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Great Snorkeling on a Dime on the Disney Magic - (Western Caribbean)
By Tom Ryan

If you’re still on the proverbial fence as to whether or not a Disney Cruise is for you, let me begin with a little test:

- Do you have children?

- Are you yourself a kid at heart?

- When times are tough, have you ever found yourself saying: “Just keep swim-ming. Just keep swim-ming...” or: “Faith, trust, and pixie dust”?

- Have you ever wondered why Mickey’s ears stay in one place as his head turns while watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Playhouse Disney?

- Are you interested in seeing outstanding theatrical productions, eating all you can eat at a late-night pirate buffet, or taking a dip in the crystal blue waters of a secluded private Bahamian island?

If you answered “Yes” to two or more of the above, stop wondering – a Disney cruise is for you. This review, though, isn’t a critique of the Disney Cruise Line; this is for those lucky Donald Ducks who already know they’re going on a Disney Cruise, but want to know where they can have some exciting but inexpensive water fun at each of the ports of call on the Disney Magic’s Western Caribbean itinerary.

Key West:

Somewhere south of Miami and north of Cuba lays the eclectically tropical Key West. Known locally as the “Conch Republic,” this highly spirited island has a flavor all its own, and has inspired the likes of Jimmy Buffett and Ernest Hemingway; once you’re here, it’s easy to see why. You have a lot of options at Key West, from visiting Mel Fisher’s treasure museum to getting a drink and a burger at the famed Sloppy Joe’s or Hog’s Breath. If you’re like me, however, those indulgences are best appreciated after a good snorkel at Fort Zachary Taylor.

Constructed in the mid-eighteen hundreds, Fort Zachary Taylor figured prominently in both the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Today, the Fort makes up an 87-acre park brimming with nature trails and bike paths. Right off the beach, however, is an underwater paradise filled with parrot fish and coral. What are you waiting for? Dive in!

Upon disembarking the boat, catch a cab for a short ride to the Fort, which lies at the Southern end of, aptly-named, Southard Street. Currently, the admittance fee is $6 for two people, and fifty cents for each additional person. This is a bargain for a great little snorkel spot located right on one of Key West’s very few beaches.Once there, take some time to explore the fort, and then head to the beach. Just off the shore are a few rocky breakwaters. These are the areas where tropical critters congregate. You can now rent snorkel equipment here – but I advise buying your mask, snorkel, and fins before you leave, thus having them at your disposal for all your ports of call. A note of caution; I’ve snorkeled here when the water has gotten pretty swift, flowing perpendicular to the shore, so keep an eye on young ones and inexperienced swimmers if the conditions call for it. Also, pack a pair of underwater shoes for all in your party, as the bottom is rocky.

Photo above - author Tom Ryan

After your snorkel, head back to the boat and get cleaned up before heading back to Key West for shopping and exploring. Disney Cruise line’s portage is particularly convenient, as the ship is docked near the western end of Duvall Street. In the evening, make sure to catch the sunset and street performances at Mallory Square.

Grand Cayman:

Christopher Columbus first spotted the Cayman Islands on his final westward voyage in 1503, calling them Las Tortugas in honor of the numerous sea turtles which called the islands home.

In 1586 Sir Francis Drake turned around and dubbed them the “Caymans” after the Spanish word for alligator. In truth, no alligators live here; in fact, the island is devoid of any naturally-occurring freshwater for the scaled creatures to live in.

Continue to page 2 of Disney Cruise - Great Snorkeling on a Dime, Grand Cayman

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