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Seattle Cruise Terminal: What To Do In This PNW Port

Norwegian docked at Seattle's Pier 66 and a Holland America and Royal Caribbean docked at Pier 91

The Seattle Cruise Terminal, with two locations, serves as a critical gateway for Alaskan cruises. Many cruise guests who live in the United States prefer embarking at a Seattle port, eliminating the need for an international flight.

One port is conveniently located downtown, and the other is further north. The cruising season typically runs from April to October, with April, May, September, and October being shoulder season.

If you’ve chosen to begin your journey at the port of Seattle, learn how to reach the ports, which cruise lines dock where, and the options for a pre-cruise stay.

Where Are The Seattle Cruise Terminals?

Major cruise lines use two terminals in Seattle.

  • Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal, or Pier 66.
  • Smith Cove Cruise Terminal or Pier 91.

Neither cruise terminal offers complimentary Wi-Fi. However, most travelers from the United States or Canada usually have cell phone coverage.

Bell Street Terminal

The Bell Street Cruise Terminal is at 2225 Alaskan Way in Seattle, Washington. Also known as Pier 66, it’s conveniently located downtown, close to the Pike Place Market. From here, you can see the ships docked at Pier 91, further north (see image above).

The Norwegian Bliss docked in Seattle, Washington
Bell Street Terminal or Pier 66

If you need a pre-cruise stay, consider these options:

  • Seattle Marriott Waterfront (2100 Alaskan Way) offers the most convenient stay across the street from the cruise port.
  • The Edgewater Hotel offers a waterfront location within walking distance to Pier 66.
  • The Belltower Inn – A little further away, but budget-friendly.

Norwegian Cruise Line and Oceania Cruises primarily use this port. While the port offers no long-term parking, the Bell Street Pier Garage offers long-term stays across the street. However, being downtown, expect to pay a hefty fee of USD 35 per day.

When staying near this port or stopping here on a Pacific Northwest cruise, you’re within walking distance of popular Seattle attractions. You can easily reach Pioneer Square, Seattle Great Wheel, Pike Place Market, and Seattle Aquarium on foot. 

Use the Seattle Center Monorail to reach the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden & Glass.

Smith Cove Cruise Terminal

HAL Eurodam docked at Pier 91
HAL Eurodam docked at Pier 91

Located at 2001 West Garfield Street, the Smith Cove port sits on the Seattle waterfront but not within walking distance of downtown. This port sees the lion’s share of Seattle’s cruise ship traffic and can simultaneously accommodate a couple of ships.

Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity Cruises use the Smith Cove terminal. Here, you’ll find 1,000 long-term parking spots, reservable for USD 28 daily. Drop-in rates are USD 1 more and available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

During peak times, this terminal gets congested. There is a long, covered walkway to the check-in area, ideal if it’s busy and raining.

Pier 91 or Smith Cove Cruise Terminal check-in
Pier 91 or Smith Cove Cruise Terminal check-in

While there aren’t any hotels within walking distance, some offer cruise shuttles (for a small fee). Here are some options for a pre-cruise stay.

  • The Mediterranean Inn is affordable and offers a shuttle service for USD 10.
  • MacQueen Hotel – Guests liked the large rooms and shuttle service.
  • Hollywood Suites by Hilton – The closest location but not so budget-friendly.

During the Alaska cruise season, hotels in Seattle fill up fast with cruise passengers. Expect to pay higher prices for locations closer to the port during peak times. To save money, consider an airport hotel instead and travel to the cruise port the following morning.

Cruise passengers arriving in Seattle for the day need a shuttle to reach downtown. Major cruise lines provide one, usually at USD 20 roundtrip. The buses usually drop guests at The State Hotel at 2nd Avenue and Pike Street.

Shuttle and taxi waiting area at Pier 91
Shuttle and taxi waiting area at Pier 91

If you are disembarking at Pier 91, it can be mass confusion about where to get a taxi, rideshare, or shuttle. We asked several port staff where we needed to wait for Quick Shuttle, and they gave different answers. However, shuttles wait a while to pick up their customers, so it wasn’t a problem.

If you are flying into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport or coming from Vancouver, British Columbia, here are your transportation options.

Planning your trip to Seattle, Washington?

