Who am I?
Uncross your legs, remove your thumbs from third eye center, and open your eyes – that wasn’t a question I expected you to answer! I’m here to help with your cruise from Seattle, not launch you into an existential crisis. Besides, it’s obvious you’re a cruise lover or you wouldn’t be here. And does anything else about you even matter?
What I meant to do here was offer a brief introduction to myself for those new to profcruise.com and offer some insight into why I wrote this guide. In retrospect, I should have headlined this section, “Who is Prof. Cruise and why is she qualified to write a guide about cruising from Seattle?” Let’s try that again:
Who is Prof. Cruise and why is she Qualified to write a Guide about Cruising from Seattle?
For the past six years I’ve been answering that annoying icebreaker question, “tell us something unusual about yourself,” like this: I once wasted 9 years earning a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. and another 10 years working as a college professor before realizing my true passion: cruising. And writing about cruising. (I mean, I guess it wasn’t totally wasted, I love me some college cafeteria food.) So in 2016 I quit my job, sold my Pittsburgh house and nearly all my belongings, and moved to Seattle – to a downtown apartment with a view of and within walking distance to the two Seattle cruise piers. And the rest they say is…a subpar blog about my life as a Professor of Cruising.
So, having traded in my tweed sport coat with elbow patches for a new uniform:
I’m here to share with you everything I’ve learned about cruising from Seattle, which is quite a lot – I’ve sailed dozens of times from both Seattle cruise terminals on every non-luxury line and have helped numerous friends and family members plan cruises from and pre/post cruise vacations to Seattle.
So, what do you need to know before arriving in Seattle for your cruise? Read on!
Seattle’s Cruise Terminals: Two Going on Three
Currently there are two cruise ship terminals in Seattle – one, the Bell Street Cruise Terminal, at Pier 66 and the other, the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal, at Pier 91. It was also announced a few years ago that plans for a third terminal at Pier 46 are underway – it seems my prolific lobbying efforts have paid off.
Before we move on, it’s important to establish which cruise terminal you’ll be sailing out of.
Where will my Cruise Ship be Docked in Seattle in 2023?
Pier 66: Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Sun, Oceania Regatta
Pier 91: Carnival Luminosa, Carnival Spirit, Celebrity Solstice, Holland American Eurodam, Holland America Koningsdam, Holland American Nieuw Amsterdam, Holland America Noordam, Holland America Westerdam, Princess’s Discovery Princess, Princess’s Royal Princess, Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas, Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas.
Everything you Need to Know About Pier 66 (the Bell Street Cruise Terminal) in Seattle
Where is Pier 66 (the Bell Street Cruise Terminal) Located?
Address: 2225 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121
Pier 66 is located along the Seattle waterfront, very convenient to all things downtown.
What are the Closest Hotels to Pier 66?
There are two hotels within shouting distance to Pier 66, the Seattle Marriott Waterfront and the historic Edgewater Hotel. The Marriott is located across the street and the Edgewater about a block to the north. Both are pricey, but worth it for their location.
Where do I Park at Pier 66 for my Cruise from Seattle?
Parking for Pier 66 is located directly across the street on Alaskan Way. Vehicle entry is from Wall Street. Cost for parking at Pier 66 is $24 per day with a $1 per day discount available if you prepay online. Go here for detailed directions, additional information, or to pre-pay and reserve your spot.
How do I Get to Pier 66 from the Airport?
Your best options to get from the airport to Pier 66 (and from Pier 66 to the Seattle airport) include cruise line transfers, private cars or shuttles, a taxi, ride shares (Uber), and for hearty folks, the Link light rail.
Cruise Line Transfers to/from the Airport to/from the Bell Street Cruise Terminal (Pier 66)
Every cruise line operating out of Seattle offers both one-way and round trip transfers to/from Sea-Tac to/from Pier 66. These can be convenient and a good value if you’re traveling solo or in a small party, but can become costly for a larger group.
Norwegian: Generally $20-$30 per person one-way. Go here or to your online booking or travel agent for more information.
Oceania: Call (855) 623-2642 or consult your online booking to confirm price and book.
Shared Shuttle from the Airport to Pier 66
Shuttle Express offers a cheaper shared shuttle service ($25 one-way, $45 roundtrip) from many Seattle airport hotels to Pier 66 and from the airport to Pier 66 ($25 one-way, $45 roundtrip). This is a great option if you’re traveling solo. If you’re traveling in a group, a taxi or ride share may be cheaper.
