Seattle Cruising 101

Seattle’s port is a global favorite for Alaska and Pacific Northwest cruises thanks to a spectacular location with easy access to outdoor fun, shopping, and cultural experiences. And, it’s well worth adding a few days before or after your cruise to explore this friendly port and sneak in a little extra fun. Read on for need-to-know info.

Pier Pressure

With more than a million cruise passengers expected to flow through Seattle’s two piers this year, expect heavy congestion before and after your cruise. Here are tips to help you navigate the crowded waters.

  • Getting on your ship: Cruise terminals can be hectic and stressful during the first few hours of boarding, with the busiest time from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It depends when your ship leaves so don’t wait too long, but boarding after the rush may be easiest.
  • Getting off your ship: Disembark as early as you can and plan for extra time to get through the check-out process. Make sure you book your airport or hotel transportation ahead of time and pack some patience, since thousands of other cruisers will be headed home, too.

Good to Know

  • Pack your first day essentials (medications, swim suit, change of clothes) in your carry on, since you probably won’t get your checked luggage from the cruise line until evening.
  • Even though recreational marijuana is legal in Washington State, it’s illegal to take it out of the state or on your cruise ship. Leave it at home.
  • Since most of the Seattle cruises stop in Canada, travel with your passport or US passport card; some passengers from outside the US may need a Canadian Visa. Avoid getting denied back on the ship and check with your cruise line for requirements.

Extend Your Stay

Adding a day or three before or after your cruise not only eases the stress of arriving or departing on sailing day (think delayed flights, horrendous traffic, and bad weather), but it also gives you time to explore Seattle.

  • Hotels: If booking a hotel in the downtown core is beyond your budget, stay outside the city. Southside hotels are a great option. Two of our favorites, Hilton Garden Inn Renton and Crowne Plaza Sea-Tac, offer convenient packages including Shuttle Express private transportation to/from the piers.
  • Attractions: Numerous must-see attractions are found in Seattle such as Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, but if you venture past the city limits, you’ll find dozens more such as the Future of Flight, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, and whale watching in the San Juan Islands. Check out Visit Seattle’s site for helpful information.
  • Shopping: From bargains to high fashion, the Seattle shopping scene has something for everyone. See TripAdvisor for a terrific overview with plenty of links to explore before you hit the shops.

Reliable Transportation

Start and end your cruise vacation with comfortable, convenient private or shared transportation to/from the piers with Shuttle Express. As Seattle’s local airport and private transportation experts, our professional, friendly team has been at the wheel for nearly 30 years, keeping our guests safe, on time, and stress-free. Choose from black car, private or shared van, or coach service, and our experienced, caring team will make it happen. Book online at or connect with us at