FOLLOWUP: Seattle-to-Alaska cruises officially resume today, after 2 years

(Sunday photo of Elliott Bay, sent by Mark)

Seattle’s been seemingly awash in cruise ships for days now, so you might be surprised to hear that the official Seattle-to-Alaska season starts today. Around 5 pm, Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas is scheduled to leave the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal in Magnolia, and that’ll be this year’s first boatload of paying passengers (previous voyages have been “test cruises,” explained here). To mark the occasion, the Port of Seattle invited the media to a dockside briefing this morning. It included a ceremonial moment – the ship’s Captain Stig Nilsen presenting port executive director Steve Metruck with a plaque and a model of the ship.

(WSB photos from here down)

Metruck declared that cruising is returning with improvements. Ships have implemented stringent COVID protocols, for one. But after our previous mentions generated reader discussion about environmental concerns, we asked Metruck what’s changed along those lines, He mentioned that the terminal at Smith Cove is equipped with shore power, and that it’s in the works for Pier 66 downtown. We learned from another port official, however, that this particular ship is not shore-power-ready, so it’s not plugged in, though the other ship currently berthed at Smith Cove, Majestic Princess, is. Maritime Managing Director Stephanie Jones Stebbins also told us that shore power capability for Pier 66 is scheduled to be ready for the 2023 cruise season – the problem until now, she said, is that they would have had to run a line from the Denny substation about a mile east, requiring a lot of road demolition, but instead, they came up with a way to route it via an underwater cable from Pier 46 to the south.

The emission situation, said Jones Stebbins, is not only a matter of plugged in vs. unplugged. She said exhaust scrubbing – explained here – is being used. Environmental advocates, however, say that just swaps air pollution for water pollution; Jones Stebbins says ships cannot discharge the scrubber water while berthed here. The state has a Memorandum of Understanding with the cruise industry on multiple environmental issues.

P.S. After today, the next official cruise departure is on Friday; here’s this year’s schedule.

(Added 7:15 pm: Serenade of the Seas departing Elliott Bay)

34 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Seattle-to-Alaska cruises officially resume today, after 2 years"

  • Matt July 19, 2021 (4:33 pm)

    Great news! Hopefully all the tourists will be reason enough to clean things up a bit?

  • Peter July 19, 2021 (5:13 pm)

    This will be great for reviving downtown, where I resumed working as of today, so I’m happy about that. Now, about the pollution and waste of cruises … The industry has a long way to go.

  • StopCuttingDownTrees July 19, 2021 (5:26 pm)

    Exquisite.That infusion of money is the best medicine for the (surviving) downtown family businesses that have been on life support for WAY too long.

  • Auntie July 19, 2021 (5:30 pm)

    I hope none of them end up on the west side of Third Avenue between Pike and Union! It’s a zombie apocalypse by the bus stop there. I know because that is where I catch my bus home.

    • doug July 20, 2021 (1:01 pm)

      I walked through there about an hour ago, it has been swept clean. 

  • KM July 19, 2021 (5:56 pm)

    Oh, they signed an MOU. That makes it okay.

  • Michael Waldo July 19, 2021 (6:44 pm)

    So, it seems we must chose between money and Orcas.The ships pollute the sound. They use the worst fuel- bunker fuel.They create a lot of noise which interferes with the Orcas sonar for hunting for fish.We bemoan the fate of the Orcas but money is more important.

    • StopCuttingDownTrees July 19, 2021 (7:48 pm)

      Are you willing to go bankrupt, lose your home, and possibly everything else to save the Orcas? If not, don’t force others to gp through that. It’s exactly what’s been happening to local small business owners and employees of larger, hard-hit businesses on a near-daily basis.

      • Kim July 19, 2021 (8:50 pm)

        And, and how many species are you willing to sacrifice to global warming? First, meh—let the orcas go; then what?  Cuz you know where it ends!

      • For orca mammas July 19, 2021 (9:10 pm)

        Some industries and businesses rightfully should become obsolete, when we understand they are causing harm or negative impacts in the world. Not saying that is absolute here but should be looked at. There are plenty of jobs out there and the prospect of many new green jobs on the horizon, that will contribute better for the planet, and may pay better too.

        Maybe people need to be encouraged to get out more and enjoy and support their own local communities and businesses. Why do we rely so greatly on tourists to support our city?If

        people didn’t spend so much money on the costs of car ownership, maybe they would have more money to invest into the local economy?

        • StopCuttingDownTrees July 19, 2021 (10:25 pm)

          It sounds like you’re financially secure. Very, very few local residents are. I’m also confident that you purchase and consume lots of items that are transported on giant container ships that trundle through Puget Sound each day.

          • For orca mammas July 20, 2021 (6:50 am)

            Sorry but your assumptions have no basis.

            And we try to make more choices that are in line with our environmental concern, and will continue to try and do better.  We do not take cruises, try to live simply and not consume excessively, use more natural/environmentally sensitive products, mostly shop locally (rarely order anything online),  buy second hand where we can, bike for main transportation. These are just some of our efforts, but there is definitely more we can do, and will keep working on it.

          • StopCuttingDownTrees July 20, 2021 (1:17 pm)

            Regardless, the products you purchase and consume are transported by oil that arrives on giant ships, and are assembled by components that arrive by ships, large aircraft, trucks, and freight trains. You can’t live outside of the supply chain. You and your family benefit from the tax revenue and economic activity that the cruise industry provides. You are a cog in this wheel and you’re no better or worse than anyone else. 

