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Cruise to Key West & the Bahamas
Old 10-27-2011, 07:31 AM   #1
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Cruise to Key West & the Bahamas

Hi,

We have booked our cruise to Key West and the Bahamas Jan 2 2012 and would like suggestions on excursions.

Ports of call:
Key West: Noon to 8pm
Nassau: 8am to 6pm
Freeport: 8am to 5pm

I heard that we may not need any excursion while in Key West as it's a small place, we can just walk around Key West ...

Any suggestions on excursions for Nassau & Freeport Bahamas ? Cruise line's own excursions ? What type of excursions ?

Buy non cruise line excursions while we are in Key West, Nassau or Freeport ?

Any suggestions are appreciated !

LS
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Old 10-27-2011, 08:44 AM   #2
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For Key West I would take the trolley tour . You can buy tickets on the boat or in downtown Key West . For the other ports I would visit the Cruise Critic forum on ports of call they usually have good suggestions .
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Old 10-27-2011, 08:58 AM   #3
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Thanks !

Do you know if downtown Key West near the port of call ? Is pricing the same if bought on the boat or in down town Key West ?

LS
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Old 10-27-2011, 09:31 AM   #4
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Never been to key west.

I would suggest checking out cruisecritic.com for more info generally, and you can ask specific questions there.

Nassau - been here 3 times I think on previous cruises. This is probably our favorite touristy island in the Caribbean.

What we have done:

Cruise 1: took public transit bus over to a resort type area a few miles away - $1 per person and they took USD. Nice tour of the working class areas of Nassau on the way to the hotel/casino strip. Walked through a casino and lounged at the hotel's beach for a few hours, probably technically trespassing, but no one hassled us. There are other beaches where you can walk up or pay a fee to a hotel to stay at their beach for the day. We also walked around downtown some.

Cruise 2: Took water taxi over to Atlantis ($3 per person IIRC), checked out their casino, aquariums, grounds, etc. Eventually we snuck in (a recurring theme?) to their guests only area and toured the beach area and their more extensive aquariums and shark tank. Then walked back to the cruise ship through areas of varying roughness. I think it was probably a 2-3 mile walk back, but not too bad at all. On the way back we saw a fort, the Queens staircase (I think that is what it was called), Government house or governer's house or something, and some other tourist attractions, all on foot. I thought the fort was cool and also provided impressive views of the surrounding area including the cruise harbor where your ship is docked. We used a guidebook and it was pretty easy. But if you spook easily or unaccustomed to third world unwashed masses surrounding you, you might want to spring for a guide, although we never felt unsafe (DW came from a 3rd world dictatorship so Nassau is like a walk in the park). We also went to the straw market - very touristy and crowded, unimpressive.

Cruise 3: took the kids out on the trip this time, water taxi to/from Atlantis so they could see the aquarium and grounds.

We didn't do any paid excursions, other than what we paid for the water taxis and buses.

Freeport: got off, walked around and went to the little shops near the ship. Got back on ship and lounged. There wasn't anything we felt like going into town to see, so we skipped the destination for the most part and had fun on the ship. My grandmother and our young kids were with us, so our typical on foot explorations would be hard to do. Maybe next time we'll head into town to see the sights. I know they have some ecological gardens of some sort, and a variety of beaches and beachfront hotels. Those were the most attractive things I remember from the guidebooks.

Enjoy!
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Old 10-27-2011, 09:39 AM   #5
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Good report on Nassau, Fuego. We won a trip a number of years ago to Atlantis with DH's company and the aquariums are quite impressive. However I was somewhat disturbed that there were people who seemed to believe that the props lying around were actually from the mythical Atlantis. Yikes!
We walked from there into town, enjoying the same post-colonial feelings you had on your bus ride. I'd skip the market area unless you are a glutton for punishment and junky souvenirs.

