March 30, 2015





Welcome to the Conch Republic


After a good night’s sleep we were up again at around 7am and after getting ready we walked down to Lumiere’s for breakfast. It was advertised as brunch and without any wait we were invited inside the restaurant and taken to a restaurant. We had just sat down when an assistant server introduced himself and asked for our drinks order. I thought I’d try some tea and ordered Earl Grey, while Tom asked for some coffee. He quickly returned with the coffee and hot water and when he saw the water in my cup he apologized before I could even have a good look.

The water had a slight brown tint, showing that the thermos had contained coffee before and had not been rinsed enough. He disappeared and returned with extra hot water and a new cup. And soon my tea was brewing. In the meantime we had studied the menu, thankfully declined the Danish pastry and ordered our breakfast items. I usually have the Morning Tug boat, but did not feel like it and instead asked for simple Cornflakes and some milk. Tom on the other hand stuck with his beloved Swiss Bircher Muesli, Muesli with Raisins, Shredded Apples and Yogurt. Service was so different compared to our European cruise and we were really happy and enjoyed our breakfast starters.

And as soon as our dirty plates were whisked away, our main breakfast courses arrived. Tom had ordered the Express, Scrambled Eggs, Grilled Ham, Bacon, Sausage, and Hash Browns and I had thought why not start this cruise off right with my favourite vacation breakfast, the Traditional Eggs Benedict, Toasted English Muffin with Grilled Canadian Bacon served with Poached Egg topped with Hollandaise Sauce. Both were really yummy and needless to say we were pretty happy when we finally said goodbye to our great servers. We would not arrive at Key West until around noon, so we decided to head back to our room, gather our FE gifts and hand them out. And when we arrived at our stateroom we were surprised to find it all cleaned and made up already. Score on the stateroom host, Edwin, so far. So, after filling our gifts into one of the big carrier bags we had brought and a restroom stop we headed right out to deliver our gifts. It took us about an hour to finish handing out the gifts and once we were done we went straight to guest services to ask if there was a galley tour offered. The crew member there looked for quite some time, then told us that since we were Platinum, we were eligible for the galley tour. We were a bit stunned, as so far the galley tour has always been open to all guests, but we didn’t question it. He offered us two times and we picked one, he printed out the tickets and off we went. We were in such a good mood that we decided to hit the stores. If the mood is right we are most likely to buy quite a few things. So we walk up to the shops and while walking I look into the shop window and someone catches my eye. And while we both were still not sure if we should believe our eyes while standing in the door, Oksana came flying towards us, hugging both of us while quite a few other guests were looking on. Now, I need to let you know that Oksana and us go way back to our first cruise on the Dream, 12 cruises ago. Whenever we have cruised on the Dream, she was there and we have become really good friends.

In February last year she had told us that she wanted to try to get onto the Magic for the summer but she never was assigned to the Magic in the summer. Instead she had just started her new contract on the Magic now. We were chatting away for a long time, with some of her crew members looking on and we were all so happy that there were only few guests in the shop so we could catch up on each other’s lives. Oksana told us that she was in charge of the duty free shop in the afternoons, but had to help out where she was needed otherwise, so we knew where to find her lateron during the cruise. After quite a while she had to go back to work and we rushed back to our stateroom to put to together an array of Milka chocolates, which we know, Oksana loves. As soon as we had filled a bag with chocolates for her we went back to the shop and found Oksana still behind the counter. We walked up to her and mentioned that we needed to return the items in the little shopping bag we had and she was all business until she opened the bag. Then, again, the hugging started again, before she had to quickly go offstage to sample some of the chocolates. For us it was time to head to the top deck as we would be approaching Key West pretty soon and we wanted to secure a good spot at the front of the ship. Quick stop in the room for another restroom break and to pick up our cameras and off we went again.

It was pretty windy, but there was still lots of space on the top deck and we quickly found a spot and stayed put. Key West was still quite a way away, but it was great to enjoy the sun and see us get closer. We talked about the different landmarks as they came in sight and were in awe, when we got a lot closer and we could see our favourite resort, the Southernmost Hotel at the Beach from the Magic. There was a Carnival ship moored at Mallory Square which was a bit of a downer as it meant that we would be moored at the other pier at Fort Zachery (which actually turned out to be quite fun in the end). And while the Magic was dropping anchor at the pier there were several airplanes flying over it and it was fun to see it fly so low over Key West until they reached the airport.

