Port Seattle's cruise passenger shipping business started in 1999 and is currently ranked first among all West Coast USA homeports (departure seaports). Each homeported ship's visit generates USD 4+ million for Washington State's economy, with annual regional revenue USD 0,9+ billion. The city's best-known landmark is The Space Needle observation tower in downtown (height 184 m / 604 ft), having 6 floors (top floor heigth 158 m / 518 ft) and 3 lifts.
Currently, Port's cruise business generates 5500+ jobs and annually ~USD 450 million in revenue (~USD 900M total economic activities) plus ~USD 15M in local and state taxes. Each Seattle-homeported cruise liner call generates USD 2,5+ million for the local economy. Seattle is the homeport of the Coast Guard icebreaker USCGC Healy.
In August 2015 was formed the Northwest Seaport Alliance via a merger of Port Tacoma's and Port Seattle's cargo shipping operations. By annual cargo volumes, the Tacoma-Seattle port terminal operations are ranked USA's 4th-largest (after Port Los Angeles, Port Long Beach and Port New York-New Jersey NYC) and among North America's top-10-largest.
Seattle cruise port
During the Port's inaugural cruise season (1999) were handled only 6 ship calls and 6615 passengers.
Port Seattle (locode USSEA) currently has two cruise facilities - Smith Cove Terminal (at Pier 91) and Bell Street Terminal (at Pier 66). Pier 91's terminal serves Carnival Corporation-owned ships (Holland America, Princess) and Celebrity and RCG/Royal Caribbean Group-owned ships (Celebrity and RCI). Pier 66's terminal serves NCLH/Norwegian-owned ships (NCL and Oceania).
Statistical data shows that an average turnaround cruise tourist spends USD 1547 in the city (on hotels/lodging, dining/drinking, transportation, shopping). Each vessel call generates USD 4,2 million for the region. Cruise companies' spending includes in-port marine services and also purchasing supplies from local suppliers, including seafood, fresh produce (fruits, vegetables, flowers, eggs), butter, wines.
Since 2017, passengers disembarking in Seattle check their luggage through port's new "Cruise Luggage Valet Program" (cooperation with Seattle-Tacoma International Airport) and receive their airline boarding passes prior to debarkation.
On August 12, 2015, the seaport signed a 15-year lease deal with NCLH (Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings). The deal secured all NCLH ships (NCL, Oceania and RSSC-Regent Seven Seas) in Port Seattle for the full term of the lease of Bell Street Terminal (Pier 66). The guaranteed passenger volume was estimated to bring ~USD 73 million of revenue to the cruise port. According to official statistics, Alaskan cruises from Seattle generate ~USD 440 million in economic impact annually. Additionally, NCLH agreed to make improvements to Terminal 66 that were estimated at USD 30 million to expand its facilities. Under the new lease, NCLH manages all terminal operations and has priority berthing rights during the season.
Port Seattle operates Terminal 66's facilities outside the Alaskan season. The 15-year lease deal was estimated to generate USD 2+ billion in business revenue, ~900 new jobs, USD 65+ million in local and state taxes. In 2015, the cruise port handled 192 ship calls and 895,055 passengers. in 2016, passengers number reached 960,000.
In early-April 2016, Port Seattle announced plans to ease flight-cruise passengers at Sea-Tac Airport by temporarily replacing TSA security staff with contractors. This made the security checking faster. Starting May 2016, TSA staff was trained locally to increase the number of processed cruisers at the airport. Also, more checkpoint lanes were opened.
- On May 16, 2016, Explorer of the Seas (West Coast USA's largest passenger ship) arrived in Seattle. Liner's inaugural Alaskan season had scheduled 7-night roundtrips to Alaska and Canada (Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm Fjord, Victoria BC).
- On July 30, 2016, at "Alaska Airlines Seafair Torchlight Parade" (annual event) in downtown was presented a replica cruise ship - Holland America's Koningsdam. The replica was a helium balloon - one of parade's over 100 floats. The balloon ship had length of 45 ft (14 m) and height of 11 ft (3,3 m) and was guided by 30x HAL employees through the streets. HAL is a sponsor and participant of the parade. In previous parades, HAL employees carried an orca-whale replica balloon.