Taking a Taxi from the Seattle Airport to Pier 66
Taxi’s are readily available at Sea-Tac and at the cruise terminal after your cruise. A metered ride from the airport will likely cost you between $40-$70, depending on traffic. After your cruise, cab companies will offer a $40 flat rate from Pier 66 to the airport. This is a good option if you don’t want to wait for a shuttle to arrive and load or have three or four people traveling in your party. More information for Yellow Cab can be found here.
Ride Share from Sea-Tac to Pier 66: Uber
A ride share such as Uber is another great option. A ride from the Seattle airport to Pier 66 and vice versa will usually cost around $45. This is comparable to a taxi and much more economical than a shuttle if you’re traveling with two or more people.
*Note: the street in front of Pier 66 is very congested on cruise days and there isn’t a great spot for ride share drivers to drop off/pick up. Consider walking a block to the north to the Edgewater Hotel and request they pick you up (or drop you off) there.
Is it Possible to take Public Transportation from Seatac Airport to Pier 66?
Yes! You can take the Link light rail. But be warned, this options involves a good deal of walking. While there is a light rail stop right at the Seattle airport, it’s a fairly long walk from the baggage claim area to the boarding station (there’s a little cart that can drive you, but you might have to wait a bit for it). Then, once you exit the light rail at your downtown stop, the Westlake Station, it’s another mile or so to Pier 66 (slight downhill on the way to the cruise terminal, slight uphill on the way from the cruise terminal back to the light rail station).
If you feel like you’re up for it, it’s the most cost effective option at $2.75 one-way per person ($1 for seniors). Travel time on the light rail (12 stops) is 38 minutes and you won’t risk sitting in traffic.
Here are walking directions from Westlake Station to Pier 66:
Everything you Need to know about Pier 91 (the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal) in Seattle
Where is Pier 91 (the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal) Located?
Address: 2001 West Garfield St.
Seattle, WA 98119
Pier 91 is located in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood near downtown.
What are the Closest Hotels to Pier 91 in Seattle?
While there are no hotels within easy walking distance to Pier 91, there are several that are close and convenient by car, taxi, ride share, or hotel shuttle (noted below). I would recommend these three located in the Queen Ann neighborhood near Magnolia (all near the Seattle Center attractions including the Space Needle):
Homewood Suites (Homewood Suites offers a shuttle to Pier 91 for a fee – last I checked it was $9 per person)
The Mediterranean Inn (Mediterranean Inn offers a shuttle to Pier 91 for a fee – last I checked it was $10 per person. I know lots of people who have stayed here and loved it.)
I’d Rather Stay Closer to the Downtown Tourist Attractions Before my Cruise, but I don’t want to Pay a Year’s Salary to do it. Is there a Less Expensive Hotel you’d Recommend?
Yes! I’d recommend the historic Moore Hotel. It’s located just two blocks from Pike Place Market, gets good reviews (people especially love the location for the price), and is fairly inexpensive for Seattle.
Where do I Park Pier 91?
Pier 91 Smith Cove Cruise Terminal Parking
2001 West Garfield St., Lot D, Seattle, WA 98119
Parking is available at Pier 91 for $29 per day with a $1 per day discount if you prepay online. The parking lot is located a bit of a walk from the terminal, but a free shuttle is available to transport you and your luggage.
How do I get to Pier 91 from the Airport?
Cruise Line Transfers from the Airport to Pier 91
Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, and Royal Caribbean all offer transfer shuttle services to/from the airport to/from Pier 91. Check your online booking or call the cruise line or your travel agent for cost and additional information. This can be an expensive option for a larger group, but can be cost effective if you’re a party of one or two.
Shared Shuttle from the Airport to Pier 91
Shuttle Express also offers a cheaper shared shuttle service ($25 one-way, $45 roundtrip) from many Seattle airport hotels to Pier 66 and from the airport to Pier 66 ($25 one-way, $45 roundtrip). This is a great option if you’re traveling solo. If you’re traveling in a group, a taxi or ride share may be cheaper.
Taxi from the Seattle Airport (Seatac) to Pier 91
Taxis are readily available at Sea-Tac and at the cruise terminal after your cruise. A metered ride to/from the airport will likely cost you between $50-$80, depending on traffic. This is a good option if you don’t want to wait for a shuttle to fill or have three or four people traveling in your party. More information for Yellow Cab can be found here.
