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Tampa has become a favorite port of departure for a growing number of cruise passengers who want to enhance the cruise experience with a day or two at either the front end or on the back end of any of a variety of Caribbean itineraries.Tampa now homeports five vessels from three cruise lines: Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line, offering the variety of 4, 5, 7, and 14-day cruise itineraries. We also are welcoming in Fiscal Year 2016, the Aida Cruises 'AIDAmar' for seven ports of call.
 
Where You're Cruise Ship Docked
The Tampa cruise terminal is located on the channel downtown, close to Ybor City. It is about five miles from Tampa International Airport. There's a lot to see and do around the Tampa cruise port complex.
The Channelside complex is just a short walk from the terminal. Everything you could possibly want is close at hand -- from multiplex cinemas to shopping, the Florida Aquarium and plenty of places to dine, be it fast-food or a waterside bistro. There's even a complimentary catamaran cruise around the port, although reservations are required (813-905-5014). There is a tourism information kiosk, a spacious passenger lounge, and parking garage with valet parking.
 
Cruise Port from Tampa International Airport:
The Seaport Street Terminal is in Garrison Seaport Center, adjacent to the Florida Aquarium, about 15 miles from Tampa International Airport.

From the north, take I-75 South to I-4 West or I-275 South to I-4 East. Take Exit 1 (sign reads: Port of Tampa / Ybor City). Take 21st Street South, turn right on East Adamo Drive / Hwy. 60, which turns into Channelside Drive / 13th Street. Bear left to follow signs for the Florida Aquarium / Seaport Terminal.
 
From the south, take I-75 North, then Crosstown Expressway West (toward Tampa). Take 22nd Street North Exit (sign reads: Port of Tampa / Ybor City) onto 22nd Street North. Turn left on East Adamo Drive / Hwy. 60, which turns into Channelside Drive / 13th Street.
From the east, take I-4 West to Exit 1 (sign reads: Port of Tampa / Ybor City) to 21st Street South to East Adamo Drive / Hwy. 60, which turns into Channelside Drive / 13th Street.
 
From the West or Tampa International Airport, take I-275 North (stay in right lane), take I-4 East, take Exit 1 (sign reads: Port of Tampa / Ybor City), take 21st Street South and turn right on East Adamo Drive / Hwy. 60, which turns into Channelside Drive / 13th Street.
After dropping luggage at the terminal, parking is on left. Port Authority Garage Parking ($14 per day, with rates subject to change) is under cover, with payment due upon arrival in U.S. dollars or with Visa, MasterCard, or American Express.
 
Getting Around
The Tampa International Airport (TPA) is five miles from downtown. Amtrak services Tampa, arriving downtown at Union Station on Nebraska Avenue. For more information, visit www.amtrak.com. Travel time from the airport via most modes of transportation is about 20 minutes. St. Petersburg is a 30-minute drive from the Tampa airport.
 
For seeing the sights, it's highly recommended that you rent a car. All the majors, such as Avis and Hertz, are at the airport in the red baggage claim area and across the walkway in the blue baggage claim area. Parking is relatively easy around Tampa, whether you choose street parking or the many garages.
 Shuttle vans, such as Bay Shuttle and SuperShuttle provide service 24/7, leaving from all four quadrants of the baggage claim level and providing services to a number of outlying destinations.
 
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) operates Tampa area buses, trolleys and the TECO Line Streetcar System. HART's Route 30 runs buses from the airport to downtown, leaving from the east end of the red baggage claim area.
 
The TECO Line Streetcar System takes visitors back in time in replicas of Tampa's streetcars of the 1920s. The streetcar system whisks you on a 2.4-mile journey between downtown area hotels, the shops and restaurants of Channelside, the Port of Tampa and cruise terminals, the Florida Aquarium, and the Ybor City historic district. You can travel the entire line in only 22 minutes, giving you plenty of time to sightsee before your ship sails.
 
The rubber-tire In-Town Trolleys circulate around downtown and the Hyde Park Village shopping area. The In-Town Trolley connects with the TECO Line Streetcar System at the striking Southern Transportation Plaza at the southern end of the streetcar line, only a short ride from the cruise terminals.
 