- In October 2016, Port Seattle announced its plans to invest USD 20 million in improvements to Bell Harbor Conference Center (adjacent to Pier 66).
In May 2017 was opened the renovated Pier 66 cruise terminal facility (see in the "terminal" section below) where are homeported NCL ships. The 15-year lease to NCL (until 2032) is estimated to generate over USD 2,3 billion in total revenue, nearly 900 jobs and over USD 65 million in taxes. 2017 was a record year for the cruise port - with handled 218 ship calls and nearly 1,072 million passengers (9% increase over 2016's 983,539 pax) and total revenue USD 501 million.
In 2017, Holland America Line started an ad campaign on 3 commuter trains running on Seattle's Sound Transit Light Rail System. The trains were operated between January and April 2017, when the Alaskan cruising season begins. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on January 10 at University of Washington (train station). On September 23, 2017, Port Seattle welcomed its 1 millionth cruise tourist in a single Alaskan season (2 passengers on HAL's Eurodam). Industry's regional economic impact in 2017 surpassed USD 500 million.
In early-March 2018, the schedules for ferries leaving from Seattle were changed due to the demolition of the old Washington State Ferries terminal to make space for a new (smaller-sized) facility. Half of Colman Dock (ferry terminal) building was closed off to the public. The wood-piling supported terminal building was considered seismically vulnerable, with many pilings riddled with marine termites. The demolition and construction works were scheduled for completion in 2023. The new/expanded building connects all the 4 ferry slips. Colman Dock serves ferries crossing daily to Bremerton WA and Bainbridge Island.
On May 30, 2018, arrived the largest so far Seattle-homeported Alaskan cruise liner - Norwegian Bliss (gross tonnage 164600 tons, max passengers 5200, crew 1730). The vessel was homeported at Pier 66, operating on weekly roundtrips during summer. NCL Bliss is world's first specifically constructed for Alaska mega-liner. In 2018, the cruise port handled a total of 216 ship calls and nearly 1,072 million passengers (4% increase over 2017).
In late-November 2018, Port Seattle's Terminal 18 (operated by SSA Marine Inc) surpassed the 1 million TEU-container volume. This was Washington state's first time when a single cargo terminal handled 1 million containers in a year. Container Terminal 18 is in North Harbor (Northwest Seaport). In April 2018, CT 18 became the first in Puget Sound with moved 5500 TEUs on and off a single boxship (container carrier), which averaged 30 gantry-crane moves per hour. In 2018, CT 18 was upgraded with new RTGs (rubber-tired gantry cranes), resulting in added two new shipping routes - AL5 (Transatlantic by THE Alliance) and PNS (Pacific Northwest Service by SM Lines).
In early-December 2018, Port's Commission approved budget 2019 and future budget 2019-2023 (capital investment plan). The 5-year plan included USD 348 million for investments in Seattle's waterfront area. Of this budget, USD 100 million were for a new berth (4th cruise terminal / Pier 46), USD 39 million for Terminal 91 developments and USD 35 million for Terminal 91's berth replacement. Budget 2019 (USD 935 million) spent 51% of seaport's USD 1,94 billion capital expenditures, and 23% of all operating expenses. Budget 2019 also included developments for Sea-Tac Airport - North Satellite Expansion and Modernisation Project (started in February 2017), International Arrivals Terminal, high-speed baggage handling system. Works on the new cruise terminal at Pier 46 (Terminal 46) were suspended in 2020 due to the COVID crisis.
During season 2019 (April-October), the cruise port handled 211 ship calls and ~1,2 million passengers (1,114 million were handled in 2018). For 2020 was forecasted a record year with scheduled 225 ship calls and estimated ~1,4 million passengers.
In 2022 was completed NWSA Terminal 5. The new facility (abbrev Northwest Seaport Alliance) is a container ship terminal fitted with 5x super-large STS cranes (ship-to-shore/rail-mounted gantry cranes).
- The 5x STS were constructed in China (by ZPMC-Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co) and were delivered in June 2021 via ZHEN HUA 36 (2003-built Heavy Load Carrier/IMO 9254903).
- By height (316 ft / 96,3 m) and outreach boom (240 ft / 73,2 m), the Chinese cranes are among the largest on the US West Coast, with capacity to handle even the world's biggest boxships.
