Cruising at the heart of the Sunshine State

Florida continues to be one of the top destinations for tourism in the world, drawing more than 126 million visitors a year. Port Tampa Bay is at the heart of the action and the gateway to the state’s cruise business

Cruising at the heart of the Sunshine State

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

For many the appeal of Florida lies in its sunshine and beaches: soft, white-sand, crystal-clear tropical water and balmy breezes are a hallmark of a classic vacation in Florida. This is never more evident than on its gulf side – and the award-winning beaches of Florida’s Sun Coast. The Sun Coast of Florida includes the cities of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Tampa and Sarasota – also known as Tampa Bay.

Popular outdoor activities include golf, fishing, boating, sailing, stand-up paddle boarding and other water sports. The largest city in Tampa Bay is Tampa, which is experiencing a bit of a renaissance with a massive development in the downtown waterfront district dubbed ‘Water Street’. Water Street is a new, mixed-use neighbourhood in downtown Tampa that will reconnect the existing central business district to surrounding neighbourhoods and embrace the waterfront of Tampa. As one of the largest developments in the nation, Water Street Tampa will introduce a dynamic new lifestyle for one of the country’s fastest growing cities. There will be nine million square feet of new commercial, residential, hospitality, entertainment, cultural, retail and educational spaces. Included will be Tampa’s first JW Marriott and the Tampa EDITION, the city’s first five-star hotel.

Florida, of course, is also the cruise capital of the world. A premier destination and embarkation point for cruise lovers, the new Tampa Water Street development is immediately adjacent to Port Tampa Bay’s cruise terminals that serve as homeport for Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, and Norwegian Cruise Line. Just to the north of Port Tampa Bay, Tampa’s famous Latin quarter, Ybor City, with its amazing food and Cuban cultural history, is a two-stop trolley ride away. Immediately to the south, the Florida Aquarium, with its abundant sea life, famous penguins and dolphin watching boat tours is also one of the biggest in the southeast.

Within walking distance, or a short ride, the options for pre- and post-cruise experiences have never been better in this west Florida paradise and perfectly complement a cruise to Western Caribbean destinations such as Cozumel, Costa May, Belize, Honduras, Cayman Island, Jamaica, Cuba and the southern Caribbean.

“Having Port Tampa Bay’s cruise terminals in the heart of downtown puts the full spectrum of Sunshine State experiences in easy reach the moment visitors step off their ship,” said Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. “As Florida’s Most diverse destination, Tampa Bay’s combination of history, culture, family fun and fantastic food makes for a pre- or post-cruise adventure worthy of any cruise destination.”

Carnival operates two year-round ships from Port Tampa Bay. The Carnival Paradise operates four- and five-day cruises to Western Caribbean destinations such as Belize, Cozumel, Costa Maya, Grand Cayman, Mahogany Bay, Key West, and Havana Cuba. There is even an overnight cruise to Havana that permits guests to experience the nightlife in Cuba. Carnival Miracle operates seven-day cruises with an occasional six- and eight-day cruise. The eight-day cruise itinerary includes Costa Rica and a partial transit of the Panama Canal before returning to Tampa.

Royal Caribbean operates two ships from Tampa during the winter cruise season. The Brilliance of the Seas offers four- and five-night itineraries to Western Caribbean destinations such as Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Key West. While the Rhapsody of the Seas offers additional destinations with stops in Costa Maya, Belize City and Roatan Honduras on their seven-day itinerary cruise.

Norwegian Cruise Line offers a variety of itineraries such as a seven-day cruise the Harvest Cay in Belize, Costa Maya, Roatan in Honduras, and Grand Cayman. And for those wanting to cruise to the Southern Caribbean they offer a 14-day cruise that includes stops in Aruba, Bonaire, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten and Puerto Rico.

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Lindsay James
By Lindsay James
Friday, May 31, 2019