The Port of Seattle unveiled its preliminary cruise schedule for 2022, with 296 scheduled sailings bringing an estimated 1.26 million revenue passengers through its two cruise ship terminals. Cruise lines are adding additional ships to the Alaska market this season. It is anticipated that the number of passengers per ship will vary by sailing and will increase as the season progresses. The seven major brands homeporting in Seattle will be sailing 14 vessels, up from 11 most seasons.
“The Port of Seattle looks forward to providing another season of safe cruise experiences as we continue to work with our local public health officials to ensure the health and safety of passengers, crews, and the community. Our vision is for a thriving Seattle Alaska cruise industry, one that leads the world in terms of environmental standards, inspiring other Ports to meet the same high standards, and delivers job and business opportunities where they are needed most,” said Stephanie Jones Stebbins, Managing Director of Maritime at the Port of Seattle. “Cruise is a critical part of our local and regional economy, supporting thousands of jobs across maritime, tourism, hospitality, agriculture, and services.”
As in 2021, the Port and cruise lines will adopt detailed agreements documenting COVID prevention and response plans on everything from vaccinations, testing to quarantine procedures. Cruise lines are also detailing how they will participate in the United States Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) updated Program for Cruise Ships. Cruise lines operating out of Seattle this year are also expected to stop in Canada and must also meet Canadian vaccination and testing requirements.
Last year, the Port of Seattle hosted one of the safest cruise seasons in the world, thanks to partnerships with cruise lines, state and local public health officials, ports in Alaska, and passengers. The CDC will continue public reporting on the status of COVID cases on cruise ships. The shortened season, with 82 cruise calls, demonstrated the success of safety protocols.
The Port of Seattle is one of the most environmentally progressive cruise homeports in North America, routinely setting new standards that go beyond regulatory compliance to reduce environmental impact. Beyond compliance, the Port works closely with the industry to minimize the climate change and air quality impacts from cruise ship operations through the use of cleaner fuels, access to shore power, and a strong collaborative relationship focused on the environment.
Today, the Port uses its existing agreements to require shore power capable ships to use shore power. A new shore power connection is on track to be completed at Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal in 2023. The Port has also set a goal to have 100 percent of homeport cruise ships in Seattle equipped with shore power capability and connect to power on every call by 2030 or sooner.
Seattle’s cruise lines continue to show their support for clean air and climate action by increasing the number of vessels that are shore power capable and connect when at berth. This year, 100 percent of Holland America Line and Princess Cruises ships calling at Smith Cove Cruise Terminal are shore power capable.
The Port is working with cruise lines to ensure water quality protections for Puget Sound too. While in 2018 Puget Sound officially became a ‘No Discharge Zone,’ cruise lines stopped discharging wastewater voluntarily years before the state of Washington extended these protections to all vessels. Since 2004, the Port has partnered with the Washington State Department of Ecology and the cruise industry in a voluntary agreement. The memorandum of understanding, often referred to as the “Cruise MOU” was originally put in place to increase both standards and oversight on cruise ships, allowing for random inspections of systems and records on ships each season.
In 2020, the Port also banned all exhaust gas cleaning system wash water from cruise ships at berth, and in 2021, all ships calling on the Port voluntarily agreed to pause all discharges of wash water in Puget Sound. This wash water pause will remain in effect until findings from a third-party research study can show that wash water discharges do not impact Puget Sound water quality and until that time, cruise ships do not discharge anything into Puget Sound waters.
Later this spring, the Port, cruise lines, and tourism partners will host a pre-season webinar to answer community questions about the upcoming cruise season. Registration links will be posted to the Port’s webpage and social media channels once details are confirmed.
Connecting locals to job and business opportunities is part of the Port of Seattle’s equitable economic recovery strategy. The Port and cruise line partners will host an April cruise job fair at the Port’s Community Hub in South Park and will also co-sponsor an Alaska travel vendor fair on March 19.
“Thanks to our successful approach in combating the pandemic, our region is finally on the cusp of the tourism recovery we have been hoping for. A strong 2022 cruise season will be a gift to our region and it is encouraging to see the cruise industry’s commitment to Seattle and the Alaska cruise market,” said Tom Norwalk, President and CEO of Visit Seattle. “Local tourism and hospitality partners — from restaurants and retail to attractions and hotels—will benefit at a time when our region needs it most. And even more critically – jobs will be created. We thank and congratulate the Port of Seattle for their leadership role in driving economic benefit into our region and we look forward to welcoming cruise passengers to Seattle very soon.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Port of Seattle had forecast a record year for 2020 with 233 cruise vessels scheduled to sail from Seattle with an expected 1.3 million passengers expected through our terminals, supporting 5,500 jobs, and providing nearly $900 million in economic impact for our region. With no cruise activity in 2020, the economic losses due to the drop in tourism were devastating locally and in Alaska.
“The cruise industry is an important component of the Southeast Alaskan economy. The past two years have been incredibly difficult for our local businesses, and we’re excited to welcome visitors back to our beautiful community and region,” said Alexandra Pierce, Tourism Manager of the City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska.
Communities in Alaska also rely on tourism income to maintain their livelihoods. A recent report prepared for the Alaska Travel Industry Association found that the lack of cruise in 2020 contributed to a 78 percent decline in visitor spending, leading businesses to rely on government assistance, cut jobs, and reduce or pause operations.
“From the grand opening of our high-speed gondola systems to welcoming a record-setting number of travelers, this will be an exceptional cruise season at Icy Strait Point,” said Russell Dick, Huna Totem Corporation President and CEO. “From our Native community of Hoonah to the Yukon River beyond Denali, the cruise industry drives the economy for small villages across the state of Alaska. In turn, our rich culture, vast landscapes, and abundant wildlife inspires life-changing memories for the entire family.”