- The ZPMC cranes' owner and operator is SSA Marine Inc (1949-founded, currently subsidiary of Carrix Inc/1994-founded company specializing in transportation and logistics services).
Following the Coronavirus crisis, in 2021 (July 19 thru Oct 23) Port Seattle handled 83 cruise ship calls and ~230,000 passengers. For season 2022 were handled 296 cruise ship calls and ~1,28 million passengers (+6% over 2019). Homeporting operations were conducted by 7x major companies operating 14x ships.
In 2023 (April-October) the Port received 291 ship calls and 1,778 million passengers. In 2024, Pier 66's berth will provide shore power connectivity/cold ironing. Shore-to-ship power capability allows berthed ships to shut down their engines and plug into the city's electrical grid for all shipboard equipment and hotel services, thus reducing in-port noise and air pollution.
In August 2023, the Port's Commission approved US$32,6M budget for transforming the Ship Supply Building (Port's oldest, located at Fishermen’s Terminal) into a Maritime Innovation Center.
For season 2024, the cruise port reported 277 booked berthings.
Cruise itineraries to and from Seattle WA
Follows a list of destinations visited by cruise ships leaving out of Seattle:
- 7-day round-trip Inside Passage Alaska cruises out of Seattle visit the Alaskan ports Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, Glacier Bay, Juneau, Skagway. These itineraries often include a day stop at call port Victoria (BC Canada).
- Itineraries on small ships or luxury cruises visit also the Alaskan ports Wrangell, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka (Baranof Island).
- One-way Alaska repositioning cruises from Seattle to Vancouver BC (Canada) - and the reverse Vancouver to Seattle, are special 1-day cruise deals. Those are offered, respectively, in late Fall / Spring when cruise ships relocate out of Alaska. Seattle to Vancouver deals on longer itineraries (up to 17 days) may include visiting Hawaii before returning back to Vancouver.
- Other repositioning cruise deals to and from Seattle include ports in California (departures from Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco), even in Caribbean (with Panama Canal transition), to Hawaii and Australia, and rarely to South America.
- Among the passenger shipping companies leaving from Seattle are CCL-Carnival, Celebrity, HAL-Holland America, NCL-Norwegian, Princess, RCI-Royal Caribbean, Oceania, Lindblad-National Geographic.
In 2019, the US company Vigor Industrial opened a new drydock facility in Port Seattle, with capacity to handle mega-yachts and mid-sized cruise liners. The company's other (larger) drydock is in Portland Oregon. New drydock's operations started with the 3-week long refurbishment of Oceania Regatta.
Seattle cruise terminal
The cruise port of Seattle was established on September 5, 1911, with the votes of King County, WA, confirmed by Port District Act and run by an elected 5-member commission. This port district runs both the airport and the seaport of Seattle.
The seaport of Washington State is nicknamed ”The Emerald City“. It currently has 2 passenger terminals - "Terminal 91" and "Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal" (aka "Pier 66"), plus 1 new/planned (Pier 46). Fishermen's Terminal (on Salmon Bay) is the homeport (dock) for Washington state's North Pacific Fishing Fleet (commercial fishing vessels).
(NEW) Pier 46 Cruise Terminal
In mid-November 2018, Port Seattle Commission unveiled plans for a USD 348 million project for infrastructure developments, waterfront upgrades and building a new cruise terminal.
- City's new seaport levy growth brings in USD 74,2 million per year and helped paying for the new projects. It also funded environmental programs. It is expected to be approved a 3% property tax increase, which means the owner of USD 590,000 property (currently paying USD 69 annually to the port) would pay around $70 in 2019, and $79 in 2023.
- Port's capital improvement plan includes upgrading the Fishermen's Terminal, new light industrial space in Interbay (close to Terminal 91), modernization of Bell Harbor's conference center, new cruise terminal (at Pier 46).
- Of the total US$348M, US$100M were for the new berth/4th cruise terminal) at Pier 46.
