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Seattle Cruise Port Tips

Seattle's Space Needle dominates the Seattle skyline. Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons license
Seattle's Space Needle dominates the Seattle skyline. Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons license
The Seattle embarkation port for Alaska cruises that head north in many ways is just as good as Vancouver.

Like Vancouver, Seattle is a beautiful Pacific coast city with many attractions on land and on water.

Cruise passengers who begin or end their journey at the Seattle cruise port can spend at least several days there to take advantage of everything the city offers.

Some travelers may not think that Seattle or Vancouver are really part of an Alaska cruise. But they really do offer many ways to make an Alaska cruise vacation more memorable.

People who have a morning and afternoon before their cruise ship leaves can take advantage of two clusters of attractions within walking distance of the cruise piers.

Anyone who spends an extra day in the city can venture out of it for plenty of hiking and other recreational activities in the surrounding forests and national parks.

Attractions and Shore Excursions


Seattle makes it easy for cruise travelers to find many attractions and points of interest. They pack a lot of them in one area less than a mile from the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal.

Walking Around Attractions


Seattle Center


They are easy to find because they surround Seattle’s most famous attraction, the Space Needle, built during the 1962 World’s Fair. It stands in the middle of a 72-acre complex named Seattle Center. Anyone who visits the city will have little trouble spotting it in the distance.

The recent addition at the Space Needle of an open-air deck has revitalized tourism for this 520-foot-tall landmark. It has a rotating glass floor and great views of the city and surrounding Pacific Northwest. One tip: Try to go during a weekday and not during the weekend or crowded lunch and dinner hours.

Other attractions right by the Needle in Seattle Center include the Pacific Science Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Museum of Pop Culture and the International Fountain.

Pacific Science Center, 200 Second Avenue North, attracts more than 1 million people each year to its interactive science exhibits. The center also has a planetarium, IMAX theater and laser dome. General admission is $25.95 with discounts for seniors and children. IMAX films have separate admission fees.

Chihuly Garden and Glass, 305 Harrison Street, is a museum dedicated to the work of the famed glass artist Dale Chihuly. It features a glass garden, the Glasshouse and the exhibits. General admission tickets are $32 with discounts for seniors and children.

Museum of Pop Culture, 325 5th Ave. N., focuses on “ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary popular culture”. An example is a recent exhibit of Marvel super heroes. General admission tickets are $30 with discounts for seniors and children.

International Fountain in the middle of the Seattle Center park is an outdoor water sculpture with more than 20 spouts. The spout actions are coordinated with recorded music.

Other Nearby Attractions


Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market
The pier also is an easy walk to another cluster of attractions south of it at the Pike Place Market, Seattle Aquarium, Great Wheel and Seattle Art Museum.

All four of these attractions are within several blocks of each other. Visitors can see one or all four within a few hours and still have time to go back to the ship before it begins the cruise.

Three fourths of a mile southeast of the cruise docks is the famous Pike Place Market, 1514 Pike Place. Formerly a fish market, it is now a sprawling food, craft and shopping center in an old building. And yes, it still has fish and a unique charm.

Several more blocks south of the Market, and right on the waterfront at Pier 59, is the Seattle Aquarium, 1483 Alaskan Way, on Pier 59. The aquarium has a wide variety of marine life and marine exhibits. General admission is $34.95 for teens and adults with discounts for seniors and children.

Anyone who visits the Aquarium can look south past the quiet Waterfront Park and see the Great Wheel at Pier 57. This giant Ferris wheel “is the largest observation wheel on the west coast” at 175 feet tall, according to its website. Admission costs $15 with discounts for seniors and children.

Several blocks directly east of the Aquarium is Seattle Art Museum, 100 University Street. It has 25,000 works of art from around the world that date from antiquity to the present day.

Walkers will find plenty of restaurants among the downtown streets. Many of them have outdoor dining, which are especially popular during nice weather.

Shore Excursions


Cruise lines and independent excursion operators have fairly few Seattle shore excursions to offer because so much is available near the cruise piers. Many of these attractions are easy to reach on foot, by taxi or via public transportation.

Guided city tours are available, usually for about $75 to $150 per person depending on the length of the tour. They visit some of the above attractions such as the Space Needle and Pike Place Market.

Some operators offer hiking tours of Mount Rainier for $200 or more. Rainier is a beautiful mountain location, but it is 70 miles from the cruise piers. Heavy Seattle traffic may turn the drive into a two-hour trip one way.


Getting Around / Transportation


Again like Vancouver, Seattle has both a reputable bus system and light rail system.

The easiest and more expensive way to go from Sea-Tac Airport to the cruise terminal is with one of the shuttle operators who go between the two locations.

One shuttle operator quoted $44 per person for a round-trip package between the airport and the pier. An online search with the term “shuttle service from seatac to cruise terminal” provides some operators to contact.

The Sound Transit Link light rail makes 14 stops between Angle Lake Station to the University of Washington. Stops include downtown and Sea-Tac Airport. Trains arrive every six to 15 minutes depending on the day of the week, according to Visit Seattle. One way adult fares range between $2.25 and $3.25.

Stops include Westlake Center, which is a little less than one mile from the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal. Walkers can make it in less than 15 minutes; otherwise, hail a cab at Westlake Center.

Cruise Weather


Seattle famously is known as a rainy city, but it’s not really that rainy. It often just sprinkles or mists quite a bit throughout the year.

Even November, the rainiest month of the year, averages less than seven inches of rain.

More importantly for Alaska cruise travelers, the average rainfall from June through August is less than an inch a month. In May and September, the beginning and end of the Alaska cruise season, total rainfall is only a little more than one inch.

So travelers are highly likely to find clear skies on most days of the week.

The average daytime temperature during the summer is in the mid 70s Fahrenheit. Although Seattle has a few nearby beaches, it’s not a place to go for sand and surf. Instead, the weather is better for exploring the city and countryside.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Cruise Ports   

September 26, 2019

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