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Cross Bay Ferry plans soft opening this weekend

Margie Manning

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Kevin Fisher (left), general manager of HMS Ferries, and Ben Lee, a spokesman for the ferry, announcing the start of the 2020-2021 season at the Vinoy Yacht Basin in St. Petersburg.

The Cross Bay Ferry will kick of its fourth season this Sunday, Nov. 1, with extensive precautions in place to keep passengers and crew safe amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ferry, which sails between St. Petersburg’s Vinoy Yacht Basin and the Tampa Convention Center, will follow all CDC guidelines, said Kevin Fisher, general manager of HMS Ferries. 

“As always safety is the No. 1 priority for our passengers, even more so now during Covid,” Fisher said during a news conference early Friday in St. Petersburg.

Plastic dividers separate the seats on the Cross Bay Ferry.

Masks will be required at all times inside the ferry and are highly suggested for those on the outdoor deck. All high-traffic touch points, such as door handles and rails, will be wiped down and sanitized between each trip and during sailings. There are plastic dividers between seats, hand sanitizer stations throughout the boat and touchless sinks in the restrooms.

Plastic dividers and hand sanitizer stations have been installed for the food and beverage service.

The ferry will operate at full capacity, which is 149 passengers. Fisher said. “Right now we are operating with full capacity. We are confident we can provide reliable and safe service even at full capacity and still maintain social distancing guidelines, but we are monitoring it and will adjust as needed,” Fisher said.

The ferry also will maintain food and beverage service. Bike racks are available, as is WiFi.

The ferry will run Wednesday through Sunday, with four departures at both locations on Fridays and Saturdays. The full ferry schedule is available here.

Tickets are available at online as well as through the Hornblower mobile app and at dockside ticket booths. Reservations are encouraged. Ticket prices are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 65 and up as well as active and retired military and college students, $5 for youth aged 5 to 18, and free for children 4 and under.

“Ticketing opened on Oct. 15 and it’s been a slow burn. That’s why we’re looking to get the word out today. This weekend will be a soft open and after that hopefully traffic picks up,” Fisher said.

The cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa, as well as Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, last year committed to funding ferry service through the end of the 2020-2021 season. The Florida Department of Transportation also is providing a grant. The ferry is scheduled to run through April 30, 2021.

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