Ride Share from the Airport to Pier 91: Uber
A ride share is likely the most economical route if your travel party is two or more. An Uber will cost around $50 to Pier 91 (Smith Cove Cruise Terminal) from the Seattle airport. There is a designated area for ride-share cars at the terminal.
Is it Possible to take Public Transportation from Seatac Airport to Pier 91?
Yes, it’s possible to get there by light rail and then a bus transfer, but it’s a bit tricky and not the best choice for the average out-of-town cruiser. For those who want to try it, here’s what you need to do:
Step one: Take the Link light rail from the airport to Westlake Center (12 stops).
Step two: Walk .8 miles to 3rd Ave & Cedar St. to catch the #33 bus toward Magnolia. Here are walking directions from Westlake Center:
-From Pine Street, turn right onto 4th Ave.
-Walk .6 miles on 4th Ave.
-Turn left onto Vine Street and walk two blocks.
-Turn right onto 3rd Ave and walk half a block until you see the #33 bus stop.
Step three: Get off the bus at Magnolia Bridge and Pier 91 (8th stop after you get on).
Step four: Follow these directions (thank you to fellow Seattleite Joe for giving me permission to include his video) to get from the #33 bus stop to the cruise terminal:
Can I take Public Transportation from Downtown Seattle to Pier 91
Yes! You’ll just skip step 1 in the directions above. So…
Start at 3rd Ave & Cedar St to catch the #33 bus toward Magnolia.
-Get off the bus at Magnolia Bridge and Pier 91 (8th stop after you get on).
-View the youtube video embedded above to get from the #33 bus stop to the cruise terminal.
Can I Walk to Pier 91 from Downtown Seattle?
Technically, yes. In fact, I run this route frequently and have walked from my downtown apartment to embark on a cruise from Pier 91 numerous times. However, this depends on a few factors like your fitness level and how much luggage you’ll have with you. I wouldn’t recommend it for the average traveler.
But if you’re fit and looking to burn off a few hundred final calories before fully embracing “all you can eat” or want a beautiful walk that will save you the cost of transportation to the pier, then go for it!
The distance from the Olympic Sculpture Park to Pier 91 is 1.8 miles (and once you’re on the trail, you’re basically committed as there aren’t many easy exit points). Be sure to use Google Maps or another map app to determine the exact distance from your starting point downtown.
How to Walk from Downtown Seattle to Pier 91
Check out my video with instructions on how to walk from downtown Seattle to the cruise terminal. If you try this, keep your eye out for sea lions, harbor seals, and bald eagles. I’ve spotted all of them along this trail.
Is it Safe to Arrive in Seattle on the Day of my Cruise?
There are many ways to get to Seattle for your cruise depending on your unique circumstances – train, bus, car, ferry, plane or, in my very fortunate case, foot. However you choose to travel, I’d strongly recommend you arrive at least the day before your cruise departs, unless you have travel insurance that would cover any possible travel delays (including getting stuck in traffic).
Seattle, and especially I-5, is notorious for traffic snarls. Even though I live downtown and avoid I-5 like the salad bar on the lido buffet, I’ve found myself parked in gridlock contemplating vehicle abandonment, “maybe a kind new owner will come along and give her a better life anyway,” dozens of times with, “at least I’m not trying to make a flight or a cruise,” as my only consolation. Don’t sacrifice your cruise to I-5, he’s a jerk and totally not worth it!
Besides, the earlier you arrive, the more time you have to explore my beautiful city and the surrounding region and the more opportunities you’ll have to run into Prof. Cruise. Let me warn you though, you might discover me later as a stowaway when unpacking your luggage: “surprise!” Don’t worry, I’m small and won’t take up too much room in the bed. At least before I order my standard two to three desserts in the MDR every night.
What Should I do in Seattle before or after my Cruise?
If you can spare the time and expense, consider spending some days in or around Seattle before or after your cruise. There’s so much to see and do!
If you only have a day or two and want to hit the main tourist attractions near downtown, I’d strongly suggest purchasing a CityPASS. At just $115 for adults and $87 for children 5-12, it will save you a significant amount (nearly 50%) and will grant you admission to the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, and three additional attractions of your choice from the list below:
You can buy the Seattle CityPASS here. We find this such a good value, we’ve purchased it several times ourselves to hit the sights with our out-of-town guests. They’re starting to recognize me at the Space Needle: “Oh, you again. You’re the one who passed gas in the elevator and then made a joke about it propelling us into space.”
