Day three was when I felt like the cruise really started. It was our first day in port and also our first excursion. Ronald and Ryan's stateroom was right next to ours. Every morning one of us would wake up and inevitably the first thing we'd do is head out onto the balcony to check out the view. We were just barely off the coast of Florida and we could see the water getting bluer as we went. I walked out on the balcony just in time to take this picture. Can you see the line where the water turns color?
I wanted to hop over the balcony railing and just sit on the edge of the boat. Which, I technically could have done, but I figured I'd have to spend the rest of the cruise in boat jail, and so I just took more pictures.
After breakfast we changed into our suits and cover ups and hopped off the boat. I was really surprised how close the boat docks to everything. Key West isn't that big of an island, but still, we could see gorgeous condos and shops right next to the port. It was also the first time we got a real look at the boat. In New Orleans you don't really get to see the whole thing as you're focused on shuffling on with your bags and such. Plus, the boat just looked prettier in Key West. Whoever named their boat their sailboat 'Elvis' is an awesome human. If I had a boat I would name it after one of my dogs. I just don't know which one. I would need a fleet I guess...
The boat we were on is called the Serenade of the Seas and what really amazed me is that it's one of the 'medium-sized' boats in the Royal Caribbean fleet. Blows. My. Mind.
Hopefully this provides a little more scale.
We had to be back to the port for our excursion, but we decided to kill about an hour or so walking around Key West. I have to be honest. I thought Key West was going to be my least favorite stop on the cruise. I don't know what I expected but I just didn't think I would like it very much. Well, boys and girls, I'm proof that you shouldn't judge a city by it's tourists. Or something like that. I loved it. So much so that I want to go back and see it again, along with all of the other Florida Keys. I wish I had learned more about it before we went. To me, Key West felt like a really busy small town. I loved all of the houses and architecture. This building was particularly pretty. Its red brick stuck out above all of the white and gray. We saw it from the boat. I later Googled it and found out it's known as the Custom House and it's the home of the Key West Museum of Art and History. It kept reminding me of the downtown Fort Worth court house, which makes sense because it has served as a courthouse, post office, and a million other things before becoming a museum.
Positioned all around the Custom House were lots of art installations. Some big...
This one was my favorite, only because after I finished taking this picture two dudes walked up and started doing some hilarious poses. One of them tried to reach up and grab a boob, but he was too short so he settled for leaning against the um.. you know. ;)
We walked past this old market building where we decided to stop off and try to find gifts to take home to friends and family. Plus they had air conditioning. We lucked out on finding anything good, but Joel and Ryan picked up some cigars to enjoy later that night. I loved that they still had their Christmas decorations up almost mid-way through January. I like to think that they just stay there all the time.
Directly across the street from the market was an ice cream shop that was basically shouting my name at the top of its lungs. They did have chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick (I saw it advertised at other ice cream shops too so apparently it's a thing), and I wanted to give it a try, but the guy who worked at the shop said the strawberry cheesecake ice cream was better. I didn't even have the key lime pie and I agreed. I think I said something like 'Dear Sweet Baby Jesus' when I had the first bite. Normally I would say that putting fruit in desserts is a mortal sin, but I do believe I have found the one exception.
I really, really wanted to go inside this place, the Audubon House. Their garden was amazing. Apparently this place is used as a wedding venue quite often. I could see why. This phone picture does not do the place any justice. It was SO green.
Legend has it that the place is haunted. I didn't know that at the time so maybe it's a good thing we skipped it.
We wanted to keep walking but we had to stay close to the port, so we headed back toward the boat and stopped off at one last place while we still had a little time, the Key West Aquarium. I was happy to find out they didn't actually have any sharks that big inside.
But they did have... chickens? Not what I expected. They wouldn't even let me pet them. Rude.
They also had hideous, nightmare inducing floating monsters. Bleeegh!
And one fish to tried to get a little too fresh with me.
The pond area was pretty...
Until you turned around and saw these scaly little creatures just waiting to attack.
There were also two huge open tanks the middle of the room with rays and turtles and nurse sharks in them. They were cool, but I was a little freaked out by them. I was ready to leave when one of the keepers was feeding the sharks and dropped a bloody fish head six inches away from my foot.
