As Florida’s largest port at over 5,000 acres, Port Tampa Bay is a destination experience for fun pre- and post-cruise vacations. This area is the fastest growing region of Florida, welcoming over 60 million tourists per year.
How to get there
Located only minutes from I-75 (north-south) and I-4 (east-west), this port is easy to reach by vehicle. If you’re driving your own private car, parking facilities are just across the street from the terminals.
You’ll have the options of self-parking or valet. The lots are staffed and have 24-hour surveillance. The cost is $15 per day, and you can pre-purchase a parking pass online. For vehicles with adaptive modifications and disabled veterans, there is no cost to park.
Arriving by air gives you the choice of Tampa International Airport (TPA) or St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE). TPA is only minutes from the port, and PIE is just across the bay.
Taxis, shuttles, and private car services are all easy to secure with no reservations necessary. Ask for a flat rate, rather than per-person, to save a few bucks.
You might also want to arrive at the port via Amtrak, HART public transit, in-town trolleys, or the TECO streetcar. The latter is a fun way to explore the area around the terminals.
Who sails from Port Tampa Bay
This Florida location is homeport to five ships in the Carnival, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian cruise lines. The most popular itineraries sailing from Port Tampa Bay are four to fourteen days to the Western Caribbean.
What I can expect at my cruise ship terminal
The terminals at Port Tampa Bay are state-of-the-art. Passenger comfort and safety are paramount. You can expect full-service facilities, speedy check-in, friendly customer attention, and an easy boarding process here.
This Florida port is one of my favorites for launching a cruise vacation. The reason? You can spend a week before and a week after just exploring the area.
I’m particularly fond of the Salvador Dali Museum (watching time melt), the Sunken Gardens (for the colors and hypnotic aromas of 50,000 tropical plants), and Ybor City (pronounced “ee-bor”) for a Latin immersion of sights, sounds, and food.
For sports fans, book a spring cruise and catch some Major League baseball training camps. Spot birds and other wildlife at Moccasin Lake Nature Park; and take a trip through Busch Gardens (where you might just have a flamingo drop a pink feather at your feet.
Yes, that happened to me on one of my trips!) Find treasures at the 100+ antique shops in St. Pete; or enjoy upscale shopping, dining, and live events at the Channelside complex literally steps away from the terminals.
Insider tip: If you’re a fossil hunter, there are treasures to be found an hour south of Tampa. As you can imagine, Florida was once underwater with frenzies of sharks swimming about.
Now the area south of Sarasota (specifically south of the jetty in Venice, Florida) is reputed to have a ‘fossil layer’ running 18-35 feet deep, filled with (among other things) sharks’ teeth! Grab a small shovel and screen (rentable in the area), bring a waterproof bag, put on sunscreen, and dig back into prehistoric times.
Here’s your official MAP of Port Tampa Bay.