Key West, Florida is the southernmost point in the United States, famous for a laid back vibe, interesting historic sites, exciting nightlife and a myriad of watersports. Surrounded by the beautiful turquoise water of the Gulf of Mexico, Key West is a popular cruise port on many western Caribbean itineraries. Key West also offers a variety of one-day excursions for people that want a short on-the-water getaway.
One-Day Cruises in Key West
Cruises can cost a fortune and span multiple nights. If you don't have time for a full -blown cruise experience, a one-day cruise will allow you to experience life on board a vessel with the added bonus of being less expensive and time consuming. This is especially relevant if your vacation time is limited. Key West offers a variety of one-day cruise packages on a multitude of vessels from schooners and sailboats to catamarans that are specially designed to meet the needs of visitors that want to experience a day on the water.
The Danger Charter Company is the number one rated charter on TripAdvisor that offers sunset sails, snorkeling and full day sails on their 65-foot schooner, accommodating up to twenty people. The full day sail offers plenty of recreational activities such as kayaking and snorkeling in Key West National Wildlife Refuge, which includes 2,019 acres of wilderness.
A full buffet style lunch is served on board and there are plenty of complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, plus beer and wine to keep guests hydrated. Danger Charters provides masks, fins, snorkels, wetsuits and kayaks, plus instruction on how to use safety equipment. Guests should bring their own towels, sunscreen, sunglasses and a camera. Sweatshirts are suggested for winter months.
This trip is six and a half hours and runs daily year-round. The rates range from $120 for adults, $95 for children and toddlers are free. Summer tours leave at 10 a.m. and return at 4:30 p.m. and winter tours depart at 9:30 a.m. and return at 4 p.m.
Fury's Water Adventures
If you want an action-packed extravaganza, Fury's Key West Ultimate All Day Adventure is perfect for watersport enthusiasts. The cruise departs at 10 a.m. (a 9:15 a.m. check-in) and sets sail on a 65-foot catamaran to the only living coral reef in North America. The excursion is six hours returning at 4 p.m. If you book this trip online, you can save 10% by using the code "online." Blackout dates and some restrictions may apply to this discount.
The day begins with a breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt, homemade granola and assorted pastries. Upon arrival at the coral reef, located on the Atlantic Ocean side of Key West, passengers will have time to snorkel for about an hour on the reef and come eye-to-eye with colorful parrotfish, angelfish, blue tangs and many other species that make this reef their home. Fury's provides snorkels, fins and even lessons on how to snorkel.
A picnic lunch will be served during the 45-minute sail from the coral reef to the Gulf of Mexico and the floating platform island owned by Fury's. Afternoon activities include jet-skiing, parasailing, and frolicking on Fury's water park playthings such as an action climbing tower, aqua slide and iceberg climbing wall. Snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, plus beer, wine and pink lemonade round out the fun.
Key West Pro Guides
You may be a veteran fisherman or a newbie. It's all the same, as fishing the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico is an ideal way for sports-minded men, women and children to enjoy a day on the water. Key West Pro Guides has a TripAdvisor Award of Excellence with good reason; they are a large, excellently equipped, professional owner-operated fishing charter service that is staffed by seasoned fishing professionals that let you enjoy fishing at your own pace.
- One of the most popular day trips is the Ultimate Action Trip. The eight-hour excursion for up to six guests cost $1000. Boats for six guests are limited, so make sure you reserve expeditions for six in advance. Trips are tailored on weather conditions on the day of the excursion in order to optimize the fishing experience. Guests will fish for black fin tuna, wahoo, kingfish, mutton snapper, and goliath groupers, to name a few species that are found off wrecks and reefs.
- The Key West Shark Challenge excursion offers even greater excitement, challenging you to fish for some of nature's most fierce predators - bulls, lemons, hammerheads and black tip sharks that average six to eight feet long. All sharks that are caught are released.
All excursions include licenses, fuel, tackle, rods, bait and even a cooler with ice. There is bottled water on board, but it is recommended that guests bring their own snacks.
Wild About Dolphins
Some folks would love to travel with their dogs, but can't. If you find yourself missing your dog while on vacation, book a one-day eco-adventure (with a dog on board) with Wild About Dolphins. The full day, seven-hour private charter with Captain Sheri Sullenger (who sometimes travels with her golden retriever) is $775. This excursion can accommodate up to six people. Swimming, snorkeling and a light lunch are included in this package.
Guests on board will learn about the area's coral reefs, back country mangrove habitat, diverse bird population and local marine life, including the highlight of the trip, dolphins. According to many reviews on TripAdvisor, this excursion is worthwhile because it is entertaining and informative; Captain Sheri actually plays music to attract pods of dolphins. Another highlight is learning about the social behavior, physiology, healing and spiritual aspects of dolphins.
Captain's Corner Dive Center
If you are a recreational diver who wants to explore a wreck, then book a full or half day trip with Captain's Corner Dive Center. It has been around since 1985 and is a PADI five star Dive Center. The wreck dives are advanced deep dives, so participants must have an advanced open water certification. If you do not have this certification, you will have to hire a private guide. All divers must be at least 16 years old.
They offer half and full day trips and night dives aboard the Sea Eagle, a 46-foot dive boat with two levels. The boat's amenities include a camera table, rinse bins, swim platform, two large dive ladders, bathrooms, fresh water showers, a spacious bow and electronics. Tanks and gear can be rented or brought on board. Captain's Corner provides ice water and a cooler with ice and advises divers to bring their own snacks and beverages, in addition to towels, sunscreen, sunglasses and a change of clothes.
