Seattle expecting record-breaking cruise year as first ship sets sail

Apr 14, 2023, 6:01 PM


A cruise ship sails by the Seattle waterfront (Photo courtesy of Port of Seattle)

(Photo courtesy of Port of Seattle)

The first scheduled cruise of the year embarks this weekend on April 15 when the Norwegian Bliss – with its 4,000 passengers sailing in addition to a staff of more than 1,500 – heads to Alaska. Seattle is the primary U.S. embarkation port for Alaskan cruises.

It’s the first of more than 250 cruise ships scheduled to dock at Piers 66 and 91 through the fall, as cruise ship season lasts until the final departure on the day before Halloween, according to the Port of Seattle.

Seattle is one of the country’s busiest hubs for cruise ships and is expected to set records this year. The average cruise party (3.4 people) spends an average of $660 in Seattle during their stop, boosting Seattle’s economy.

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“During their time here, passengers are able to sample our outstanding dining options, beautiful hotels, unique shops, and authentic Seattle experiences,” Tammy Blount-Canavan, president and CEO of Visit Seattle, said in a prepared statement. “This taste of what the destination offers not only enhances the overall cruise experience, but it also encourages those passengers to return to Seattle to explore all the things that make the Emerald City and the Pacific Northwest such a magical place, expanding the economic impact of this valued part of the Tourism Economy.”

Blount-Canavan became the first female CEO of Visit Seattle after three decades working in the hotel industry in her hometown of Vancouver, B.C. She previously served as president and CEO of the Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau from 2008 to 2012.

The cruise ship industry in Seattle creates $900 million in revenue annually while putting approximately 5,500 locals to work. An example of the economy’s boost is passengers staying in Seattle before and after their trip. In 2019, before the pandemic, 73% of passengers overnighted in Seattle, with an average of 1.5 nights before and 1.6 after, according to Port of Seattle.

Port of Seattle’s data is projecting to see nearly 1.5 million passengers (a 7.7% bump) embark on a cruise from Seattle in 2023, with 288 projected sailings for the season. Last year, there were just 1.3 million passengers despite the port logging 295 sailings. There were just 213 cruises from Seattle in 2019 before the pandemic.

The top destinations for passengers departing Seattle for Alaska are Glacier Bay, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Juneau. Non-Alaska destinations served by cruise lines departing from the Port of Seattle include Hawaii and the Panama Canal.

In order for the Port of Seattle to match the state’s dedication to being environmentally conscious, the port implements rigorous solid waste handling and recycling programs, while all cruise lines have voluntarily agreed not to discharge exhaust gas cleaning system wash water in the Puget Sound.

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Seattle’s waterfront, home to Pier 91 and 66, has been under construction with various projects underway to update the iconic location. Alaskan Way, from S. King to Pike Street, is being overhauled by Waterfront Seattle while a new street, Elliott Way, is underway.

These projects will reportedly create connections to park spaces, restaurants, stores, and neighborhoods while widening pedestrian sidewalks. In addition, more than 500 new street trees are set to be planted in addition to expanding both pedestrian and roadway lighting.

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Seattle expecting record-breaking cruise year as first ship sets sail