There soon will be a new water taxi service in town, giving Tampa residents and visitors another way to cruise around downtown’s waterfront.

Yacht StarShip Dining Cruises announced Monday that it is launching a fleet of three pirate-themed water taxis Feb. 27 in downtown Tampa. The 50-foot taxis feature concessions, restrooms and historical narration. They can shuttle 40 to 50 passengers to and from 14 stops along the Riverwalk, Channel District and Davis Island.

“The most exciting thing is there is no public money going into it; it’s all privately funded,” said Yacht StarShip Dining Cruises founder and CEO Troy Manthey.

Traveling by water, Manthey said, gives riders an opportunity to circumvent the traffic on Tampa’s roads as they dine at local restaurants and attend events at venues such as Amalie Arena.

“The attraction of the water taxi is the great restaurants we have along the waterfront,” said Manthey, a fifth-generation Mississippi River pilot.

An all-day pass costs $15 for adults and $8 for children; the tickets can be purchased onboard or online.

The water taxis will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The hours of operation also will be extended during special events around downtown. There will be charter opportunities for festivals, private groups, birthday parties and weddings.

Manthey began developing the idea for the taxi service 15 years ago when he established Yacht StarShip. He said Tampa’s growing reputation as a premier tourist destination as well as the increasing amount of pedestrian traffic along the Riverwalk makes this the right time to launch the operation.

The service will resemble Fort Lauderdale’s Water Taxi, which shuttles roughly 370,000 passengers each year, he said. It will take time Manthey’s taxis to reach that level, he said.

While choices are welcome, an existing water taxi operator wonders whether Tampa can sustain another service.

“It makes me scratch my head because we know what the market is,” said Laurence Salkin, owner and operator of Tampa Water Taxi Co.

Due to expediency, many travelers would rather take their own vehicle or ride a taxi with four wheels than wait for a water taxi, he said.

“We’re in a society now where we want things now,” Salkin said.

Salkin opened his business nearly eight years ago and now serves about 12,000 passengers each year, a far cry from Fort Lauderdale’s figures. Taxi services do well in cities like Fort Lauderdale and Miami, he said, due to a large number of waterfront attractions.

“Here, we have at best five,” Salkin said.

Salkin said tourists who want to go on a dolphin-sighting tour or learn about Tampa’s historical waterfront constitute a large piece of his business. Salkin soon will add a gondola to his existing three-boat fleet. He said many of the ideas for his business come from rider requests.

“Each part of what we do is a component,” Salkin said. “Transportation from point A to point B can be accomplished in so many ways.”

Yacht Starship Dining Cruises will hold a grand opening Feb. 26 at 5:30 p.m. The celebration will feature the traditional christening and naming of the vessels.

mwolfenbarger@tampatrib.com