TAMPA, Fla. — It’s been more than a year and a half since the last cruise ship left Tampa.

That changed Saturday as Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas departed Port Tampa Bay.

What You Need To Know

Port officials had been waiting for this day for a long time. Cruise ships are leaving Tampa for the first time since March 2020.

The ship was capped at 50 percent capacity. That is a Royal Caribbean policy, keeping this ship’s capacity at a little more than 1,000 passengers.

Royal Caribbean is requiring anyone over the age of 12 to be vaccinated and show a negative COVID-19 test.

Port officials said they are working with the cruise lines to help the new check in process move along.

“Everyone here at Port Tampa Bay is just thrilled to see the return of cruising from our port,” said Lisa Wolf-Chason with Port Tampa Bay. “This has been a long time coming, more than 18 months since the cruise industry was shut down. We just welcome them back with open arms.”

Royal Caribbean said there will be on-site testing for passengers who weren’t able to get tested before arriving.

This is the first of a few ships that will be leaving Tampa over the next few months.

Celebrity, Carnival and Norwegian also have sailings from Tampa in November and December.