The Long-Awaited Return of Cruises to Tampa

Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas set sail on Oct. 16, 2021. This marks an end to a nearly two-year hiatus since a recreational cruise ship has departed from the Port of Tampa.

Many in Tampa are thankful for the ending of the no sail order. Statistics show that the cruise industry brings in around 22% of the port’s annual revenue. Losing such a large chunk of revenue directly affects the trickle into the local economy.

In essence, this devolved into a loss of revenue of more than $7.5 million in 2020 compared to 2019.

Raul Alfonso, Port Tampa Bay’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, explained to the Florida Political Review, “The loss of the cruise business was significant, but our diversification was our strength.”

Earlier this year, many had predicted the ports would open up sooner rather than later. The rise of the Delta Variant delayed such hopes.

This caused further harm to the port officers and led them to take on additional routes…delivering fruit. 

With no ships being able to sail, the ports struck a deal with Dole in the summer. They added cargo routes to deliver bananas, mangos, and other fruits from Central America.

This went along with a large amount of containerized cargo, which led to a 26% increase in shipping revenues.

Alfonso highlighted the importance of these shipping routes, saying, “This allowed us to maintain a very strong operating ratio of 41%.” Operating ratio is the total expenses divided by total sales. This diversification helped stabilize the Tampa ports to some degree. 

“Other ports that depended solely on cruises did not perform as well. As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in the same basket,” said Alfonso.

This diversification was almost necessary when viewing the sheer statistics provided from revenue reports. The businesses in and around the ports rely on a dependable income and were left tantalized when stripped of such income for almost two years.

Alfonso explained, “Even a mid-sized cruise ship of 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members will spend on average $334,000 in the local economy on each home port day.” 

This money comes from a variety of places, crewmates and passengers alike. Passengers and crew members will spend money on toiletries, shops and restaurants.

A stable profit like that disappearing is cause for concern in any local economy.

For over a year, the cruise industry was left hopeless. Now they find themselves jumping over hoops to provide the safest environment for passengers.

Most cruise ships, like the Serenade of the Seas, will maintain a 50% starting capacity. As of now, port officials have been cleared for about 190 sailings with over 400,000 passengers until late 2022.

Crew members must be vaccinated and will get the opportunity to get tested on the ship if need be.

For most major cruise lines, guests are required to have proof of full vaccination. This is in addition to proof of a negative PCR test. Many ships also require guests to wear masks in indoor areas.

Alfonso explained the optimism the port has when saying, “There will be a period of slow growth. However, we are dedicated to work with the cruise lines and our travel partners to maintain all the health safety requirements of the CDC and to ensure a safe return of cruises out of our port.”

Check out other recent articles from Florida Political Review here.

Featured Image: Cruise ships in Port Canaveral, Florida. Unmodified photo by Corey Seeman used under a Creative Commons License. (

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