If you are planning a cruise from Seattle, you are likely to be overwhelmed with choices. There are different cruise lines, different ports of call and a wide range of prices. We take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of taking cruises from Seattle compared to cruises from Vancouver or other West Coast U.S. ports, so check out the important factors before booking your cruise from Seattle.
The Pros for Cruises from Seattle
Easy to reach by road
Seattle is very easy to reach by road from Canada or the western U.S. seaboard. The I-5 Interstate runs north from San Diego CA to the Canadian border with exits just a couple miles from downtown Seattle and the cruise terminals.
Easy to reach by air
Seattle-Tacoma Airport (Sea-Tac) has regular flights from all over the USA and international cities further afield. It is very easy to fly into Seattle and get transport to the cruise terminals by taxi, Uber, bus or Link Light Railway. Consider using complimentary hotel transportation between the airport and your hotel, and then from the hotel to the cruise terminal if you are staying in Seattle pre or post-cruise. We cover all the options with our Must-Know Transportation Tips from Seattle Airport to the Cruise Port article.
Save Money Flying to Seattle Airport
Domestic airfares are always cheaper than international flights, so for U.S. residents, flying to Seattle is likely to be a lot cheaper than flying to Vancouver for your cruise departure.
You will probably want to stay a night or two in a hotel in Seattle before or after your cruise. Seattle is brimming with top sights that you won’t want to miss. Enjoy panoramic views from the observation platform of the iconic Seattle Space Needle which stands 605 feet (184m) high with amazing views of the islands, the city of Seattle, the Cascades and the Olympic Mountains.
Visit Pike Place Market, the vibrant Chihuly Gardens and Glass Museum, historic Pioneer Square, take a boat trip, go fishing, visit Seattle Aquarium, tour the Boeing factory, visit the Westfield Southcenter (the biggest mall in Northwest USA), the Nordic Heritage Museum and the Pacific Space Center…we could go on and on!
Get around easily with the Link Light Railway
Link Light Railway runs from Angle Lake and Sea-Tac Airport through downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill/ University of Washington. There are currently 12 stops with additional stops planned to serve the new Pier 46 cruise terminal.
Tickets cost from $2.25 to $3.25 depending on the length of journey and must be purchased before boarding, either at the station of via the app. Link trains runs from 5am to 1am daily with services every 6 minutes at peak times and every 15 minutes at quiet times. It’s very easy for visitors to get around the city, to the airport and within taxi or walking distance of the cruise port.
Great food and drink
Seattle is a great place for gourmands to visit as it has fresh seafood delivered daily to the port and local fish market. Fish and chips or a bowl of clam chowder never taste better than at a waterfront cafe in Seattle.
The city is also considered the world center for coffee roasting. It is home to Starbucks Coffee company and many more coffee roasting company HQs. FYI, more coffee is consumed in Seattle than any other American city with 35 coffee shops per 100,000 residents.
Scenic cruise itinerary
The Port of Seattle is located on Elliott Bay at the north end of Puget Sound. Once your cruise ship leaves Seattle it will navigate smoothly between the thousands of islands scattered across the Sound to the north and west of Seattle. It provides a very scenic start to your Alaska cruise with snowcapped mountains in the Cascades Range rising to the east as you sail towards Alaska.
Top cruise destinations within easy reach of Seattle
Seattle Cruise Port offers some amazing destinations including Alaska and Hawaii which are too far from most other cruise ports to make them viable. Seattle mini cruises lasting 2-5 days are offered by Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises. Northbound mini cruises are the best way to visit Vancouver along with Victoria and Nanaimo on Victoria Island.
South-bound cruises from Seattle provide a great way to visit Astoria, San Francisco and Monterey. Longer cruises and repositioning cruises take in the California coast, Los Angeles, San Diego and the breathtaking Panama Canal Transit.
Top ports of call on Alaska cruises
Alaska cruises from Seattle offer an easy way to access some of the most remote cities and outposts in the world. If you are planning to take an Alaska cruise from Seattle, pick your preferred ports of call and then find a cruise that includes them.
Not all cruises visit all the ports, national parks and highlights. For example, if you want to see more wildlife, opt for a cruise that sails through the deep Inside Passage where orcas, whales and seals are a common sight.
Popular ports of call on Seattle cruises include:
- Victoria (Vancouver Island)
- Nanaimo (Vancouver Island)
- Vancouver, Canada
- Ketchikan, AK (Inside Passage cruises only)
- Sitka, AK (Inside Passage cruises only)
- Juneau, AK (Inside Passage cruises only)
- Glacier Bay, AK (Inside Passage cruises only)
- Haines, AK (Inside Passage cruises only)
- Skagway, AK (Inside Passage cruises only)
- Hubbard Glacier, AK
- Anchorage, AK
- Whittier, AK
- Kenai Fords National Park, AK
From these ports of call, shore excursions provide a unique and exciting range of activities including dog sledding, glacier climbing, whale-watching, sea kayaking, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, wildlife viewing, hunting trips, fishing, backcountry hiking and exploring local towns.
