Seattle Gearing Up for Largest Alaska Ship

“The arrival of the Norwegian Bliss is a major event for Seattle this year,” said Michael McLaughlin, director of cruise and maritime operations for the Port of Seattle. “It is a brand-new ship coming into a newly expanded cruise terminal. She will be the largest ship ever to sail in Alaska, purpose-built for this market, so definitely a major success for our relationship with Norwegian Cruise Line.”

The 164,600-ton, 4,200-passenger Bliss is slated to arrive in Seattle for her inaugural sailing and christening on May 30.

The build-out of the Bell Street Terminal was completed for the 2017 season, meanwhile a new gangway system is being put in place to be ready for the 2018 season to handle the larger volume of passengers aboard the Bliss.

“There will be some changes in individual ships this year, but otherwise our business is consistent with the brands we have served for many years,” he added.

Ovation of the Seas

More big news is in store for 2019 with the arrival of the Ovation of the Seas, being repositioned from China to Seattle.

“Royal Caribbean is a long-term customer of ours and for the last couple of years they have had the position of having the largest ships here.

“Bringing in the Ovation speaks to the strength of the market; the additional capacity of that ship will probably be around 1,100 more people.”

Azamara Club Cruises, also a sister brand to Royal Caribbean, has announced a unique Seattle program for 2019. They will be calling rather than homeporting, coming in on Wednesday, staying overnight and leaving on Thursday.

A pilot program run last year was the courtesy valet luggage service, which McLaughlin described as very successful. Disembarking, passengers could check in for their flights at the port, get their boarding passes and turn their luggage over to the valet service, and then retrieve their luggage at their home destination. Meanwhile, they could spend the day exploring Seattle before going to the airport. The service accommodated some 65,000 passengers and 70,000 pieces of luggage last year. McLaughlin said he was hoping to offer the program again this year.

Seattle also offers cold ironing at two of its three berths. Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America and Princess ships are equipped to connect to the city grid and they berth at the facility that allows them to do that. The downtown facility that was expanded for the Bliss does not have cold ironing.

McLaughlin said that with the adjacency to neighboring communities it has been a big plus to have had shorepower for more than 10 years now.


The port’s traffic forecast this year is for 1,092,345 passengers on 214 calls, up from 1,071,594 passengers last year.

McLaughlin said that ships sailing from Seattle average load factors from 104 to 106 percent.

“We are very positive on the future and our optimism is supported by the decisions of cruise lines to position newer and bigger ships here,” he said. “We believe the strength in this market will continue, with Alaska being very desirable for first-time cruisers and return cruisers,” McLaughlin said.

Meanwhile, the port is looking toward the future and whether it needs to address building additional cruise facilities. “We have conversations with brands that have yet to come into this market that have expressed a lot of interest, but nothing I can comment on further,” McLaughlin added.

“Our priority is thinking beyond next year and where we want to be in 10 and 20 years and that will require a significant investment that we feel our partners in the industry will want to be part of.”

Get an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the North America cruise market and the ports that make it happen in the 2017-2018 Winter edition Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine. Subscribe today.

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