The first Cuba-bound cruise ship to call Port Tampa Bay home in recent years is ready to set sail. Royal Caribbean International's Empress of the Seas will launch Sunday for its seven-night cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, Belize City, Belize and Havana, Cuba. Port Tampa Bay and Royal Caribbean will hold a plaque and key ceremony for the launch Sunday on board the ship.
The Empress is one of several cruise ships with a route from Tampa to Cuba. Carnival's Paradise ship will also begin trips to Havana starting June 29. Over the next two years, about 40,000 cruise passengers are expected to travel to Cuba on 22 cruises from Tampa.