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Guide to cruises from Tampa

14 May 2022

Tampa offers a convenient embarkation port for cruises to the Western Caribbean, including many with Royal Caribbean.

When you think about cruising out of Florida, Miami and Fort Lauderdale are probably the first port’s that come to mind. If you are looking for something a little quieter, on Florida’s west coast sailing into the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find Tampa. 

Port Tampa Bay is the home port for five ships from four cruise lines, offering itineraries to the Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean and even Transatlantic cruises. 

How to get to the Tampa Cruise Port

Port Tampa Bay is located just 8 miles from the Tampa International Airport, and less than a mile from downtown Tampa, making it one of the easiest cruise ports to get to. 

The address of Port Tampa Bay is 1101 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602.

Royal Caribbean typically uses Terminal 2, but will also use Terminal 3 when needed. Passengers should follow the digital signage at the port to find the correct terminal for their ship. 

Flying to Tampa Cruise Port

Tampa International Airport

Tampa airport

Flying into the Tampa International Airport is the easiest for those needing to fly in prior to their cruise. With over 90 nonstop destinations and 260 daily departures, travelers have plenty of options to choose from to get to and from their cruise.

With the port located so close to the airport, it is recommended to use a taxi or rideshare app Port Tampa Bay, which will usually cost between $18 - $25. The drive should only take 15 - 20 minutes.

One of our biggest tips at Royal Caribbean Blog is to fly into your departure port the night before your cruise, to ensure that you don’t encounter delays that could make you miss your embarkation time. There are plenty of hotels to choose from located near both the Tampa airport and Port Tampa Bay, making getting to the port on embarkation day a breeze. 

What Time Should I Schedule My Flight from Tampa?

Tampa airport

When booking your travel home after your cruise, it is important to not book too early of a flight, as you do not want to risk missing the flight home. 

Even though TPA is located close to the port, we recommend booking a flight home no earlier than 11:30am. While you may be able to walk off the ship by 8:00 - 9:00AM on disembarkation day, it isn’t guaranteed, and you don’t want to end up missing a morning flight.

Royal Caribbean Shuttle Service

How to get from Orlando to Port Canaveral | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean offers shuttle service from the airport to the port (and vice versa), for an extra fee. There are also outside vendors who offer shuttle service such as Infinity Transportation.

Since the airport is located so close to the port, I recommend utilizing a rideshare or taxi service over a shuttle. Not only will prices typically be lower, you also won’t have to wait on a shuttle to fill up before being able to leave.

Parking at Port Tampa Bay

Port Tampa Bay has very convenient parking options for the cruise terminals. Since it is located so close to downtown Tampa, there are plenty of parking garages to choose from. 

The closest option is the Port Tampa Bay parking garage, located just across the street from the three terminals. Beginning on October 23, 2022 the price for self parking will increase from $15 to $15.75 per day, and oversized parking (RV's, etc) will increase from $30 to $31.50 per day. 

Port Tampa Bay also offers valet parking for $15.75 per day (effective October 23, 2022, previously $15), plus a one time fee of $20. This is a great option for those who have trouble walking, or don’t want to deal with the hassle of parking their car. To utilize this option, you simply pull up to the curbside of the terminal entrance, and the valets will take care of the rest. 

Where to stay the night before your cruise from Tampa

Tampa downtown

As we mentioned, it is highly recommended to fly in the day before your cruise departs. When doing that, booking a hotel is an important part of the planning process when cruising from Tampa. 

If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you may want to stay closer to the cruise port and downtown Tampa. This will give you an opportunity to explore the city and see the sights before leaving for your cruise. The Tampa Bay Riverwalk and Channelside areas offer plenty of dining, shopping and sights. 

If your flight is arriving later in the evening, you may want to stay closer to the airport and head to the cruise terminal in the morning. The Westshore area is located just outside the airport, and has plenty of hotels to choose from. 

Recommended hotels include:

Some hotels will offer a shuttle service to the terminal on embarkation day, but we still recommend using a rideshare service, as you will have flexibility on the timing. 

Which Royal Caribbean ships sail from Port Tampa Bay?

One of the best parts of cruising out of Tampa, is getting to sail under the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge to enter the Gulf of Mexico.

However, this bridge can only accommodate ships that measure 180 feet from the top of the waterline. For this reason, Royal Caribbean uses Port Tampa Bay for its Vision and Radiance class of ships. 

Serenade of the Seas will be sailing out of Tampa starting in October 2022 offering 4, 5, 7 and 10-night Bahamas, Caribbean and Americas cruises.

These itineraries will visit Cozumel, George Town, Puerto Costa Maya, Belize City, Roatan, Grand Bahama Island, Bimini, Nassau, Perfect Day at CocoCay, Cartagena, Colón, and Puerto Limon.

Serenade will also be offering a 14 Night Spanish Transatlantic Cruise in May 2023, visiting Nassau, Madeira and Palma De Mallorca before ending in Barcelona.

