Your Guide to Carnival Cruise Tampa

Advisor - Chelsea Kavcic
Curated By

Chelsea Kavcic

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  • Tampa

  • Florida

  • All-Inclusive Travel

  • Cruises

  • Outdoors

  • Entertainment

  • Sightseeing

silhouette of palm trees and dock in orange sunset
Curator’s statement

It is no secret that Florida is one of the most popular places to hop on a cruise ship in the United States. Being so close to the Caribbean, there are a plethora of destinations that are easily accessible by boat. That being said, most people think of Miami or Fort Lauderdale when booking their cruise vacation. However, it is important not to overlook Tampa, especially if you are on the gulf side of the sunshine state. Being a Sarasota resident myself, I want to emphasize just how convenient it is to be able to snag Carnival Cruise Tampa.

The Fora Difference

Book with Chelsea to access exclusive perks and experiences on your trip.

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Killer perks

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Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay in Tampa

Tampa Marriott Water Street

A luxurious waterfront hotel in downtown Tampa offering stunning views, upscale accommodations, and exceptional amenities.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Welcome amenity.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay

A sleek resort with two pools and a large waterfront.

Fora Perks
  • Welcome amenity.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out, whenever possible.

  • Breakfast daily.

Home2 Suites by Hilton

Experience style and sustainability at Home2 Suites. Enjoy pet-friendly suites perfect for extended stays, in-suite kitchens, plus free breakfast and WiFi.

Advisor - Chelsea Kavcic

Unlock perks by contacting Chelsea to book your trip.

Things to do in Tampa

Skyline of Tampa at night.

Cruises. While they're not for everyone, you can't deny how incredibly convenient it is to have your meals and entertainment included in the price of your room. On top of that, you're able to experience multiple countries, in just a few days.

Carnival is a line I am sure everyone has heard of. Known for providing a fun, casual and affordable experience, this line is loved by families, couples and travelers of all ages! That is why us South West Floridians are grateful that Tampa has a port that docks several ships in the fleet.

You may think that being on the Gulf Coast would limit the amount of ports you stop at, but this is simply not the case! In fact, Carnival has multiple itineraries leaving from Tampa, that range from 4 nights to 16 nights. The majority of these itineraries include stops to Mexico, Honduras, Grand Cayman, and Belize. Other itineraries include Key West and Jamaica, or trips to the Bahamas. A popular port recently has been Bimini and I am happy to state that these ships do stop in Bimini! Looking for something even more unique? There is a sailing that goes all the way from the Gulf coast of Florida, through the Panama Canal and ends in Seattle.

While I will provide some excursion ideas below, here are some of the top things to do ONBOARD:

  1. Serenity Adult Only retreat - For ages 21 and up, this is a haven where you can kick back and relax, enjoy a drink and get a tan. Ideal for those not traveling with their families...or who just want to break free from them for an hour or two!

  2. Punchliner Comedy Club - Onboard comedy shows! All included in your cruise fare.

  3. Waterworks - This is Carnival's onboard waterpark. You heard that correctly...a water park at sea! Spend some time on these slides! Fun for all ages.

  4. Seuss at Sea - An immersive experience for the whole family. Characters, interactive storytime, Green Eggs and Ham breakfast and arts and crafts! The perfect way to spend a day with the whole family.

  5. The Spa - While not included in the cruise fare, the cloud nine spa is a great place to relax and unwind. Especially on a day at sea. Pamper yourself with a massage, facial, or body wrap, and make the most out of your vacation.

  6. Attend a Deck Party! A great way to meet people for those who are traveling solo or with groups of friends.

  7. Hit up the casino! Make sure to join Carnival's VIFP program. The more you play, the more you win huge perks and discounts toward your future sailings.

  8. Kids/teens clubs

  9. Head to show hosted by Playlist Productions. These are all free of charge, included in your cruise fare.

Day Trips:

I wanted to include some excursion ideas for the most popular ports that our Tampa sailings visit:

  • Cozumel, MX: The most popular activity in Cozumel is snorkeling. If you want to see outside of Cozumel, I recommend taking a day trip to Tulum and checking out ancient Mayan ruins.

  • Mahogany Bay, Honduras: Sailing and snorkeling excursion. Or head off the beaten path and rent ATVs to ride around the island.

  • Grand Cayman: Sting Ray encounters are all the rage at this port!

  • Bimini, Bahamas: Bimini is the port you want to kick your feet up at a beachside pool and just enjoy lunch and beverages at. If feeling adventurous, you could go snorkeling with reef sharks!

  • Nassau, Bahamas: If you have ever wanted to swim with the island pigs (yes, I am sure you have seen pictures on Instagram) this is the spot to do it! Looking for more laid back? Rent a day pass at Atlantis!

Places to eat & drink in Tampa

A brunch spread featuring waffles, bowls and more.

The amazing thing about Carnival's dining options is that, unlike more formal cruise lines, they offer "Your Choice Dining," providing flexibility with dining time and table size. This is great for families and those who prefer a more relaxed vacation. Carnival also stands out by offering many fantastic restaurants completely free of charge, included in your cruise fare. Here are a few must-try dining experiences on your next Carnival cruise:

  1. Guy's Burger Joint: Inspired by Guy Fieri, this poolside restaurant allows you to build your own burger or choose from gourmet options like the pepperoni pizza burger.

  2. BlueIguana Cantina: Your onboard Mexican restaurant! Enjoy tacos for lunch and visit the BlueIguana Tequila Bar for a frozen margarita (additional cost for alcohol).

  3. Lido Marketplace: The buffet-style dining offers a variety of options, from pasta and sushi to stir-fry. Great for breakfast with pastries, fruit, and a "create your own" omelet bar.

  4. SeaDay Brunch: No need to worry about an early breakfast. Enjoy your eggs and French toast at noon with the option to add a drink package for mimosas and Bloody Marys.

  5. Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast: Indulge in a Dr. Seuss-themed feast onboard, perfect for families with kids. Enjoy colorful pancakes, cereal-crusted French toast, and "green eggs & ham" in a Benedict-style dish. The breakfast includes characters, coloring/activity books, and has an additional charge.

  6. Swirls: Soft-serve ice cream, a cruise essential, especially when vacationing in a tropical destination.

  7. The Chef's Table: For a more formal experience, join this 14-person event where you dine on multiple courses with a master chef. It's a bit pricey but worth it for food enthusiasts. Reserve early to guarantee your spot.

  8. RedFrog Rum Bar: Open deck, pool bar vibes. Visit for pub-style food and frozen rum drinks!

Need to Know

This trip report is part of our ongoing series on travel to Tampa. In need of further inspiration? Check out Marilyn Fay’s guide, Carnival Cruise Mexico: Sip, Savor, and Explore, Uncorking the Delights of Valle de Guadalupe.

Advisor - Chelsea Kavcic

Travel Advisor

Chelsea Kavcic

Get in touch with Chelsea

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Florida.