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Waves of tourists and money from Seattle-Alaska cruises

By Kristin Jackson

Seattle Times

Holland America’s Westerdam has been a regular at Seattle’s Smith Cove cruise terminal. The ship kicks off this year’s season with a May 2 sailing. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Holland America’s Westerdam has been a regular at Seattle’s Smith Cove cruise terminal. The ship kicks off this year’s season with a May 2 sailing. Photo courtesy Alan Berner.

The cruise season begins on May 2. Get ready for big ships on the Seattle waterfront and lots of sightseeing passengers.

Seattle is getting ready to kick off the annual Alaska cruise season. It won’t be quite as sky-high in passenger numbers as some previous years, but the Port of Seattle is expecting almost 900,000 passengers and 192 sailings.

Seven cruise lines will base ships in Seattle mostly for weeklong, round-trip cruises to Southeast Alaska. (Holland America Line will offer some farther-reaching, 14-day Alaska cruises.)

The Seattle-Alaska cruise season, which runs from early May until late September, brings tourists and money flowing into the city. The Port of Seattle estimates that cruises brought $407.8 million in business revenue into the local economy in 2014.

Cruises also bring swarms of visitors to Seattle attractions, such as Pike Place Market, on summer weekends since most sailings begin and end on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The ships set sail from downtown’s Bell Street Cruise Terminal and Magnolia’s Smith Cove terminal.

Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood is seen from a lounge on Holland America’s MS Amsterdam when it was docked at the Smith Cove Terminal. (Ken Lambert /The Seattle Times)

Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood is seen from a lounge on Holland America’s MS Amsterdam when it was docked at the Smith Cove Terminal. Photo courtesy Ken Lambert.

The Seattle cruise industry has surged from its small start in 1999, when there were six sailings and 6,615 passengers; by 2010, one of Seattle’s boom years, there were 931,698 passengers.

Seattle has been giving longer-established Alaska cruise business in Vancouver, B.C., a run for the money. This year, 895,055 passengers are expected to sail in and out of Seattle, with the first cruise departing May 2 and the last on Sept. 27. Vancouver, B.C., has more cruise lines based at its port, but its passenger numbers are expected to be lower, similar to last year’s 812,000.

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