Pike Place Market
If you didn’t spend all your money on DOD’s (drinks of the day), there are hundreds of shops, restaurants, seafood, flower, bakery, and produce stands, and local artisans available to separate you from your remaining dollars at the vast nine acre Pike Place Market historic district. And if you’re out of cash, stop by just for the people watching and street performers. We have some characters (in addition to Prof. Cruise)!
You can also book an organized tour that includes Pike Place Market. Here are some fun options.
Beneath the Streets Underground History Tour
Venture into Pioneer Square (you can walk there from downtown), Seattle’s original neighborhood, where you’ll explore the underground pathways that were built there more than 120 years ago and learn the fascinating history of the Emerald City. Go HERE for more information or to book your tour.
This spectacular waterfall will be well-known to fans of the cult television series Twin Peaks and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Washington. It’s located about 25 miles from downtown Seattle and can be done on your own by renting a car downtown (there are quite a few rental car locations right downtown) or you can take an organized tour. Go HERE for available tours.
Is Downtown Seattle Safe?
You’ve probably seen and heard things about downtown Seattle on the news or on social media and may be wondering if it’s safe. As someone who’s lived downtown for 6 years and walks all over downtown Seattle for hours each day (dog mom), I’m here to reassure you that downtown Seattle is generally clean and safe. We have a dedicated team of Downtown Ambassadors identified in bright yellow shirts or vests who you will see keeping our streets and sidewalks clear of trash and your shoes clear of dog poop. They are also able to assist you with directions or answer your questions.
Do keep in mind that Seattle is a big city and take the same precautions you’d take in any large city (don’t leave anything in your car, stay alert and avoid anyone who seems sketchy, don’t let anyone hand you anything, etc). It’s true, we do have a homeless population (some of whom are suffering from mental illnesses) and you will see tents in some areas. You may also see signs of the opioid epidemic. But overall, I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what a beautiful, vibrant, generally clean and safe city Seattle is.
Pro Tip: Avoid 3rd Ave (especially between Union Street and Pine Street). Much of the crime that takes place downtown is confined to that stretch, although efforts are underway to get it cleaned up.
My Flight Leaves Seattle Late in the Day. I Want to Explore the Area after my Cruise, but What do I do with My Luggage?
Port Valet! This awesome and almost too good to be true service offered by the Port of Seattle will transfer all your luggage to your airline after your cruise for FREE. It’s available at both Pier 66 and Pier 91 and applies to the following airlines if you’re traveling domestically:
Go here for more information and instructions on how to participate.
I’m Arriving to Seattle Early in the Morning and want to Explore the City Before my Cruise. But what do I do with my luggage?
If you’re looking for a place to store your luggage before or after your cruise (and port valet doesn’t work for you), there are a number of luggage storage services in Seattle that can help. Here are my two favorites:
BAGBNB ($6 per item, per day)
vertoe ($5.95 per item, per day)
What can I do in Seattle if I want to Avoid the Crowded Touristy Areas?
Hit the Beach
Fair warning, the popular tourist areas around downtown and the Seattle Center will be mobbed seven days a week during the cruise season. Arrive to attractions early to beat some of the crowds. But if you’d prefer a more peaceful and serene activity, consider spending some time at one of our beautiful parks or beaches. You can find my recommendations for great beaches near downtown Seattle (several of which are accessible via public transit from downtown) here.
Take a Ferry to Bainbridge Island
You can also hop on the Bainbridge Island Ferry at Pier 52 along the Seattle waterfront downtown and spend an afternoon exploring the shops, free art museum, and restaurants of Bainbridge Island. The small downtown area is within a short walk of the ferry and the ferry ride itself is beautiful! A roundtrip ferry ticket will cost you $9.25 for adults and $4.60 for seniors and youth. Go HERE for the schedule.
I’m Interested In Visiting One Of The National Parks Near Seattle
Or if you have longer, I’d strongly encourage a side trip to one of the nearby national parks, either Mt. Rainier or Olympic National Park. Go here for my guide to Mt. Rainier National Park and here for my guide to Olympic National Park. You can also book a tour to Mt. Rainier here or Olympic National Park here. My in-laws did the Mt. Rainier tour last time they visited us in Seattle and LOVED it.
