It’s one of the most scenic cruises available; a trip up British Columbia’s picturesque Inside Passage to Alaska. Millions of towering fir trees almost close enough to touch from your balcony.  Orcas cutting the glassy water on the horizon.  Fresh air gently blowing down from the majestic peaks on the horizon.

Every year, hundreds of cruise ships make that journey up North America’s northwest coast, most ofhttp://www.cruisedork.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=1017 them starting in the Port of Seattle.

In the summer of 2010, the city is expecting more than 850,000 people to set sail from Seattle’s two downtown cruise terminals, following the gold rush northward to the land of the midnight sun.

Getting Onboard in the Emerald City

The first thing you need to do is determine where you are departing from.  Some cruise lines, including Princess, Holland America and Royal Caribbean depart from Seattle’s brand new Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91.  Others, including Norwegian and Celebrity, depart from the Bell Street Terminal at Pier 66.

Bell Harbor in Seattle, WA

The Smith Cove terminal was just built at a $72 million price tag for the city.  It’s two stories high, jutting out into Elliot Bay, and features all the amenities, including US customs.

It’s important to get the correct terminal because they’re about four miles away from each other.  Both are easily accessed from the Seattle-Tacoma airport, which is about a half-hour taxi ride away.  Both terminals are also easily accessible from Seattle’s downtown waterfront.

One of the reasons the Port of Seattle has become so attractive to the cruise industry is the ease of access.  For Americans traveling to Alaska, there’s no need to go through customs, unless your ship stops in Vancouver.  Both terminals offer airport check-in and luggage handling, and both will also offer to store your luggage before or after your cruise, which allows you to check out some of the unique attractions Seattle has to offer.

Ten years ago, just a handful of cruises departed from Seattle, but that has expanded rapidly over the decade to hundreds of cruises every summer.  Since that means big money for Seattle, more than $300 million a year, there have been plenty of amenities built around the waterfront to support the cruise industry.  There are lots of hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops nearby if you just want to wander for a few hours, grab some fresh seafood, or if you’re planning to extend your stay by a day or two.

Seattle’s famous Space Needle is just a 10-minute taxi ride from the waterfront, offering you a spectacular view of the Puget Sound, and nearby Mt. Rainer.  Stay for lunch, and order the spectacular Lunar Orbiter Ice Cream Sundae for dessert. It will make other diners take notice!

Right below the Space Needle is the Experience Music Project, an architectural wonder of a museum paying tribute to Seattle’s rich musical heritage from Jimi Hendrix to the birth of grunge.  You can also drop by the Pike Place Market to check out local seafood or handicrafts, or even go see the first ever Starbucks.

There’s a reason the Port of Seattle has been rapidly expanding its hold as the Gateway to Alaska in the cruise industry.  With up-to-date and easily accessible cruise terminals so close to such a wide variety of incredible sites and scenery; Seattle has become a sought-after destination in itself.

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