Visitors can take advantage of the 1-day unlimited ride fare card. If your stay in Tampa will last a little longer, you can purchase a 3-day unlimited ride visitor pass, available though HART facilities and select hotels.
Tampa Cruise Transportation
There are many options for transportation and shuttles between the Tampa airport and the cruise terminal. You can catch a shuttle, hop in a taxi, rent a limousine, or rent a car. It should take about 25 minutes to go the 5 miles from the airport to the port.
 
Taxis
Taxi service by Yellow Cab and United Cab is available at the curbside outside the Baggage Claim Level. Both companies charge the same fares: $2.50, plus $2.40 per mile. The minimum fee from the airport is $15. There is a flat rate fee of $25 to downtown Tampa and the cruise terminal.
 
Taxis need to be called, though you'll generally see some lined up near the hotels, the performing arts center and terminals. Two reliable taxi companies to call are Tampa Bay Cab (813-251-5555) and United Cab (813-253-2424).
 
Listed below are the approximate distances from Tampa International Airport to popular locations.
 For more information, contact Yellow Cab  at (813) 253-0121 or United Cab at (813) 777-7777.
 
Shared Passenger Van Service
Airport limos and shared passenger van service is available through advance reservation or walk-up booking. Enclosed, air conditioned lobbies are available at either end of the Baggage Claim areas for passengers to wait until shared vans are ready for boarding. SuperShuttle – (800) 282-6817 or (727) 572-1111

Red Coach Inc.
Red Coach (link is external) provides scheduled bus service from Tampa International Airport to Miami and Tallahassee from the Ground Transportation Center Blue 2. -- (877) 733-0724
 
Parking
Port Tampa Bay has 3,480 parking spaces available to the public; 2,519 covered parking spaces and 1,316 uncovered parking spaces.  All of the parking is monitored by our security department 24 hours a day. 
 
There is a parking garage at 810 Channelside Drive for cruise terminals 2 and 3. Parking for terminal 6 is located next to the terminal.
 
Tampa Cruise Parking information.
Driving directions: Take I-275 to exit 44. Follow N Tampa Street to S Franklin Street. Turn Left onto Channelside Drive. Parking garage on the left.
 
Things To See and Do
The city of Tampa, situated on an inlet reaching far into the west coast of Florida, is the economic centre of western Florida. The city centre is an area of high-rise office blocks, but Tampa also has historic old quarters such as Ybor City and Old Hyde Park.The maps drawn by the Spanish conquistadors show a number of Indian settlements around Tampa Bay. In 1824 the Americans built a fort at the mouth of the Hillsborough River directed against the Seminole Indians. After the Second Seminole War a port and trading center were established here, and this soon developed into a regional center. The Civil War brought a period of stagnation, until a boost was given to the town by the construction of the South Florida Railroad.
 
Towards the end of the 19th century Tampa became a fashionable winter resort. In 1886 the Cuban cigar manufacturer Vincente Martinez Ybor moved his business to Tampa and a new quarter, Ybor City, was built for his Spanish-speaking employees. The mining of phosphates in the surrounding area also gave a stimulus to the city's development.
 
Franklin Street is the pedestrian center of downtown Tampa. The area is bordered by I-275 in the north, Meridian Avenue in the east, Garrison Channel in the south and the Hillsborough River in the west.
 
Northeast of downtown, the city's historic Latin district takes its name from Don Vicente Martinez Ybor (Eeee-bore), a Spanish cigar maker who arrived here in 1886 via Cuba and Key West. Soon, his factory and others in Tampa were producing more than 300,000 hand-rolled stogies a day.
 
It may not be the cigar capital of the world anymore, but Ybor is still a smokin' part of Tampa, and it's one of the best places in Florida to buy hand- rolled cigars. It's not on par with New Orleans's Bourbon Street, Washington's Georgetown, or Miami's South Beach, but good food and great music dominate the scene, especially on weekends when the streets bustle until 4am. Live-music offerings run the gamut from jazz and blues to rock.
 
