It’s the Caribbean cruise season once more. Many cruise lines have repositioned all or some of their fleet to the islands in the sun. Many sailings leave out of Port of Miami or Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
However, another alternative that is becoming popular is Port Tampa Bay. Tampa is positioned on the western coast of Florida, around 40 miles west of Orlando.
PORT TAMPA BAY SAILINGS
Voyages making calls in the Western Caribbean islands, Eastern Mexico, Belize and/or Honduras are the most common itineraries for cruises from Tampa.
Alternatives include cruises to the Eastern Caribbean and the Southern Caribbean calling at the exotic islands of Aruba and Curacao.
This month, Holland America announced that the MS Oosterdam will make Tampa its winter home. Enhancements of nearly £300 million for renovations have been made for 1,964 passengers and a crew of 812, which includes new lounging, dining and entertainment venues and refreshed suites. The ship will offer a variety of cruise options, from seven day, fourteen day and twenty one day itineraries to the western and southern Caribbean.
Image courtesy of Holland America Cruises
Port president and CEO stated during the MS Oosterdam first sailing out of Port Tampa Bay this past week, “For nearly 35 years, we have enjoyed a stellar relationship with Holland America Line, and it is gratifying to us that our cruise partners continue to show faith and enthusiasm in the strength our market. We look forward to many more years of sailings.”
However, Holland America is not the only major cruise line that sails out of Tampa Bay. The Carnival Pride and Carnival Paradise will offer a series of five to 14 day trips from Tampa, as will Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of The Seas and Rhapsody of The Seas. The other major cruise line to offer sailings out of Port Tampa Bay is NCL’s Norwegian Jade.
There are many advantages of sailing out of Tampa and this Port of departure is also a top destination in itself.
THINGS TO DO BEFORE OR AFTER YOUR CRUISE
Make it a true holiday experience by extending your cruise with a pre or post stay in the Tampa Bay area. The biggest and best are within driving distance. A quick few days in Tampa to relax and unwind before or after your cruise holiday really will enhance your holiday.
The biggest attraction is located in nearby Orlando, which is filled to the brim with exciting theme parks that will appeal to all members of the family. The most famous, of course, being Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
Having opened its doors in 1971, the complex contains four theme Parks, two water parks, thirty on-site Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, a sports complex and a shopping and entertainment centre amongst many other facilities.
Nearby is Universal Studios Florida, where you can live in the movies by seeing some of their favourite films represented by exciting rides. There are two different theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure with the standout attraction of the parks being the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter which brings an amazingly detailed Harry Potter world to life.
If Orlando is not feasible, you can always head to Busch Gardens, the local theme park. Here, the 19th century African theme will make you feel at home while at the same time offering fun activities and adrenaline pumping rides such as the SheiKra, a 61 metre fall roller coaster with a 90 degree drop.
Dare you take the trip? Busch Gardens also has many animal habitats such as the Bird Gardens, an aviary with over 500 different species of tropical birds, a cheetah run and the Curiosity Caverns, which allows you to see nocturnal animals during the daytime.
ONLY ONE DAY TO SPARE TOURING?
Venture beyond the horizon of theme parks to other points of interest too. The city is very cosmopolitan with a number of museums. If time is limited, take the opportunity to experience some of the city’s top attractions. Port Tampa Bay offers easy access to some of Tampa’s most popular attractions with many even within walking distance.
The historic Ybor City, also known as the “Cigar Capital of the World” takes you back to a golden age. Walk amongst the peaceful 19th century style gardens and tour a typical 1800’s cigar worker’s home. The Ybor City Museum State Park contains temporary and permanent exhibits to conjure up what life was like in Ybor’s past.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has more than 2,000 animals from Africa, Asia, Australia, North America and South America residing amongst 63-acres of lush habitats. This zoo is officially recognised by Florida as the top centre for wildlife conservation in the state.
More entertaining education can be found in the Museum of Science & Industry. This museum contains the only IMAX Dome theatre in the state and makes learning a fun experience. The museum has many different exhibits such as the 3D Printing the Future exhibit, where you can learn how 3D Printing can lend a hand to the improvement of the world such as creating body prosthetics.
The Mission: Moonbase station is an area which speculates what the world will be like in 2070 on a possible moon base.
This extensive section is the crown jewel of the museum, offering interactive experiences of space travel.
Along Tampa’s scenic river bank walkway, sits The Tampa Museum of Art. The museum houses an extensive collection of 20th-century sculpture, paintings and Greek and Roman antiquities.
There are numerous white beaches dotting the coastlines of Florida’s Gulf Coast with warm and pristine waters.
Consider Port Tampa Bay as the departure point for a Caribbean Cruise
If seeking an escape of winter’s wrath, then choose a Caribbean cruise holiday departing from Port Tampa Bay. This modern and efficient port has more points of interest and is close to Tampa Airport. Numerous nonstop flight services from the UK makes it an easy journey.
Written by Veronica Shine