Brilliance of the Seas will begin sailing from Tampa again in October 2022, offering 4, 5, 6 and 7-night Bahamas and Caribbean cruises. They will visit Cozumel, Puerto Costa Maya, Roatan, Belize City, George Town, Key West, Nassau, and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

In April 2023, Brilliance will go on a 16 Night Transatlantic Cruise, stopping in Madeira, Málaga, Cannes, and Florence before ending in Rome. 

Radiance of the Seas will sail out of Tampa starting in October 2023, offering 4 and 5-night Bahamas and Caribbean cruises, visiting Cozumel, Puerto Costa Maya, Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau. 

Granduer of the Seas

Grandeur of the Seas will be sailing out of Tampa starting in May 2023, offering 4 and 5-night Bahamas and Caribbean cruises. These itineraries will visit Cozumel, Puerto Costa Maya, Nassau, and Perfect Day at CocoCay. 

Where to Watch a Sailaway

If you find yourself in Tampa before or after your cruise, and want to catch a ship sailing through Tampa Bay, there are plenty of areas to watch from. 

The closest viewing spot you’ll find is at the cruise terminal. Port Tampa Bay allows you to walk right up near the ships, for an unforgettable view. 

If the ship is leaving from Terminal 2, you can walk over to the Sparkman Wharf to take in the view, while grabbing a drink from the beer garden or a bite to eat from one of the many food stands.

Another great option is David Islands Beach, less than 15 minutes away from the port. Here you can sit back and relax with your toes in the sand, or even get in the water as you watch the ships sail away from Port Tampa Bay. 

Arguably, one of the best sites to see is the ship sailing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This bridge is located about a 30-45 minute drive south of Tampa, and it takes the ships about 2 hours after departure to reach the bridge.

While you can’t stop on the bridge to view the ships, you can go to either the north or south fishing piers to watch them sail under the bridge.

Royal Caribbean is first cruise line to restart cruises from Tampa

16 Oct 2021

The cruise industry restart has reached the Port of Tampa.

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas arrived in Tampa on Saturday to begin offering cruises from West Florida, which is the first time a cruise ship has sailed from the Port of Tampa since 2020.

Serenade of the Seas will depart Terminal 6 on Saturday to begin a new cruise season there, having just wrapped up an abbreviated cruise season in Alaska.

Serenade will offer 4- and 5-night Western Caribbean cruises from Tampa, Florida, starting Oct. 16; and 7-night Caribbean itineraries, beginning December.

Royal Caribbean's return to Tampa is just as ceremonial as it is tangible to the area. Business Research & Economic Advisors estimated that a 3,000-passenger ship generates an average of $334,000 in passenger and crew onshore spending per call in a homeport city. 

Cruises have been able to restart from other ports in Florida, including Port Everglades, PortMiami and Port Canaveral, but this is the first time Tampa has been able to see ships leave.

Photos courtesy Port of Tampa

Later in December, Brilliance of the Seas will return to Tampa to offer 4- and 5-night Bahamas and Western Caribbean cruises beginning on December 16.

What's next for the restart

Four more Royal Caribbean cruises ships will restart operations before the year comes to a close.

Explorer of the Seas is scheduled to restart cruises when she sails from San Juan, Puerto Rico beginning on November 7. Explorer will sail 7-night Southern Caribbean sailings.

Royal Caribbean is especially excited to see Navigator of the Seas return to service, because it means the restart of cruises for the cruise line from the west coast.

Spotted: Royal Caribbean ship scheduled to sail from Los Angeles, California in 2021 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Navigator will offer 3-, 4- and 5-night Catalina Island, California, and Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico cruises from Los Angeles, beginning November 19.

Grandeur of the Seas will start cruising again when she offers  7- and 14-night Southern Caribbean sailings from Bridgetown, Barbados, starting December 5.

Finally, Enchantment of the Seas will begin cruising again in December, when she sails from Baltimore on December 23, offering 8-night Bahamas sailings, and select 12-night cruises to the Southern Caribbean.

You can see Royal Caribbean's cruise ship restart plans for more deployment information leading into 2022.

Royal Caribbean could be first cruise line to restart cruises in Tampa by October

18 Aug 2021

While cruise ships have restarted from most of Florida's ports, Tampa has been conspicuously absent.

Many cruise fans have wondered when cruise ships would start sailing from the western Florida port, and October might be the first opportunity.

At the Tampa Port Authority board meeting this week, port officials said a mid-October is possible.

Royal Caribbean announced earlier this month Serenade of the Seas would offer 4- and 5-night Western Caribbean cruises from Tampa, Florida, starting Oct. 16.

The first sailing is a five-night cruise to the Bahamas, followed by a 4-night sailing to Cozumel on October 21st.

Brilliance of the Seas is also scheduled to sail from Tampa to offer 4- and 5-night Bahamas and Western Caribbean cruises from Tampa, starting Dec. 16

Tampa officials now seem to echo that announcement in their own plans.

Tampa Port Authority Vice President of Business Development, Wade Elliott, said at a meeting that a mid-October restart is what they are expecting, "We anticipate that we will begin to see regular sailings from Port Tampa Bay starting again in mid-October, so we’re excited about that."