Getting To The Port

From Vancouver, you can drive and find a long-term parking lot near your departure port. Expect the journey on Interstate 5 to the Mercer Street exit to take up to three hours, depending on traffic. However, be prepared to pay up to USD 200 for seven days of parking.

Amtrak Cascades takes 3-1/2 hours, leaving from Pacific Central Station in Vancouver. There are usually two daily departures, and the train journey is quite scenic. You may need a hotel stay and additional transportation to your embarkation port.

If the train schedule doesn’t work for you, several bus companies offer inexpensive transportation. FlixBus and Quick Shuttle have multiple time options. The latter has drop-off points at either cruise port.

Quick Shuttle at the Smith Cove Cruise Port
Quick Shuttle at the Smith Cove Cruise Port

I found the Quick Shuttle comfortable and convenient, and I liked that I didn’t need a taxi to reach the cruise terminal. However, the bus takes an hour longer than the train due to the number of pick-up and stopping points.

Passengers must disembark at the border, show passports, and go through security. However, this process was swift. Quick Shuttle or Amtrak are great options if you’re embarking in Seattle but ending in Vancouver or vice-versa.

From Sea-Tac Airport, you could pre-arrange a shuttle through your cruise line. The cost varies, and bear in mind that prices are per guest, so if you’re traveling with two or more, it may not be the most economical option.

Shuttle Express also offers trips to the port for USD 44 roundtrip, regardless of which port you’re going to.

Shuttle waiting area at Pier 91
Shuttle waiting area at Pier 91

LINK Light Rail offers a budget-friendly way to travel from the airport to downtown Seattle’s Westlake Station. Once there, you can use a taxi or rideshare to reach your terminal. Travel time estimates from Westlake Station are as follows:

  • Bell Street Cruise Terminal at Pier 66 is a little over five minutes.
  • Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91 is about 15 minutes via taxi or ride share.

If you are disembarking in Seattle and have a later flight, you can benefit from the Port Valet. A complimentary service, the Port Valet will collect your luggage from the cruise ship and deliver it to the airport. You’ll be able to track your luggage online for peace of mind.

Alternatively, a post-cruise excursion lets you see Seattle and offers convenient airport drop-off.

Cruising From Seattle

When taking an Alaska cruise from Seattle, vessels stop in Victoria, British Columbia, to comply with the Passenger Vessel Services Act. Your stop at the Victoria cruise port may last four to five hours or all day.

Ships docked at Smith Cove Cruise Port
Ships docked at Smith Cove Cruise Port

Since entering another country, you must clear customs and immigration at the Seattle cruise port even if you don’t intend to get off in Victoria. 

If you have a recent DUI, you may be denied boarding. Allowing you to embark on the cruise ship is at the discretion of the CBSA agent. Should you get onboard, it’s advisable not to disembark in Victoria, drive from Skagway to the Yukon, or take the White Pass Railroad.

When comparing Seattle Alaska cruises to ones from Vancouver, Seattle departures tend to have shorter port times. Most itineraries arrive in Juneau in the afternoon due to the longer travel time.

They may also experience rougher seas once they’ve cleared Puget Sound. Since vessels tend to cruise on the west side of Vancouver Island, they’re not protected from the swells.

Things To Do In Seattle 

If you arrive a few days before your cruise, explore the city center and see Seattle’s best sights. Seattle is a walkable city with many major attractions near the waterfront.

Pike Place Market

Flying fish at the Pike Place Fish Co.

Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market combines a mix of fresh seafood and ingredients with a myriad of unique shops. You can shop, dine, or enjoy the sights and smells.

Below the fresh market, you’ll find a rabbit hole of tunnels and walkways leading to shops selling vintage goods, paper items, and clothing. If you love to browse, you can easily spend a few hours in your element.

Since the market and shops are indoors, it makes for a good Seattle activity when it rains.

The Pike Place Fish Co. is an iconic venue that throws fish across the stall once purchased. Located near the large Penny Pig at the entrance, which collects money for people in need, it’s a must-visit to see the flying fish in action.

The market has a lovely selection of fresh flowers. Consider purchasing a bunch to adorn your cruise stateroom on embarkation day.

