Tampa, a truly multicultural city, is a great place for a boat ride, with cruise ships of various lines operating here throughout the year. The terminals are convenient, there is ample parking, and the city itself offers interesting and unique attractions within walking distance of the port. Nearby attractions such as the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay theme park, the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and all the sights of Tampa itself are interesting and accessible visits before or after the cruise.
Port Tampa Bay is located on the shores of Tampa Bay, in the heart of the city. Highway 4 connects the central peninsula to Tampa International Airport, the beaches west of town and Orlando with its world-class theme parks and entertainment. There are many hotels and the free tram makes it easy to move around the city centre.
Tampa Cruise Port Address: 1101 Channelside Drive, Tampa, Florida 33602
Cruise Lines of Tampa Bay.
Port Tampa Bay, a popular port on Florida’s west coast, is a year-round homeport for many vessels and a growing winter/spring port for other carriers:
- Carnival (all year round)
- Celebrity (Seasonal)
- Royal Caribbean (all year round)
Routes from Tampa offer a choice of western, eastern and southern Caribbean islands and a partial passage through the Panama Canal. Some companies even offer five-day trips between Tampa and the Bahamas, most of which call at the cruise line’s private island. Transatlantic trips in the fall and spring also take place each year to and from Tampa.
The Port of Tampa Bay is consistently ranked as one of the easiest and most convenient ports in the state of Florida. The port is a major hub for containers and shipping, but also has a popular and growing cruise industry operating out of three terminals. All three terminals are in close proximity to ample parking, including garages and parking lots, the Port of Tampa, the Florida Aquarium and Sparkman Marina.
- Terminal 2 – Royal Caribbean International
- Terminal 3 – Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line
- Terminal 6 – Royal Caribbean International, Famous Cruises
Tampa is an easy city to navigate through, with easy access to ports. Options include:
- Cruise ship transfers – these can be ordered directly from your cruise program or travel specialist. This is usually a bus or van that takes several other cruisers to the same ship or terminal.
- Rideshare service (Uber/Lyft, etc.) – About $10 for each ride from Tampa International Airport.
- Taxi – The price of a taxi from Tampa International Airport to Port Tampa Bay is $28 one way.
- Trains – Tampa is served daily by trains to and from Miami and New York City. Tampa Union Station is only half a mile from the cruise port, although train schedules usually require an overnight stay on the day of embarkation, which can make the night before the cruise very enjoyable.
- Car rental – Of course you can rent a car, but if you’re arriving by plane, that doesn’t make much financial sense because you’ll have to pay for parking for the duration of your cruise (see below).
How far is Port Tampa Bay from the airport?
One of the most convenient aspects of Port Tampa Bay is its proximity to Tampa International Airport. The journey from the airport to the cruise terminals, which are just over 13 km away, takes about 15 minutes during off-peak hours and about 30 minutes during peak hours.
A little further across Tampa Bay in Pinellas County is the St. Petersburg International Airport. Pete-Clerwater. As a hub for the ultra-low cost airline Allegiant Airlines, using this airport instead of Tampa International could be very economical. Although it is across the bay, it is only a 30-45 minute drive from the cruise terminals.
Parking and fees
The parking lots are directly across Channelside Drive from all three Port Tampa Bay cruise terminals. Rates are $15 per day, payable in advance online (porttb.com). The garages are safe, guarded and protect your vehicle from the hot Florida sun. Parking is also within walking distance and can be reserved online prior to arrival for approximately $8 per day or paid in person upon arrival at the port.
When should I arrive?
The Port of Tampa Bay is a small port that only serves two or three ships at a time, so getting around is easy. If you park in a garage, it will take you 30 minutes to park and walk to the terminal. You can also drop off your family or friends with luggage at the terminal (porters are available), and then park while they wait. The surface areas are about a ten to fifteen minute walk away, so if you choose to go there, please allow for extra time.
The best places to stay before or after your cruise are in town, near downtown, or on the beaches if you have some free time. There is a good selection of mid-range and luxury hotels near the downtown harbor, many with beautiful water views and located on the Tampa Riverwalk.
Ybor City has several mid-range hotels and independent boutique hotels, accessible by tram. Ybor is a great place with lots of unique and interesting restaurants and shops, with a turn of the century Latin American atmosphere not found in most other American cities.
If you have a little more time, the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico are only a 45-minute drive west and offer a multitude of lodging options for every budget, from condos to resorts.
The best place to walk around before or after your cruise is the Channelside/Water Street area. In this part of town, adjacent to the harbor, you will find many restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as the Tampa Waterfront Promenade, where you can enjoy a stroll.
The Columbia Cafe in historic downtown Tampa has a lovely shaded waterfront patio, a great place to relax. A little further along the shore is the Sail Pavilion, where delicious food and drink is served in the open air.
The best view of the cruise ships leaving Tampa Harbor is from the Sparkman Pier on Water Street. This complex is located directly on the Harrison Canal and west of Terminal 2. It contains several dining options and seating areas scattered around the lawn. In addition, the beer garden is the focal point. So you won’t have the chance to quench your thirst as you watch the ships sail past Harbour Island.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is another place to admire the splendor of passing ships. The bridge is quite far from the port (about 45 minutes drive), but it is one of the longest cable-stayed concrete bridges in the world. The fishing docks on either side of the Skyway offer breathtaking views of the cruise ships passing under the bridge – an impressive sight not to be missed!
READ MORE: Miami Cruise Port Guide: What you need to know.
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