I had the pleasure of being on the inaugural flight from Fort Lauderdale to St. Petersburg with Tropic Ocean Airways in one of their state-of-the-art, luxurious 9-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan EX.
Compared to commercial travel and how and what it has become of late, this experience was quite the opposite. In other words …delightful! We are all too familiar with the rigors of airline travel, Tropic Ocean Airways instructed us to arrive at the private terminal 45 minutes prior to departure within the Sheltair terminal.
After reviewing the paperwork and a signature check-in was complete! We were offered mimosas (nice touch!) as well as an array of fresh baked goodies, (danish, bagels, muffins) and coffee or tea. After introductions to the crew were made, Pilot Ken and co-pilot Austin along with Jennifer, our host for the day, we were escorted onto the plane and our journey began! The airplane itself was outfitted beautifully, the crew gave us some information pertinent to the imminent flight but we were also invited to ask questions at any time… And off we went! The flight was an hour and eighteen minutes at a cruising altitude of 6,000 feet on this given day, which allowed for interesting viewing of urban and rural landscapes.
Once we arrived at the Albert Whitted Airport in downtown St Petersburg, we were so pleased to be greeted with sunshine, having departed on an unusually dreary and rainy day in Fort Lauderdale. An interesting piece of trivia for you: St Petersburg is known to enjoy an average of 361 days of the year of clear skies! Besides the sunshine, we were greeted by the local staff, and being that this was an organized day, Jennifer and Sunny ushered us on a mini tour of St Pete. Our first stop was the Dali Museum where we saw the impressive private collection donated by Reynolds and Eleanor Morse as well as the temporary installation of Disney and Dali.
400 Beach Seafood Tap House across from the former Pier, facing Tampa Bay hosted our delicious lunch. A really lovely place in a gorgeous setting.
After our wonderful lunch, we went to the beautiful historic and artfully renovated The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, a Renaissance Hotel. Here, we were given an informative tour of the hotel by Historian Elaine Normile and had the pleasure to see one of two permanent collections of Chihuly glass. Truly impressive and a perfect backdrop for showcasing these installations.
Dale Chihuly’s works have been displays all over the world. But his permanent collection resides in downtown St. Petersburg at the Chihuly Collection, a gallery designed precisely and permanently for displaying his works.
As for the city itself, most everything is in relative close proximity in this charming but developed area. It is pedestrian friendly but there is also a trolley (Downtown Looper) that services most places. We learned that St Pete (as it is referred to by the locals) has a thriving art scene: from wall graffiti, to festivals such as Bluesfest, Mainsail art festival, Green Thumb festival, Pride Weekend, Ribfest, Santa Parade. There’s also the Grand Prix, many museums (Dali as mentioned above, also a Holocaust Museum, Museum of American Arts & Crafts, etc) a thriving theatre scene, beaches, many of which were top rated in all of America such as Fort de Soto, a wide array of shopping, farmers market (in season) and a highly esteemed dining scene.
The day passed quickly, so we made our way back to the airport and waited at The Hangar Restaurant and Flight Lounge where we had cocktails and some little bites (although there is a comprehensive menu and diners have rated this little gem highly, we simply chose not to eat dinner as some of our party had already made alternate plans). Once our plane returned and was all ready for our return journey, we were simply beckoned off to the Tarmac and onto the plane we went, this time with Pilot Holt and co-pilot Danny. All the crew and staff were not just professional but highly skilled (see credentials on their website flytropic.com) as evidenced in the maneuvering and landing in particular. We couldn’t have been more enchanted.
This specific itinerary costs $99 each way, although the price is different depending on the destinations.
The new scheduled service between Fort Lauderdale and St Petersburg will be operated by Tropic Ocean Airways’ new Wheeled Cessna Caravan Ex aircraft, with executive style seating for up to 9 guests. The twice weekly service will operate on Mondays and Fridays with two flights per day.
Monday & Friday Scheduled Service
Depart FLL 06:30 – Arrive SPG 07:48
Depart SPG 08:24 – Arrive FLL 09:42
Depart FLL 16:00 – Arrive SPG 17:18
Depart SPG 17:54 – Arrive FLL 19:12
Discover St. Petersburg for the day like we did. Call Tropic Ocean Airways: 954-210-5569 or
800-767-0897 or book online: Tropic Ocean Airways
Disclamer: Our trip to St. Petersburg was sponsored by Tropic Ocean Airways, but all the opinions here are my own.