No-Fly Cruises to Hawaii
The best way to take a cruise to Hawaii and visit several of the islands is on a cruise from Seattle. If you take a longer Hawaiian cruise (or back-to-back Hawaii cruises from Seattle) you can enjoy the whole experience without having to fly.
Seattle Port Valet Service
One of the big benefits of cruising from Seattle is the Port Valet Service. Free to cruisers, it collects your baggage from outside your stateroom on the last night of your cruise. It transports your bags to the airport, drops them with your airline and has them checked right through to your final destination.
How’s that for cruise efficiency? You need to organize the Port Valet service while on-board your cruise and label your bags clearly using the baggage tags provided. After that, you’re free to explore the city sights until it’s time to head to the airport for your journey home.
Cons Against Cruises from Seattle
Generally cruises out of Seattle take the Outside Passage while cruises departing from Vancouver take the more scenic Inside Passage between Puget Sound and the Gulf of Alaska.
The Inside Passage has calm waters, fantastic wildlife sightings, spectacular scenery and some additional ports of call including Skagway, Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau and Glacier Bay National Park. Check your itinerary before booking to make sure that your Alaska cruise includes all the places and experiences you want to see.
Shorter stay in Victoria Island
If you want to spend time exploring Victoria Island and the magnificent Butchart Gardens, you need to take a cruise that departs out of Vancouver. Cruises from Seattle only include a very short stop at the island with insufficient time for cruisers to visit the main sights.
Few Seattle cruises through the Inside Passage
Most cruises from Seattle unfortunately do not sail up the Inside Passage, which is a big disadvantage if you want the best wildlife sightings. The deep waters through the Inside Passage are where orcas, whales and seals are a common sight.
Cruises from Seattle must sail through open waters to reach Alaska if they do not include the Inside Passage. This can leave ships open to rough seas and bad weather. For those suffering from seasickness, this is a big disadvantage for taking cruises from Seattle rather than from Vancouver, British Columbia.
High cost of cruise parking
Seattle cruise parking is much more expensive than some other U.S. cruise ports with on-site parking at Pier 91 starting at $26 per day. One of the reasons why Seattle cruise parking is so expensive is that it is all on the waterfront. This is prime land near downtown Seattle with a lot of competition for the space.
Get the full information about Seattle cruise parking options in our article Things to Know on Seattle Cruise Parking.
Three terminals to choose from
Most cruise port have all the cruise terminals in one area of the port but in Seattle the cruise terminals are widespread so you need to know which cruise terminal you are departing from. Pier 91(Smith Cover Terminal) is 3.5 miles north of Pier 66 (Bell St Terminal). The new Terminal 46 (0.8 miles south of downtown) will add a further choice for cruisers who may already be confused about where their cruise is departing from.
No ATMS at Seattle cruise terminals
Currently there are no ATMs at Pier 66 and Pier 91 cruise terminals. International travelers needing US dollars should visit a bank in downtown Seattle before boarding, or wait for a port of call in Alaska.
Cruisers sailing from Seattle to Alaska are not required to have a valid passport and can use an official form of photo ID when checking-in. However, if the cruise stops at any Canadian port of call before reaching Alaska, passengers must have a valid passport.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Prices vary widely for cruises from Seattle to Alaska, depending on seasonal demand, what type of stateroom you choose, how long the cruise lasts and which cruise line you are sailing with. Prices for a one-way cruise with Norwegian cruise Line (NCL) start from $799 for a 7-night cruise in an Interior cabin.
Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruises are slightly more luxurious and therefore more expensive while cruises aboard Oceania are usually over $2000. You also need to add the cost of port taxes, tips, drinks and shore excursions as well as a return flight home from Anchorage (ANC) Airport which can easily double the basic cruise price.
Currently the Port of Seattle serves seven major cruise lines. Pier 91 (Smith Cove) currently serves Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean cruise lines. Pier 66 currently serves Oceania Cruises and Norwegian Cruise line, A new cruise terminal is being developed at Terminal 46 which will accommodate new mega cruise ships and some of the existing cruise lines.
Distances from Seattle Airport to the Cruise Port of Seattle vary depending on which cruise terminal you are departing from. Seattle Airport is 13 miles south of Pier 66 Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal and 16.7 miles south of Pier 91 Smith Cove Cruise Terminal.
When the new Pier 46 cruise terminal opens it will be 12 miles north of Seattle Airport and the journey by road will take about 18 minutes.
If you only have a short time in Seattle before or after your cruise, make sure you visit Pike Place Market. It is within walking distance of Pier 66 and the new Terminal 46. It has a fascinating collection of stalls selling everything from fresh cut flower bouquets and artisan foods to antiques and china.
The market includes a famous Fish Market where traders entertain shoppers by throwing and catching huge fish between themselves or making fish on display twitch by pulling on hidden threads. There’s a lively Craft Market with over 200 stalls and a host of live entertainers and buskers. The market covers 9 acres and includes plenty of cafes for tasty refreshments and snacks. You’ll find the original Starbucks at 1912 Pike Place, which is well worth a photograph.