TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay will gain a fifth cruise line next year when fast-growing MSC Cruises begins sailing to the Caribbean, Mexico and the Bahamas in November 2020.
MSC said Thursday that it will offer a winter season of four- and five-night cruises from November 2020 to April 2021, with several 7-night cruises in December 2020, followed by a summer season of weeklong cruises from May to November 2021.
“As MSC Cruises expands its presence in the U.S., the introduction of Tampa as a home port plays an important role in our long-term deployment strategy for this region,” MSC Cruises USA executive vice president and chief operating officer Ken Muskat said in an announcement of the schedule. “We’ve seen increased demand for cruise options from Tampa as vacationers from around the world look to explore the city and surrounding areas pre- and post-cruise.”
Destinations include Key West along with the Mexican cities of Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Progreso, which is near the Mayan archaeological sites Chichén-Itza and Uxmal.
Another destination is the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, the company’s new private island in the Bahamas. It is scheduled to open for guests in November.
“Fortunately, Ocean Cay is located away from the area that was hit the hardest by the hurricane, and the island did not sustain any noteworthy damages,” MSC spokeswoman Paige Rosenthal said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday.
The company will bring the MSC Armonia, which carries about 2,000 passengers, to Tampa for the new service. The ship currently sails out of Miami but is scheduled to go to dry dock to be refreshed in November.
Thursday’s announcement follows last month’s news that Celebrity Cruises will return to Tampa for the first time in more than a decade starting in October 2020. After being renovated next May, the Celebrity Constellation will offer three 10- or 11-night round-trip sailings to the eastern and southern Caribbean as well as to the Panama Canal and Central America.
Currently Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian offer cruises from Tampa. Holland America, which accounted for about 5 percent of the port’s 1 million passengers last year, business, dropped Tampa as a home port in April, but said it might return in the future.
“MSC Cruises offers an enriching and immersive cruise experience, bringing together people from around the world," Port Tampa Bay president and chief executive officer Paul Anderson said in a statement released through MSC. “We couldn’t be more excited.”
Contact Richard Danielson at email@example.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times