Everything You Need to Know About Last-Minute Cruises From Tampa

by  Donna Heiderstadt | Nov 4, 2016
Tampa Skyline
Tampa Skyline / iStock.com / JudyKennamer

When you think of cruising from Florida, Tampa may not be top of mind. Yes, this Gulf Coast city has fewer cruise lines, fewer ships, and a shorter season than its sister ports on the Atlantic (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Port Canaveral), but you may be surprised by the deals you can score on cruises to the Caribbean — even without a lot of planning. Here’s everything you need to know about last-minute cruises from Tampa.

1. Which ships cruise from Tampa?
Tampa is a smaller port, and cruise lines tend to station older ships here versus the newer, flashier vessels you'll find cruising out of the more popular ports in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Carnival Paradise, which launched in 1998, is the only ship to cruise out of Tampa year-round, though fleet mate Carnival Miracle will be cruising out of Tampa as well beginning in January 2018.

You'll find the highest number of options if you’re traveling in the late fall and winter. Holland America Line's Oosterdam and Rotterdam sail out of Tampa from November to March, while Norwegian Jade and Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas are located in Tampa from November to April. Carnival Pride also spends part of the winter here.

2. What itineraries are available?
Most cruises out of Tampa head to the Western Caribbean, with ports including Key West in Florida, the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, and Central American ports such as Belize City, Roatan in Honduras, and Santo Tomas de Castilla in Guatemala. You can also find Eastern and Southern Caribbean routes, which can include time on larger islands such as Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic, as well as smaller islands such as Antigua, Dominica, and St. Lucia.

As the winter Caribbean cruise season ends, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean ships in Tampa reposition to Europe for the warmer summer months in the Mediterranean. Just remember that even if you find an amazing last-minute deal on a transatlantic cruise, the one-way airfare back to Tampa from Europe could make the cheap cruise you booked not so cheap after all.

3. How long are cruises from Tampa?
The majority of round-trip cruises from Tampa are seven nights, but you can book shorter itineraries. For example, Carnival Cruise Line does four-night cruises from Tampa to Cozumel, while Norwegian has four-night trips to Costa Maya. Holland America offers weeklong sailings, as well as much longer 14- and 21-day Caribbean cruises. Transatlantic voyages to Europe range from 14 to 29 nights. 

4. How last-minute is last-minute?
Every cruise line has a different time frame for when it stops selling a sailing. Some are as short as four days, while others are 30 days out. Keep in mind you will need a photo ID such as a driver's license to board the cruise. Although you don't necessarily need a passport or passport card to do a "closed-loop" cruise (a trip that starts and ends in the same U.S. port), you will need one of these to go ashore on some Caribbean islands and in Mexico.

5. Which lines have the best last-minute deals?
Carnival consistently offers cheap fares on four- and five-night cruises on Carnival Paradise, but last-minute fares may be limited during summer when it’s the only ship in port. You'll likely find more deals in early December and early January, when Norwegian, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean also cruise out of Tampa.

6. Which destinations have the most last-minute cruises?
The Western Caribbean is the most likely route available as the embarkation date nears — that’s where the majority of cruises go, and Carnival sails these itineraries year-round.

7. Where can I find last-minute cruises out of Tampa?
ShermansCruise lists the top last-minute cruises out of Tampa right here. If you’re looking for trips out of a different embarkation port, check out our last-minute cruises page.

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