Early Sunday morning, before the 2,000 passengers from cruise ship disembark, a line of taxi cabs forms outside Port of Tampa Bay Terminal #2 just beyond idling tour buses.
That’s where cab driver John Bailey stood waiting for fares. He’s fully aware of the cruise ship debate and the options explored in a recent study.
“If they did nothing these old ships would eventually be taken offline and the cruise industry would dry up in Tampa,” Bailey said. “But the other option if they build a port outside (the bridge) what we would be concerned about, if we can wait in line over there at the ship or not.”
He also worries about the economics of his business.
“We’d lose about a couple hundred dollars a week each probably,” Bailey said. “We as Hillsborough county cab drivers if we’d be allowed to service that port over there or not. Otherwise, just selfish, I would say build a new bridge. As a taxpayer, I’m just a taxpayer not a cab driver, I don’t want to spend $2 billion on a bridge.”
Pat Fredrickson from Hernando County was one of the first off the ship. She’s an avid cruiser.
“I say build a new one outside the bridge would be the best bet,” Fredrickson said.
It’s no surprise that travel agent Susan Leonidas and her husband favor finding a way to bring in the larger ships.
“Without the port, we’re going to see tourism dry up. We need to do something about this whether they build another bridge or they put something either by Tierra Verde or even past Port of Manatee, you need something. Without it, good bye tourism,” Leonidas said.
Hear more about the options for Tampa Bay’s cruise ship industry tonight on Florida Matters at 6:30 p.m. on WUSF 89.7 FM.