Germany's largest cruise line will launch two of its "casual cruising" ships from the Port of Tampa in 2014, expanding vacationers' travel options across the Caribbean.
AIDA Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp. & PLC, will homeport AIDAvita, a 1,266-passenger ship, in Tampa and begin cruising the Western Caribbean next December.
The AIDAmar, a 2,194-passenger ship that first launched last year, will sail seven cruises out of Tampa starting in 2015.
With AIDA's entry, Tampa will now homeport ships from five of the world's most popular cruise liners. Carnival, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian already have ships in Tampa.
"AIDA Cruises' announcement to come to Tampa is a milestone for us, not only at the port, but for all of our tourism and economic development partners in the region," Paul Anderson, Tampa Port Authority president and CEO, said.
AIDA's ships, which by 2016 will sail Europe, Asia and the Persian Gulf, are marketed as "ultra-casual," with no dress code and open dining. The cruise line is aimed at younger German-speaking travelers.
Port of Tampa spokesman Edward Miyagishima told the Tampa Bay Times (http://bit.ly/18THCxP ) AIDA's parent company Carnival was attracted to 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 announced in August it will bring a second ship to set sail out of Tampa next winter.
With those additions, Tampa could pass 1 million cruise ship passengers a year.