Tampa Businesses Bouncing Back After Cruising’s Return


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After a long cruise industry shutdown due to the worldwide health crisis, passenger sailings finally resumed from Port Tampa Bay back in October.

Now, business owners throughout the local area are saying that the cruise industry rebound is helping their sales recover from the pandemic.

Tampa Bay’s News Channel 8 heard from one local business owner who is very happy cruise passengers are back in town.

Sebastien Rivas, the owner of local café Milkin’ It, said “With the pandemic I always thought it was going to be a struggle. You can definitely tell the difference between locals and cruisers. It’s really important because, obviously, with the promotion of the store. The store itself leads to tourism too, so, being right here by the port, it helps.”

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(Photo courtesy of Port Tampa Bay)

Prior to the pandemic, just over one million people were cruising out of Tampa each year. Port Tampa Bay’s Senior Director of Development, Greg Lovelace, said that each cruise that docks at the port contributes $300,000 to the local economy on average. It also provides local jobs. “Quite frankly, it’s jobs — the cruise business supports jobs in Tampa Bay,” he said.

MORE: 7 U.S.-Based Cruise Itineraries With Unique Port Calls

Lovelace doesn’t expect that the 2022 cruise passenger count will reach pre-pandemic levels, but he does believe that they will in 2023.

A new report from AAA shows that cruise bookings are twice as strong right now as they were at this time last year.

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Celebrity Constellation in Port Tampa Bay (Photo courtesy of President and CEO of Port Tampa Bay, Paul Anderson)

Tampa is generally not a port call during a cruise, but rather a convenient central Florida homeport for several cruise lines. This also helps further ships’ contributions to the economy because not only are guests often doing things in town before and after their cruise, but many are also flying in and staying in local hotels.

In total, there are 21 cruise ship calls on the Port Tampa Bay schedule for this month, and 20 for April.

READ NEXT: 9 Cruise Concepts That Didn’t Quite Catch On

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