So, we are coming up to the Caribbean cruising season and what better than to combine a fabulous cruise with a fabulous stay in the sunshine state of Florida.
Ok, you dont want theme parks, but there is so much more to do in the state with so many differing areas, from the vibrance of Miami to the turtles of Tarpon Springs, theres something literally for everyone.In this blog i am going to concentrate on the areas of St Petersburg and Tampa,an area rich in culture and served by Tampa airport which has 7 new project developments starting this year with the Main Terminal redevelopment ,started in 2014 already completed at a cost of $154 million.Many people think that Tampa airport is just an afterthought but this year is forecast to carry 19 million passengers,now Tampa is a major hub with direct flights to New York, from Miami and Fort Lauderdale and to Las Vegas and San Juan amongst many others.
Tampa Cruise Port now has 4 cruise lines using the port,Holland America,Carnival with two ships, the Miracle and the Paradise, Royal Caribbean with the Brilliance of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas, and NCL with the Norwegian Pearl.
One of many great memories i have of this area amongst many was taking a car down to Fort de Soto Park, a 1136 acre country park situated at the bottom of the Gulf beaches and we hired a kayak and bikes and rode the 7 mile paved trail to the old Fort with spectacular scenery and facilities to match, a fantastic family day out.
With 361 days of sunshine a year, outdoor sports and the beaches are king, and Clearwater Beach is No 1 ranking in TripAdvisors list of the best U.S. beaches, we stayed at the hotel Opal Sands with signature sunsets a plenty and a gulf front pool scene where we relaxed and watched dolphins and pelicans playing offshore.There are over 35 miles of beaches in this area,43 golf courses,47 miles of trails,27 craft breweries, 81 degrees of sunshine on average,over 1000 tennis courts,and ziplines,paddleboards,fishing and surfing all available in the area.
The biggest shopping mall in the area is the International Plaza and Bay Street, with over 200 stores including Neiman Marcus and of course, a Cheesecake Factory,my favourite shopping areas were in Downtown Clearwater,the arts district in St. Petersburg and the eclectic St.Johns Pass with its quaint arts and craft little shops housed in a village built on stilts.
Public transport links are good but you may need a car to experience all that this area has to offer, travel out the areas such as Palm Harbour,Oldsmar,Dunedin,Safety Harbor,Madeira Beach,Treasure Island,Indian Rocks and fabulous Tarpon Springs, a Greek community where we had a meal at a little restaurant called Hellas in a scene that could have been from Mama Mia
There are over 2000 eateries in this area, with a lot of the focus on seafood, our favourite was a harbour restaurant in Clearwater called the Bait House, which had a great deck for drinks and spectacular food and views. A sundowner at sunset, cant get any better.
If you do need a theme park fix without travelling into central Orlando then Busch Gardens is here with all its thrills.This area has so much to offer, so why not combine a stay here with a cruise to see even more and make more memories.
I can put together the perfect Florida stay and cruse for you,get in touch.
Chris took a Caribbean cruise on Allure of the Seas from Fort Lauderdale and stayed another week in the St Petersburg/Clearwater area.