Key West, pose at the Southernmost Point. Hang out in a bar. That's what we did.
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Old 10-27-2011, 09:55 AM   #6
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Good report on Nassau, Fuego. We won a trip a number of years ago to Atlantis with DH's company and the aquariums are quite impressive. However I was somewhat disturbed that there were people who seemed to believe that the props lying around were actually from the mythical Atlantis. Yikes!
We walked from there into town, enjoying the same post-colonial feelings you had on your bus ride. I'd skip the market area unless you are a glutton for punishment and junky souvenirs.
Wait, you mean those weren't Poseidon's real tridents we bought from the street hawkers outside Atlantis?
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Old 10-27-2011, 10:01 AM   #7
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Thanks !

Do you know if downtown Key West near the port of call ? Is pricing the same if bought on the boat or in down town Key West ?

LS

The boats usually have a tram going from the dock to downtown Key West . You can buy the tickets at a booth downtown . The trolley tour is nice since it covers all the history of Key West . After the trolley head to one of the local bars or check out the shops .
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Old 10-27-2011, 10:40 AM   #8
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Hi all,

Thanks for the report and sharing your experiences.

Since this is our first cruise, obviously from the questions I asked - Questions:
(1) If we tour the town/city (Key West, Nassau, Freeport) by ourselves, what precaution or what to avoid to make sure we get back to the ship before departure time ?
(2) When it says 8pm on the schedule: Does it mean the ship is leaving at 8pm ? How much time we have to allow to line up/board the ship ? Say if it is 8pm, do we need to be at the port by 7pm to board the ship ?

Thanks !
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Old 10-27-2011, 10:59 AM   #9
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There is always the risk that you run late with tour operators (or hiring a taxi on your own) so allow plenty of time. I think the tour operators understand where you are coming from, so they will do everything in their power to get you back (do your due diligence that they are legit operations though). If you book through the ship, the advantage they taut is that you are guaranteed to get back on the ship if your tour runs late.

If you explore on your own, just give yourself an extra hour or two to get back in case the taxi/bus breaks down, or you get lost walking around.

I think departure times are posted like: Departure at 8:00 pm, all aboard by 7:30 pm. I'm sure if you show up at 7:35 you can get on board, but at some point they pull up the gangway and pull away from the harbor. On our trips, they often leave a little early since they know from the ID badges who is left on the island or whether everyone is on board. Ie they may know everyone is on board by 7:20 and we might be pulling away from the dock at 7:35.
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Old 10-27-2011, 11:10 AM   #10
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Wow, I rather play safe since this is our first cruise and I don't want the entire family stranded on the island as our kids will need to go back to Canada for school.

But I am tempting to tour the city/town ourselves ...

As for Key West, if we take the trolley tour, I would like to know how long is the trolley tour ? Our schedule is from noon to 8pm.
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Old 10-27-2011, 11:12 AM   #11
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I know in Nassau, you are probably a 15 minute taxi ride away from the port for most tourist attractions in town. So the risk is minimal IMHO if you allow at least an hour slack in your schedule.

If seeing the historical sights are attractive to you, and your kids can walk, it is a very walkable city. Get a tour book from the library and hit the pavement!
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Old 10-27-2011, 11:13 AM   #12
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Does the trolley tour also visit Hemingway's house ?
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Old 10-27-2011, 11:18 AM   #13
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Nassau: 8am to 6pm
Yes, my kids can walk for probably 2 hours then the 11 year old will begin to complain (the 14 year old is fine) !

Questions:
- Is there any Tourist Kiosk at the port of call ?
- How safe is the taxi ? Do they ambush tourists ?
- What's the name of the tourist attraction 15 minutes from the port of call ? Is it Downtown Nassau ?
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Old 10-27-2011, 12:12 PM   #14
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At nassau you dock in the middle of the historic town more or less. Atlantis was the 15 minutes away tourist attraction. Probably 3 miles, but there could be traffic. The historic stuff in old town is within a mile I believe, so 15-20 minutes walking.

Not sure about tourist kiosk. I bet there is one, but never used it.

