size.
Hunting around in our convertible, we looked everywhere for them, but we had heard they were a rare sighting. Just as we had given up though, we suddenly
spotted a group of them on someone's front lawn. At the same time, there was a heated argument between mother and daughter on the front lawn, in the vein of
'He's no good for you, he don't treat you right, blah, blah'.
Well, we weren't going to let domestic squabbles ruin our chance to take a look at these deer, so we pulled up in our convertible, snapping pictures. To that
troubled family, I apologize, we had no interest in your conversation, honest.
Arriving in Key West, we checked in at the Duval Inn, a great little bed & breakfast. We quickly headed to Mallory Square, which is where
everyone goes to watch the sun set. Key West is very laid back, and one of those wonderful places where you can legally drink on the street. (Other wonderful
places include Vegas and New Orleans).
We toured Duval St, ate dinner at some sort of veggie restaurant, which was actually quite good. Took a walk to the southernmost point, ate
a giant chocolate-chip cookie, and drank in the streets some more.
We woke up and checked out the Hemingway House in Key West. This is where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote some of his famous books. It was
actually quite an interesting tour, complete with descendants of his famous six-toed cat. I didn't know Hemingway committed suicide, with a shot gun blast, an
act emulated by Hunter S. Thompson in 2005.
Heading back to Miami we stopped at Lia's Coffee House for a nice lunch, and took a walk along the 7 mile bridge. After that we headed
straight for the Everglades to take a tram tour of Shark Valley.
If you ever get a chance to take this tour, do it, it's very good. The guide we had was very knowledgable, and it's incredible how many alligators and other
wildlife you'll see. Halfway through you get off the tram and walk around. I was surprised you could even go right up to the alligators in their
natural habitat, if you're brave enough. Our guide told us that some people have been stupid enough to put their children on the alligators while they
snap a picture. Imagine explaining that one to protective services?
Later that evening we rolled into South Beach, our home for the night. We checked out Jazid, a decent little place, where the singers
got progressively worse and worse on open mic night. Then we checked out the Clevelander, and headed back to our hotel. Overall, there
wasn't quite that much nightlife going on, it was Tuesday after all I suppose.
Waking up, we strolled towards the beach, Miamians are so lucky to have that right in their city. We checked out the Lincoln shopping
district, a cool store called Details, and had a great smoothie.
Then we beached it some more, and cruised down Ocean Drive, heading back to Ft Lauderdale for our return to the cold permafrost we call home.