Tampa, Florida, may not be the bustling port Miami is, but that doesn’t mean you can’t score a cheap cruise deal from this city on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Cruises embark here year-round to the Caribbean and Mexico/Central America, with peak season being November to April, when up to seven ships homeport here. If you’re searching for a deal, here’s everything you need to know about cheap cruises from Tampa.
1. Learn which cruise ships sail from Tampa.
Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Paradise is the only ship that sails out of Tampa year-round, and it cruises to the Western Caribbean. Carnival Pride also sails out of Tampa to the Western Caribbean on select itineraries — as do Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jade and Royal Caribbean International’s Brilliance of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas from November to April. Holland America Line’s Oosterdam and Rotterdam cruise on a variety of Caribbean itineraries from November to March.
2.Know where you can go.
From Tampa, you can find cheap cruises to a variety of sunny, beachy destinations. The vast majority of sailings go to the Western Caribbean, where you’re most likely to find low fares. Ports include Key West; Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico; Georgetown in the Cayman Islands; Belize City and Harvest Caye in Belize; Roatan, Mahogany Bay, and Trujillo in Honduras; and Santo Tomas de Castilla in Guatemala.
A few cruises also sail the Eastern and Southern Caribbean routes, with ports including those in the British Virgin Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Curacao, Aruba, and St. Lucia.
3. Study the cruise-length options.
Itineraries from Tampa range from four to 14 nights — and cheap fares can most readily be found on four- to seven-night sailings. The cheapest getaway is a four- or five-night Western Caribbean itinerary. A search on ShermansCruise.com turns up four-night fares as low as $229 per person on Carnival Paradise, $329 per person on Norwegian Jade, and $353 per person on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.
Five-night cruise fares can be as low as $244 per person on Carnival, $429 per person on Norwegian, and $469 per person on Royal Caribbean. Seven-night sailings can also drop below $500, especially from June to October (off-season in the Caribbean) and the first two weeks of January, or even November and early December if you book five months or more in advance.
4. Don’t turn up your nose at inside cabins.
Most of those $229-$499 fares for cruises out of Tampa are for inside cabins. But, if you plan to spend more time in your room (such as if you have small children or are on your honeymoon), you should know that for as little as $50 more, you may be able to trade up to a cabin with a view.
5. Book well ahead of time, or at the last minute.
If you’re looking for a bargain January or February sailing out of Tampa, start your search by June at the latest. You may also find great last-minute fares in May and June for summer sailings and in October for November and early December itineraries.
6. Search during “wave season.”
While looking for a cheap cruise from Tampa, remember that cruise lines offer some of their best deals for the coming year during this booking period, which runs from January to March.
7. Sign up for alerts.
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