Cruises from Tampa
Cruises from Tampa, Florida primarily visit ports in the Western Caribbean, including Mexico and Central America. Three cruise lines sail from Tampa, with a fourth scheduled to join in October 2011, offering cruises from as short as 4 to as long as 14 days. If you want to extend your vacation before and after, the thriving city on the west coast of Florida offers plenty of activities, attractions, dining and nightlife.
Cruises from Tampa: Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival currently operates two ships year-round from the Port of Tampa's Cruise Terminal 2: The Inspiration and The Legend. The Inspiration offers 4- and 5-day cruises to Cozumel and Grand Cayman. The Legend's 7-day cruises go to those ports as well as Belize City and Roatan.
Cruises from Tampa: Holland America Cruise Line
Holland America sails a cruise ship seasonally from the port's Cruise Terminal 3 from April to October. Itineraries to the Western Caribbean vary, depending on the particular cruise, but a stop in Key West or Jamaica might be on the list. At the beginning of the Tampa off-season, the ship crosses the Atlantic and cruises among Mediterranean and European ports until it returns to Tampa in April. These repositioning cruises are popular, though you'll be responsible for getting back to the U.S.
Cruises from Tampa: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Royal Caribbean bases a ship out of Tampa from October to April at Cruise Terminal 3. The cruises alternate between 4-day excursions to Cozumel and 5-day cruises to Cozumel and Costa Maya. The ship repositions to San Diego during the off-season, via the Panama Canal.
Cruises from Tampa: Norwegian Cruise Line
Beginning October 16, 2011, Norwegian will base a ship in Tampa, sail seasonally from October to April to ports including Roatan, Belize City, Costa Maya and Cozumel. The cruises will all be 7 days long.
Cruises from Tampa: While You're There
If you're staying in Tampa for any time before or after your cruise, you won't have any trouble being entertained. Right in the cruise terminal area is the Channelside complex, with restaurants, nightclubs, shopping and an IMAX theater. Adjacent to the terminals is the Florida Aquarium, where you learn about and see all types of Florida sea life – and even some decidedly non-native penguins! From there, you can hop on a trolley to Ybor City, Tampa's Latin Quarter that started as a community of cigar factory workers and is now known worldwide for its nightlife and Cuban and Spanish cuisine, including at the sprawling Columbia Restaurant, founded in 1905.
In addition, you can visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, linger at world-class museums, attend concerts or touring Broadway productions, spend a day at the beach or explore the area's rich history (Did you know Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders embarked from Tampa during the Spanish-American War on the way to their famous charge up San Juan Hill?).
Photo by kthypryn on Flickr