Construction works on Pier 46's "Terminal 5" started on March 13, 2019. The new facility can handle ULCV (ultra-large container vessels/boxships), supports ~6600 direct jobs and generates USD 2+ billion in annual business activities. From the US$ 340M, the private company SSA Terminals (subsidiary of SSA Marine Inc) contributed US$ 160M. The 185-acre (75-hectares) terminal will be open in 2 phases - one berth in 2021-Q1, and the other in 2023. Terminal 5 can handle simultaneously 2 large boxships (max capacity 18,000 TEU-containers). Port Seattle's North and South harbor container terminals can handle ships with max capacity 14,000 TEUs.
The new "Cruise Terminal 46" as a project is currently suspended. When restarted, the new facility will be operated by a private company (TBA) which is due to be responsible for 50% of all development costs (~USD 100 million). Terminal 46 is located south of downtown and has 3100 ft (945 m) berthing, 50 ft (15 m) water depth / max draught, combined land area 86 acres (350,000 m2) and a cruise terminal building with capacity 5,000 passengers. Berth's northern portion serves as cruise dock (land area 29 acres / 117,360 m2), while its south end is for docking of breakbulk cargo ships.
Since 2019, Terminal 46 is no longer used for international container shipping. Cruise terminal's completion was scheduled for 2020. The new facility will also have shoreside power capabilities.
Bell Street Pier 66 cruise terminal
Terminal 66 was inaugurated in May 2000. In 2017 was completed the USD 30 million terminal expansion project.
- address: "Port of SeattleSeattle, Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal (Pier #66), 2225 Alaskan Way, Seattle, Washington 98121"
- location - at the north end of city's waterfront, ~10 min drive distance from the city's shopping centre and the Space Needle tower
- Driving directions to Pier 66 Terminal: from Interstate 5 Northbound take Mercer Street westbound (exit 167). Turn left on 5th Ave N. Turn right on Broad St. Turn left on Alaskan Way. Follow the signs to Pier 66.
- 1 berth (length 1600 ft / 489 m) or 2 berths with in-transit ships
- Pier 66 is an 479160 ft2 / 44515 m2 sized passenger terminal complex along downtown's waterfront. Pier 66 terminal serves the ships of NCL-Norwegian, Oceania and RSSC-Regent. Pier 66 is at close walking distance to Pike Place Market (public market) and Seattle Aquarium (public aquarium on Pier 59). City's landmark Space Needle (observation tower) is also nearby.
- Among the amenities offered are concierge service (luggage storage before/after voyages, information), wheelchair, mobility scooter and oxygen rentals (equipment delivered directly to the cabin), restaurants, mini-mart (deli, ATM).
- There is a free of charge shuttle service to the terminal.
- A mechanized gangway serves the embarkation/disembarkation process (from building's floor 2/ticketing level). A second gangway was installed in May 2018.
- Bell Street Cruise Terminal is close to Seattle-Tacoma Airport (~15-20 min drive distance) and to downtown (~5 min drive distance). The terminal is located on a 10-acre area, sited on Pier #66. The dock had served as a refrigerated storage, railway station and warehousing. The terminal building is 2-floor, with a system which allows direct transfer to the ship from the upper one. A covered parking garage (capacity 1700 cars, including 25 handicap lots, daily parking fee $23) is located across the street. The terminal offers restaurant, cafe, luggage handling, concierge, rental car kiosk and shops. It has only one cruise ship mooring access.
- In August 2015, NCL signed a 15-year lease deal with the port for the Bell Street Cruise Terminal. The contract secured NCL cruise ships in Seattle and provided passenger volume guarantees with a total revenue for the port estimated at USD 73 million. Under the new lease, NCL Holdings manages all operations at Pier 66. The line also has priority rights to the berth during the Alaskan cruise season. The facilities outside the Alaskan season are operated by port authorities. The 15-year lease will generate over USD 2 billion in total revenue for the region, plus over 900 local jobs and over USD 65 million in state/local taxes.
NCL's USD 30 million investment into Pier 66 allowed in Seattle to be homeported the ever-largest Alaskan ship - Norwegian Bliss. The liner started turnaround (roundtrip itinerary) operations in June 2018 with 7-day Inside Passage cruises. To handle new ship's capacity (5200 passengers, 1730 crew), Terminal 66 was expanded from 44,000 ft2 (4090 m2) to 151,000 ft2 (14030 m2). On May 23, 2017, representatives from Port Seattle and NCLH-Norwegian celebrated the opening of the newly renovated Pier 66 Terminal. Upgrades included a mobile gangway (passenger boarding bridge), renovated check-in area and VIP lounge.
