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One of the best places you could possibly vacation is on a cruise that takes you to this truly delightful tropical destination. At first glance the island of Coco Cay seems to be a great sandy rock. It is also true that spending time on a big sandy rock such as this may well be the perfect antidote to your daily grind!
The lovely aquamarine waters that populate your Caribbean dreams surround this serene location! The waters are quite shallow and only smaller vessels can venture forth to shore.
Portions of the island feature the same gentle lapping surf we have come to expect from most Caribbean beaches. However, locations around the island differ widely. Some parts are green with light foliage; other parts are filled with scrub brush and a large part is given over to volcanic rock both exotic and treacherous. Guests are encouraged to stay within the certified areas. If you are so inclined it does take around 45 minutes to circumnavigate the shoreline.
There is really quite a variety of wildlife to be found. One notices an abundance of crabs skittering across the embankments even as tenders (small transport craft) approach the dock. Some huge iguanas reside here (4 feet or more) but you’ll have to stalk carefully even to glimpse them. Fish leap above the surface without notice. A goodly number of seabirds stop over on their journey. There are only a few pelicans but there is a population of flycatchers as you might expect. Certainly sandpipers can be found here as well. Wherever there are things to scavenge there are also seagulls and this place is no exception; in fact these gulls are quite large! For some reason there is also a quantity of roosters and hens on the island. You will hear them scratching about and crowing in the underbrush. From time to time, according to nature’s law, an enormous quantity of jellyfish will take over the deeps creating a general nuisance.
Most of the island's center is given over to undeveloped scrub area. A good deal of construction has been underway. Common areas have been dramatically improved for all and includes lodging for the small, full time staff. As on most developing islands it is the construction road that provides interior access. One particular family has maintained a residence here for some while and their home can be seen amidst the foliage from off shore. Like most homes in the tropics the roof is fabricated to collect rainwater and to channel it into storage areas.
The island succeeds brilliantly as a tropical playground.
What can you do here? Well, there is parasailing. There is snorkeling. There are wave runners to rent. There are diving excursions. There is sunning, beach combing, volley ball and a variety of hosted activities. Cool tropical frozen concoctions and plenty of attractive bodies strolling about under the hot sun (in beach wear). Of course there are always a few guys wearing Speedos (and black socks) making this a true beach experience!
You’ll probably want to check it out for yourself!
Bone Island! 'Cayo Hueso' (pronounced 'kah-ya WAY-so') that was the name given to Key West by the first settlers (apparently they found a quantity of bones). Key West began its' history as a military base as early as 1821 when the location was instrumental in the battle against piracy.
Key West today is perhaps a better example of the American paradise than the Virgin Islands and indeed a great deal closer to home.
Although initially becoming useful as a naval base, the city has grown in stature and in size. It has survived pirates, smugglers, bootleggers, and even a shaggy independence. When Henry Flagler established the overseas highway in the early 20th century by connecting together a number of causeways, he provided America at large with access to Key West. The military still holds sway over some areas though recent downsizing has decreased its' presence. A good deal of military land has been given over to local government. Recent off shore development (Sunset Key) has become a getaway for the rich and famous. Many luxury cruise liners visit Key West each week.
This is a very casual location. Shop doors are opened wide. Music wafts from every doorway. Few suits and ties can be glimpsed. Additionally, there are a great many 'street' performers along the sidewalks. Indeed the daily sunset gathering at Mallory Square (a centrally located city park along the sea wall) is a compendium of street performers that includes everything from trained domestic cats to straight jacketed escape artists.
Earnest Hemmingway, Robert Frost and 'Tennessee' Williams are just a few of the many prominent literary icons to have had a presence on the key. It is the home of the Audubon house. Film star Kelly McGillis operates her own restaurant (Kelly's Hangar). Presidents have maintained something of a tropical version of Camp David in the vicinity often referred to as the 'little White House'. Numerous human interest events are held each month. Visit Key West on the web for up to date information ( www.keywest.com ).