The Seattle Gum Wall provides a colorful and interesting stop outside the market. Located in Post Alley, visitors leave unwanted gum on the walls, windows, and even gas meters. While it’s disgusting and gross, you’re viewing a piece of Seattle history!

Starbucks First Coffee Shop

Visiting the first Starbucks in Seattle
Visiting the first Starbucks

Visit Pike Place Starbucks if you need coffee to start your day. While it’s the first store of the famous chain, despite moving locations, it looks the same as it did originally.

In 2008, Starbucks made a special Pike Place Blend. The shop draws big crowds daily, some to listen to the summer street performers and others to say they enjoyed a brew at the iconic location.

Further up the street, at 1124 Pike Street, you can visit another Starbucks called the Seattle Roastery. Here, you can book a tour and see how the coffee chain roasts its beans.

Seattle’s Great Wheel

Seattle’s Great Wheel stands 175 feet tall, making it the tallest Ferris wheel on the United States’ west coast. Located on the waterfront, it’s similar to the London Eye but on a smaller scale. 

The wheel features 41 gondolas, each holding up to 8 people, or you can opt for a private cabin with VIP tickets. When it’s not busy, you can enjoy a gondola to yourselves as we did.

The ride lasts about 12 minutes and provides excellent views of the city. During our spin, we saw the Norwegian Bliss docked at Pier 66. 

Riding Seattle's Great Wheel
Riding Seattle’s Great Wheel

After riding the Great Wheel, visit the Seattle waterfront. It stretches from Pioneer Square to Olympic Structure Park. The harbor area is ideal for seafood, with options like the Crab Pot, Elliott’s Oyster House, The Salmon Cooker, and Ivar’s Pier 54 Fish Bar.

Chihuly Garden & Glass

Located at the foot of the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden & Glass is my favorite place in Seattle. You can use the Seattle Center Monorail to cut down on the walk from Pier 66. From the Seattle cruise terminal at Pier 91, it’s a 15 minute taxi ride.

Seattle’s Chihuly Garden & Glass showcases the art of Dale Chihuly, a renowned glass artist. Born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, Chihuly revolutionized the studio glass movement. He’s known for his ambitious architectural installations and large-scale works featured in hotels worldwide.

Opened in 2012, the Seattle venue displays his stunning work in an indoor/outdoor museum. The Exhibition Hall features eight galleries and the Glasshouse, a centerpiece with a massive suspended sculpture. This vibrant, 100-foot-long piece sparkles in natural light. 

The float boats mesmerize with simple wooden vessels filled with giant glass balls of varying colors, a crowd favorite and mine too. Chihuly’s chandeliers are equally stunning, reflecting Chihuly’s unique style and his mastery of color, form, and scale. 

Chihuly’s float boat
Chihuly’s float boat

The outdoor garden harmoniously blends Chihuly’s installations with lush flora. Artworks here emerge organically from the landscape.

This museum isn’t just about viewing glass art; it’s an immersive experience suitable for all ages.

Space Needle

An alternative to Seattle’s Great Wheel, the Space Needle provides aerial views of Seattle Center. The Seattle landmark, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, is 605 feet tall. While it’s shorter than observation towers like the CN Tower, it still offers impressive views.

You can enjoy views of Seattle, Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains from the observation deck.

Recently, a massive renovation added glass floors, enhancing the viewing experience. With close proximity to the Chihuly Garden & Glass, you can combine both visits on the same day.

Seattle Museum Of Pop Culture

Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle Center
Seattle’s MoPOP

You can take the Seattle Center Monorail from the Space Needle to the Museum of Pop Culture or MoPOP. Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000, this vibrant hub is dedicated to contemporary pop culture. 

Its eye-catching exterior design, created by renowned architect Frank Gehry, mirrors the museum’s innovative spirit. MoPOP houses various exhibits spanning science fiction, music, and pop culture. 

It’s particularly famous for its extensive collection of memorabilia from iconic figures like Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. Also, the museum hosts interactive installations, allowing you to engage with various aspects of pop culture. 

Educational programs and workshops are regular features, making MoPOP a must-visit for music lovers, especially fans of Jimi Hendrix.

A Norwegian ship dock at one of the Seattle Cruise terminals, Seattle's first Starbucks and the Seattle Great Wheel