FLORIDA KEYS — A free companion airfare offer for Florida Keys vacationers has been extended through Sept. 30, 2010. Visitors who stay in a room for two or more nights at participating Keys accommodations can get a free companion airfare certificate good for future passage on five legacy U.S. airlines.

Keys properties participating in the program are listed at www.fla-keys.com/freeairfare/.

The certificates can be used for a return visit to the Florida Keys or travel anywhere in the continental United States, and must be used within one year of being awarded.

In accordance with Federal Aviation Administration security regulations, airlines collect applicable service fees and taxes directly from certificate holders.

The program is administered by Airline Promotions Inc. For more information, visit www.fla-keys.com.

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A Wreck Trek Passport Program, spotlighting the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail from Key Largo to Key West, now awaits divers visiting the Florida Keys.

Certified divers can explore the destination’s string of sunken vessels and artificial reefs and be awarded for logging back-to-back wreck dives or dives on subsequent visits through Jan. 1, 2012.

Divers taking up the challenge receive an “Official Florida Keys Wreck Trek” logbook upon reserving dive trips with participating dive shops. The dive passport highlights nine shipwrecks from Key Largo to Key West including Spiegel Grove, Duane, Bibb, Eagle, Thunderbolt, Adolphus Busch Sr., Cayman Salvager, Joe’s Tug and Vandenberg, the shipwreck trail’s southernmost addition.

After completing one wreck dive in each district of the Keys, divers receive a personalized collage of Keys wrecks suitable for framing. Upon completing all nine wreck dives, qualifying divers are entered into a drawing for one of several grand prizes including dive equipment and dive-and-stay lodging packages.

Each wreck varies in skill level, and divers are encouraged to contact participating dive operators for information about the wrecks. If divers are not current with their dive training, refresher courses are offered.

For more information about the Wreck Trek Passport Program, visit www.fla-keys.com/diving/wrecktrek.

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A new lodging property, formerly constructed as condominium and townhouse units, has opened in Islamorada. Indigo Bay Hotel, located at 81450 Overseas Highway near mile marker (MM) 81.5, has 25 contemporary cottages — each with two separate upstairs bedrooms, a spacious first-floor living room and full-size kitchen complete with dishwasher, microwave, stove, pots and pans, blender, toaster and tableware for five.

Each two-bedroom unit is large and comfortable. Amenities include either one and one-half or two bathrooms, ample closet space and full furnishings down to the last dish. Units also are equipped with a washer and dryer.

A neighboring 14-slip marina accommodates boats up to 20 feet long, with seasonal rates for launching and trailer storage. Indigo Bay Hotel expects to partner with other area marinas as well.

Nightly rates are expected to start at $250 with a three-night minimum, with weekly or longer reservations available as well.

For more information, call 877-600-0091 or 305-664-0082, or visit www.indigobayhotel.com.

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Through Sept. 6, the History of Diving Museum, located at MM 82.9 bayside in Islamorada, is offering free admission to all active duty military personnel as part of the nationwide Blue Star Museums program.

During tours of the unique museum, visitors come within inches of the earliest diving machines, including a full-scale replica of an all-wood diving bell. The Parade of Nations, an unparalleled collection of historic hard-hat dive helmets from around the world, features helmets from 25 countries presented side by side for close inspection.

Free admission is available to any active duty military personnel and up to five immediate family members including spouses or children. Spouses of deployed military also are eligible.

In addition, the museum has announced that its free ‘”Immerse Yourself” educational series is to continue on the third Wednesday evening of every month through 2011. Upcoming topics include “Breaking Ground as a Female Navy Diver” Aug. 18 and “Adventures in Underwater Exploration” Sept. 15.

More than 800 museums in all 50 states are participating in the Blue Star Museums program, sponsored by Blue Star Families and the National Endowment of the Arts.

The History of Diving Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.divingmuseum.org.

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Sharing the history of Marathon and its surrounding islands by personal watercraft is the focus of SeaMonster Watersports, Marathon’s newest jet ski tour outfit, located at 3390 Gulfview Ave. bayside.

Owner and professional guide Ray Dargis hosts singles, couples and families interested in the historical flavor of the area while having some fun on the water.

During two-hour tours around the island participants can learn how Marathon became a strategic settlement in the Keys, the history behind the Seven Mile Bridge, the influence of railroad tycoon Henry Flagler and the significance of Key Vaca and Pigeon Key. Dargis usually incorporates five to six stops for historical highlights.

The weather-dependent tours depart from the marina behind Keys Fisheries Restaurant & Market, and can either follow the “island tour” under the Seven Mile Bridge, around the Key Vaca flats, Boot Key and Sombrero Beach, or head north to Valhalla sandbar. An “owner’s favorite” tour includes the entire length of the Seven Mile Bridge, with either a bayside or oceanside ride around sights such as Pigeon Key and Money Key, peppered with stops for fun and factoids.

Tours cost $130 per watercraft and carry up to three or four passengers including children. Seasonal specials are available. To book, call 305-743-6541 or e-mail raydar53keys@att.net.

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Dreaming of a destination wedding in Key West? Local event planner We’ve Got the Keys plans to make that dream come true for a lucky couple and 50 guests at the southernmost house in the continental United States.

The prize in We’ve Got the Keys’ Dream Wedding Contest includes a ceremony set for Nov. 11, 2011, at Key West’s elegant Southernmost House, a historic mansion inn on the Atlantic Ocean at 1400 Duval St. The prize includes the ceremony, wedding bands, a catered reception, three nights’ accommodations for the bride and groom at the Southernmost House, a sunset rehearsal sail on Key West’s FURY catamaran, flowers, live music, wedding photography, a reception tent, limousine service and much more.

