I give in. I'll take a stab at upgrading this tip since someone has decided to rate it daily.
I recommend the Fast Cat for it's cleanliness, timeliness and the capable staff. I found it superior to one of the slower boats on a number of points but most simply because it afforded us more time at our destination. If you are more interested in a slow day of boating my suggestion is to get aboard one of the sunset cruises.
The picnic lunch provided was fresh and enjoyable.
We were fortunate enough to have great dolphin siteings during one of our trips. The Captain let us know via the load speakers where to go onboard to view the dolphin. He handled the boat in a safe and professional manner allowing us to enjoy yet with caution for these wonderful creatures.
"Sunny Days was one of the first companies to become a member of the Dolphin Smart program through the National Marine Sanctuary"
The snorkel equipment was fine, the time in the water well worth it.
Board at 7:30 am for an 8 am start and return at 5pm.
Adults price s about $140
I took the Fast Cat. It goes 27 knots and makes the 70 mile trip in about 2 ½ hours. It was fast and clean and the crew was very friendly and professional. A limited breakfast and a lunch was provided. The fare was $165 as of April 2010. I got a $30 discount because of my military service. There is another larger and slower boat you can take too.
There are currently two ways to get to the Dry Tortugas. You can come by private boat or commercial boat. There are places to anchor nearby but no pier for docking. The old seaplanes are no longer available.
The Yankee Freedom has two decks and plenty of room on the bows for turtle watching. The Fast Cat is smaller and gets there a wee bit quicker. Camping lets you enjoy the quieter time on the island when both ferry boats leave taking up to 100 passengers each back to Key West. If you have the time to camp check with both the NPS and the ferry boat for their regulation/requirements.
Update: Presently the Seaplanes are out of business.
The cheapest way to get to Dry Tortugas is by Catamaran. Boats leave from Key West daily and cost around $90-$100. They usually include snacks and drinks on the boat, snorkeling gear if you don't have any, and a complimentary tour of the Fort. It is a 2 hour boat ride to Dry Tortugas from Key West. Most catamarans usually spend about 4 hours at the park.
We chose to go with the Yankee Freedom company because they were $10 cheaper than the other company, the Fast Cat.
The Yankee Freedom departs Key West at 8am (7:15 day trip boarding - 6:30 camper boarding) from the Historic Seaport. They offer a continental breakfast of fresh fruit, freshly baked bagels, doughnuts, cereal, orange juice, and coffee. It was all very good!
En route to Dry Tortugas National Park a onboard naturalist will give you an orientation about the area and the national park's surroundings.
The boat was air conditioned, had comfortable seats,clean restrooms, fresh water rinse shower, full galley serving snacks, soft drinks, beer, wine, mixed drinks, film, and souveniers.
Children Under 16:$89
This fast catamaran takes two hours to go from Key West to the Dry Tortugas. It takes 100 passengers and leaves at 8:00 am from the foot of Elizabeth Street. They give you breakfast on board, and a packed lunch, a guided tour of the fort and snorkeling gear. You can also use the boat to come to camp on Garden Key. When the sea is rough, some passengers and crew get seasick. They have three separate toilets.
I have been on this boat, and the cabin is A/C and food and drinks are sold on the return journey. The cost for an adult is $129, and a child (4-16 yrs.) is $89.00.
The seaplane office is at Key West International Airport, 3471 Roosevelt Blvd. The plane ride take 40 minutes each way and they take a maximum of 9 people. This is the shortest trip, so if you are prone to motion sickness, this might be the one to take.
I took this trip in 2005. My husband refused to go because he said a single engine was an emergency situation and he wasn't going to start out in an emergency situation. And the seaplane was having a problem on the trip out to pick us up and we had to go back on the ferry.
They provide drinks and snorkeling gear, but you have to bring your own lunch. A half day trip is $179 and allows 2.5 hours at the fort, and a full day is $305 for an adult. Under 2 are free.
They charge more ($329) if you are going camping because your gear weighs more. They only take backpacks - no large coolers or beach chairs.
I have not been on this boat, which was first launched in May 1999. It is the smaller of the two ferries. According to the website, the innovative wave piercing design means a smoother, more pleasant ride. Dramatically fewer people experience motion sickness on catamarans. The "Fast Cat II" is a one-of-a-kind design.
What to expect:
* 2 hours of travel time, each way.
* 4 1/2 hours at Fort Jefferson.
* Continental breakfast upon boarding.
* A tour of the Fort upon arrival.
* Buffet lunch served in the picnic area
* Complimentary soft drinks, water & iced tea throughout the day.
* Snorkel gear.
* Freshwater rinse on board.
After the morning tour, the passengers eat lunch and then they can swim or snorkel.
Trip departs at 8 AM.
Check in no later than 7:30 AM!
Return by 5pm
Children (age 16 and under) $80.00
Seniors (age 62+) Students & Active Military (with valid I.D.) $105.00
Everyone over 16 must also pay a $5 fee for admission to the fort.