What should I Eat in Seattle before or after my cruise?
Right now you’re probably thinking, “way to bury the lead, Prof!” But how else could I get you to read all that boring stuff?
Now when it comes to food, I generally approach it with the same attitude as a half-starved stray. Which is to say I’m not picky (sidewalk pizza crust anyone?) – I’m more of a quantity over quality kind of gal. And that’s one of the reasons I love cruising so much.
But in an ideal world, you’d have both, right? Quantity and quality. So why not bookend your week of binging on average quality cruise fare by sampling some high-quality local Seattle specialties? Here are my recommendations:
At Pike Place Market
After entering the market at 1st and Pike, your first stop should be Mee Sum Pastry to grab a BBQ pork bun (hom bao). Next make your way to Beecher’s Cheese where you can watch the cheese making process through the window while you wait in line for some cheese curds. And finally, no visit to Pike Place is complete without a Russian hand held pie from Piroshky, Piroshky. They have both savory and sweet options and my personal favorite is the Moscow roll.
ASEAN StrEAT (400 Pine Street) is a new addition to the heart of downtown Seattle and is one of my favorite spots to bring guests. This Southeast Asian food hall offers around a dozen different food stalls featuring dishes from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. You’ll order and pay via a touchscreen kiosk and will receive a text when your order is ready.
Along the Waterfront
You didn’t think I forgot about seafood did you? For something quick and casual, hit the Ivars Fish Bar at Pier 54 (beloved by locals) or for a sit-down, indoor restaurant you can try Ivars Acres of Clams or sit outside and gaze at beautiful views of the Puget Sound at The Fisherman’s (order the King Crab and Bacon Sandwich – both my mom and in-laws get one of those every time they visit).
If you’re doing the Underground Tour in Pioneer Square, grab a sandwich from Salumi or sit down for some oysters at Taylor Shellfish (featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown).
How about a Good Breakfast or Brunch Spot in Seattle?
Bacco Cafe right near Pike Place Market (86 Pine St). Try the dungeness crab benedict. Get there early though – there will be a line!
If you want a grab-‘n-go spot (there are a few tables outside, but they’re hard to snag), try Biscuit Bitch (also near the market at 1909 1st Ave).
Where can I get a Decent Cup of Coffee in this Town?
Besides on every single block of the entire city? My favorites are Storyville Coffee (up some stairs near the 1st and Pike entrance to Pike Place Market), Ghost Alley Espresso (right next to the gum wall), and Fonte (on 1st Ave, a block south of the market).
Where can I pick up a few Items in Downtown Seattle that I Forgot to Pack for my Cruise or some Sodas or Wine to Bring Onboard?
Corner stores and wine shops abound, but a sure bet for just about anything you may need is the Target located on 2nd Ave between Union and Pike St (right near Pike Place Market).
What’s the Earliest Safe Flight out of Seattle on the Way Home from my Cruise?
This is a tricky one as there are many factors at play, such as how early you’re able to get off the ship (they usually have to drag me off), your transportation plans to the airport, and the day of the week (weekdays will take a lot longer than weekends). As a general rule, I wouldn’t book a flight before noon unless you’re flexible and on an airline that will re-book you for free in the event you miss your flight. Keep in mind that the security line at Sea-Tac can sometimes take over an hour. It’s a VERY busy airport.
I would also strongly suggest you enroll in TSA Pre✓ if you’re flying out of Seattle. It will save you a tremendous amount of time and hassle. It’s a simple process and lasts for 5 years.
Do you have any Tips for Cruising to Alaska?
I mean, since you asked, I have a whole section of my blog dedicated to cruising to Alaska with dozens of articles on everything from choosing an itinerary to packing tips and excursion reviews. If this is your first cruise to Alaska, I’d start with my article, “First Time Cruisers to Alaska: Answers to 10 Common Questions,” my Alaska packing guide, and my article covering the best excursions for first time cruisers to Alaska.
Say hello if you see me around downtown Seattle and please feel free to post any additional questions you may have in the comments or on my Facebook page and I’ll do my best to answer them. Most of all, enjoy your cruise from Seattle to Alaska (or wherever else your voyage may take you)! Seattle is my favorite place to live and Alaska is my favorite place to cruise. I hope you love them both as much as I do. Happy Cruising!
Don’t forget to share this guide with your cruising companions and social media groups and PIN so you can refer back to it later!
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