The contest is free to enter and entries are to be accepted until Jan. 11, 2011. For more information and to enter, visit www.wevegotthekeys.com/winawedding.

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The spooky side of Key West is revealed in the Ghosts & Gravestones “Frightseeing” Tour set to begin July 31 aboard the Old Town Trolley.

The 90-minute tour takes participants past Key West’s scariest sites while a costumed “ghost host” recounts strange but true stories of tragedies, murders, burials, curses and eerie events of all sorts.

Standouts include tales of a bizarre count whose love for a doomed Cuban girl had a grave-robbing twist, a grotto with protective power, the secret past of a popular saloon and a betrayed wife’s death-defying curse. The highlight is a walking tour through Fort East Martello Museum for an exclusive visit with Robert the Doll, a terrifying toy that had a strange bond with a Key West man — and still mystifies ghost-hunters today.

Ghosts & Gravestones tours depart from 501 Front St. at 8 and 9:30 p.m. through Nov. 7, and 6:30 and 8 p.m. from then through March, 2011. Tickets are $30 per person and reservations are required. The tour is rated PG-13 and may not be appropriate for children under the age of 13.

For information and ticketing, visit www.ghostsandgravestones.com/key-west/.

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Newly developed Key West Wellness Retreats allow participants to rejuvenate, recharge and relax while enjoying the island city and learning healthy habits to practice at home. Pioneered by integrative nutritionist and author Donna Shields, the five-night retreats include lodging at Rose Lane Villas, spacious green-certified villas at 522-524 Rose Lane in Old Town Key West.

The wellness itinerary includes individual nutrition and fitness evaluations, poolside Pilates and “poolaties” classes, reflexology and skincare sessions, yoga, nutrition lectures and demonstrations, a mangrove kayaking excursion and more. Specialized activities are directed by expert practitioners.

Wellness retreats in 2010 are scheduled beginning Oct. 17, Nov. 14 and Dec. 5, with a 2011 retreat set to begin Jan. 23. Package prices start at $1,499 per person.

For more information, visit www.roselanevillas.com.

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North America’s most remote national park has recently become far more accessible via Key West Seaplane Adventures excursions. The company offers morning, afternoon and full-day trips to Dry Tortugas National Park aboard 10-passenger DHC-3T DeHavilland Turbine Otter seaplanes.

Composed of seven tiny islands, the park lies approximately 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico and is home to Civil War–era Fort Jefferson, the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. Attractions include guided park tours, pristine beaches for sunning, excellent bird-watching opportunities and clear blue waters for snorkeling.

Travel time between Key West and the Dry Tortugas is approximately 40 minutes each way. Half-day trips include at least 2.5 hours to enjoy activities at the park, while full-day trips include at least 6.5 hours at the park.

Half-day excursions are priced at $249 for adults and $199 per child age 12 or younger. Full-day fares are $435 per adult and $349 for children. National park visitors age 17 and older are required to pay an additional $5 per person park entrance fee.

Complimentary soft drinks and snorkeling equipment are provided.

Flights depart from Key West Seaplane Adventures headquarters at Key West International Airport, 3471 S. Roosevelt Blvd. Check-in is 30 minutes prior to departure.

For information and reservations, visit www.keywestseaplanecharters.com or call 305-293-9300.

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The last tall ship assembled in Key West, the historic Schooner Western Union, has been relaunched in the island city and is shortly to resume passenger excursions following a million-dollar renovation. The 130-foot vessel underwent an overhaul that included replacing numerous hull, transom and deck planks and refitting all electric, plumbing, engine and steering mechanisms.

Originally launched in 1939, Western Union is the last surviving example of a traditional American coasting schooner. It served the Western Union Telegraph Co. for 35 years and is believed to be the world’s only surviving sailing cable ship.

In 1997, Key West’s Historic Tours of America obtained the Western Union and began operating it for day and sunset sails and charters. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it became widely known as the flagship of Key West.

Late in 2007, Historic Tours’ owner Ed Swift donated the vessel to the nonprofit Schooner Western Union Preservation Society under the condition that it be restored and remain in Key West.

The renovation was funded in part by a $405,000 grant from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, a $300,000 donation from the Historic Foundation of the Florida Keys and numerous contributions from Florida Keys businesses and individuals.

Plans call for passenger excursions to begin this summer from a dock in Key West’s Historic Seaport. For more information, visit www.schoonerwesternunion.org.

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Personal revitalization in the waters of the Keys, including encounters with dolphins in the wild, is the focus of the Dances with Dolphins in Paradise Retreat set for Aug. 21-28. Created by Captain Victoria Rose Impallomeni, a Keys native and wilderness guide for more than 30 years, the retreat features aquatic bodywork, lessons in the aquatic Tai Chi called Ai Chi and four days on the water aboard the captain’s IMP II.

Highlights include snorkeling in shallow coral-filled waters, a picnic on a tropical mangrove island and the company of whatever wild dolphins choose to participate.

Shared meals, relaxation and bodywork, meditation, spiritual renewal sessions and water-sports opportunities round out the retreat. The entire package, which includes seven nights’ accommodations in a family retreat house in the Keys, costs $1,000 per person plus $100 per person for shared meals.

Keys wilderness tours and single-day wild dolphin retreats are available as well. For more information, visit www.captainvictoria.com.

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For more travel information about the Florida Keys & Key West call, toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, 1-800-FLA-KEYS (800-352-5397) or explore the destination’s Web site at www.fla-keys.com.
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