"We are encouraged to see the cruise industry slowly starting back up across the county."

Elliott said Port Tampa Bay’s facilities teams have been making cosmetic tune-ups to the terminals and the port will be ready for cruise travel in weeks.

"Structurally, we’re in good shape," he said.

Two Royal Caribbean ships in Tampa for the first time, at the same time

23 Nov 2014

For the first time ever, two Royal Caribbean cruise ships were docked at the Port of Tampa, which local officials were celebrating as a "historic day".

Vision of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas were both in port yesterday, which port executives marked as a first for Royal Caribbean.

Paul Anderson, president and CEO of the Port of Tampa port authority, commented on the news, "This is absolutely a beautiful day, a historic day for our port.  We are so proud to be partners with Royal Caribbean."

To celebrate this occasion, a plaque was given to Vision of the Seas' captain, Lis Lauritzen, in a ceremony that took place onboard the ship.

“I’m very proud that we were able to welcome her,” Anderson said afterward.

Vision of the Seas will depart every Saturday through April 11 on seven-day cruises to the western Caribbean. Brilliance of the Seas offers four- and five-day cruises to Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico.

Brilliance of the Seas makes maiden cruise to Tampa

17 Nov 2013

Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas made her inaugural cruise from Tampa, Florida on Saturday and is the ninth ship in the fleet to call Tampa home.

Brilliance of the Seas took her 2,100 passengers on a Western Caribbean cruise itinerary that will visit Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Roatan, Honduras.

When Brilliance of the Seas returns to Tampa next week, it will begin a series of four- and five-day cruises with ports of call in Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico.

Brilliance of the Seas will offer cruises from Tampa through May 1.

The Tampa Tribune reports to celebrate her first cruise, the Tampa Port Authority arranged a tour of the 12-story Radiance-class ship for authority board members and news reporters.

Royal Caribbean plans to deploy a second ship in Tampa for Caribbean cruises next year.

Royal Caribbean adds second ship to Tampa

29 Aug 2013

Royal Caribbean will add a second cruise ship that will sail out of Tampa starting in the fall of 2014.  Vision of the Seas will be added and offer seven-night Western Caribbean cruises from Tampa throughout winter 2014-15.  Vision of the Seas will join Brilliance of the Seas, which had been offering seasonal four- and five-night Western Caribbean cruises.

Vision of the Seas will sail a nine-night Southern Caribbean itinerary from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on November 6, 2014, to Tampa, with calls at Aruba, Curacao, Grand Cayman and Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private beach paradise on the north coast of Haiti. Beginning November 15, Vision of the Seas will sail every Saturday from Tampa to destinations in the Western Caribbean, including Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Maya, Roatan (Honduras) or Belize.  

Port officials are excited to welcome an additional ship to Tampa, which has been home port to Royal Caribbean ships since the first ship, Rhapsody of the Seas, called in January 2002.

Vision of the Seas is planned to recieve a refurbishment in September 2013, which will match Brilliance of the Seas' refurbisment that took place in May 2013.

Brilliance of the Seas coming to Tampa in 2013

16 May 2012

Royal Caribbean will send Brilliance of the Seas to Tampa in 2013-2014, replacing Jewel of the Seas.

Brilliance of the Seas will offer four and five-night western Caribbean cruises with stops in Cozumel, the Cayman Islands and either Key West or George Town.

Prior to arriving in Tampa, Brilliance will enter drydock in May 2013 and be revitalized to give it a major refurbishment including New onboard dining and entertainment options, revitalized staterooms, and other amenities including Wi-Fi, digital way-finding systems and an outdoor LED video wall.

Royal Caribbean and Universal Studios expand partnership to include Tampa cruises

22 Aug 2011

Royal Caribbean's partnership with Universal Studios Orlando is expanding to include cruises that go out of Tampa, Florida.

Royal Caribbean announced with Universal Studios that that they will start selling vacation packages that include a stay at Universal Studios Orlando along with a Royal Caribbean cruise.  The packages include three or four-night stays at Universal Studios along with four or five-night cruises on Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean will be homeporting Jewel of the Seas in November out of Tampa.  

This new deal is in addition to the partnership the two companies already offer for cruises out of Port Canaveral.

For Royal Caribbean, the expanded deal with Universal is another move into Disney's lucrative family-cruise niche. The Miami-based cruise operator last year struck a separate deal with DreamWorks Animation to outfit some of its ships with characters from animated movies such as Shrek and Madagascar, much the way Disney Cruise Line features popular children's characters such as Buzz Lightyear and Donald Duck.

Tampa declines to raise cruise tariffs

17 Aug 2010

Tampa, Florida port commissioners declined to approve staff recommendations to raise the daily parking garage rates from $14 to $15 and toincrease tariffs by 3 percent on cruse lines.

Raising the tariff would have affected Royal Caribbean because unlike other cruise companies in Tampa, Royal Caribbean does not have a long-term contract with the port that includes payments that can be lower than a tariff arrangement.  While Royal Caribbean may be subject to tariff increases in the future still, Royal Caribbean enjoys the luxury of being able to discontinue service at any time.

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