Once the ship was finally tied to the pier we went back to our stateroom to cool down a bit. The FE was pretty full and we emptied it out and looked through the goodies with one of them being a very nicely smelling package of detergent and drier sheets. Definitely an awesome idea. We were getting ready to get off the ship when we heard the announcement that because of traffic there were only  a few trolleys running into the city and wait times would be longer than expected, up to an hour. Yeah, just what we wanted to hear – NOT! We instantly decided to stay on board a bit longer and order some lunch. So I picked up the phone and ordered some room service lunch. To our huge surprise it didn’t even take 15 minutes and our food had arrived.

The tray was placed on the small table and we were ready to dig in. We had ordered a Caesar Salad, Romain Salad tossed in a creamy Parmesan Dressing, the Chicken Guacamole Fajita with red Onions and Crisp Lettuce, the Crispy Chicken Tenders served with Barbeque Sauce and Tom’s favourite, the Buffalo Chicken Wings with Blue Cheese and Honey Mustard Dip. It was a yummy lunch and we were stuffed once we were done. And by now the crowds had to have subsided. So we changed, then walked down to the gangway and …… hit a line. A long line. There was no way we could have walked into town, so we stayed. Thankfully two trolleys arrived quickly after each other and the line moved a little.

Then we saw mini buses and larger buses arrive and another trolley. They arrived, filled up with people and off they went again. And even though there was a constant coming and going it took about half an hour until we were finally on board a trolley and headed into to town. Now this trip takes you through the military base and we were told to absolutely not take out our cameras or phones or they would be taken away, so no photos of our ride into Key West. They dropped us off right behind Mallory Square and started our walk around. We walked through the Sponge Market, then over to the little pet shop in the adjacent building before we wanted to head further down Duval Street.

We had not planned on any sightseeing as we have been to Key West several times but we wanted to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the vibe of Key West. So we started our trip down Duval Street, stopped here and there and even bought a Harley Davidson T-shirt for a friend’s birthday. We then stopped at the Crazy Shirts store and Tom found a T-shirt he liked which we bought as another birthday treat.

There was one thing we really wanted to find as we had forgotten it at home, a stapler. We had brought all our Fish Extender supplies but had left our stapler at home. So when we saw a shop that looked like it could sell a stapler we went in, just to find they had everything else, but no stapler. But we knew there was a Walgreens halfway down Duval, so we were not too disappointed.  So we continued on, looking at and laughing about some of the novelties and finally reached the Walgreens who is inside a former cinema. We started looking around, found the isle that offered the staplers but it came without staples and there were none on the rack. So we asked an employee if they had some and she told us that she would check in the back and off she went.

And we waited. And waited. And waited some more. After a while we walked over to the ATM, always an eye on the door where she had disappeared, as Tom wanted to pick up some money as well. So we studied the ATM as they are a bit different from what we are used to, then Tom reached for his wallet, just to discover that he had only his “vacation wallet” with his credit card, but no bank card. Well, I still had my wallet with me, opened it up and discovered that I had done just the same, removed everything apart from the credit card and cash and left it in the safe. No biggie as we had enough cash to cover the trip, but it would have been nice to stock up a bit. So we went back to the corner of the isle and the employee still wasn’t back. I think another employee must have watched us, as he came back to ask if we were sure he could not help us. We told him that the other employee had gone to look for staples and he went to look for the employee. He came back after just a few minutes telling us that he had looked in the computer and they were out of staples, but that he had no idea where the employee had gone to. She was nowhere to be found. We had a laugh and left the store, a bit disappointed that we now needed to come up with a “clever idea” on how to close our Fish Extender bags but we were still in a happy mood.

And we walked further down Duval to finally reach Kermit’s, an “all about Key Limes” shop. We finally made it there and headed inside. There were quite a few people in the shop, but there is lots of tasty merchandise to look at and lots of samples out. So we tried a few samples before going up to the counter to get ourselves a few treats, an Espresso for Tom and a Key Lime Pie on a stick and some water for myself. Those Key Lime Pies on a stick are Key Lime Pies that are frozen and dipped in chocolate and they are just soo good. They are messy to eat, but delicious. We found seats and after taking photos of our goodies we enjoyed them. When we left the little store it was half past four already, but all aboard was at 7.45, so we had plenty of time.

