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Cruises to Key West

Key West (Photo:Stockdonkey/Shutterstock)
Key West (Photo:Stockdonkey/Shutterstock)

About Key West

Key West, the southernmost city in the continental U.S., is the last in a chain of tiny tropical islands -- the Florida Keys -- scattered off the mainland. Dubbed the "Conch Republic," Key West is a very popular destination on Western Caribbean itineraries -- and is easily one of the funkiest and fascinating ports of call in all of cruising.

Key West, where natives are lovingly called "Conchs," and the high school football team goes by the "Fighting Conchs," earned its "Conch Republic" nickname in April 1982, when a band of locals declared secession from the U.S. in protest of the U.S. Border Patrol placing a roadblock just north of the top of the Keys.

While federal agents were trying to stymie drug smugglers, Keys residents decried the roadblock as a tourism disaster as well as disrespectful to its people. But Key West's mayor and his supporters failed to sway a federal court in Miami to lift the roadblock. Soon after, he read a proclamation at Mallory Square declaring the Keys no longer a part of the U.S. and demanding $1 million in foreign aid.

The move to secede was short-lived but remains a point of pride for Key Westers, who still fly the blue "Conch Republic" flag in the subtropical heat and ocean breezes. Key West was first settled in 1822 and by 1886 had become America's richest city per capita. Compact, cozy and adorable, the city's Old Town neighborhood is filled with cottages with gingerbread-topped porches, Victorian compounds, sidewalk cafes, cigar stands and T-shirt shops. Residential throughout, every sign, window and awning in Old Town must pass scrutiny of the city-appointed Historic Architectural Review Commission.

Key West cruise ship passengers, who number some 820,000 a year among the island's 3 million visitors, disembark at Mallory Square, a Navy pier near the Westin Resort. But the island city is a breeze to explore by walking, bike, scooter or even pedicab. Famous residents have included Pulitzer Prize-winner Ernest Hemingway, whose home on Simonton Street is now a museum where six-toed cats roam the grounds, pool and living quarters. Key West was also a home away from home for President Harry Truman, whose one-time respite from Washington, D.C., is the "Little White House," a museum by the waterfront.

Art galleries, Cuban coffee, fine dining and overstuffed sandwiches all abound in Key West. Locals will serve you fresh coconut water by drilling a straw hole into one of the green fruits that come from the island's palm trees.

The city famously appeals to all types of folks, and attracts artists, hipsters, foodies and beach bums along with cruise ships. Locals love to repeat the line about never knowing if the guy beside you at the bar in flip flops and a tank top is a millionaire or a former merchant marine -- or both. Rich retirees rub elbows here with those who work two and three jobs to be able to call Key West home.

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DAY 1: Miami

4 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Key West, Bimini ...
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Cruise Line:
Virgin Voyages
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DAY 1: Tampa

5 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Tampa
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Key West, Freeport ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Tampa

11 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Tampa
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Key West, Puerto Plata ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
New Orleans
Visiting:
Key West, Nassau ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
New Orleans
Visiting:
Key West, Freeport ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
Key West, Belize City ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Key West, Puerto Plata ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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Cruise Critic Favorite

18 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Key West, Cozumel ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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12 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Boston
Visiting:
San Juan, Bonaire ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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5 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Key West, Cozumel ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
New Orleans
Visiting:
Key West, Perfect Day at CocoCay ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
Key West, Costa Maya ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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8 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Galveston
Visiting:
Key West, Freeport ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
New Orleans
Visiting:
Perfect Day at CocoCay, Freeport ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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4 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Key West, Cozumel ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Key West, Bonaire ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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Cruise Critic Favorite

66 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Key West, Bonaire ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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9 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Galveston
Visiting:
Costa Maya, Belize City ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
Key West, Costa Maya ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
New Orleans
Visiting:
Key West, Nassau ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
New Orleans
Visiting:
Cozumel, Belize City ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Costa Maya, Harvest Caye ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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4 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Key West, Nassau ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Key West

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
Key West, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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Why go to Key West?

