Port of Seattle records 25 years of cruise homeporting success

Future investments to drive the port’s growth include shore power, sustainability, infrastructure

Port of Seattle records 25 years of cruise homeporting success
Seattle is the closest major US port to Alaska’s popular destinations

By Alex Smith |

Alaska’s appeal as a cruise destination is no secret. The number of cruise ships visiting the region has grown significantly in recent years, making it one of the world’s most successful cruise markets today. This growth has been aided by the growing popularity of Seattle as a cruise homeport over its 25 years of operation.

Several major brands – including Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International – have made Seattle a homeport for their Alaska-bound ships, solidifying the US city’s status as a significant cruise departure point.

Seattle has been able to manage increasing cruise ship capacities throughout the industry as it can accommodate larger vessels at its unobstructed natural deep-water harbour; 2023 will come in as another in a series of record years.

Seattle is the closest major US port to Alaska’s popular destinations, located just 770 nautical miles away from Ketchikan. Air services to the region provide both cruise travellers and the provisioners who supply the ships with access to the Port of Seattle.

“Our unique relationship with SEA airport is a little-known fact,” says Linda Springmann, director of cruise operations and maritime marketing at the Port of Seattle. “As the port owns both the cruise terminals and the airport, we can provide operational efficiencies to our cruise line partners and their guests. The best example of this is our complimentary, opt-in Port Valet service where cruise passengers’ bags are transferred to the airport ahead of disembarkation. It makes a significant efficiency impact at terminal baggage halls and transportation hubs. Plus, cruise guests love that they have a few hours to explore Seattle luggage-free before heading to the airport.”

In total, the cruise industry contributes 5,500 jobs and over $900 million into the state’s economy each year. Along with delivering these economic benefits, the Port of Seattle is also making investments in environmental sustainability. In 2005, it became the first cruise homeport to offer two shore power berths. When a ship connects to shore power at Seattle’s Pier 91, it eliminates the emissions equivalent of an average car driving between Seattle and New York 30 times. As a result, Port of Seattle and its cruise line partners have stopped over 6,200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions by switching to shore power since 2018, with an ever-increasing number of ships plugging in.

In 2024, a third cruise berth located at Pier 66 will also offer shore power. This will make Port of Seattle one of the first ports in the world with three renewable shore power berths for cruise ships.

“The landscape of shore power capable ships continues to change, presenting us with greater variations of plug-in locations on the pier,” says Springmann. “In order to increase shore power connection rates, we are investing further in more flexible connection delivery from the pier, enabling us to continue to meet the needs of different ship configurations and to reach our sustainability and carbon reduction goals. Once shore power is available at our third cruise berth in 2024, we’ll see significant, additional gains in carbon reduction.”

Cruise lines, maritime organisations and ports associated with the Alaska cruise route have also joined together with the Port of Seattle as first-movers in creating the Pacific Northwest to Alaska Green Corridor, a shipping route where zero greenhouse gas solutions are tested and deployed. The project is currently the only cruise-focused green corridor in the world.

In July, the first-movers launched a pre-feasibility study which will provide the technical, governance and infrastructure challenges defining the path to achieving a Pacific Northwest to Alaska Green Corridor for the cruise industry.

Seattle also continues to look to the future with investments impacting the tourism sector which will drive its continued success as a cruise homeport. It has committed to deliver capital projects in air and land transportation, tourism infrastructures and cruise operations during a five-year period with most projects expected to be completed by 2024. 

This article was first published in the 2024 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.

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