Over one-million passengers in 2022 points to strong future of growth in Alaska cruise market 

The Port of Seattle marked the end of its successful 2022 cruise season this weekend when the Norwegian Encore left Pier 66 for the final departure of the year. The Port broke new records and reached new milestones this season related to economic impact, environmental initiatives, and investment in community programs.

“In 2020, when the Port and region lost the expected revenue of an entire cruise season, we outlined a recovery strategy to bring the industry back healthier and stronger than ever,” said Port of Seattle Executive Director Steve Metruck. “This successful season and the remarkable progress on environmental initiatives is a testament to the resiliency and professionalism of the cruise lines, local leaders, labor partners, and so many others who keep cruise running efficiently.”

Over the course of the 2022 season, 1.28 million revenue passengers, or 640,000 individual travelers, came through the Port of Seattle on an Alaskan cruise. The new passenger volume record marks a six percent increase over the 2019 passenger volume and supported the regional economic recovery.

“More passengers means significantly more economic activity in our region,” said Maritime Managing Director Stephanie Jones Stebbins. “For local businesses that means more revenue for jobs and wages. The Port directs additional revenue right back into our community and maritime industries. This year, I am especially proud that we were able to nearly double our investment in youth maritime workforce development.”

Strong health and safety provisions played a major role in the success of Seattle’s cruise season. The Port and cruise lines adopted COVID prevention and response protocols prior to the season to ensure protection for passengers, crew, and the local community. Despite changes to COVID rules in Canada and at the federal and state level, cruise lines maintained the strong health and safety provisions throughout our season.

The faster-than-expected recovery of the Seattle-Alaska cruise itinerary allowed the Port to add another two million dollars into funding for its Youth Career Launch Pilot program, now funded at $4.1 million for the next three years.  As it has for the last several years, strong cruise revenue also allows the Port to make long-term investments that anchor good-paying maritime industrial jobs in our region as well as maintain waterfront parks and shoreline habitat, including new Duwamish River People’s Park.

Passenger spending boosts recovery

Cruise passenger spending also benefits local businesses.  Overall, cruising from Seattle supports nearly $900 million a year in local economic activity and supports approximately 5,500 local jobs.

Seattle and the Seattle Southside region saw dramatic recoveries in tourism activity this year.  Year over year hotel occupancy in downtown Seattle showed improvements of 67 percent in May and 63 percent in June. Visit Seattle President and Chief Executive Officer Tammy Blount-Caravan attributed the improvements to the full restoration of cruise. “The tourism industry, after suffering devastating blows for the last two years, flourished this summer. This is due in no small part to the return of a full cruise season.  Passengers staying prior to and after Alaska cruises have been the key to survival for so many small businesses that make up the fabric of our culture and our community’s vibrancy.”

According to Mark Everton, Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority Chief Executive Officer, the strong cruise season lifted the southern region’s hotel occupancy and helped to push 2022 revenue higher than the 2019 benchmark.   Everton explained, “Cruise passengers and crew members found the Seattle Southside’s hotels perfect for the pre and post-cruise accommodations. The proximity to SEA airport and the ease of using the light rail to explore downtown is a great combination for cruise guests. The additional cruise guests in our region also boosted restaurant and retail spending.”

“Cruise means big bucks for downtown workers and businesses, and boosts our city’s health and vibrancy,” said Jon Scholes, Downtown Seattle Association President & CEO. “The cruise industry reinforces downtown’s strengths while filling our waterfront with life and distributing a host of benefits to our community.”

First movers for a Cruise-led Green Corridor

While the full return of cruise has significant economic benefits, the Port is equally focused on its goal to be the greenest and most energy-efficient port in North America. Earlier this year, the Port of Seattle — alongside Alaskan and Canadian port communities, cruise industry partners, and environmental experts — launched a collaborative effort to explore the feasibility of a fully decarbonized maritime green corridor. The concept of shipping Green Corridors came out of Conference of Parties (COP) 26 meetings in Glasgow.  The first-ever cruise Green Corridor is aimed at accelerating maritime decarbonization through the deployment of low and zero greenhouse gas emission solutions between Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington.

First Movers include the Port of Seattle, the City, and Borough of Juneau, the City and Borough of Sitka, the Municipality of Skagway Borough, Haines Borough, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Royal Caribbean Group, Cruise Lines International Association, the Global Maritime Forum, Blue Sky Maritime Coalition, and Washington Maritime Blue. The First Movers are working toward finalizing a charter and the scope of a feasibility study to help identify opportunities, barriers, and next steps toward this goal.

We also plan to advertise a major works contract for the electrification of Pier 66, which is a key enabler for our Green Corridor efforts. Once complete, all Port of Seattle cruise terminals will be plug-in ready. The shore power connection at Pier 66 is estimated to reduce annual emissions by 2,700 metrics tons of greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions when complete.

Throughout the year the Port continued its industry-leading work on environmental initiatives related to water quality, electrification, and more. Additional information on cruise environmental, economic development, and community initiatives can be found on the Port's cruise sustainability blog.

Looking ahead to 2023

Demand for the Alaska itinerary and Seattle remains very high, indicating strong economic activity potential for the 2023 season. While slightly fewer ships will sail from Seattle in 2023, ship occupancy will continue to increase to an estimated 85 percent next year. Preliminary forecasts call for 1.3 million revenue passengers (650,000 guests) with the season potentially stretching from April 15-October 30. This schedule may change as cruise lines refine itineraries.

Read more here.