Why not stop at the rooftop bar of the La Concha for a drink. So we slowly crept up Duval again, not used to the sun at that time of the year. We passed a store and peaked inside and were surprised that the huge bookstore we had been used to at that corner was now a CVS store.

Hm, they might even sell staplers, so we started to look around and to our surprise we did indeed find a stapler, much small than the one at Walgreens AND it came with a small box of staples AND it was only costing about a third of what the other would have have cost us. SCORE!! Stapler in bag we walked along Duval Street a bit further until we came to an off license where we had seen something else, Birthday Beer. Needless to say we had to pick some up to try, together with another “new” beer Tom had found. Now lugging around another bag, which was on the heavy side, we quickly approached the La Concha and were sad to see that they were working on the rooftop, putting glass walls up on the open platform.

We dropped the idea of going inside as we were tired and hot anyway and headed further up Duval. At Fresh Produce we stopped to pick up a Vera Bradley Handbag I had seen and liked a lot and we stopped at a cigar shop to get Tom some cigars and a nice souvenir case for them as well. And with that we slowly crept back to Mallory Square. A trolley was just arriving and we climbed on board and within a few minutes were on our way back to the ship. Again we were told the no photography policy as we were driving through the base area and this time it would have been fun to take some photos as the Navy was obviously training some people in the nearby lagoon. Lots of people in the water trying to swim in and with all their gear. That gave us an idea.

Yip, no taking photos from down there, but maybe from the ship. Before we went on board we had some flavoured water, which is offered to returning guests and such a nice thought of DCL and then we went back on board, signed in again and our stuff went through the scanner and then we were off to our room.Our Fish Extender was overflowing again and after emptying it out, we quickly grabbed  our cameras and hot footed it up to the top deck. They were still swimming in the lagoon, many of the soldiers had actually made it back to a platform, but still we could take good photos of the rest. Another score! Photos done we walked back to our room, had showers and Tom put his new beers into the fridge.

We sat out on the veranda with a glass of his birthday sparkling wine and watched the Carnival ship go by and a little later the sun started to set. It was so peaceful to just sit out there on the veranda and watch the sun slowly but surely gliding deeper and deeper.It finally reached the horizon and the colours were just amazing. A sunset at Key West is always spectacular, but to be able to watch it from the relaxing setting of your own balcony with a nice drink in your hand was just out of this world. With the sunset over we spent a little more time looking through our Fish Extender gifts, as we had had a really great group with lots of spectacular gifts. And soon it was time again to get ready for dinner, which was at Lumiere’s today.

When we got to the restaurant we were quickly led to our table and our assistant server put the Diet Cokes on the table and handed us the menus. I ordered the drink of the day, the Key Lime Margarita while Tom stayed with his Diet Coke. Soon the bread basket, which contained Warm French Country Bread and the Olive Spread were put on our table and within a few minutes Romeo, our server, was at hand to take our order. Tom ordered the Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp with Green Asparagus, Horseradish Cream and Dill Dressing for his appetizer, while I had the Breaded and Deep Fried Brie with an Orange and Cranberry Chutney. Both were delicious and were followed by the Potage Parmentier, the Leek and Potato Soup. Again, another yum!  For his main course Tom had ordered the Crispy Roasted Duck Breast, with Cabbage, Shallots, Bacon, Honey Parsnip Puree and a Duck Red Wine Jus. I had ordered the Chateaubriand Roasted Filet Steak, Roasted Filet Steak, Crushed New Potatoes with Shallots, Buttered Green Beans, Red Wine Jus and Sauce Bernaise on the side. Again, both dishes were pretty tasty, even though the steak was more on the medium done side, than just medium. There was no question about what we wanted for dessert and no menu needed, so after only a very short wait we were served the Grand Marnier Soufflé With Vanilla Sauce, which was as wonderful as we had remembered it.

Since we are pretty slow eaters, many of our fellow guests had already left and now the servers had a little more time to chat with us for a bit, before it was finally time for us to leave. We went to After Hours to try and find our other cast member friend, Nuna, but she was pretty busy and did not have time to chat a bit, so we walked over to our friend Oksana and chatted with her a bit before it was time for us to head back to our stateroom. We found a new little towel animal, a seal this time, sporting sunglasses and having a look at next day’s navigator. We got changed and ended the evening like so many others, out on the veranda, looking down at the sea as the ship was gliding along.