At the heart of it all is Centro Ybor, a dining-shopping-entertainment complex between 7th and 8th avenues and 16th and 17th streets (tel. 813/242-4660; www.centroybor.com). Here you'll find a multiscreen cinema, a comedy club, several restaurants, and a large open-air bar. The Ybor City Chamber of Commerce has its visitor center here, and the Ybor City State Museum's gift shop is here as well .
 
Check with the visitor center about walking tours of the historic district. Ghost Tours of Tampa Bay (tel. 727/398-5200; www.ghosttour.com) offers candlelight walking tours of Tampa Bay's most haunted locations with nightly tours in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and John's Pass Village. Gather your courage and scare up some fun on these uniquely entertaining haunted history tours. Reservations required. Cost is $15 per adult and $8 ages 4 to 12. For those who enjoy an even darker side, Secret Ybor: Scandals, Crimes, and Shady Ladies (tel. 813/831-5214; http://historicguides.com/secretybor.htm) explores the more scandalous side of the city. Tours depart at various times from locations throughout Ybor City. The tours are only for groups of 20 or more and are prearranged. Minimum fee is $200 for 20 people.
 
Even if you're not a cigar smoker, you'll enjoy a stroll through the Ybor City State Museum, 1818 9th Ave., between 18th and 19th streets (tel. 813/247-6323; www.ybormuseum.org), housed in the former Ferlita Bakery (1896-1973). You can take a self-guided tour to see the collection of cigar labels, cigar memorabilia, and works by local artisans. Admission is $4, free for children 6 and under. Walking tours of Ybor City are every Saturday morning at 10:30am, cost $8 (which includes admission to the museum), and start at the Ybor City Museum State Park. Depending on the availability of volunteer docents, admission includes a 15-minute guided tour of La Casita, a renovated cigar worker's cottage adjacent to the museum; it's furnished as it was at the turn of the 20th century. The museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm, but you have the best chance for the guided tour if you visit between 11am and 3pm. Better yet, plan to catch a cigar-rolling demonstration (ongoing; no specific schedule), held Friday through Sunday from 10am to 3pm.
 
Like any area with trendy bars and restaurants, things are always changing, opening, and going out of business, so you may want to check www.ybortimes.com for the latest in Ybor City.
 
Channelside
Entertainment complex in the revitalized Channelside district near the Port of Tampa. Numerous upscale restaurants, several mid-range chain restaurants and bars, an IMAX movie theater and a trendy (if you can believe it) bowling alley. Make sure to call ahead at the bowling alley, however. On a Friday or Saturday night, the wait for a lane can easily extend upwards of 3 hours.

Florida Aquarium
701 Channelside Drive, Phone: (813) 273-4000, Daily 9:30AM-5PM. Channelside district, just east of downtown. Fabulous aquarium following a drop of rain from a swamp through Florida's aquifer, to its rivers and out into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Restaurant, gift shop, children's play area, touch tank, interactive dive experiences, and eco-tours of Tampa Bay. Adults $17.95, ages 3-12 $12.95.

Tampa Museum of Art
The new Tampa Museum of Art is located in downtown Tampa on the Hillsborough river at 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza. Adults $10; seniors $7.50, Florida educators $7.50, military plus one guest $7.50 (each); students $5; and children ages 6 and under free. Hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Friday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and Sat and Sun from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. The Tampa Museum of Art is currently (as of 14 Jan 2011) allowing free admission from 4p-8p on Fridays.
Davis Islands and Harbour Island are adjacent to downtown and both worth exploring for their beautiful waterfront areas, historic and upscale housing stock, and dining/nightlife in their main streets.
 
Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens is a 335 acre African-themed family entertainment and adventure park featuring thrill rides, live music, craft performances and a multitude of exotic animals in natural habitat settings. This is one of the must see attractions in the Tampa area for visiting families.
 
Also, visitors can take a safari to see animals grazing on the plains with reproductions of African villages and camps. Visitors can experience close up encounters with some of the animals. The Serengeti Night Safari is another popular option at Busch Gardens. Address: 10165 North McKinley Drive Official site: http://buschgardens.com/bg/
 
Busch Gardens, McKinley Drive, Toll Free: 1-888-800-5447. More than just an amusement park -- also a top-notch zoo. Expensive, but a very enjoyable day -- rides, shows. This is a fun place for all ages, kids, teens, and even adults. It has a family friendly atmosphere with lots of things to do and see. The scenery is amazing; it has a feel of different places as you travel throughout the park. Rides vary from a huge merry go round to the famous roller coaster, Montu.
 
