As part of our trip throughout the Caribbean, we spent ten days onboard Explora Journeys and it was an all-inclusive five-star resort at sea. The first port of call was Key West, Florida.
My travel agency earned a complimentary cruise with Explora Journeys but we have also purchased several more tickets because we love the product. This trip report traces that journey taken in late November 2023.
Trip Report Table Of Contents
- Miami: Kimpton Epic
- Explora Journeys
- Key West, Florida
- Sea Days
- Spanish Town, British Virgin Islands (Virgin Gorda)
- St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda
- Deshaies, Guadeloupe
- Gustavia, St Barth’s
- Basseterre, St. Kitt’s and Nevis
- Castries, St. Lucia
- Bridgetown, Barbados
A Familiar Stop
We try to winter in Florida when the fates align and as such we have made our way to Key West on a handful of occasions. We love the time capsule charm of the spot. I am particularly captivated by Hemingway’s time on the island after he returned from Europe and before his time in Cuba where both his writing and his personal life were in decline.
Key West captures the island vibe of the Caribbean with an old-world Floridian charm that isn’t replicated anywhere else. It feels like the opposite of Art Deco Miami Beach or modern Miami today. We love it there and while I wouldn’t usually cheer a stop so close to our Miami departure point, any time I can get to Key West without a 4-5 hour drive from Southwest Florida, I welcome it.
A New Discovery
We were traveling with my sister-in-law, her mother, and her daughter as well as my family of four and some friends. My sister-in-law wanted to take our daughters to the Hemingway House and while I love it there, I have been many times before. With Frankie too small to understand or appreciate it, my wife and I opted to take our son across the street to a Kimpton I have never seen before.
A series of one and two-story cottages, the Kimpton Key West Lighthouse Hotel was exactly what I’d expect from the brand. It was small, local, boutique, and every bit the Key West experience.
Meandering through the tree-lined pathway, we arrived at a central pool and the hotel’s bar and restaurant, Isabel’s. We asked if we could sit awhile and enjoy the weather ordering a couple of Coca-Colas, the first order of the day around 11 AM.
The Kimpton welcomed us to dip our toes in the water and though we were not hotel guests, they wouldn’t have batted an eye if we chose to swim. I’m not sure if it’s encouraged officially, but the staff could not have been kinder or more welcoming. Our son, Frankie, loves the water and relished the chance to soak up the sun and splash a bit.
I’m not sure when we will be back to Key West, but there’s no question that we will absolutely stay at the Kimpton Key West Lighthouse Hotel on our next visit. To that end, after staying in a couple of Kimptons recently and using the new IHG One Rewards program, I have moved from one of its staunchest critics to mildly impressed with the program and confident about its stewardship of premium brands.
An Old Favorite
Did you even visit Key West if you didn’t have conch fritters? Probably not. I know they are mostly fried dough balls, but the dips add an element, and when in Rome, do as the Romans do. They are easy to share, reasonably priced, and satisfying. When we stop in Key West, we visit The Conch Shack on Duval. It’s in the heart of everything and close to the pier as well.
Our day stop in Key West saved us from driving the distance on the beautiful, but slow, oversea highway and gave us a taste of a place we have long loved. It was great to revisit old favorites and discover new ones before our next trip.
What do you think?