Experience Florida’s wildlife the way it was meant to be enjoyed – in the many natural habitats found throughout the Tampa area. A dolphin cruise takes families out into the waters surrounding the Tampa area into the Gulf of Mexico. However, many of these tours go out seeking more than just dolphins. Some tours take you deep into the Bay searching for manatees, birds and other wildlife that have made Florida their home.
Let’s take a look at some of the best dolphin cruises available for families in the Tampa area:
Captain Memo’s Original Pirate Cruise
Captain Memo’s Original Pirate Cruise is a themed adventure that your family is sure to love. Everyone in the family will love the spirit that is aboard this pirate adventure while out on the waters looking for Florida’s wildlife, including the bottlenose dolphin. Activities onboard include face painting, water gun games, dancing, pirate stories and treasure hunts.
The sister ship to the Pirate Ship at John’s Pass offers non-themed high seas adventures through the waters of Boca Ciega Bay. Families will have a chance to explore the waters of the area in search of dolphins, bald eagles, egrets, manatees and all of the other Florida wildlife found in the bay. The best part about Dolphin Quest is that you are guaranteed to see dolphins or your next trip with them is absolutely free. Tours depart four times a day taking guests on 90-minute tours of the area.
Dolphin Watch Nature Sightseeing Cruise
Enjoy the Dolphin Watch Nature Sightseeing Cruise aboard Hubbard’s Marina’s 54-foot boat – The Sea Adventure. This cruise will take you up close with Florida’s wildlife where you can see them interacting in their natural habitats. Dolphin sightings are guaranteed and you may also see pelicans, herons, egrets, manatees, osprey and even a bald eagle or two. The tour also takes family around the Boca Ciega Bay, where the captain will point out historical landmarks along the way. Tours last approximately 30 minutes and depart from the marina four times a day in the spring and summer and twice daily in the fall and winter.
Dolphin Watch Trip
You will have a 99 percent chance of seeing dolphins when you take the famous Dolphin Watch Trip out of Dolphin Landings Charter Boat Center. This cruise takes families out into Boca Ciega Bay where there are more than 700 identified dolphins swimming in the waters, thus making it near impossible to not see a dolphin during the cruise. On average, two to three trips depart from the boat center daily, offering plenty of chances to see some of Florida’s most famous wildlife. While onboard, guests are treated to free sodas and bottled water. Plus, there is a cooler with ice to store the alcoholic beverages you bring on board with you. Trips usually last two hours. Private charter dolphin trips are also available through Dolphin Landings Charter Boat Center.
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Dolphin Watching Adventure Cruise
The Dolphin Watching Adventure Cruise will take you and your family on a tour of the waters in the Tampa Bay area while heading over to the secluded beach of Egmont Key Island. During your trip, you will see wild dolphins, manatees and many of the birds that call Florida home. The tour will take you around the eastern side of the island where you will disembark for a bit to see the Egmont Key Lighthouse up close. The Dolphin Watching Adventure Cruise will last approximately four hours and includes plenty of opportunities to swim, snorkel, shell, explore and hopefully relax. Reservations are required for this dolphin adventure.
Pirate Ship at John’s Pass
One of the best dolphin cruises for families is the Pirate Ship at John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk. This takes families on a high seas adventure with swashbuckling fun. During your travels aboard the 56-foot pirate ship, you will be treated to great music, a dance party, water gun battles and a treasure hunt. All of this is enjoyed while keeping a lookout for dolphins and other Florida wildlife. Ships set sail on two-hour cruises three times per day, including a sunset cruise later in the evening.
Hop onboard the world’s largest speedboat – the Sea Screamer. This boat has dual twin-turbocharged diesel engines and is 72 feet long. You will definitely have the ride of your life as you go into the waters of the Clearwater Beach area looking for dolphins. If you have not experienced a ride on the Sea Screamer, you must take the time to do so. Even though the boat goes fast, it is comfortable and perfect for families looking to try something new.
Wild Dolphin Cruise
The Wild Dolphin Cruise brings families up close and personal with the more than 500 bottlenose dolphins found in the waters of the Tampa Bay area. This cruise also offers plenty of opportunities to view endangered manatees and a variety birds. Many of the birds that can be seen on the Wild Dolphin Cruise are either threatened or endangered. The 75-minute ecotour departs daily from The Florida Aquarium aboard the Spirit II, a 72-foot catamaran. Do not forget to bring your cameras and binoculars, because this tour definitely has potential to see a lot of Florida’s wildlife.
Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.