There are many different types of rides to choose from and also many roller coasters to choose from as well. Not a ride fan? You can check out the many shows they perform daily. Ice skating, singing, magic, birds, dolphins and other performances can be found all around the corners of Busch Gardens. Not a show fan either? Then check out the many food establishments spread out through the park. They offer fast food like popcorn and fries to a nice sit down meal.
 
Also check Busch Gardens out during different holidays. They always have special events and offers. For instance, for Halloween they have Howl-O-Scream when the park is open all night long. They also have special events for over night stays, New Years, and special ticket sales for Florida residents. Always watch out for these special events because they happen all the time. $70 visitors, $80 FL residents.

Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 West Sligh Avenue, Phone: (813) 935-8552. Daily 9:30AM-5PM. One of the top-rated zoos in the country, featuring children's areas, restaurants, a manatee hospital, and first-rate encounters with animals from around the world. Make sure to tour the aviary and feed the lorikeets. Popular section of the zoo include the Florida Wildlife Center with alligators, bears and Manatees; the Asian Gardens with Komodo Dragons, Rhinoceros, and leopards; and the new Safari Africa with meercats, elephants, and a wide variety of African animals. Adults $23.95, ages 3-11 $18.95.

Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), 4801 E Fowler Av., Phone: (813) 987-6100. Daily 9AM-6PM. Hands-on children's science museum, including an IMAX dome and stellar revolving exhibits. Great way to spend a day with the family. Adults $23.95, ages 2-12 $19.95.

Big Cat Rescue
Big Cat Rescue is a wildlife sanctuary for abused and abandoned big cats. It is a non profit organization that is home to hundreds of animals which include Geoffroy Cats, Jungle Cats, Clouded Leopard, Tigers, Servals, Caracals, Snow Leopards, Bobcats, and Lynx.
 
The facility offers guided tours only. You cannot wander the grounds freely like in a zoo setting. Nonetheless, this is a popular outing. If you are visiting with a child under the age of 10 you must take the "Kids Tour" which is only available on certain days. Address: 12802 Easy Street, Tampa, FL 33625-3702, United States Official site: http://bigcatrescue.org/
 
Ybor City
The center of Tampa's Latin community, Ybor City is a National Historic Landmark District. It is named for its founder, cigar baron Vincente Martinez Ybor. He came to the region in the mid-1880's after workers at his Key West plant threatened to unionize. At one point, the Ybor cigar factory was the largest in the world with over 4,000 people hand-rolling more than 900,000 cigars a month. However, the Great Depression and machine rollers brought an end to the boom and most factories were closed and demolished.
In more recent years the area has experienced a revival and is home to many shops, galleries, restaurants and cafes. Seventh Avenue in Ybor City, known in Spanish as "La Septima," features some of the district's most historical buildings, several of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places Official site: http://www.ybor.org/

Tampa Theatre
Built in 1926, the Tampa Theatre is a luxurious movie palace featuring a unique mix of architectural styles including Italian Renaissance, Byzantine and Greek Revival. It presents foreign and classic films regularly along with specialty concerts and other programs.
 
Tampa Theatre is a historic movie palace featuring a wide range of independent, foreign, and documentary films on a daily basis. Architecturally stunning both inside and out, it is no wonder that the Tampa Theatre has become both a city and national landmark being listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1978. It is Tampa's only non-profit theatre and operating costs are largely covered by its membership program, various corporate sponsors as well as ticket sales.
 
While you can see both new and old films here, watching one of the classics in this building is a great way to feel like you've stepped back to another time period. Address: 711 Franklin Street Official site: http://tampatheatre.org/
 
Sunshine Skyway
Sunshine Skyway is located on I 275/US 19 and is a toll bridge. This multi-lane "highway on stilts", is 12 miles long and curves gracefully across the entrance to Tampa Bay. Its central feature is a 4.25 mile long high-level bridge, the middle section of which is suspended from two gigantic pylons, allowing the passage of large ocean-going vessels beneath. The old bridge was rammed by a cargo ship in 1980 and partly collapsed. Parts of the old bridge now serve as piers for anglers.
From the drive over the new bridge there are beautiful views out over the ocean. The bridge itself is also a beautiful sight and often photographed.
 
Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center at Apollo Beach
A manatee sanctuary is located across from a Tampa Electric power plant. The manatees are drawn here by the warm water produced by the power plant and can sometimes be seen in very large numbers. They are most prevalent when the surrounding water temperatures are cold, dipping below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Visitors will find a tidal walkway showcasing a variety of Florida plants and birds, butterfly gardens as well as an observation platform for the manatee. The Manatee Viewing Center is also home to an educational building that features the power plant and the manatees. Address: 6990 Dickman Road
Official site: http://www.tampaelectric.com/company/mvc/
 
Lowry Park Zoo
Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo features more than 2,000 animals in natural habitats. Some of the exhibits include Asian Gardens, Primate World, Free-Flight Aviaries, Florida Wildlife Center, Florida Manatee and Aquatic Center, Wallaroo Station children's zoo, and Safari Africa.
This is a zoo that has grown over the years and developed into a quality facility that is very popular with locals. Visitors can feed some of the animals, including giraffes. In addition to the animals there are also rides and play areas for children. Address: 1101 West Sligh Avenue, Tampa, FL 33604-4756, United States. Official site: http://www.lowryparkzoo.com/

Tampa Bay History Center
The exhibits at the Tampa Bay History Center trace the rich history of the Tampa Bay area going back 12,000 years. Early inhabitants of the region such as the Seminoles, the multicultural influences of the last five centuries, the railroad and shipping era, and regional geography are highlights of the Tampa Bay History Center. In addition to the permanent collection the center features a temporary gallery with changing exhibits. This is a 60,000 sq ft facility with a glass front, located in the Channelside District.Address: 801 Old Water Street Official site: http://www.tampabayhistorycenter.org/

Henry B Plant Museum
Part of the former Tampa Bay Hotel, once owned by railroad tycoon Henry Plant, was turned into a museum in 1933. It is a luxurious Victorian palace with distinctive Moorish features. The Henry B. Plant Museum traces the history of the hotel and Plant's contribution to the development of Tampa and Florida.
The various rooms, such as the Grand Hall, the Reading and Writing Room, and the Garden room, feature fine period furnishings and offer a glimpse into the lifestyle of Henry B. Plant. An avid gardener, Plant hired a prominent landscape architect to design the grounds, which are known for their lovely tropical gardens. The rest of the old hotel now houses the University of Tampa. Address: 401 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33606-1450, United States. Official site: http://www.plantmuseum.com/
 
Beaches
Best Beach for a Half-Day Visit: Indian Rocks Beach, along Gulf Boulevard, is convenient (and there are plenty of restaurants nearby).
 
Best Beaches for Watersports: There are two: Clearwater Beach is a gorgeous swath of sugar-fine white sand that offers everything from swimming to volleyball. At St. Pete Beach you can rent waverunners, or go scuba diving, parasailing or fishing.
 
Most Peaceful Beach: Caladesi Island State Park Beach is on one of Florida's last undeveloped barrier islands (you take a ferry to the three-mile beach from Honeymoon Island).
 
Pier 60 Park is a wonderful family complex, offering not just the expansive beach, but also covered playgrounds, fishing, live music and a glorious Gulf of Mexico sunset any day of the year. In fact, you'll enjoy the sunset amid artists, magicians, jugglers and musicians during the free, daily (weather permitting) festival.
 
Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise (https://www.captainmemo.com/) sets out from the Clearwater Marina for two-hour sails; kids don pirate hats and go out on a treasure hunt while moms and dads relax with complimentary wine, beer and such. Daily 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (727-446-2587)
Walk the trails and boardwalks inside the Moccasin Lake Nature Park. A 51-acre preserve, it offers bird-watching tours, workshops and guided group hikes. Tuesday - Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. (2750 Park Trail Lane; 727-793-2976)
 
For leisure strollers, nothing beats the turn-of-the-century fishing village of Johns Pass between Clearwater and St. Petersburg, where old tin-roofed wood shacks offer up art galleries, cute shops, beach bars and yummy restaurants.
 
