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Carol Perkins: Cruise, Part II, Key West

Key West, closer to Cuba than mainland USA, was a stopover. Chickens are the official bird of Key West, and it has also been the favorite haunt and workplace of great writers, from Hemingway to Truman Capote
Next earlier column: Carol Perkins: Sailing on the Caribbean, Part I . Posted July 13, 2014

By Carol Perkins

Continuing from last week, our cruise would take us first to Key West, which might seem a little odd, but if you study a map closely you'll see, as I did, just how much closer Key West is to Cuba than to the mainland of the US. Key West is the southernmost point of the United States and thousands of tourists have t-shirts to prove it.

The island is small and overrun with chickens

The island is only four miles long and one mile wide, and with so many sightseeing buses, trolleys, horse drawn carriages, and pedestrians dashing in and out of shops on Duvall Street, getting around the city takes most of the day. This street, as famous in Key West as Bourbon Street is in New Orleans, is worth the trip for its local flair.

The city is also overrun with chickens, strolling at will under feet at outdoor restaurants and sauntering across traffic with an air of importance. The chicken is the official bird of Key West and given that respect. I found loose chickens under my feet begging for my foot annoying. Guy saw amusement and gave them enough food to keep them pecking.

History of Naval Base and Truman's second White House of great interest

Guy was interested in the Naval Base and the military aspects of Key West. Truman had his second White House in Key West and many other presidents retreated there. I was surprised by that considering there is no privacy on the island. Houses are crammed side by side and the streets are narrow. Our Navy Seals live and train in Key West. Not a bad place to be stationed.

I was much more interested in the writers who lived in the area years ago such as Ernest Hemingway, whose home was on the tour. Sloppy Joe's Bar was another stop where legends were born. Others such as Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams are among those who penned great works in small homes off Duvall Street.

Key West has it's own vibe

Key West has a vibe, and I can see why musicians, artists, and writers find inspiration there.

That afternoon when we went back to the ship, Guy sat on the balcony of our room overlooking the ocean while I wandered around the many decks. I soon found myself back at the spa to view the week's specials. As I was looking at a flyer, a young woman leaned in with another advertising a "treatment" to lose eight inches. Really? I was so thrilled at the prospect I could have hugged her. She picked me!!! EIGHT INCHES. Wow! I laid down the flyer and walked off. Eight inches for a skinny woman might mean the difference between wearing her size six formal or her size four to the dinner the next night. To most of us, eight inches is a Subway Sandwich (or is it six). As I stomped back to the room with the "You can't believe what just happened," Guy merely said, "Why don't you just stay off that floor?"

"Church nice" attire required at dinner

That night we met our dinner partners. We would be having dinner with them each night of the cruise because cruisers share tables unless they request single dining. Cruisers can choose an early dinner (already full by the time we booked) or a late dinner, so we had to have an 8:00 dinner. Guy was not happy. "You can go to the buffet and eat at six and then go to the formal dining at eight." The dining room is a lovely setting and requires patrons look "church" nice. Two of the nights are considered "formal" nights. Years ago on my first cruise people actually wore formals and men rented tuxes (available on board). Black pants and a sparkly top worked for me. On this trip very few ladies wore formal attire and I saw only one tux. However, it was still a dress up affair.

Our dinner partners were from Florida. He was a retired Navy man and she was a psychologist. They have been married twice to each other for a total of twenty years. Frankly, out of 3500 people on board we only personally met two. We promised to keep in touch, but like most people you meet in situations like this, the plan to connect gets unconnected.

Next stop: Freeport, in the Bahamas

Our next stop would be the Bahamas (Freeport) known for its beautiful beaches and its casino. (Part III will follow next week) - Carol Perkins

This story was posted on 2014-07-13 04:52:21
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