Taking a Cruise Out of Seattle

Updated: March 28, 2017

Where to stay and how to see Seattle before and after an Alaska cruise

Seattle has two cruise ship terminals, and more than one million passengers embark annually from the Puget Sound waterfront for 7-10 day cruises to Alaska. Seattle’s cruise season runs from late April through early October. Seattle is a home port for Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, and a stop on some Crystal and Seabourn cruise line itineraries.

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Seattle’s Cruise Ship Terminals

The Port of Seattle operates two busy cruise ship terminals. Both terminals provide services like airline check-in and baggage transfer, concierge and luggage storage, long-term parking, complimentary shuttles, and rental car kiosks.

Transportation Between SeaTac Airport and Seattle’s Cruise Terminals

Seattle’s SeaTac Airport is 15 miles south of downtown Seattle and the cruise ship terminals. The easiest way from the airport to the cruise terminal is to arrange for town car, limo, or SUV pickup. I recommend Seattle Town Car – they’re reliable, don’t cost much more than a cab or a ride app, offer child and infant car seats, and curbside pick up will save you the trek to the taxi/rideshare zone with all of your luggage.

Shuttle Express provides shuttle service straight to the pier for $44/person, or in a combination hotel/pier shuttle transport package for an additional $10 each. Due to the per person fare, if you’re traveling with a lot of adults, it will be cost-effective to choose a town car – kids travel free on a shuttle, one per adult.

Taxis are easy to find and generally plentiful at SeaTac airport, located on the third floor of the airport parking garage. After collecting your luggage, go up one level, take the skybridge across to the parking garage, and then the elevator/escalator down one level to 3. There are clearly marked signs along the way to help you get there.

Rideshare apps like Uber, Lyft, and Wingz are now allowed to pick up at SeaTac, as well – with the addition of a $5 airport fee. The rideshare pickup zone is located on the third floor of the parking garage, near the taxi stand. UberBLACK, UberSUV, UberXL and UberSELECT vehicles can pick up passengers curbside outside of baggage claim.

At $3 a pop, the cheapest way from SeaTac to downtown is Light Rail. The station located off the 4th floor of the airport parking garage, with trains departing every 10 minutes or so. You’ll get off downtown at Westlake Center. If your cruise is departing from the Bell Street Terminal at Pier 66, it’s about a 15-minute walk from the light rail station. You’ll want to consider a cab or Uber if you’re carrying bags – it’ll be a cheap ride for the short distance to the waterfront. If you’re departing from Smith Cove at Pier 91, you’ll definitely need a ride – Smith Cove Terminal is a 15-minute drive from Westlake Center.

Where to Park During a Seattle Cruise

Seattle cruise terminals offer secured long-term parking at a rate of $20-25/day – about half as much as you’ll pay for hotel parking downtown. You’ll want to book online in advance, as the parking areas regularly fill up. Alternately, park at the SeaTac airport garage for about the same price and take light rail or other transport into the city.

Where to Stay Before or After a Seattle Cruise

If you’re coming into the SeaTac airport late and not expecting to do much sightseeing around Seattle, staying near the airport is a good option, as it will be less expensive than staying downtown. The best hotel near SeaTac is Cedarbrook Lodge – they have an incredible spa and award-winning farm-to-table restaurant. Other good options are the SeaTac Crowne Plaza and Hilton – both offer cruise packages with complimentary shuttle service to the cruise terminals.

Staying in downtown Seattle will give you the best chance to see the city, and offers easy access to Seattle’s best attractions. Hotel rates are at their highest during cruise season, however, so don’t expect to find many cheap options. Many hotels offer cruise packages that include transport to the terminal, but these are generally not big money-savers, as cab/rideshare fare to the pier is fairly inexpensive and Shuttle Express offers scheduled transport from some downtown hotels to the cruise terminals at a rate of just $12 per person. If you’re sailing on a Norwegian or Oceana cruise that departs from the Bell Street Terminal, The Edgewater Hotel and Marriott Waterfront are both within easy walking distance of the pier.

The best downtown Seattle hotels for cruise travelers are:

The Best Seattle Tours for Cruise Travelers

Those looking to see Seattle in a small window of time before or after a cruise will find a guided tour to be a convenient and efficient option. Tours specific to cruise travelers will handle your luggage, and pick up and drop-offs are coordinated to accommodate ship sailing and departure times.

Tours Northwest’s Sightseeing and Cruise Transportation Tours run anytime a cruise ship is in port, and will pick up and drop off at downtown and SeaTac area hotels, as well as both cruise ship ports. This three hour tour covers fifty miles, visiting Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, the Stadium and International Districts, Seattle Center (including the Space Needle and MoPOP), the Ballard Locks, Discovery Park, Fisherman’s Terminal, Lake Union, and more.

If you’re staying in near the airport in SeaTac, Show Me Seattle is your best option. They offer pick up at SeaTac hotels and both cruise ship terminals, and will drop-off at SeaTac Airport, SeaTac area hotels, and the Seattle cruise terminals. Tours last three hours and cover the downtown Seattle area, historic Pioneer Square, the International and Stadium districts, Seattle Center and the Space Needle, the Queen Anne and Fremont neighborhoods, and the Ballard Locks. These cruises run on ship departure days only.

A delicious and informative shore excursion for those visitors whose ships are in port, a two-hour guided Food and Cultural Tour of Pike Place Market is a great way to experience the city’s best loved attraction with those in the know. Learn the Market’s history and taste the region’s best culinary offerings – with 9-10 tastings included, there’s no need to stop for lunch.

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