For those desperate to speak to their inner deep-sea fishermen, there are the party-central boats at Hubbard's Marina at John's Pass on Madeira Beach.
St. Petersburg: For antique buffs, it's a must to wander the aisles of the more than 100 antique shops along a five-block stretch of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg.
 
For lovers of old books and first editions, we recommend stopping at Haslam's, which has been in business since 1933. Open Monday –Saturday 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. (2025 Central Avenue; 727-822-8616)
Visit The Pier, the inverted pyramid that juts out a half-mile into Tampa Bay. It's filled with shops, galleries, restaurants, a small aquarium, surrey bike rentals and a chance to sign up for dolphin-spotting cruises.
 
Stroll through the bloom-filled Sunken Gardens to see an exotic collection of more than 50,000 tropical flowers and plants. Don't miss the butterfly garden. Monday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m, Sunday noon - 4:30 p.m. (1825 Fourth St. N, St.; 727-551-3106)
Lovers of anything Dali -- visit the Salvador Dali Museum. It's the world's most comprehensive and incredible collection of works by the famous Spanish master. Monday - Wednesday and Friday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Thursday - Sunday noon - 5:30 p.m. (1 Dali Blvd.; 727-823-3767)

Inside the St. Petersburg Museum of History, a 1929 Model A pickup truck outfitted for bootlegging and a gorgeous beaded flapper dress are just two of the amazing items you'll see. Wednesday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (335 Second St. NE; 727-894-1052)
 
One of the largest Holocaust museums in the country, the Florida Holocaust Museum opened in 1992 as the Holocaust Center. Renamed in 1999, the museum played a critical role in shaping legislation that made Florida the nation's first state to mandate Holocaust education in public schools. Daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (55 Fifth Street S; 727-820-0100)
 
For all things nature just 25 minutes from Tampa and close to Busch Gardens, take the two-hour or full-day Canoe Escape down the Hillsborough River through a 16,000-acre wildlife preserve. You'll paddle down"alligator alley," where dozens of gators, including some 11-footers, sunbathe on logs and dive into the river from the river's banks. Tour guides also point out snakes, turtles, river otters, fish and birds of prey as they relax in their natural habitat. Weekends 8 a.m. – 2p.m. (9335 E Fowler Ave., Thonotosassa; 813-986-2067)
 
Eating Out
Bern’s Steak House -- Owned and operated by the Laxer family for more than 40 years, Bern’s Steak House consistently rates accolades for food amid gilded red-wallpaper décor, often likened to a bordello. Bern’s buys only U.S. Prime, organically grows its own vegetables and salad greens, and has among the world’s largest wine lists. (Nearby, the offspring Sidebern’s also sizzles with African, Asian, French and Latin influences.) 1208 South Howard Avenue. (813) 251-2421 www.bernssteakhouse.com/
 
Columbia Restaurant -- Ybor City’s Columbia’s Restaurant (Florida’s oldest eatery, founded in 1905) has been family-run for five generations, and seats 1,700 in a dozen rooms covering a city block. For centennial hoopla, custom tiles and chandeliers were commissioned from Spain for two new dining rooms, the first added since 1956. Desserts include Brazo Gitano (from the recipe used by founder Casimiro Hernandez, Sr.), a sponge cake soaked in syrup with Spanish Manzanilla sherry and cream, topped with meringue, and flambéed tableside. 2117 East 7th Avenue, Ybor City. (813) 248-4961 www.columbiarestaurant.com/
 
Kojack’s House of Ribs -- Family-run since opening in 1978, this casual eatery with a trio of dining rooms and a terrace outside is favored among locals ravenous for tender, succulent barbecued ribs or chicken, with sides of coleslaw, potato salad and corn on the cob. 2808 Gandy Blvd. (813) 837-3774
 
