Tampa (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic
Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Tampa

Tucked inside Tampa Bay on Florida's west coast, it's really no surprise that Tampa has evolved as a year-round bustling cruise port for Western Caribbean itineraries including Cuba, as well as Panama Canal. Its red-hot waterfront is jampacked with sights, sounds and surf, and is just a hop, skip and a jump away from century-old St. Petersburg and from Clearwater, one of Florida's best beaches.

About Tampa


Pro

Ybor City, one of only two National Historic Landmark Districts in Florida, is a streetcar ride away

Con

There's a ton to do nearby, but the humidity can zap energy; stay hydrated

Bottom Line

Tampa, and its surrounding cities, offer sports, sun, museums and attractions for everyone in your party


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Cuban-influenced Ybor City -- a short streetcar ride from the cruise terminals -- is one of only two National Historic Landmark Districts in Florida. Its narrow brick streets, red-brick buildings and wrought-iron balconies offer old-world charm. You'll also spot flamenco dancers galore and old factories selling Florida's best hand-rolled cigars, not to mention plenty of Major League teams batting up for spring training. Finally, Tampa offers up award-winning beaches to perfect your glamour tan and more than 2,000 restaurants to soothe your hunger.

Where You're Docked

Tampa Cruise Port Address:
Terminal 2: 651 Channelside Drive, Tampa, FL 33602
Terminal 3: 815 Channelside Drive, Tampa, FL 33602
Terminal 6: 1333 McKay Street, Tampa, FL 33602

Ships dock at the Port of Tampa Cruise Terminal, six to eight minutes from downtown.

Port Facilities

The Channelside complex is just a short walk from the terminal. Everything you could possibly want is close at hand -- from multiplex cinemas to shopping, the Florida Aquarium and plenty of places to dine, be it fast-food or a waterside bistro. There's even a complimentary, 75-minute educational catamaran tour around the port on Wednesdays on Thursdays, although reservations are required (813-905-7678). There is a tourism information kiosk, a spacious passenger lounge, and parking garage with valet parking.

Good to Know

Don't waste time straightening your hair as Tampa tends to be extremely humid, especially in the morning hours. Additionally, the summer months see more rainfall than average. Tampa has enjoyed a substantial dip in crime rates during the past several years, and now averages about that of any major U.S. city. Take safety precautions you'd take in any city.

Getting Around

The Tampa International Airport (TPA) is 5 miles from downtown. Amtrak services Tampa, arriving downtown at Union Station on Nebraska Avenue. Travel time from the airport via most modes of transportation is about 20 minutes. St. Petersburg is a 30-minute drive from the Tampa airport.

For seeing the sights, it's highly recommended that you rent a car. All the majors, such as Avis and Hertz, are at the airport in the red baggage claim area and across the walkway in the blue baggage claim area. Parking is relatively easy around Tampa, whether you choose street parking or the many garages.

Shuttle vans, such as Bay Shuttle and SuperShuttle provide service 24/7, leaving from all four quadrants of the baggage claim level and providing services to a number of outlying destinations.

Taxis need to be called, though you'll generally see some lined up near the hotels, the performing arts center and terminals. Two reliable taxi companies to call are Tampa Bay Cab (813-251-5555) and United Cab (813-253-2424).

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) operates Tampa area buses, trolleys and the TECO Line Streetcar System. HART's Route 30 runs buses from the airport to downtown, leaving from the east end of the red baggage claim area.

The TECO Line Streetcar System takes visitors back in time in replicas of Tampa's streetcars of the 1920s. The streetcar system whisks you on a 2.4-mile journey between downtown area hotels, the shops and restaurants of Channelside, the Port of Tampa and cruise terminals, the Florida Aquarium, and the Ybor City historic district. You can travel the entire line in only 22 minutes, giving you plenty of time to sightsee before your ship sails.

The rubber-tire In-Town Trolleys circulate around downtown and the Hyde Park Village shopping area. The In-Town Trolley connects with the TECO Line Streetcar System at the striking Southern Transportation Plaza at the southern end of the streetcar line, only a short ride from the cruise terminals.

Visitors can take advantage of the 1-day unlimited ride fare card. If your stay in Tampa will last a little longer, you can purchase a 3-day unlimited ride visitor pass, available though HART facilities and select hotels.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency is the U.S. dollar, and ATMs are readily available.

Language

English is spoken.

Food and Drink

Columbia Restaurant (2117 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City) opened in 1905, and this Ybor City place is one of Florida's oldest restaurants. Filled to the nines with kitsch and history, this huge eatery also has great food. If you find yourself here in the evening, get a table near the dance floor for up-close view of the colorful flamenco dancers. Monday - Saturday from 11 a.m., Sunday from noon.

Fourth Street Shrimp Store (1006 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg) is a don't-miss beloved eatery in St. Petersburg. Boiled, fried, scampied -- doesn't matter. It's all good. So are the oysters. Daily from 11 a.m.

Mise En Place (442 W Kennedy Blvd.) serves up excellent New American cuisine that Zagat raves about. Lunch served Tuesday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Skyway Jack's (2795 34th St. South, St. Petersburg), a St. Pete's institution, has a huge menu featuring yummy orange pecan French toast, their signature creamed chipped beef on toast and the freshest just-squeezed orange juice. Daily 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hall on Franklin (1701 N. Franklin Street) is a luxe dining space located in Tampa Heights with a number of trendy eateries like Bake'n Babes and Heights Melt Shoppe. Open morning to late night.

Shopping

Salvador Dali tarot cards, from the store at Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. Use them to tell your fellow cruisers' fortunes.