Safety - I don't think taxi-jacking is a big problem there but you may want to check on cruisecritic.com to see if there are any reports. There is a taxi stand right outside the cruise terminal, which is generally the best place to avoid renegade taxis most places I have been.
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Old 10-27-2011, 12:13 PM   #15
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As for Key West, if we take the trolley tour, I would like to know how long is the trolley tour ? Our schedule is from noon to 8pm.
Key West Tours & Attractions | Old Town Trolley Tours® of Key West
This will probably answer your questions about the Trolley Tour .
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Old 10-27-2011, 12:13 PM   #16
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Does the trolley tour also visit Hemingway's house ?
Both go by Hemmingways House close to the Southernmost Point photo op. Either the Trolley tour or the Conch Train run about 1 1/2 hours. I prefer the Conch Train as it has a more open feel. With kids along it is one of the few family oriented activities in KW. My DW and I have been there 18 times since '03 and just walk everywhere. A 10x20 block area encompasses most of Old Town.
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Old 10-27-2011, 02:15 PM   #17
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Hi all again,

Thanks again.

OK, I feel safe taking a cab from the taxi stand, does anyone know how to get back to the port of call from the historic town in Nassau ? Is there a taxi stand there ? My first concern (on the way back from the historic town to the port) is to avoid hopping onto a "taxi" that drove me to a no mans land and rob us, let alone taxi jacking.

For KW, I will read the link provided.

It's also good to know the Trolley tour and the Conch Train. I will definitely walk that 10x20 block area in the Old Town.

LS
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Old 10-27-2011, 05:47 PM   #18
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After checking out the KW link, and tourist attractions of KW, I don't think I have enough time to see attractions around stop #1, let alone 11 other trolley stops.

From noon to 8pm is just not enough time to see KW !

LS
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Old 10-28-2011, 11:33 AM   #19
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We've cruised quite a bit. If you buy the ship tours they are wildly overpriced but guaranteed not to miss the ship. What we've found is that any place that has cruise ships docking has a whole industry set up for tourism. There are ALWAYS similar and much cheaper alternatives to ship tours, usually right off the dock. They all want your business. We took cabs and local trains in Italy this summer with no problems (and we got to see a bunch more than the regimented ship tours).

My experience is that you should just allow a lot of slack time. We've never been close to missing a ship. For a noon-8pm docking, I would get off and take a few hour tour right away. Then use the remaining time for walking around, shopping etc. So you should always have plenty of time to get back.

There are some great web sites out there (such as cruisecritic.com) that go into substantial detail about each port. With the information online it's hard to screw it up.
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Old 10-28-2011, 12:30 PM   #20
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Thanks Surfdaddy !

I need input from everyone, please:

Ports of call:
Key West: Noon to 8pm
Nassau: 8am to 6pm
Freeport: 8am to 5pm

Key West:
- Off the cruise ship immediately as soon as she docks.
- Walked around Trolley stop #1 which already has lots of tourist attractions (museums, aquarium ...)
- Then walk to Trolley stop #5 to see Hemingways house.
- Then walk back to Trolley stop #1 by 7pm to board the cruise.
- If we have more time, we will walk from Trolley stop #1 to #2 ... #5 and back.
(I, at the moment, have no idea what other tours are available in Key West except Trolley Tour and Conch Train).

Nassau:
- Get off the cruise ship at 8am
- Hop on to a cab (taxi stand) to historic place (COULD SOMEONE LET ME KNOW WHAT THIS PLACE IS CALLED ? DOWNTOWN NASSAU ? WHAT'S THE NAME OF IT)
- Could someone also let me know how much time to spend in this "historic place" ?
- Any other places to see in Nassau ?
- At 4pm, take the cab (supposingly 15 minutes ride) back to the dock (We don't want to miss the cruise ship and get stranded in Nassau).

Freeport: No plan yet (no clue) !

Please comment, thank you !

LS
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