Cross-Bay Ferry returns to Tampa Bay: Here's what to expect

The CrossBay Ferry, a seasonal service connecting Tampa and Saint Petersburg, will return November 1 with new hours of operation and cheaper fares.  

Operated by Seattle-based HMS Ferry, the ferry will run from Tuesday through Sunday and offer later hours, including 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday; and 4:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday.

“It's going to provide better access to events, recreation, and hospitality in both cities,” Ed Turanchik, an HMS Ferry attorney and Tampa mayoral candidate, says. “[It will be] much better for people going from Tampa to dine in Saint Petersburg and better for people in Saint Petersburg to come over and go to events at Amelie Arena, for example.”

One-way adult fares will cost $8 per person, compared to $10 charged in its pilot season. Fares for kids aged 5 to 18 will cost $3, while seniors, college students, and military members will cost $5.

The ferry will dock at North Yacht Basin in St. Petersburg and behind the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. The St. Petersburg location puts ferry passengers close to Straub Park, the historic Renaissance Vinoy Hotel, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Dalí, and Beach Drive. In Tampa, passengers will be dropped off near the Aquarium, Tampa Bay History Center, Tampa Convention Center, and Sparkman Wharf, which is scheduled for completion by the end of 2018. Passengers will also have access to free rides on the TECO Line Streetcars, connecting them to Ybor City.

More than 40,000 riders took advantage of the over-water transportation option during its pilot season, which ended in April 2017. Data showed that around 70 percent of those riders made the trip for the sole purpose of riding the ferry, Turanchik says, and they spent an average of $30 per person during their visit. An estimated $1.2 million was spent between the cities.

With its on-board bar, snack options, and views of the bay, Turanchik calls the ferry a great “transpotainment" option. “It's more of a social environment that many people imagine,” he says. “It's like a water ride at Busch Gardens and a Cheers bar all put together.''

In its pilot season, governments of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties and St. Petersburg and Tampa spent $350,000 to fund the ferry. This year, they’ll each contribute $150,000.
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Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer and born-again Floridian based in Tampa. He covers the Tampa Bay Area’s development boom for 83 Degrees, with an eye out for sustainable and community-driven initiatives.