Best Things to Do in Tampa Before or After Your Cruise

If you are looking for the best things to do in Tampa before boarding your cruise, we have that covered for you. More than 1.1 million fellow cruisers passed through the port of Tampa in 2023, further shoring up Tampa’s status as a desirable destination and port of departure.

Tampa is home to eight ships from five different cruise lines including Carnival, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Margaritaville at Sea, all offering a mix of 4 to 14 day cruise itineraries throughout the Caribbean. So you’ll have no problem finding an itinerary to fit every cruiser’s desire.

People sitting in lawn chairs at sunset eating and drinking with strand lights above them.
(Photo: Sparkman Wharf)

Tampa is a bustling city with many fantastic restaurants, bars and green spaces, all while maintaining its laid back coastal lifestyle. You are sure to find something right within downtown Tampa to fill your time before boarding your cruise.

The Port of Tampa where all of the cruise lines dock at is centrally located to downtown and will offer easy access to lots of restaurants, entertainment and attractions for all ages of cruisers within a short walk. Making it in my opinion one of the best ports in the US.

Hang Out at Sparkman Wharf

Sparkman Wharf is a vibrant part of Tampa’s downtown waterfront which saw massive development in the last few years. Sparkman Wharf offers dining, a biergarten, recreational lawn with live music, and the obvious waterfront views, and the occasional Royal Caribbean ship docked alongside its pier.

The dining at Sparkman Wharf is mostly quick service with local restaurants operating out of repurposed ocean containers in the dining yard, which is unique to Sparkman Wharf. There are also a couple of full service restaurants with the main one being a Mexican restaurant.

For the fun seeking group looking to burn a couple hours before boarding or the group needing to entertain some kiddos, you can find yourself a lane at Splitsville bowling, grab some drinks, food and relax with your ship in sight.

Visit the Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium is right next door to the port of Tampa and a short three to five minute walk from the main terminal building. It is almost 250,000 square feet, has several native a global exhibits, and offers an outdoor splash pad for kids.

They also offer luggage storage with the purchase of a general admission ticket, which can be purchased online.

Outside of the Florida aquarium looking towards the stingray sculpture.
(Photo: The Florida Aquarium)

Explore Water Street Tampa

Water Street in Downtown Tampa is a walkable dining and shopping district a few minutes walk from the Port of Tampa and Channelside District where Sparkman Wharf and the Port is located.

At Water Street Tampa you can find restaurants, bars, hotels and shops all dotted along a single walkable street. If you happen to be departing on the third Sunday of the month then you can catch the market at Water Street which runs from 10AM to 3pm, offering lots of goodies from local vendors, farmers and more.

Standing on the sidewalk of Water Street Tampa looking towards a dining patio for a restaurant.
(Photo: Water Street Tampa)

Board the SS American Victory

For all the history buffs and families with kids who love to explore you can walk over to the SS American Victory which is docked amongst the cruise ships at the Port of Tampa and relive WWII history. The SS American Victory ship is 1 of only 4 fully operational WWII ships in the country. It offers you the unique ability to explore all nine decks of the warship and more.

Aerial view of the SS American Victory a World War Three battle ship in Tampa port.
(Photo: SS American Victory)

Insider Tip:

I would recommend going to Sparkman Wharf with its close proximity to the cruise terminal and dine at JoToro or Edison’s Swigamajig. You can also grab a drink and relax in the biergarten or the lawn. It is very easy to enjoy a meal, drinks and kill a couple of hours here.

Wrapping Up Your Afternoon in Tampa

Fantastic weather, plenty of fun and unique places to hang out, eat, and drink, or venture to one of the local attractions, and all of this in such proximity to the port make Tampa one of the best Ports for cruisers to experience before or after their trip.

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