Port Tampa Bay is the fastest-growing spot for cruise embarkations.
Florida isn’t snoozing on cruising.
The cruise sector, according to a new report from industry trade group Cruise Lines International Association, contributed $8.49 billion to Florida’s economy in 2018, up 6.4% from 2016. That accounts for 35% of the industry’s spending nationwide states the report, the CLIA 2018 Economic Impact Analysis. Florida is the No. 1 state in the country for cruises, with direct expenditures generating a total economic impact of 154,646 jobs and $7.69 billion in wages and salaries, the report adds.
“Florida is considered the heart of the cruise industry in the United States,” CLIA President and CEO Kelly Craighead says in a statement. “In addition to the fact that the majority of U.S. cruise passengers come and go through Florida, the state is also home to the majority of our members’ U.S.-based workforces.”
Florida’s ports are the industry workhorses. Nearly 60% of all U.S. embarkations, the report shows, boarded cruises from one of Florida’s five cruise ports: Port of Miami, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral, Port Tampa Bay and Port of Jacksonville. More than 7.5 million passengers boarded a Florida-based cruise in 2018. (A little more than 12.5 million people took a cruise from a U.S. port in 2018, with California, Texas and New York behind the Sunshine State.)
Although it significantly lags the big three — Miami, Everglades and Canaveral — in volume, Tampa did post the biggest nationwide percentage increase in embarkations from 2016 to 2018, by far, at 47.7%. Port Tampa Bay is one of only two ports nationwide, joining Cape Liberty in New Jersey, just outside New York City at 41.3%, to post an increase in embarkations over 13.5% from 2016 to 2018.
Five ships from Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line called Tampa a homeport in 2019, according to a separate statement from the Port Tampa Bay. Celebrity Cruises and Holland America announced earlier this year a scheduled return to homeport from Tampa for the 2020-2021 season, and MSC Cruises announced it plans to debut Tampa-based cruises in fall 2020. Carnival recently celebrated 25 years of sailing from Tampa.