TAMPA — Here's another sign of the growing strength of Tampa's cruise ship industry: AIDA Cruises will arrive next year and add winter trips to the Caribbean in 2014 and 2015.
It will be the first time the German cruise line will dock at the Port of Tampa. AIDA, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp. & PLC, becomes the fifth cruise line to make Tampa a home port for one of its ships, joining Carnival, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines.
"We have had a good relationship with Carnival for a long time," said port spokesman Edward Miyagishima. "One of their subsidiaries, Holland America, has been here for 30 years, and it's just continued."
The German cruise line will bring the AIDAvita to Tampa in December 2014 to make four cruises trips around the Western Caribbean, each lasting three weeks. The AIDAvita was launched in 2002 and is the second ship in AIDA's fleet of 10 cruise ships. It can carry 1,266 passengers.
In winter 2015-16, the cruise line will send one of its newest ships to the Port of Tampa. The AIDAmar was launched in 2012 and can carry 2,194 passengers. It will make seven trips to the Western Caribbean in winter 2015-16.
The prow on each of AIDA's 10 ships, including the two that will dock in Tampa the next two years, are painted with a pair of lips. AIDA aims for the "casual cruising" sector and caters to the younger German-speaking public.
Miyagishima said AIDA's parent company Carnival was attracted not just by its prior relationship to the Port of Tampa, but its familiarity with the Tampa Bay tourism market and the familiarity of German tourists with the area.
"Just like any other tourist they're looking for a great place to visit," Miyagishima said, "and to get a good quality option for the dollar."
Royal Caribbean International also announced in August that it will bring a second ship, Vision of the Seas, to sail out of Tampa next winter.
That could put Tampa in a position to surpass 1 million cruise ship passengers, which would be a record. The record, set in fiscal year 2012, was 974,259.