Day 2: We’re departing Key West. Is everyone back on board?
Americans have drifted to this island for hundreds of years, from pirates in the 1500s to Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams in the early 20th century, then artists and hippies in the 1970s – the most famous of these being singer Jimmy Buffet. I’ve heard the song ‘Margaritaville’ many times (“It must be five o’clock somewhere”) but had never heard of parrot heads before – dedicated Buffet followers – or realised that the man himself has a cafe and shop in Key West. Kim and I asked a passing pedicab driver directions to the Buffet shop and he obligingly took us there. En route driver Patrick (from Ecuador) pointed out a nude bar, Hemingway’s house and the writer’s favourite bar (Sloppy Joe’s). Key West makes its money from tourism and cruise ships and while the streets near the port are lined with tacky souvenir shops, a few blocks away you see charming old wooden houses with lush, tropical gardens. We noticed one painted in a cool pistachio shade with a perfectly matching Vespa parked in the front yard. It’s a fascinating place with an intriguing history and obviously still a favourite place for eccentrics. As we wandered back to the ship we met a man standing by a postbox with a hairless sphinx cat called Lucky – for a donation to animal rescue (he had 17 rescue animals, including snakes) I posed for a photo with Lucky. “It’s such a shame he hasn’t got his sunglasses on, I ordered him a new pair last week,” said the man. He went on to explain that he buys Doggles – gogs for dogs – for his beloved cat. Back on deck, the band’s pumping out a festive mix of reggae and Jimmy Buffet songs, the sun’s going down and giant frigate birds are wheeling overhead. Now we have to prepare for dinner at the Captain’s Table – what a treat!