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Seattle cruise season opens with higher economic impact forecast

Celebrity Eclipse
Celebrity Eclipse arrives in Elliott Bay April 15 PHOTO: Don Wilson/Port of Seattle
Seattle opened its 20th year as a cruise homeport with the arrival of Celebrity Eclipse today to the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal at Pier 66.

Each homeport call worth $4.2m

A new economic impact report showed the cruise business creates nearly $900m a year in local revenue, with each homeport ship call contributing an average $4.2m to Washington state’s economy and supporting 5,500 jobs.

The economic opportunity 'reaches all the way from Eastern Washington farms and ranches that provide food for cruise customers, to King County attractions that depend upon summer season travelers to support year-round activities,' Port of Seattle Commission President Stephanie Bowman said.

NCL originated regular turnarounds

Cruise vessels made transit calls in Elliott Bay prior to the port building a homeport terminal. Regularly scheduled cruise service began in May 2000 with a long-term commitment from Norwegian Cruise Line, beginning a partnership that lasts to this day.

The port expects an estimated 1,208,590 revenue passengers this year, breaking last year’s record of 1,114,888. This year Seattle will host the three largest cruise vessels on the West Coast, leading with the addition of the Norwegian Joy, and the return of its sister ship, Norwegian Bliss, and culminating with the arrival of Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas, the largest cruise vessel on the West Coast this season.

Shore power

'We helped the port become the first homeport in North America with two berths powered by clean energy. It was a real breakthrough in terms of innovation, and the unique design we built became in demand all over North America,' Cochrane Marine VP Mike Watts said. 'Seattle’s ambition to aim for higher sustainability standards created unexpected revenue opportunities for our local business and improved air quality for other cities.'

'Maritime industrial jobs form the foundation for our region’s middle class,' International Longshore and Warehouse Union President Rich Austin said. 'Seattle has been smart to maintain jobs on our working waterfront. Figuring out how cruise, cargo and other maritime uses can work together in our harbor sets the next generation of maritime workers up for success.'

Beer to wine

'Cruise season is by far the busiest time of year for us and the benefits of those sales support businesses in three counties,' added Jon Gores, sales manager at Pike Brewing. 'We buy barley in Skagit County, hops in Yakima and brew beer here in King County. We make significant sales both on board cruise vessels and to cruise tourists who visit our brewery in Pike Place Market. Those cruise sales extend business revenue nearly all the way across our state.'

'Working with travel agents to promote "cruise and stay" packages has led to thousands of passengers taking trips out to Woodinville Wine Country,' according to Wine Country Executive Director Sandra Lee. 'Our local wine businesses are also marketing heavily to cruise ships to bring that Washington experience on board with local wines and varietals.'

The total economic impact of cruise ships to the state economy in 2019, including direct, indirect and induced impacts, is estimated at 5,500 jobs, $260.1m in labor income and $893.6m in business output, according to Community Attributes, the local firm that prepared the economic impact report.

Based on these estimates, in 2019 each homeport vessel call on average will support a total of $4.2m in economic activity for the region. This represents an increase over previous Port of Seattle studies due to a revised and more thorough 2017 study of local passenger spending and increased cruise operation expenditures in the region.

RFQ for operator of new Cruise Terminal 46

The Port of Seattle is exploring the development of a new cruise facility at the north berth of Terminal 46 and seeking a partner to invest in the terminal and operate it once construction is completed. As earlier reported, a request for proposals was issued and is available here.

The port plans to incorporate leading-edge environmental stewardship and sustainability practices at the new terminal and has committed to install shore power there.