Port of Seattle had a fantastic six-month cruise season for 2023, with 291 cruises bringing more than 1.7 million total visitors to the port.
This, in turn, created an economic boom for the region, but what wasn’t booming was pollutants and emissions, as more ships than ever plugged into shore power to protect the area’s cleanliness and natural beauty.
Record-Setting Cruise Season for Seattle
Seattle – a key homeport for the highly desirable Alaska cruising season – saw 291 cruise ship visits in 2023, beginning with Norwegian Bliss on April 15.
Throughout the season, ships from Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and more either set sail from or visited the Emerald City.
A total of 907,572 passengers moved through the cruise port, for a total of 1,778,193 guest visits when both embarkation and debarkation are considered.
“Cruise ships carried a record number of passengers to and from Seattle this year,” said Steve Metruck, Port of Seattle Executive Director.
As many passengers stay in Seattle either before or after their cruise, that creates a significant economic impact with hotels, restaurants, shopping, and much more.
“The 2023 cruise season is something for Seattle to celebrate. We welcomed hundreds of thousands of people off the ships and into our shops, restaurants, hotels, and attractions, providing critical support to nearly 61,000 of our neighbors who work in hospitality, and contributing greatly to the more than $10 billion economic impact of tourism in our region,” said Tammy Blount-Canavan, President and CEO of Visit Seattle.
Even if cruise passengers don’t stay overnight in the city, data shows that over 20% of passengers will check their bags early to the airport before later flights, leaving them time to enjoy the city before departing.
The total economic impact for a cruise season in Seattle is estimated to be nearly $900 million (USD), with each individual homeported ship bringing $4 million of influence while berthed.
Cleaner Cruising From Seattle
It isn’t just the number of passengers or the economic impact that is impressive for Seattle in 2023. At a time when many cities are seeking to limit cruise ship visits due to emissions and pollution, Seattle is taking steps to keep its marine environment clean and healthy through shore power installations.
Seattle actually began shore power in 2004, and has increased the capability tremendously over the years. In 2023, more than one-third of ships berthed at Smith Cove Cruise Terminal utilized shore power – a record for a cruise season.
“A record number of ships lowered their emissions by plugging in to clean, shore side electricity at berth,” said Metruck. “We look forward to 2030, when we have a goal for every homeport cruise ship calling Seattle to plug in.”
The port is currently expanding the shore power infrastructure to include a third berth at Pier 66 with the goal of providing shore power at that location for the 2024 cruise season, part of the port’s overall goals for more sustainable cruising.
“The Port of Seattle continues to work collaboratively with the cruise industry, Alaska, and British Columbia ports to establish a ‘Green Corridor’ that would provide a plan for how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bring zero-emission ships to the cruise route from Seattle to Alaska,” said Stephanie Jones Stebbins, Managing Director of Maritime at the Port of Seattle.
“We are looking forward to further work on our environmental goals as we turn to 2024, providing leadership and vision for an improved way of doing business, industry wide, across the globe.”
In 2024, the preliminary cruise schedule shows the season opening even earlier, with Norwegian Bliss on Saturday, April 6, with Carnival Spirit returning on April 23 and Norwegian Encore on April 28. Port of call visits will begin with Norwegian Sun on April 19, followed by Holland America Line’s Zaandam on April 30 and Princess Cruises’ Crown Princess on April 30.
So far, 277 homeport calls are planned for 2024, and high occupancy of each ship will create strong passenger volume for an outstanding and impactful cruise season.