- This trip will take divers to the Gen. Hoyt S.Vandenberg, the second largest ship ever sunk to create a reef. Located about seven miles off Key West at a diving depth of 140 feet, the Vandenberg has been rated the number one wreck in the world by Scuba Diving Magazine.
- Another wreck that this company visits is the Cayman Salvage Master, originally built for the U.S. Coast Guard in 1937. She is in 90 feet of water, sits upright, is in good condition and is a little more accessible than the Vandenberg.
- Captain's Corner also offers a one-day Discover Scuba Diving Course. This course includes a pool session at the dive center with an expert PADI certified instructor, plus a boat trip on the Sea Eagle to a coral reef and two dives for $175.
Multiple Day Cruises to Key West
If time allows and you want to cruise longer than just one day, many cruise companies offer a wide range of packages at a variety of price points. Ships typically depart from Miami or Tampa and include a stop in Key West on their itineraries.
The Enchantment of the Seas is a large ship that carries 2,446 passengers and has a crew of 873. It sets sail from Miami on a four-day cruise with stops in Nassau, CocoCay and Key West before returning to Miami.
The Enchantment of the Sea was launched in 1997 and refurbished in 2005 when a new midsection was added to the original vessel. This update increased the size of the ship and the amenities it offers. These include a palladium stage area and suspension bridges that overlook the pool area and decks. There are several new lounges too, including the popular Latin-themed Boleros bar. For kids, there is the adventure ocean playroom, a teen center and video arcade, making this vessel a good choice for families.
The exterior of the ship is showing a bit of wear as are some of the hallways. The cabins are comfortable although some reviews note that they are a bit dated.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival offers two four-day and two five-day cruises on different ships that include a stop in Key West. All ships named include a Serenity adult-only retreat area.
- The Western Caribbean cruise from Miami is a four-day tour on the Carnival Sensation. Highlights of the ship include the Seaday Brunch, Punchliner Comedy Club, Red Frog Rum bar, waterworks, the Alchemy Bar, and many dining options. Ports of call include Cozumel and Key West.
- The Carnival Victory also offers a four-day cruise through the Western Caribbean. Highlights of this ship include the Punchliner Comedy Club, twister water slide, dive-in movies, Camp Ocean, Seuss at Sea, stage shows, spa, sports bar, and plenty of dining options. The boat sets sail from Miami, visiting Key West and Cozumel.
- A five-day Western Caribbean cruise departs from Tampa on the Carnival Paradise. Highlights of the ship include Towel Animal Theater, playlist productions, twister water slide, Hasbro the Game Show, mini golf, Camp Carnival, and Seuss at Sea. In addition to Key West, the ship also docks at Cozumel.
- A five-day tour aboard the Carnival Paradise departs from Tampa, stopping in Key West and Havana, Cuba. Highlights of this ship include Towel Animal Theater, playlist productions, twister water slide, spa, Hasbro the Game Show, mini golf, Camp Carnival and Seuss at Sea.
Celebrity Cruise Lines
The Celebrity Equinox launched in 2009 and carries 2850 passengers. It scored high ratings on recent reviews on Cruiseline.com, boasting unusual features like a real grass lawn and a glass blowing show. The Equinox sets sail from Miami on a seven-day cruise that includes Key West, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. A ten-day tour on the Equinox is also offered, setting sail from Miami with stops at Grand Cayman, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, and Key West.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
The Seven Seas Mariner departs from Miami on a seven-night cruise. The good thing about this cruise line is that almost everything is included from drinks to tips. All 350 rooms on board are suites with a balcony. This cruise line offers fabulous dining at four restaurants and has excellent programs for children. Ports of call include Cozumel, Belize City, Roatan, and Key West.
Viking Ocean Cruises
This cruise company was voted by readers of Travel + Leisure in 2016 and 2017 as the number one ocean cruise line in the World's Best Awards category. The Viking Sky is a state-of-the-art luxury ship with elegantly appointed veranda staterooms for 936 passengers. Depart from Miami on a seven-night cruise, stopping in Key West, Belize City, Cozumel, and Merida.
The Regatta, the flagship of Oceania Cruises, went through a multi-million dollar update in 2014 that completely transformed this vessel. Teak decks, custom stone and tile work and neo-classical furniture add to the refined ambience. There are four restaurants, a casino, eight lounges and bars, and a spa. This ship has 342 suites and staterooms, many with private balconies.
The Regatta departs from Miami and offers a nine-day cruise. Ports of call include Costa Maya, Harvest Caye, Santo Tomas de Castilla, Roatan, Cozumel, and Key West.
The Silver Muse is part of a small luxury cruise line. It can accommodate 596 guests in large, tastefully decorated suites. The ship is noted for its fine art and contemporary decor that is beautiful in its simplicity. An eighteen-night cruise on the Silver Muse leaves from Fort Lauderdale. Ports of call include Key West, Puerto Limon, Panama Canal, Manta, Salaverry (Trujillo), Lima (two nights), Pisco, Matarani, Arica, La Serena, and Santiago (Valparaiso).
Cruise for the Day or Longer
Sometimes it is the journey and not the destination that makes cruising exciting because there are so many things to do and see on the water, regardless of the size of the vessel you choose or the duration of your getaway. Just two miles wide by four miles long, Key West's blended culture, history and year-round carnival atmosphere make it a memorable stop on any cruise vacation.