Smith Cove Pier 91 cruise terminal (Magnolia)
- address - "Cruise Terminal 91 (Smith Cove Cruise Terminal), 2001 West Garfield St., Seattle, Washington 98119 "
- GPS coordinates - pending
- 2 berths (length 1200 ft / 366 m each)
- Pier 91 terminal serves the ships of Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, Disney and Royal Caribbean.
- Pier 91 cruise terminal was opened in 2009. It has mechanized gangway for embarkation/disembarkation from floor 2 (the ticketing level).
Smith Cove Cruise Terminal is close to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (~20-25 min drive) and to downtown (~10 min drive). The terminal is located on Pier #90 and Pier #91, at approx 2 mi (3 km) from downtown in northwestern direction. This port used to serve as an industrial port and a resupply base and still looks a kind of industrial. The Smith Cove terminal offers car rental desk, concierge, luggage handling, retail kiosks, check-in and customs. Close there is a parking and shuttle minibus service which is free. The passengers can pick up a cell phone car lot. It has two cruise ship moorings.
Cruise ship terminal directions and parking
- (route 1) From Interstate 5 Southbound - use Mercer Street Exit from I-5 (exit 167). Continue on westbound onto Elliott Ave. Follow the signs to Pier 91.
- (route 2) From Interstate 5 Southbound - exit on Union St (exit 165B), continue to 4th Ave. Turn right on 4th Ave. Turn left onto Wall St. Turn right on Western Ave. Follow the signs to Pier 91.
- (route 3) From Interstate 5 Northbound - use Mercer Street Exit from I-5 (exit 167), continue westbound onto Elliott Ave. Follow the signs to Pier 91.
- (Bell Street Pier) There is a 1700-cars secure parking garage (Republic Parking) located across the street (on 9 Wall Street) including 25 handicap lots (phone number (206) 783-
- (Smith Cove) There is a 1000-cars secure parking garage and free of charge shuttle service to the terminal.
Cruise parking prices are:
- At Seattle Cruise Park (~10 min away from the seaport), parking costs USD 157 USD (7-night voyage) or USD 2000 (14-night).
- (cheaper alternatives/24-hour security parking) HomeTowne Studios (by Red Roof Inn) costs USD 5/day, Quality Inn Seatac Airport Parking costs USD 4,50/day.
Port Seattle, along with its 2 cruise terminals also has cargo terminals and drydock facilities for marine vessel refurbishments and repairs.
- UN-LOCODE (United Nations location code) - USSEA
- two dedicated cruise terminals
- capability to accommodate 4 vessels at a time
- 3 deepwater berths with shore-to-ship power (shore-side electricity supply)
- supported by excellent road and air infrastructure
The Port is accessible only during late spring (April), summer months and early fall (late September, early October). Cruise ships usually arrive in Seattle in the early morning (at 6, 7 or 8 am) and depart from Seattle in the late afternoon (4 or 5 pm).
Seattle tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
Space Needle: enjoy beautiful city center views, buy souvenirs or dine at the rotating SkyCity restaurant.
Pioneer Square: situated a mile away from Bell Street Pier, the original center of the pioneer town and the place of the first timber mill in Seattle.
Seattle Aquarium: located by Pier #59, offers interesting sea creatures like the Pacific coral world, brightly colored fish, Puget sound fish and tentacled octopus. You can also visit the shop of the aquarium.
Museum of Flight: aviation devoted museum where you can see superb full WWII fighter planes collection, Shuttle space plane, flight attendants fashion and International Space Station mockup.
Pike Place Market: great farmers’ city market, a place where you can walk and watch plenty goods. It is located right to Bell Street Pier.
Seattle Art Museum Downtown: the biggest museum of art in the region, enjoy artworks from all over the world while touring in the galleries.
Olympic Sculpture Park: free park with thought provoking and abstract sculptures, located a mile away from Bell Street Pier in northwest direction.
Port Seattle cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port's schedule lists all ships (in links) with cruises going to or leaving from Seattle, Washington. To see the full itineraries (ports of call dates and arrival / departure times) and their lowest rates – just follow the corresponding ship-link.
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