Cruise guests can head to Sparkman Wharf, which offers food outlets, a beer garden and lawn
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
For the second year in a row, more than one million passengers cruised in and out of Tampa in Florida, US in 2019. Port Tampa Bay is well regarded as an established port for the major cruise lines serving Western Caribbean destinations. This is because the port’s close proximity to numerous exotic destinations in the Caribbean provides cruise lines with numerous itinerary options to offer their guests.
Florida’s population also continues to grow, providing a significant drive-in market to support the cruise lines calling Tampa. For example, there are more than eight million residents living within a two-hour drive of the cruise terminals and over 11 million people who reside within a three-hour drive. The well-developed road network and the city’s airport, which is regularly rated highly in the rankings of travel magazines, make it easy and enjoyable for passengers to access Port Tampa Bay.
To ensure it can cater to growing cruise demand, the port is investing more than US$10 million in upgrades to its three terminals. Work will include a complete renovation of the primary and secondary US Customs and Border processing space, as well as the addition of new restrooms and escalators. These improvements will enhance the guest experience and provide efficiencies for passenger flow.
Another new project is underway in Tampa’s waterfront district where the cruise ships dock, which will soon make the city even more attractive for prospective cruise guests. The Water Street development will be a mixed-use neighbourhood that will reconnect the city’s existing central business district to surrounding neighbourhoods and the waterfront.
At nine million square feet, Water Street will be one of the largest developments in the nation and is expected to introduce a dynamic new lifestyle for residents and cruise guests alike. Once complete, the development will offer multiple cultural, entertainment, retail, educational, hospitality, commercial and residential spaces. Highlights will include Tampa’s first JW Marriott and the Tampa EDITION, the city’s first five-star hotel.
The new development is adjacent to Port Tampa Bay’s cruise terminals, which serve as homeport for ships from the Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line fleets. Consequently, the options for pre- and post-cruise excursions in Tampa have never been better. Plus, they complement a cruise to Western Caribbean destinations, such as Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Cayman Islands, Jamaica and the southern Caribbean.
Norwegian offers a variety of itineraries, such as seven-day cruises to its private island Harvest Cay, which is in Belize; Costa Maya; Roatan in Honduras; and Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. Alternatively, for those wanting to travel around the Southern Caribbean, the line offers a 14-day voyage that includes stops in Aruba, Bonaire, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten and Puerto Rico.
Royal Caribbean operates two ships from Tampa during the winter cruise season. Brilliance of the Seas operates four- and five-night itineraries to Western Caribbean destinations such as Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Key West in Florida. Meanwhile, Rhapsody of the Seas offers additional destinations with calls in Costa Maya, Belize City and Honduras during her seven-day sailings.
Carnival operates two year-round ships from Port Tampa Bay. Carnival Paradise provides four- and five-day cruises to Western Caribbean destinations such as Belize; Cozumel and Costa Maya; Grand Cayman; Mahogany Bay on Roatan; and Key West. Meanwhile, Carnival Legend offers seven-day cruises, as well as occasional six- and eight-day voyages. Highlights of the eight-day cruise itinerary includes a visit to Costa Rica and a partial transit of the Panama Canal before the ship returns to Tampa.
Celebrity Cruises will also be adding Port Tampa Bay to its vacation offerings for the winter 2020 season. Celebrity Constellation will offer 10- and 11- night roundtrips beginning November 2020. Following a leisurely 14-night transatlantic crossing out of Barcelona, Celebrity Constellation will begin offering guests three unique itineraries from Tampa in November 2020. This will include a 10-night Eastern Caribbean escape, calling San Juan, Puerto Rico; Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Samana, Dominican Republic. Guests will also be able to sail an 11-night Southern Caribbean roundtrip with visits to Key West, Florida; Kralendijk, Bonaire; Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao; and George Town, Grand Cayman; as well as a new 11-night ‘Touch Canal’ itinerary, sailing to Cozumel, Mexico; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; the Panama Canal; Colon, Panama; Cartagena, Colombia; and George Town.
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