In our opinion, Port Tampa Bay is one of the best-kept secrets in cruising. While ports on the eastern side of Florida — including Miami, Port Everglades, and Port Canaveral — are well known thanks to the mega-ships and multiple terminals at each port, Tampa seems to sneak under the radar.
Despite the lack of notoriety, Port Tampa Bay offers a ton for cruise passengers. This includes multiple terminals with a constant stream of ships, lots to do in the area, more convenience, and fewer headaches than dealing with a larger port.
In other words, you get a lot of the benefits of a larger port without a lot of the drawbacks.
So whether you want to sail to The Bahamas, Mexico, or points in between, or if you want to sail on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Norwegian, the port has something to offer.
Below we dive into all the details of everything you need to know about sailing from the Port Tampa Bay.
- Distance from Tampa Airport: 10 miles
- Distance from Orlando Airport: 90 miles
- Number of Terminals: 3
- Passengers Carried Each Year: 1 million
- Cruise Ship Dockings Each Year: 180+
Port Tampa Bay Location
The cruise port sits in the Channel District of Tampa, which is just a couple of minutes from downtown, as well as the popular Ybor City area. If you are flying in, the port is only about 10 miles from Tampa International Airport, which will take you about 15-20 minutes.
While the location of the port is convenient for cruise passengers with lots to do and places to stay just a few minutes away, there is one drawback. When you head out to sea you will leave Tampa and head out of Tampa Bay, passing between St. Petersburg and Bradenton. There, you will pass under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
While the bridge is impressive, its height actually limits the size of the ships that can sail from Tampa. Larger ships just can’t get under the bridge. This is a reason why some of the biggest and newest ships don’t sail from the port.
Driving to the port? If so, the address you’ll want to use is:
651 Channelside Drive
Tampa, Florida 33602
Like other Florida cities there is a lot to do in the area, and you may not be coming directly from the airport to the cruise port. If so, we have the estimated distances and drive times between a number of popular areas in the region:
- Tampa International Airport: 10 miles | 15-20 minutes
- Orlando International Airport: 90 miles | 1 hr 30 minutes
- St. Petersburg: 25 miles | 30-40 minutes
- Ybor City: 2 miles | 10 minutes
- Disney World: 70 miles | 1 hr 10 minutes
- Lakeland: 36 miles | 40-60 minutes
- Clearwater: 25 miles | 40-60 minutes
- Sarasota: 60 miles | 55-70 minutes
For more on getting to the port, see below.
Things to Do Near the Port
Tampa is blessed with no shortage of things to do, whether you want amusement parks, sporting events, culture, history, or more. Below are just a few things to do before or after your cruise.
The Florida Aquarium
Literally right next door to the cruise terminals, the Florida Aquarium is a world-class facility with lots to see. Perfect if you have kids, the aquarium will get them up close and personal not only with fish, sharks, and turtles, but also wildlife like otters, lemurs, and more. In our opinion, if you have a couple of hours before or after your cruise, it’s a can’t miss attraction.
Just about 10 minutes from the cruise port, Ybor City is a great place to head if you’re looking for something to do in the evening. The historic district is home to lots of older buildings that have been converted into shops and restaurants, most with a Latin flair. It’s great for a date night or just a stroll to explore and take in the atmosphere.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Want to have a little fun at the casino? Then head to the Seminole Hard Rock. The world-class gaming facility would fit right at home in Vegas, with a massive gaming floor, restaurants, and a hotel. It’s about 15-20 minutes away from the cruise port, but if you want to play slots, double down on blackjack, or toss the dice, then it’s a great place to spend some time (and money).
Port Tampa Bay operates three different cruise terminals: Cruise Terminal #2, Cruise Terminal #3, and Cruise Terminal #6.
Cruise Terminal #2
If the port had a “main” terminal, this would be it. Terminal #2 sits at the southern end of the cruise complex. Parking is adjacent to the terminal, as is the Florida Aquarium and a complex of shops and restaurants.
Cruise Terminal #3
Along the eastern edge of the port, Cruise Terminal #3 often serves Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines. The location is right across from the official port parking garage, and with a berth length of 1,050 feet, the docking space can handle the larger ships to call on Port Tampa Bay.
Cruise Terminal #6
This terminal is the northernmost of the three terminals. That makes it extremely convenient if you just want to get to the ship and get on as there is parking right at the terminal and there isn’t as much traffic here. However, the terminal is a little farther from some of the activities like the aquarium and restaurants/shops that are further south in the complex.
Hotels Near the Port Tampa Bay
In a tourist hotspot like Tampa, there’s no shortage of places to stay. That means it can be convenient — and inexpensive — to stay the night before your cruise.
In general, we recommend that passengers flying in for their cruise plan to arrive a day early and stay the night. There are simply too many issues that can come up with flying that can cause delays to risk flying in on the day your cruise departs.
If you are driving in from the area, then you are usually fine driving to the port on the morning of your trip, but it still makes a lot of sense to stay in Tampa the night before. Not only is there a lot to see and do in the area, but it’s nice to already be in town on cruise day, meaning you can take your time in heading to the ship.
While the entire Tampa area can offer hotels, there aren’t many right at the port. The closest hotels are in downtown, which is a short distance away. There are also some hotels in Ybor City, which is also nearby.
