A suspicious package at the Port of Tampa Thursday morning caused the mass evacuation of a terminal, along with a frightening few hours for passengers waiting to board.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said two bomb-sniffing dogs caught the scent of something suspicious on a cargo pallet containing boxes of liquor headed for Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas.
"This particular pallet, it was very clear that both animals in that pallet and that they gave an alert," said Col. Jim Previtera.
Bomb technicians spent hours in the morning and afternoon searching boxes and the delivery truck carrying the cargo but didn't find any explosive material or devices.
"It ultimately boiled down to us manually going into the truck and unloading the entire truck and searching the truck," Previtera said. "At this time we have no reason to believe that there's anything in [the cargo or the truck] that poses a threat."
While all passengers and employees in Terminal 3 were evacuated, crew members already aboard the Jewel of the Seas were not asked by the ship's captain to leave; authorities said those remaining on board were never in any danger.
No passengers had boarded the ship at the time of the evacuation and many of those arriving found roads leading to the port, including Channelside Drive and East Washington Street, closed.
"We came up to get on the cruise and the sheriff down the street here told us to come back in an hour," said Chuck Vitale, from Land O Lakes. "This is the very first cruise I've ever been on and I'm more concerned that nothing happens than I am the cruise, to be honest with you."
Jim Daley, a passenger from New Port Richey, said this was a tense day given the recent bombings in Boston.
"The same thing just happened in Boston. You're wondering is this going to happen now with the cruise ship with four or five thousand guests going on board?" he asked. "It's the first thing that comes to your mind."
The Jewel of the Seas can hold 2,501 passengers, although officials with the Port of Tampa couldn't say exactly how many were booked on the cruise scheduled to leave Thursday.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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