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The Northwest’s Emerald City is famous for its “C’s”: coffee, cuisine and culture. Increasingly, it looks as though cruising should be added to this list.
Seattle’s cruise port has grown immensely since 1999, when there were just six ship visits during the summer season, to 223 ship visits projected for 2010, bringing 858,000 passengers to the city. Only six of these visits are port calls; the rest are ships homeporting for Alaska cruises. And each of these homeports has a projected economic impact of $1.9 million for Seattle and King County.
Seattle’s new Smith Cove Cruise Terminal (foreground) and the Bell Street Pier (in the distance, near downtown) // © 2010 Port of Seattle
Seattle’s success stems partly from its location on Puget Sound, 113 miles from Canada, allowing the requisite port call outside the U.S. Its substantial airlift is another plus. Supporting these nuts and bolts is something less tangible: the attractiveness and vitality of the city as an appealing destination in its own right. During the recent period when cruise lines have been pulling ships from the Alaska season, Seattle has also benefited from its location, with cruise companies responding to customer concerns about spending with roundtrip Seattle itineraries, which typically involve less-expensive airfare than roundtrip Vancouver or open-jaw sailings.
With the growing number of cruise calls, Seattle added a second downtown terminal last year: the new Smith Cove Cruise Terminal, a two-berth facility on Pier 91 on the north end of Seattle’s waterfront, just 10 minutes from the city’s retail core and the Space Needle. Smith Cove is home to ships from Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International.
The terminal has 1,000 secure parking spaces with a complimentary shuttle to terminal; it can also accommodate oversized vehicles and RVs. There is even a 75-space cell-phone lot to facilitate easy passenger pickup, similar to the one at Seattle’s airport, giving private vehicles a place to wait until they get the call from guests that they have disembarked and are ready for pickup in front of the terminal.
The original Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal anchors an 11-acre complex along the city’s downtown waterfront and is home to lines including Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, which offer weekly sailings to Alaska. A 1,700-space parking garage is directly across the street, and there is a complimentary shuttle to the terminal. Museums, restaurants and a recreational marina are within easy reach.
Guests using both terminals will find onboard airline check-in and luggage handling available through Guest Relations on ships, and the cruise terminal concierge offers luggage storage before and after cruises along with city information, making it easy for passengers to explore Seattle.
Travelers cruising to Alaska out of Seattle during the May through September season have a choice of cruise lines, itineraries and ships ranging from 12 to 2,670 passengers.
Carnival Cruise Lines offers seven-day Alaska cruises on the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit from May 11 to Aug. 31, departing on Tuesdays. On Saturdays and Sundays, Princess Cruises offers seven-day cruises on the 2,600-passenger Golden Princess and 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess. The line’s 710-passenger Royal Princess offers 14-day Alaska sailings every other Monday.
Holland America Line has four ships sailing from Seattle this year, with seven-day cruises on the 1,440-passenger Zaandam, the 1,844-passenger Oosterdam and the 1,404-passenger Rotterdam. Sailings depart Friday, Saturdays and Sundays respectively. The 1,390-passenger Amsterdam offers 14-day Alaska sailings every other Monday, and Royal Caribbean’s seven-day itineraries on the 1,998-passenger Rhapsody of the Seas depart every Friday.
Celebrity Cruises’ 1,950-passenger Infinity sails seven-day Alaska cruises, bracketed by a pair of 10-day cruises departing May 10 and Sept. 16. Norwegian Cruise Line offers seven-day cruises from Seattle to Alaska on the 2,240-passenger Norwegian Star and the 2,394-passenger Norwegian Pearl. Sailings depart on Saturdays and Sundays.
In addition, Cruise West sails 10-night trips between Seattle and Juneau in May, August and September aboard the 84-guest Spirit of Discovery, the 78-guest Spirit of Columbia, the 102-guest Spirit of Endeavour and the 138-guest Spirit of Yorktown.
American Safari’s yachts operate spring and fall 14-night cruises between Juneau and Seattle aboard the 40-passenger Safari Explorer, the 22-passenger Safari Quest and the 12-passenger Safari Spirit.
Click here to read about pre- and post-cruise hotel deals in Seattle.
Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau www.visitseattle.org/visitors/cruiseThe Seattle CVB site can assist with pre- and post-cruise stays and can recommend activities to agents; it even provides discount coupons.