Tampa Bay is known for its Cruise arrivals and departures between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. But the Port of Tampa may have found a solution to cruises that don't require a lot of occupancy. Smaller cruise ships are easily navigable to maneuver around the one problem that seems to cause avoidance for others, the Sunshine Skyway bridge.

Investing smaller

Small cruise ships have a specific advantage over others, it can serve nearly 1 million passengers on a yearly basis. These smaller ships also work in Tampa's favor to divert more cruise traffic to the city and help with becoming a more popular cruise destination than some Florida's other port such as Miami.

Last year, the Port of Tampa welcomed nearly 814,000 cruise passengers and in the beginning quarter of this year it welcomed nearly 240,000 cruise passengers. On top of the increase in cruise passengers, seven cruise liners now arrive and depart in the Port of Tampa. The latest addition is Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas, which will hosts cruises from Tampa to Havana in April of this year.

Height problems

The greatest challenge for most megaships by top cruise liners will be the Sunshine Skyway bridge, which acts as a connection between Bradenton and St. Pete. Off the Skyway bridge you have access to the Tampa Bay Rays stadium and the Salvador Dali Museum along with the Dale Chihuly Museum and Warehouse.

While some people are reconsidering designing the bridge to be better accommodating to larger cruise ships, the general plan at the current moment is to just create a niche in the cruise market for Tampa's port. "The plan isn't to try and compete with the megaships and larger ports," said Vice President of Marketing Wade Elliot to Tampa Bay Times, "A lot of the new demand we are seeing for cruise traffic is connected to population growth in Florida and the I-4 corridor." This means people from up north such as Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia are coming down to take cruises that go out of Tampa Bay.

Right now Tampa Bay Port officials are asking for $2 million to renovate the cruise terminal to accommodate the influx of passengers. It seems everything is off to a smooth sailing start.