Luckily we had an excuse to get out of there. We said goodbye to the locals and headed back toward the dock.
We had an underwater date to get to...
We went SNUBA diving!!!!
You're probably wondering what the heck snuba diving is. Well, it's basically a cross between scuba and snorkeling. You're attached to a floating air tank that you share with a partner. You use a regular scuba regulator to breath and you're attached to your tank via a 20-something foot hose. You can swim down to about 18 feet or so, and you can see all kinds of stuff. Lobsters, fish, gross coral-y things. Maybe even a shark! Luckily we didn't run into any of those. The scuba divers will even give you stuff that's okay to touch if you want to take a photo. Look how awesome Joel looks!
Now, as awesome as snuba diving is, and as much fun as I had, I have to tell the truth... I took me a while to get the hang of it. By the time we were heading back to the boat I felt like I had finally gotten comfortable. Breathing with a regulator is way, way harder than I expected. Plus we had weight belts on to help with staying down under the water. You have to kick fairly hard to help keep the floating tanks moving along with the group, so combine being weighted down with trying to swim much harder than you usually do and only breath out of your mouth while feeling extremely winded. I basically paid $70 to feel like I was slightly drowning for an hour. Ronald was having the same problem I was. We asked our instructor to take our weight belts off and instantly felt much better. I still stayed up at the top the whole time, and I saw a lot of cool stuff. Now that I know what to expect I would do it again in a heartbeat. Only I would ask to not put my weight belt on right away and just see if I could get the hang of my breathing first. Even with the problems I was experiencing, it was still a lot of fun. Joel and I kept saying that we both want to learn how to scuba dive now. You know, because of all of the awesome scuba diving spots in Fort Worth, Texas. ;)
I would like to state for the record that we are not peace sign/cowabunga people in real life, but we didn't really know what to do with our hands. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Sexiest get up I've ever worn. Oh and by the way, the water was freezing and I swallowed lots of Floridian salt water...
Of the two of us, Joel definitely had a better experience and got more out of it. He even touched a lobster's leg. He took to the whole thing pretty quickly. Even though our tank was at the back of the 'fleet' he kept swimming up ahead of everyone else. He had a blast, which is all I really wanted. Well, that, and to be able to take a full breath.
This next photo is terrible because I had to zoom in so far, but I had to show you this. See that little house boat floating way out there off the coast? You can rent it out! Obviously you have to have some sort of water transportation to get back and forth, but how cool is that? Our instructor was telling us about it on the way back to port. He made it sound like heaven.
We got to cruise right up the our ship when we got back to port. It felt even bigger from our tiny little boat.
Once we were back aboard the ship we all changed and headed straight to dinner. As we were pulling back out of the port we caught a view of this tiny little island right of the coast of Key West. I later found out it's called Sunset Key and it's a privately held residential neighborhood that's only accessible by ferry (or jet skis as you can see). There are only 48 homes on the island and the cheapest one is $1.5 million. Apparently you can rent out a cottage through Westin hotels if you really want to see what it would be like to live on a private island. This was the one and only time on the whole cruise that I wish I had brought binoculars.
Luckily I had a giant strawberry margarita in which to drown my sorrows...
After dinner we caught the most amazing sunset I've ever seen in my whole life. Then we changed and headed out for the evening. We hit up the arcade on board, where we played a few very intense rounds of air hockey before we headed over to the bar to shoot some pool and play darts. We rounded out the evening with a little people watching at the 'club' before we finally crashed somewhere around 2:30 in the morning.
I know these vacation recaps are pretty long so I decided to post twice today. I had a great time and I want to share everything. A little later this afternoon I'll be showing you day 4 and then I'll finish up on Wednesday with the last of the trip.
Key West, you were a pretty-dang-cool little city. I can't wait to come back and see you again. Have you ever been to The Keys? Did you love it? Would you ever try SNUBA diving? I know I made it seem hard, but it really was worth it.
*All of the underwater photos were taken by Andrew Freeman at Adventure Imaging. We booked our snuba excursion through Royal Caribbean but if you're ever in Key West, check out the guys at Snuba of Key West. They will show you a great time.