German cruise line AIDA (@aida_de) will make Tampa Bay a monthly port of call starting Dec. 17 and running through April. The ship's 1,200 passengers will have from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during each visit to discover the gems Tampa Bay has to offer. We have a few suggestions:
1. The Florida Aquarium opens at 9:30 a.m. and sits just outside the gates of the Port Tampa Bay cruise ship terminal. You can spend a few hours roaming among the 20,000 sea creatures. Exhibits will introduce you to the native plants an animals of Florida and give you a feel for what lives beneath the waves out there in Tampa Bay. If you're really adventurous, you can try swimming with the fishes or diving with the sharks. If you're less adventurous, try touching a stingray as they pass on the open-top tank in the aquarium's ground floor.
2. Behind the The Florida Aquarium, the American Victory Ship Mariner's Museum is one of four working cargo ships left from the World War II era. The ship carried delivered equipment to U.S. troops fighting in the Pacific at the end of the war. After, it carried food and equipment from the U.S. to Europe during the post-war reconstruction under the Marshall Plan.
3. The TECO Historic Streetcar runs every 20 minutes and stops just outside the gates of The Florida Aquarium. Hop it going east to explore Ybor City, Tampa Bay's historic Latin Quarter. You can have lunch at the Columbia Restaurant, the oldest restaurant Florida and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. You can walk in the footprints of generations of cigar workers who made Ybor City the Cigar Capital of the World and stop in at King Corona Cigars for a cafe con leche and a smoke. For a little piece of history, stop at Parque Jose Marti, 8th Avenue and 13th Street, and visit the only piece of Cuban-owned land within the United States.
4. You could also walk a few blocks west on Channelside Drive (toward downtown) and stop in at the Tampa Bay History Center. The museum lays out 12,000 years of Tampa Bay history, from the original native people through Spanish explorers to Cuban cigar makers and modern crew teams who call the nearby Hillsborough River home.
5. Outside the doors of the Tampa Bay History Center, the Tampa Riverwalk offers you a 4 km stroll along the city's waterfront. You can also rent a bike from Coast Bike Share and ride the Riverwalk without worrying about traffic. Along the way, keep an eye on the water for dolphins or manatees. If you ride the full length of the Riverwalk, you'll find Tampa Bay's newest gem, the Ulele restaurant, waiting at the other end. Don't leave without trying the Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream. Guten Appetit!