Hotels near the cruise terminals:
- Hilton Garden Inn Tampa Ybor Historic District
- Hampton Inn Tampa Downtown Channel District
- Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel
As a city that caters to cruise passengers, there are also a number of Tampa hotels that offer parking during your cruise, as well as hotels with cruise shuttles. Below are a few options for each, but we suggest seeing our full list in the articles linked above.
Hotels with cruise parking:
- Barrymore Hotel
- Home2 Suites by Hilton Tampa Downtown Channel District
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tampa East – Ybor City
Hotels with shuttles/near streetcar stop:
Getting to Port Tampa Bay
Of course you can’t go on your cruise until you get to the ship. Fortunately, there is no shortage of ways to get from anywhere in the Tampa area to the cruise port, all at an affordable price.
We have all of your options and full details for getting to the port here. Below, we cover the most common ways for getting to the Port Tampa Bay.
Driving to the Port
Many people elect to drive to the port, whether they live in the area or they fly in and have a rental car. Coming from Orlando? Expect the drive to take about an hour and a half. From spots in the Tampa/St. Pete region, it can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes, depending on where you are.
Driving definitely offers convenience of getting in and out from the port without relying on someone else to give you a ride. As well, Tampa offers relatively inexpensive parking. Official port parking is only $15 per day, but other independent lots can be even cheaper. (More on this below.)
Uber and Lyft are popular options to get around the Tampa Bay area because they make it easy to get from Point A to Point B, no matter where you are trying to go. Simply open up the app, request a ride and it should be there within minutes (even the airport). They also offer rates that are usually less expensive than taxi cabs. For instance, a taxi ride from the airport to the cruise port is a flat $30. It would be around $25 with Uber/Lyft.
Below we’ve estimated Uber/Lyft fares from certain points around town:
- Tampa International Airport: $20-25
- Orlando International Airport: $95-105
- St. Petersburg: $35-45
- Ybor City: $10
- Disney World: $75-85
- Lakeland: $40-50
- Clearwater: $35-40
- Sarasota: $60-65
Hotels with Cruise Shuttles
Planning to stay at a hotel before your cruise? Some hotels offer shuttles to the cruise port as a perk for cruise passengers. Others are near public transportation that can get you to the ship in just a few minutes. No matter which option you choose, selecting a hotel with a shuttle can take a lot of the headache out of getting to the ship on embarkation day. See our article for a full list of Tampa hotels with cruise shuttles.
One of the best things about cruising from Port Tampa Bay is that parking is both convenient and inexpensive compared to other ports in Florida. For example, while parking for the Port of Miami is upwards of $20+ per day, you’ll only pay $15 — and at some lots much lower — to park for a Tampa cruise.
Official Port Parking
Many people like to park at the official port parking lots. They offer a lot of convenience as they are right next to the cruise terminals. The main parking spot is a garage located across from terminals 2 and 3. Rates are $15 per day and you can pay in advance online to have everything taken care of before you arrive. There is also oversized vehicle parking available. There is also valet parking available for an additional $20. Terminal #6 has parking right next to the ship in an open-air lot.
If you are disabled, you may be eligible for free parking. The official port lots allow those with vehicle modifications such as ramps, or foot/hand controls to park for free if they are sailing. Also, 100% disabled veterans with license plates designating the car as such can also park for free.
One of the reasons that Tampa charges relatively little for parking is that the port faces a lot of competition. There are a number of independent lots that line Channelside Drive, in some cases costing as little as $7 per day (plus taxes and fees).
What’s the catch? There really isn’t one. These companies simply compete with the port for your business, and their main weapon is having lower rates. In fact, these lots are often right near the cruise terminal themselves and usually offer a shuttle if you don’t want to make the short walk.
For more details and pricing, see our Tampa cruise parking page here.
Hotels with Cruise Parking
One of the best-kept secrets in cruising is that many hotels near cruise ports love to offer cruise parking to passengers in exchange for a single night’s stay. Book a room, get a night’s stay and have your parking taken care of as well. That’s hard to beat. Often you’ll need to book a package with the hotel that includes cruise parking, but it often includes both parking and transportation to the ship. See our list of Tampa hotels with cruise parking here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the cheapest way to get to Port Tampa Bay?
Need to get to the port? There are a number of ways to get there. While there is some public transportation offered, it’s not particularly convenient, unless you are coming from Ybor City. Ybor City has a rail line (TECO Streetcar) that runs back and forth from Ybor City to the port area.
Other than that, the least expensive way we’ve found to get around is using Uber and Lyft. For example, it would cost around $25 to get from the airport to the cruise port using Lyft.
What’s the cheapest parking for a Tampa cruise?
The lowest rate we know is about $4 per day, through 717 Parking. They operate a Union Station Lot that’s a mile or two from the cruise terminals. There is no shuttle offered, so you’ll have to get a ride to the cruise terminals. Still, to park for a week you won’t find any cheaper place unless you stay at a hotel with free cruise parking. See more on parking options here.
Where should I stay in Tampa before my cruise?
We suggest trying to find a hotel in downtown Tampa or in Ybor City. Both areas are near the port and have a number of things to do. Staying here essentially adds another port of call to your cruise with lots to do and explore. Plus, it’s easy to get to the cruise ship from either location on embarkation day.
Have more questions about sailing from Tampa? Let us know in the comments below.