Some say that this is the city of bars! Indeed there are so many bars that even local t-shirts say: "So many bars, so little time". It is the home of the Mel Fisher museum. There you can view a display of gold bullion discovered during the excavation of the shipwrecked Spanish galleon 'Atocha'. The more you leave the docks behind, the more you'll discover Key West's hidden treasures. There are many fine art shops featuring sculptures and unique paintings. Streets are rather narrow but packed! There are numerous cigar store fronts. Of course, Jimmy Buffett maintains his famous 'Margaritaville'.
Altogether it is a rather sleepy village. It is still less than two miles wide and that will never change. It is also the American city closest to Cuba being a scant 90 miles to the north. The city never takes itself too seriously. There are many female impersonators and many politically affiliated web sites. The Conch Tour Train circles the city acquainting visitors with the many historical sites of note (too numerous to recant here). If you want to taste a bit of tropic Americana, this destination is for you!
There are perhaps seven hundred Bahamian islands. The first settlers began colonizing these islands around the 9th century and appear to have come from South America. Bahamas in the 17th century was the domain of pirates who hid among the many bays and inlets to avoid detection.
Perhaps the most famous pirate was Edward Teach (aka 'Blackbeard'). A very large man made even more imposing when he would weave flax into his beard and set it ablaze! As far back as July of 1742 the island was being fortified with the building of Fort Montague. In 1787 the construction of Fort Charlotte began with 104 workers and was completed in only two years. Fort Charlotte was instrumental to the British in the war of 1812. The fort was carved into solid stone and remains an amazing feat. As a British colony the Bahamas served the empire well.
Events after the American revolutionary war generated great interest in the island chain. Loyalists brought their slaves here to grow cotton. In the 1950's, when Cuba ceased to be a favored tourist destination, the Bahamas readily took up the slack! In 1973 the islands became independent from Britain yet retained the Queen as head of state.
Nassau is located on the island of New Providence and is the governmental seat of this island nation.
Nassau has evolved into a truly popular tourist destination. Just off the north east shore is the tiny and lovely Paradise Island, home to the famous aquarium and casino. Access to that Island from the mainland is achieved by the equally famous Paradise Island bridge. If you prefer, a water taxi can be had for a small sum. You can always fly in via the famous Chalk's airline seaplane whose terminal is located on resort property. As you can see there is a great deal of fame to be found here!
Like many Caribbean nations the Bahamas once had a large slave population administered by the British monarchy. Each year Bahamian slaves would be granted some little reprieve in the week between Christmas and the New Year. Modest decorations of newspaper and palm leaves eventually gave way to the very colorful 'Junkanoo' costumes and festival the Island enjoys today. Indeed on New Providence alone there are at least 17 separate associations or cultures affiliated with 'Junkanoo'.
New Providence Island features many a statue and park dedicated to one valued administrator or another. It was in the mid 1930's that Prince George declined the crown of England enabling him to marry American divorce' Wallace Simpson. Georges' brother Phillip assumed the throne and Prince George came to the Bahamas where he was installed as regional governor (hence the Prince George Warf and the Prince George Harbor). The Royal Family continues to appear on this nation's currency.
Much of the best to be seen in Nassau is located some distance from the Prince George Warf. Nassau is a very busy and noisy port of call often hosting 6 or more cruise ships simultaneously. The Island features a great variety of colorful flowers. The water is for the most part pristine wherever the shoreline may take you. Horse drawn carriages or 'surreys' are evident and can be easily engaged for a trip around the city.
A recent improvement in the port area includes a very colorful shopping and tourist center located at the pier entrance. The Straw Market has been a fixture of this tropical city for many years, unfortunately it was destroyed by fire in the Fall of 2001. Despite great effort (and a good deal of hand wringing) the market could not be saved. Planning is in motion to recreate the Straw Market in a building adjacent to the pier.
At this writing Bahamian and American dollars are exchanged 1 to 1.
Bahamian traditions include 'conch salad'. Meat from the many conch (pronounced 'konk') shells seen along distant shores is minced together with red and green peppers, tomato and onion. It is seasoned with lime and scotch bonnet and orange to produce a spicy, satisfying dish always served raw. Hair braiding has become a local cottage industry and tourists often return to the ship and even to home sporting the Bo Derek look from the movie'10'.
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