An October 2002 trip
to Key West by kjlouden
Quote: We docked at the U. S. Navy Yard ahead of hurricane Lili--or had we? I couldn't wait to return to Hemingway's acre by the lighthouse, and I was anxious to find Tortuga rum cake. Scrap the tours; we could find our way. After all, Hemingway found that lighthouse drunk!
Tuesday morning we walked to Hemingway’s house, for my companion was determined to correct the injustice that I had visited this site before and he hadn’t. Next party, he’d tell the story of the author in Key West! We hurried down Whitehead Street passing Truman’s Little White House and Audubon House and after about 5 blocks, arrived at the corner of Olivia.
Secluded garden benches offer clues to why Hemingway was happy and his most productive here for 11 years. On the porch that surrounds the house on both stories, the jungle is a solid wall. Frank Lloyd Wright would have approved of the intrusion of the outdoors inside, of the study and bedroom up in the banyan trees, open Spanish doors admitting the sea breeze.
A cruise is a good way to see Key West, since flights and hotels are so expensive. Like all the ships, Fascination allots only 5 hours to Key West, so planning is essential. Walking back to the ship is impossible, since passengers are not allowed to walk across the U. S. Navy Yard, but the ship provides transportation.
The Visitor's Info booth and ticket booth for the Conch Train and tour buses are at Mallory Square, and free street maps with all attractions of Key West. An interesting option is the ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park, but this is not for cruise ship passengers with only a few hours. Info on the ferry is at the Visitor's Information booth.
When walking is not an option, trolley drivers narrate a good story of the history of the town, and the open-air trollies let you get a little closer than a closed bus to the unique local tapestry.
The good news for bike riders is that traffic was not heavy on Whitehead. My friend and I were really disappointed that it was starting to rain, so that we didn't rent bikes. Motor scooters are also popular around town, and the rental on Whitehead has scooters as well as bicycles.
Hotel | "Fascination, a Carnival Ship"
Our excellent room steward made up for in service what we lacked in decor. Not once did I have to dry my hair with a towel that had been used for any other purpose. Every single time I washed my face to remove suntan oil, it was with a clean washcloth. Our room was cleaned twice every day, whether it needed it or not, and Richard even neatly folded our clothes when we had to run off in a hurry to be on time for dinner.
I think our sheets got changed with each turn-down each evening--and Richard knew how to make a sheet so tight the military would approve. (The quarter would surely bounce.) We saw these crispy sheets every night when we returned from dinner, along with mints on the pillows and delightful "stuffed" (towel) animals. This was most amusing: the men (yes, the men) loved these creatures and took pictures of them, as you can see here.
We had opted for an interior room because we thought we'd be outside most of the time and because it was such an outstanding value, but we discovered an unexpected bonus in our room without a view. We actually slept until 10:00 am. the first morning. No light, you see, so we didn't know it was time to get up. At home, I wake with the sun and never set an alarm, even when I have to be at work at 8:00 am. On this vacation, I would have been up at the crack of dawn if there had been a window, and that would have been unfortunate, because I had arrived already exhausted. We had visited relatives in Florida, had flown there on a difficult itinerary, and had then taken the train on to Miami. So we magically crossed ourselves and got what was good for us in spite of ourselves. I will choose an interior room again and enjoy the extra rejuvenation.
The last day of the cruise, everybody must get up for departure, so we pushed a code listed on the phone to get our wake-up call. The service is there, I expect, for people with interior rooms.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 7, 2002
Fascination - a Carnival Ship
Key West, Florida
The Sensation dining room on the ship Fascination may not be the best gourmet
restaurant, but they deserve awards for the quality of dinners they turn out in huge numbers and surprising variety. The ship, with only 2 formal dining rooms, accomodates over 2,200 passengers with a different menu every night and an extravagant midnight buffet.
My favorite soups were cold apple with curry (and chunks of apple), asparagus vichyssoise, pumpkin, strawberry/banana with mint, and Caribbean bean. For main courses, I didn’t miss sampling the beef Wellington or the chateaubriand, thanks to my beef-loving companion, but I relished my own seafood choices: salmon grilled to perfection with tropical chutney; lobster tail, not huge, but a second serving was offered; and fabulous coquilles St. Jacques, presented as a deep dish with extra white sauce over green vegetables, the plate rimmed with mashed potatoes piped all around and broiled to crusty brown peaks. The scallops were tender.
