A Journey On The Key West Express, Because Getting There Is Half The Fun!
With the roar of the engine and the wake behind me, I began my passage to Key West. The sun was ascending on my port side, and with it, a rise in my excitement level. I was aboard the Key West Express, where exhilaration and tranquility share the spotlight.
But before we move forward, let’s look back. The vessel began letting passengers aboard in 1997. For nearly two decades, locals and seasonal residents alike have been delighting in all the aspects the Key West Express experience allows. The philosopher Plato said necessity is the mother of invention. And thus the idea of this mode of travel from Southwest Florida to Key West came to fruition.
If you were to drive from Fort Myers, where the Key West Express voyage launches, it will take you more than five hours. That’s without any traffic or weather delays. The ride across the water lasts three-and-a-half hours, and it goes by in a blink. Taking the boat will save you hundreds of dollars compared to the cost of a flight to the unique destination. What else makes this method of traveling to Key West extraordinary? It’s what the ship offers that the alternative ways of getting there do not. You can’t get up and walk around casually and comfortably with room to move on a plane, bus or car. On the Key West Express, you can mill around, mingle and share a drink and a view with fellow passengers. It’s interactive, and strangers become friends.
The boat is comprised of three decks with fantastic seating options. They range from couches to barstools to reclining chairs. The lowest deck is completely enclosed and air conditioned. The second floor offers an indoor air conditioned area, as well as outdoor seating which is covered, providing protection from the sun. On the top deck, it’s wide open and presents passengers with a real feel for the speed of the vessel. As if the scenic waters of the Gulf of Mexico weren’t enough to hold my attention, I had access to television, a fully stocked galley, a bar and festive music to keep me company. If they offered foot massages, I might never have gotten off the boat!
So there I was, simultaneously relaxed and invigorated, with not a care in the world. The journey was equally as exciting as the destination. I was not alone in my exuberance. One hundred ninety-four others were along for the ride as well. Among my fellow passengers were locals who just wanted to head down to Key West for a bite, at least two people celebrating birthdays and even a family from Alaska. I thought it was particularly interesting that they were coming from the northernmost region of the country, and they were about to set foot at the southernmost point in the continental U.S. Due to the seasonality of this region, the summer months offer an opportunity for locals and Florida residents to travel without the vessel being at capacity like it often is during the season. From December to April, the number can spike to 450 or more travelers.
I had the privilege to visit the wheelhouse, where the captains are stationed to drive the boat. The conversation we had was informative and entertaining.
Senior Captain Dave Shinn says, “We typically work pretty long days, but seeing the enjoyment on the faces of the passengers makes it all worthwhile.”
The other captain on this day’s voyage was Gordon Young. He relays his thoughts on the work, “You leave your keys in Fort Myers and you get on this boat, and it’s just a good time from the minute you get on. I think it’s a great thing, and I think that’s what people really love most about the boat.”
And that is what it’s all about. A dedicated group of employees working for the Key West Express have a single goal in mind. They strive to ensure passengers enjoy the entirety of the trip.
Miller weighs in, telling me, “All of us at Key West Express consider it our pleasure to host visitors and residents alike as we welcome them aboard our state-of-the-art catamarans. Because our cruise to Key West is such a unique experience, it allows us to become part of those special memories that everyone cherishes.”
I disembarked, meandered along Duval Street and visited some of the local landmarks; the Hemingway House, the Harry S. Truman Little White House, Sloppy Joe’s and the Key West Cemetery. It was hot and humid and the hurried pace I set took its toll. When my time on land was up, my feet hurt and I was exhausted from taking in as much as I could. I couldn’t wait to get back on the Key West Express to feel the wind in my hair and to breathe in the crisp, refreshing salt air. I got back on, took to a couch and recharged my batteries for the ride back to Fort Myers. I chatted with some other passengers, had a drink, thought about when I would book my next trip and was of course, treated to a magical Gulf of Mexico sunset.
To learn more about The Key West Express, visit KeywestExpress.net