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Cruises to Seattle

Seattle (Photo:f11photo/Shutterstock)
Seattle (Photo:f11photo/Shutterstock)

About Seattle

The largest and most densely populated city in Washington State, Seattle is known as the Emerald City, in recognition of its lush evergreens and plentiful public green spaces that include an old growth forest, a converted military base, and parks built over freeways.

All that green is a byproduct of the temperate marine climate. And while there are many gray, wet days in Seattle, it rains less here than most visitors have been led to believe. Seattle's average annual precipitation is below what falls from the sky in Boston, Houston, New York City and Washington, D.C.; it just seems like more rain because Seattle's drizzly weather lingers longer.

All the buzz about Seattle's love affair with coffee is real. Starbucks was born here (an outpost at Pike Place Market retains the first store's original look) and the city brims with branches of that now-worldwide chain along with dozens of independent coffeehouses with steadfast followers.

While more than 200 cruises set sail from Seattle for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest each summer, the city does not sit on the ocean. It's actually at the inland-most end of Puget Sound, which wends its way north to the Pacific and is the gateway to some of the most magnificent scenery on the continent. Pristine mountain ranges rim the east, while hundreds of islands dot the Sound to the north and west.

Downtown, you'll find Pike Place Market, one of the oldest continuously operating farmers' markets in the United States. In nearby Pioneer Square is the 38-story Smith Tower, which opened in 1914 and held the title of tallest building west of the Mississippi for more than 50 years.

There's plenty of must-see modern architecture, too, from the geometrically exuberant glass-and-steel Central Library on 4th Avenue downtown to the MoPop Museum at Seattle Center, which celebrates music and popular culture in a building inspired by a pile of smashed guitars. Next door to the pop culture museum is Seattle's most famous landmark, the Space Needle, which still looks futuristic although it was created for the 1962 World's Fair.

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DAY 1: Seattle

5 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Victoria ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Seattle

9 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Sitka, Icy Strait ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Seattle

16 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Seattle

7 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Juneau, Skagway ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Endicott Arm ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Juneau, Glacier Bay ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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10 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Seattle, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Icy Strait, Hubbard Glacier ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Sitka, Icy Strait ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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Cruise Critic Favorite

7 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Endicott Arm ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Icy Strait, Glacier Bay ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Icy Strait, Hubbard Glacier ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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Cruise Critic Favorite

7 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Endicott Arm, Skagway ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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16 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Ketchikan, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Juneau, Endicott Arm ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Juneau, Skagway ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Sitka, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Juneau, Glacier Bay ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Icy Strait, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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10 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Monterey ...
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Cruise Line:
Windstar Cruises
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17 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Galveston
Visiting:
Santa Marta, Cartagena ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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25 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Astoria, Oregon, Seattle ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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41 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Astoria, Oregon, Seattle ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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61 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Astoria, Oregon, Seattle ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Seattle

Leaving:
Seattle
Visiting:
Juneau, Endicott Arm ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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Why go to Seattle?

Pros:

The waterfront area offers everything from an aquarium to coffee and curiosity shops.

Cons:

Transportation from the cruise port to downtown areas has improved, but is still cumbersome.

Bottom Line:

A little rain doesn't impede all there is to do and see here; it's worth extra time on land.

Seattle Cruise Port Facilities?

There are two cruise ship terminals in Seattle. (A third is expected at Pier 46 sometime in 2023.)

Bell Street Pier 66: Oceania Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line passengers embark and disembark from the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal at Pier 66, on the downtown Seattle waterfront.

Smith Cove (Pier 91): Passengers traveling with Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International embark and disembark from the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91, which is located at the north end of the Elliott Bay waterfront, at the base of the Magnolia neighborhood and 2 miles from Seattle's downtown core.

There are limited "extra" amenities, beyond restrooms, inside either terminal.

Instead, go outside. To the left of the Bell Street Cruise Terminal at Pier 66, towards Pier 70, you'll find assorted coffee shops and restaurants along with the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park. Head to the right, also along the waterfront, and you'll find more restaurants, plus the Seattle Aquarium, the Seattle Great Wheel, and beyond that, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, a museum/souvenir shop that has been on the waterfront since 1899.

The Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91 is in an industrial area that's starting to see breweries and eclectic eateries pop up within a 20-minute walk.

A concierge is available at both terminals to help with city information and luggage storage after cruises. Hours are typically 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on cruise days.

Good to Know?

Rain: Yes, rain is common in Seattle, but locals don't let that keep them from doing anything they'd do on a sunny day, and neither should you. Pack light rain gear and a hat, and you should blend right in. Locals say they can spot a tourist by the umbrella. (That said, don't hesitate to use one if you need it.)

Walking Shoes: Less talked about than the rain is Seattle's many hills. Most have been leveled out over the years, but some sightseeing around town will have you hiking up steep inclines (and it's not always clear on Google Maps). Look for stairs, when possible, like the Pike Place Climb.

Cannabis: Recreational use of marijuana is legal in Washington State, but if you want to shop and partake there are rules you'll need to follow. Most important to keep in mind is that you cannot consume pot in public and it is illegal to take it out of the state or onto cruise ships. Most cruise ships also do not permit passengers to bring pot paraphernalia onboard.

Visa Requirements: Most cruises headed for Alaska make a stop in Canada. That means U.S. citizens will need to travel with a passport or a U.S. passport card, and passengers from certain countries will need to have a Canadian Visa. Be sure to check with your cruise line or travel agent for requirements to avoid being denied boarding.

Getting Around?

On Foot: Many of Seattle's waterfront attractions are a 15- to 20-minute walk from the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal at Pier 66. (Remember the hills.) The Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91 is in an industrial area, so getting to attractions or restaurants will require a car or a cab.

By Public Transportation: Seattle's metro bus system (King County Metro Transit) is easy and safe to use, and it offers a helpful trip planning tool for getting around. Exact fare is required at the fare box when you board. The closest bus stop to the Bell Street Cruise Terminal at Pier 66 is on 1st Ave and Wall Street, about 0.3 miles from the terminal. The closest bus stop to the Smith Cove Terminal at Pier 91 is on the Magnolia Bridge, and is about 0.4 miles from the terminal.

The Seattle Center Monorail is a cheap ride that bounces conveniently back and forth along Fifth Avenue between Seattle Center (at the base of the Space Needle) and the Westlake Center in Downtown.

By Car: Taxis and ride-hailing car services (including Uber and Lyft) are plentiful and reliable to use around town. Passengers on cruises departing from Seattle usually fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Downtown Seattle and the cruise terminals can be reached via taxi, town car and shuttle van companies such as Shuttle Express and SpeediShuttle. Parking and traffic can be a problem in Seattle, so renting a car is not recommended unless you are heading to a destination out of the city like one of many nearby national parks.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Seattle uses the U.S. dollar. There are no ATMs in the cruise terminals, but ATMs are plentiful in the city.

Travelex offers currency services at SeaTac International Airport and at Westlake Center, the downtown shopping center at 5th Avenue and Pine Street. Most banks exchange currency for a fee, but fee-free currency conversion vouchers (which can be used at downtown Wells Fargo locations) can be picked up at both downtown visitor centers.

Language?

English is the native language in Seattle, but it might be helpful to brush up on basic coffee lingo before you arrive so you can confidently order the correct caffeinated brew while in town.


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2018 Top-Rated US & Canada Destinations

Seattle Cruise Reviews

Carnival Legend
Tiger Cruiser Too
Sail Date: Sep 2019
We had a smooth flight into Seattle. After making arrangements with an Uber driver we made it to our hotel for the night before the cruise. This was our first trip to Seattle and one of our group said we should... Read More
Ruby Princess
arizoncarl1
Sail Date: May 2019
by far the best time spent in Seattle was at pikes market, fresh foods and items to take home.... Read More
Ovation of the Seas
jcopas123
Sail Date: Aug 2019
Seattle is an interesting place... We walked a total of about 20 miles in the 2 days that we were there. We had coffee at the Starbucks in Pikes Place, went to the fish market, and the space needle. The food was... Read More
Norwegian Bliss
NJB_Cooper&Merrick
Sail Date: Aug 2019
Seattle is fantastic, so much to do. Love it.... Read More
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