Tantalizing desserts were beautifully displayed with drizzles and sauces. I make bread pudding with whiskey sauce, cherries jubilee with kirsch, and Key Lime Pie with meringue. These are my great recipes from Southern Living, and I refuse to admit that any are better, but the Sensation’s were just as good. I say this to respond to a "review" at another site that denounced the ship’s desserts, saying that anyone with a good cookbook could whip up something better. This talk is generated by people who don’t want to dress up and so dine at the grills. It’s too bad that some believe it and miss the value.
The last night everyone was served baked Alaska, a little disappointing with whipped cream instead of meringue and the crust or cake layer very thin or omitted. But the ship’s kitchen turned out perhaps 2,000 servings of baked Alaska that night, so I forgave them for skipping the broiler step. The Alaska was an extra, second dessert.
With the midnight buffets, the emphasis was on presentation, not culinary perfection, but I’ve included pictures so that you can judge for yourself the impressiveness of the display. If you are into presenting food, you may get a few ideas. We were made aware that this display required 200 man-hours and were invited early for photos.
Our waiters were excellent. Gede is from Indonesia, and his assistant is Vietnamese. Both were attentive and congenial, and when they were required to sing for us in Italian and to dance Caribbean with fruit on their heads, they did so gleefully. Perhaps we benefitted because only four people showed up each night at our table for 8. Perhaps the missing four dined at the Coconut Grove, oblivious to what they were missing.
Carnival Ship Fascination
Key West, Florida
The store does have rum cakes: original flavor, banana, chocolate, coffee, and perhaps a few more. Coffee is the best, I decided, after tasting them all, so why isn't the coffee-flavored rum cake in the pre-packaged variety six pack? I decided on two six packs, anyway, since I could have 12 little cakes that way to put in Christmas baskets or bring out for a treat when company stops by. Company already stopped, so I opened one and found it would serve two people and could use some sauce. Next time, I'll buy some rum, too! Still, the cakes are moist and delicious.
The store has a little more than rum cakes: caribbean rum sauces of all kinds, hot pepper jellies, rum fudge, Tortuga coffees, Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, Tortuga Rum Plum Pudding, and even Tortuga Rum Fever Cook Book and more. Everything is available for tasting, and since the shop is recommended by the cruise companies, tasting is crowded. People were rubbing elbows and having a good time.
Discounts (10%) are given to cruise customers, and that makes this store's goodies 10% cheaper than they are on the ship. The lady at the cash register claimed that cruise customers were "easy to spot," but that was after I had identified myself as a passenger. I ended up paying only $26.00 each for the six packs. Larger cakes are $12 and up before discount.
Tortuga Rum Company, Ltd. has a website where one can shop: www.tortugarums.com
The site has a link to Cayman Islands Turtle Farm, another big attraction for cruise tours.
Tortuga Rum Cake Company
431 Front St
Key West, Florida 33040
Attraction | "Hemingway House"
There is much of Pauline in the house: her tile collection, her custom-made cabinetry, her dressing-table porcelain. But the souvenirs of Ernest’s travels are more interesting. The headboard is from a monastery in Spain, originally a gate. There are also a 17-Century walnut Deacon’s Bench from a Spanish monastery, carved wooden African figures in the bedroom, Indian mirrors, Venetian hand-blown glass, an antique bottle safe (a bottle can be locked up in it), Cuban tile in one bathroom with a giant incense burner, a ceramic cat given to Ernest by Pablo Picasso, and the list goes on to describe a life on the inside of the art world. Hemingway is famous among literary critics for his knack for being in the right place at the right time. So were the others there, but Ernest seemed to gobble up the living with more flair. That’s the attraction of the house on Whitehead Street.
I had visited the home before in 1972, and I remembered that the tour guide then had mentioned that Ernest had brought from India the giant Banyan tree in the front yard. A ship’s captain gave him the first of his six-toed cats. And "Sloppy Joe," owner of his favorite bar, gave him the tiled urinal Ernest said he had put so much money down Joe ought to give it to him. (That’s what the cats drink from.) So, I got the picture that the writer didn’t like to have to let go of things familiar to him. The mementos of his remarkable living fill the house and the garden with interest. I left the home wondering how a man who loved living so much could shoot himself, and I remembered the
assessment of the biographer who knew him best. A. E. Hotchner in Papa
Hemingway suggests that dehydration drove him mad, a result of his being lost on the equator in Africa with nothing to drink but a bottle of gin. I subscribe to that argument.
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
907 Whitehead Street
Key West, Florida 33040
West Virginia, United States