Thursday, January 30, 2014

A road trip......The beautiful Florida keys!

We're in-between cruises right now and we decided to try something a little different.....
so we had the bright idea of taking a road trip to Key West!  It was a 4 day marathon, and worth every minute! 

It looked like an easy drive.....scoot down interstate 75, hang a left on the Tammi trail, zip across the state, and make a right on U.S. 1.....We could drive south on 75 in our sleep, but I hadn't been on the Tammi trail in 20 years....I remember Indian villages, lots of Alligators, and of course the wonderful views of the Everglades....I was not disappointed!  Our first stop was Everglades city, due to a hour long delay.....
The city hall.....quite impressive for a small town in the middle of the Glades!

The Everglades community church, built in 1926.....and survived numerous hurricanes!

We walked along the waterfront, and took in the views...

After a stop at the Everglades information center, the road was reopened and we we're off!

It was fun to drive down through the keys, and enjoy all the sights

Giant lobster at entrance to Rain Barrel Village in the Florida Keys
Like the Giant Lobster along the road

Florida Keys tiki bars: The sign for Lorelei in Islamorada
Or Sirens of the seas, inviting you in....

The Chiki Tiki  Bar was a wonderful place to stop and have a late lunch....

Florida Keys tiki bars: The Chiki Tiki at Burdines Marina

We finally made it to our resort.....just in time for the sunset....

Refreshed after a nights sleep, we headed down to Key west....What a glorious drive!

The old Flagler railway of it are used as fishing piers, and then some areas have been turned into bike trails
Photo of The Overseas Highway

The end of the overseas highway!

Finally!! We arrived in Key West!  Parking is a bitch! After driving around a very crowded Duval Street,  (there were 3 Cruise Ships in port!), hitting roadblocks for crowd control, and tearing our hair out, we found a free parking spot about 5 blocks from Duval street, and away we went! Our first stop was for Donuts....I know...I know...but we were starved! and this place had great reviews on trip adviser.....The donuts lived up to the great reviews and they were AMAZING!

Handmade, and I had the caramel glazed, with sea salt.....Yummy!

                    We hopped on the city trolley, for a ride around the town, just to get our bearings......
                                       The architecture is amazing, and I loved the variety of colors...

Big white houses with wrap around porches

This is called the octagon house, it has 8 sides 
and a picket fence 

Even minarets and cute little lamp posts.... 

Higgs beach.....Did you know that there are no natural beaches in the keys?? 
all the sand has to be trucked in....

We made it to the southernmost point in the continental USA!

shopped in the southernmost gift shop

not sure where JFK slept!

The old harbor

and an art deco Movie theater

complete with Marilyn Monroe!

Even saw the most decorated Coast Guard cutter ever!
the USCGC Ingham...circa 1934

Florida keys discovery center was pretty neat, designed for families, it had lots of hands on exhibits, and was FREE...yes people....FREE

                                     The entrance to Fort Zachary state park.  A bargain at $2.50 pp

Of course we cant forget the Quirky Bars!

The ever popular Gas station, turned bar

The first Sloppy Joe's bar

Which moved down the street during Hemingway's time

The B.O. bar, so named, because it gets sooooo hot in the summer! ( would be my first choice...NOT)

and my personal favorite as it had 2-1 drink coupons!  What could be better than that!

I present the Key West Amber!
Ice cold and sooooo good!

it even had it's own aquarium, and cool breezes to boot!

lots of street art

Michael said he ran into one of his old girlfriends!

A lot of people were using this mode of transportation....however he doesn't look to ambitious to me!
He's in Key West mode.... 

I much prefer this shady spot, with the ever present Roosters....

someone once said.......

So we did.....and they were awesome! somewhat spicy with flecks of Jalapenos
hot and delicious! 

The conch shack is right on Duval   fritters are 3 for $5 bucks.....and the lobster roll is $12, and worth every penny!

Soon we had to bid adieu to Key west and wander home is where the heart is....

We had our last breakfast at the waffle house....OK, I know what you're thinking.....the Waffle house...?? Really??

It's a wonderful end to a quaint and Quirky vacation!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Caribbean Adventure on the Legend of the seas

The Legend of the Seas, is one of the smallest ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet.  Small is a relevant term though.  The ship is....
867 feet long  105 feet wide
70,000 tons
11 stories high
carries 2067 passengers and 720 crew members
I guess it isn't so small.......grin

We started our trip in the wee hours of the morning, we saw the sun rise as we drove though Tampa! As I am a late riser usually, this was the first sunrise I have seen in years!

5 hours later we had parked the car, hopped on a shuttle, checked in, and were seated at the schooner bar for our traditional welcome aboard drink!

