Norwegian Cruise Line will debut a giant new ship able to carry 4,000 guests on Seattle-Alaska cruises starting 2018, the company announced yesterday.

Norwegian, which has a deal with Port of Seattle to expand Pier 66 cruise terminal in a US$30 million joint project, now operates a couple of 2,400-passenger ships out of Seattle during summer.

President and CEO of Norwegian, Andy Stuart, said one of those will remain on the route to supplement the planned Norwegian Bliss. That ship will be built in Germany and delivered in time to begin weekly 7-day cruises along Alaska’s Inside Passage in June 2018. Bliss is the 3rd in the cruise line's Breakaway-Plus class, after Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Joy.

Norwegian Bliss

Image: PR Newswire

The new Norwegian cruise ship would be by far the largest sailing out of Seattle — the biggest current ones are Princess vessels carrying about 3,000 passengers, said Port of Seattle spokesman Peter McGraw.

Norwegian’s larger ship will have a crew of 1,800, versus 850 on the existing ships, Stuart said. Norwegian’s expansion of the terminal, under an agreement announced last summer, will take the facility from 44,000 square feet to 151,000.

Altogether, said Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick:

“It’s a big darn deal for Seattle. Every ship call is at least $2.5 million impact for Seattle.”

He added that the Port separately plans $20 million in improvements to the Bell Harbor Conference Center adjacent to Pier 66. The first portion was just approved by the Port commission, Fick said.

Stuart noted that Norwegian was the first cruise line to begin Alaska sailings out of Seattle rather than Vancouver, B.C. Now there are seven lines that run that route, using 11 vessels.

Collectively, they carried 898,000 passengers during the 2015 season, and upward of 960,000 this summer, said Fick.

The Port expects that number to surpass 1 million next summer.