While moving ahead with plans to build a third terminal, the Port of Seattle set another record last year with 1,210,000 passengers on 211 calls and is forecasting a further increase this year to 1,380,000 passengers on 225 calls.
“We are also extending our season starting as early as April 1 with the Grand Princess and closing on Oct. 19 with the Ruby Princess,” said Michael McLaughlin, director of cruise and maritime operations. “Norwegian Cruise Line will also bring a third ship, the Norwegian Sun, joining the Bliss and the Encore at Pier 66. The Sun will sail 11-day Alaska cruises.
“Next year, the new Norwegian Encore will replace the Joy,” he continued. “It is a good example of how Norwegian is keeping their newest and best products in the market.
“Also in 2021, Carnival will replace the Spirit with the larger Freedom.”
Last year marked Seattle’s 20th year as a cruise port, during which it has seen nearly 14 million passengers.
“What stands out over those two decades,” said McLaughlin, “is that even during the recession we continued to grow our market share year-over-year. There was some flattening out in Alaska when that head tax was put into place, but it had less effect on Seattle in that we had entered into berthing agreements with the brands where they needed to meet their annual guarantees. So when they decided to pull ships out of the market as a result of the taxation in Alaska, it had less effect on Seattle.
“Over the long run, the growth trend has been really positive.”
Having released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a new terminal last summer, the port has announced three groups that were shortlisted. They were the so-called Cruise Industry Leaders Group, with Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, Carnival Corporation and SSA Marine, a Seattle-based stevedoring company; Global Ports Holding and Miami-based Civil & Building North America; and Ports America, teaming up with Jacobs Engineering Group, headquartered in Dallas.
With the goal of having the new terminal ready for the 2023 season, it means Seattle will have three cruise terminals and four berths: Terminal 46 with one berth; the Bell Street Terminal at Pier 66 with one berth, and the Smith Cove Terminal at Pier 91 with two berths.