I can't imagine starting a cruise without  a health drink......I give you the Bloody Mary!

 After our drink, we wandered around the ship to try and get our bearings. The pool deck was already crowded with sun bathers, even though the temp was in the 60' cold for this southern gal!

                           The Centrum was lovely and completely remodeled after the recent dry dock.

I loved the glass elevators

The Centrum bar was a great place to sit in the afternoon and have a drink, while listening to the music, or giggling, watching the dance class!

The new decor was comfortable and conducive to conversation. It was a great place to sit after dinner, as there were small 15 min shows by the Royal singers, or the acrobats...

It is as beautiful at night, as it is during the day!

I took this picture of the casino, before it officially opened for business...It was always full of action when the ship was at sea! 

Our room was pretty small, and after one night of crawling out the bottom of the bed I had a chat with the room steward, and we rearranged the room!

Much better now that the bed is centered and has 2 side tables, know a girl has to have a table next to the bed for all her things!

Royal Caribbean is famous for its Viking crown lounge, and this one was a humdinger. It also was remodeled during dry dock, and 2 restaurants were added, Chops, and left only a small area for the crown lounge, but it was modern, with a martini bar, and new furniture to sit in while gazing out at the sea.

As Diamond plus members, we have the pleasure of Cocktails and Hors D'oeuvres in the Concierge lounge. 
which by the way, was also newly remodeled, with beautiful views from picture windows

One of the days, I was lucky enough to see a crew lifeboat drill, and the actually put the lifeboat in the water!

It was fun for me, as I had never seen this, and I had a chance to talk with the crew...

Our first port, Tortola, BVI

It was cloudy and overcast, but despite the clouds, it was a beautiful Island

Our ship looks Magnificent, as viewed from the beach!
I wanted to jump in the little boat and go fishing.....

But I chose to go shopping instead! These colorful shops were filled with little treasures,but I mostly enjoyed chatting with the local women..

One of them steered us to this local eatery, and we enjoyed a Soda....yes really...a Soda.. and surfed the web for free...

The weather was perfect to sit outside and enjoy the Caribbean breezes

Bassetterre St Kitts
Not only was our room small, but here we are on the right, next to the explorer of the seas! This ship is 2 sizes bigger than us, and there are still 2 larger ships in Royals fleet!  I guess you could call us a baby royal!

I loved this picture, this little shopping area was full of local color!

The streets were crowded with tourists

and there was a carnival atmosphere,
lots of music, and this guy danced!

Now this guy was interesting! I wonder what the free gift was?
any guesses??

Roseau Dominica!

We decided to take a taxi tour from Roseau
We hopped in a van with 3 other couples and for $15 we had a 2.5 hour trip up into the rain forest!
When looking for a tour, don't be afraid to bargain, The first tours near the dock, were 25-30$ pp, the further away we walked, the price was less. We loved this little tour!

It was sunny as we drove up into the mountains

As we neared the rain forest, to view Trafalgar falls, it got darker and more ominous... 

Walking into the sulfur hot springs, the rain started and the ground was muddy.

The springs were spectacular, and very odoriferous!

Near the springs was a small shopping area, and we spotted an old woman frying plantains for sale to the tourists....looked yummy, but we passed!

Had a local beer was ice cold, and just what we needed to wet our whistle!

Michael's favorite spot on the Promenade deck!
It was a beautiful place to sit and see the water and feel the breeze....

The spa pool was relaxing, shady, and very close to the Park cafe..the best food on the ship! I don't have any pictures, cause I was to busy eating!

My review of the Legend of the seas
Embarkation..... was a breeze, took only about 5 minutes to check in
Ship................. had recently been in dry dock, and was beautifully redone. A outdoor movie screen was
                         also added, The ship was small, but very easy to walk and find all the venues
Service............ excellent
Dining areas.....  The dining room meals were beautifully presented, but the fare was just ordinary
                          Park cafe, was open for breakfast and Lunch. We enjoyed the hand carved sandwiches,                               and make your own salad bar. We were never disappointed
                          The windjammer was the only venue open on port days, for lunch. The food there was                                  uninspiring and usually overcooked. The salad bar was always fresh, and the potato salad
                           was just like my mothers.....delicious!
Chops.............   Excellent!
Room..............   We had an inside cabin, and it was small. There was ample amt of storage space, and we                             felt comfortable.
Entertainment...   Was very good. The singers and dancers were excellent.
Disembarkation.  Was amazing! we were off the ship, and had picked up our car by 8:15.

All in all, I would recommend this ship. If you need a large room, you will have to upgrade to a large window view. The service is excellent, and the ship immaculate.