Columbia Restaurant located in Ybor city, the Columbia Restaurant is the state's oldest and the nation's largest Spanish restaurant. This historic institution was established in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernández, Sr. He opened a small corner cafe that now seats more than 1,600 people. There are several individual dining areas within the facility, including the original cafe which seats 60 people. The Columbia is famous for its Spanish cuisine, dinner shows, and old-world architectural charm. Most nights there is a flamenco dance show. It also features Jazz in the cafe on some evenings. Address: 2117 East 7th Avenue, Official site: http://www.columbiarestaurant.com/
 
Fourth Street Shrimp Store (1006 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg) is a don't-miss beloved eatery in St. Petersburg. Boiled, fried, scampied -- doesn't matter. It's all good. So are the oysters. Daily from 11 a.m. http://www.theshrimpstore.com/
 
Mise En Place (442 W Kennedy Blvd.) serves up excellent New American cuisine that Zagat raves about. Lunch served Tuesday - Friday 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. www.miseonline.com/
 
Skyway Jack's (2795 34th St. South, St. Petersburg), a St. Pete's institution, has a huge menu featuring yummy orange Pecan French toast, their signature creamed chipped beef on toast and the freshest just-squeezed orange juice. Daily 5 a.m. - 3 p.m..
 
Oystercatchers -- The first thing you notice as you enter Oystercatchers is the amazing view. This seafood restaurant, nestled among lush, tropical landscaping, takes full advantage of its location at the edge of Tampa Bay.
 
Copperfish Seafood and Oyster Bar is centrally located in Tampa's trendy SoHo neighborhood. Owned by well-known local restauranteur Gordon Davis, Copperfish specializes in sourcing very fresh seafood and preparing it.  www.copperfishtampa.com/
 
In Ybor City, Centro Ybor, on 7th Avenue East at 16th Street (tel. 813/242-4660; www.centroybor.com), is primarily a dining-and- entertainment complex, but you'll find a few chains, such as American Eagle and Urban Outfitters.
 
Shopping
For pre- and post-cruise adventure, here’s a sampling of hotel, dining and attraction options near the Port of Tampa:
 
Hyde Park and Ybor City are two areas of Tampa worth some window-shopping, perhaps sandwiched around lunch at one of the fine restaurants.
On the mall front, there's the upscale International Plaza (tel. 813/342-3790; www.shopinternationalplaza.com), near Tampa International Airport, where the headliners include Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.
 
Cigars -- Ybor City is no longer a major producer of hand-rolled cigars, but you can still watch artisans making stogies at the Columbia Cigar Store. Rollers are on duty Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm. You can stock up on domestic and imported cigars at El Sol, 1728 E. 7th Ave. (tel. 813/247-5554), the city's oldest cigar store; King Corona Cigar Factory, 1523 E. 7th Ave. (tel. 813/241-9109); and Metropolitan Cigars & Wine, 2014 E. 7th Ave. (tel. 813/248-3304).
 
Shopping Centers -- Old Hyde Park Village, 1507 W. Swann Ave., at South Dakota Avenue (tel. 813/251-3500; www.oldhydeparkvillage.com), is a terrific alternative to cookie-cutter malls despite the fact that it's almost always inexplicably devoid of people. It's perfect for a peaceful, quiet shopping experience. Walk around the little boutiques in the sunshine and check out Hyde Park, one of the city's most historic and picturesque neighborhoods. The cluster of 50 upscale shops is set in a village layout. The selection includes Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Brooks Brothers, Crabtree & Evelyn, and Godiva, to name a few. There are also several restaurants, including the Wine Exchange, Timpano Italian Chophouse, the Cobb CineBistro movie theater and restaurant, and our favorite, Restaurant BT. There's a free parking garage on South Oregon Avenue. Most shops are open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 7pm and Sunday from noon to 5pm. Throughout the year, the village hosts various events from concerts to art festivals.
 
The centerpiece of the downtown seaport renovation is the massive tourist trap, Channelside at Garrison Seaport, on Channelside Drive between the Garrison Seaport and the Florida Aquarium (tel. 813/223-4250). It has stores, restaurants, bars, a Splitsville Lanes bowling alley (tel. 813/514-2695; www.splitsvillelanes.com), and a multiscreen cinema with an IMAX screen.



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