Pros:

All of the city's famous attractions, shops, restaurants and bars are within walking distance

Cons:

The city's Duval Street can get rowdy, especially at night and during spring break and holidays

Bottom Line:

Key West is a diverse city that will make you forget you're in Florida

Key West Cruise Port Facilities?

Key West is an island, or Key, that is just two miles long by four miles wide, so all the essentials are near the docks -- bars, restaurants, shopping, scuba diving and beach-going. Mallory Square, on the waterfront near the docks, has restaurants, shops and public restrooms.

Good to Know?

Sunburn, thirst and vacation-induced absent-mindedness. The sun is quite intense and very deceiving. Liberally apply sunblock to avoid a subtropical burn.

Water bottles aren't an accessory in the Keys, they're a necessity. Take a moment to hydrate before heading out under the island's blue skies and cotton candy-spun clouds. South Florida mantra: The best parking spot isn't the one closest to your destination; it's the one in the shade.

Also, the Key West Police Department reports are filled with lost-and-found property reports from visitors. Keep an eye on your belongings while you're downing a rum drink or frosty brew, or while singing along with the whole bar to a Jimmy Buffett or Kenney Chesney classic.

Getting Around?

It's a snap in Key West. Consider Duval Street the main thoroughfare. Popular bars, T-shirt and souvenir shops and art galleries line both sides of the street and can be found from the 200 block to the end near Mallory Square. Although there is an open-container law in Key West prohibiting alcohol on public streets, it isn't largely enforced on visitors along the 100 and 200 blocks of Duval.

Bikes, scooters and flip-flops are the most popular modes of transportation, for both locals and visitors. Key West is really flat, so cycling is easy. Bike rentals typically require a refundable deposit or cruise key card. A and M Rentals (523 Truman Avenue; 305-294-4556) and Tropical Rentals (1300 Duval Street; 305-294-8136) are reliable shops.

"Conch Cruisers," slow-moving electric vehicles that resemble golf carts, are also available for rent. They can hold two to six passengers and can be rented in two-hour increments. A reliable shop is Key West Cruisers (500 Truman Avenue; 305-294-4724). Deposits are required. For first-timers, the Old Town Trolley Tours offers hop-on, hop-off, all-day transport, while the Conch Tour Train features a personal tour guide driving you through Old Town while pointing out the sights and historic markers. Pedicabs are available and generally charge per minute. Perfect Pedicab on Whitehead Street is a popular company.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Currency is the U.S. dollar, and ATMs are readily available.

Language?

English is spoken in Key West.

Where You're Docked?

Cruise ships usually dock at either Pier B, near the Truman Annex, or the Navy-owned Outer Mole pier, near Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. If docked at the latter, a tourist trolley shuttles you off the base into town. There is also a smaller dock at Mallory Square.


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2018 Top-Rated US & Canada Destinations
  • 2016 Top-Rated US & Canada Destinations
  • 2015 Top-Rated US & Canada Destinations

Key West Cruise Reviews

Empress of the Seas
CapnBob
Sail Date: Mar 2020
Key West is Key West. A great little town to take a long walk. Some nice things to see. Great Art stores down south on Duvall.... Read More
Nieuw Statendam
GoodTimeCruiser2005
Sail Date: Mar 2020
Very secure bus tour around Key West. Beautiful downtown to take a nice walk.... Read More
Carnival Sensation
margarita50
Sail Date: Mar 2020
We loved Key West. Very cute area with beautiful homes. Of course we did bar hop and all the places we went were fun, clean & had great service. I can't wait to go back.... Read More
Celebrity Edge
Ragland T Tiger
Sail Date: Feb 2020
Very easy to walk to any and all attractions in Key West. Suggest seek out sign for Mile 0 on US Route 1. We thought was a cool photo... Read More
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