          • For orca mammas July 20, 2021 (8:36 pm)

            Actually, it is possible to live outside of it, not that we are completely, but there are local makers/growers/producers of most everything we all really need. People could choose to make more effort to reduce consuming imported goods, opting instead for more locally produced or second hand goods.As

            I said, we are trying to live fairly simply, purchase things thoughtfully, shop/buy more locally. Not trying to say we contribute zero environmental impacts, we aren’t perfect, and produce some garbage and recycling too, but consciously working on reducing our door print

            We can’t expect everyone to completely change their lifestyles overnight. But, what if people did just one thing different? Just choose one thing to work on, to help reduce environmental impacts. And then maybe other changes will follow. There is always more we can do, better is possible, we’re going to keep exploring, and working on our part.

          • For orca mammas July 20, 2021 (8:58 pm)

            Oops, * ‘footprint’ not ‘door print’

          • StopCuttingDownTrees July 20, 2021 (9:37 pm)

            You’ve chosen to be a paying passenger on the gigantic cruise ship, S.S. Seattle. This ship produces more waste, more sewage, more oil runoff, and more solid pollutants than all the cruise ships is U.S. ports, combined. Welcome aboard! Tonight’s entertainment is on the Alki deck and we’ll be pulling into the real world by morning.

        • West Seattle July 19, 2021 (10:44 pm)

          Hopefully none of you take ferries, they are in Puget Sound all day everyday and making hundreds of trips back & forth. Or ever buy anything that is brought in by freight. If only we lived in a perfect world.

          • For orca mammas July 20, 2021 (6:54 am)

            I’m concerned about car ferries too, we need to look at this. How can we move away from car ferries?

      • Chris K July 20, 2021 (7:36 am)

        Stopcuttingdowntrees, this is why we have government to help those that fall through the cracks.  Money to survive and thrive doesn’t need to come from the private sector.

    • Eric1 July 19, 2021 (7:55 pm)

      It is only the southern resident orcas that are not doing well.  They chose their niche poorly: preferring to eat Chinook salmon in a busy area like Puget Sound.  I would wager that the ships that are not the root cause of their decline as transient orcas are doing well in Puget Sound.  Indeed, perhaps the ship noise provides cover while they hunt for beach maggots.  Nobody is innocent in Puget Sound (everyone’s mere presence is detrimental to nature) and while you are correct that cruise ships are not the best for resident orcas, there is probably a better correlation between population growth in Puget Sound and the struggles of the southern residents than cruise ship numbers. And everything is about the money….why are any of us here degrading the environment?

      • Auntie July 19, 2021 (9:41 pm)

        Oh, those pesky Orcas choosing the wrong place to live and feed. Don’t they know they could get a nice condo in Spanaway for way less? Move along, you silly Orcas, go feed somewhere else  – we need big cruise ships and the money they bring more than we need you. NOT. :-(

      • For orca mammas July 19, 2021 (10:26 pm)

        Chinook was an intelligent efficient food choice for them – large, fatty, high in calories, and is declining. It’s not like they know all we know about their situation and will just make a different choice. Chances are they will work harder and die trying to hunt what should still be available to them. We need to restore salmon for them, and ease stresses on their home-sea lives, before it’s too late.

  • Al King July 19, 2021 (7:55 pm)

    Michael Waldo;KM. I encourage you to go to the terminals. Let the workers know they should protest by quiting their jobs-certainly they’ll easily find other work. And please let the tourists know they are part of the problem and should stay away, let them know you don’t vacation anywhere so as to cause pollution issues so they should stay home too.  After all, ALL the businesses that depend on tourists can  easily pivot to environmentally sound businesses. 

  • For orca mammaa July 19, 2021 (8:46 pm)

    Allowing cruises to bring a mass of people and their pollution, on an oversized vessel, to intrude and tread on an importantly wild place like Alaska and those seas, doesn’t feel like an environmentally concerned choice, to me.

    Maybe building a hydrogen train line would help travelers to be able to visit Alaska more responsibly? Any other ideas for modernizing travel options for less environmental impacts?

    Feel there are some places that need to be fiercely protected and stewarded, Alaska and the surrounding sea is one of those places.

  • Kersti Elisabeth Muul July 19, 2021 (9:26 pm)

    Boo 😡

  • cjboffoli July 19, 2021 (9:41 pm)

    Recent research has indicated that 6PPD-quinone (a chemical additive used universally as a preservative to help tires last longer) is the likely culprit responsible for taking out a significant percentage of returning coho salmon before they have a chance to spawn. Seattle’s urban waters are toxic to resident orcas’ primary food source due to anyone who goes anywhere in or on a vehicle that has rubber tires.  We are all complicit. Trying to blame a handful of summer cruise ships for the decline of endangered cetaceans is akin to singling out a few snowflakes in a blizzard and blaming them for spoiling  the driveway.

  • Jeepney July 20, 2021 (7:09 am)

    Great to see them back, hopefully the tourists help pump some $$$ into our local economy.  

  • Al King July 20, 2021 (7:10 am)

    CJBOFFOLI. AMEN!!! Amazing the number of people that love to point fingers and pontificate about traffic/the environment/pollution but when the spotlight gets turned on them turns out THEY’RE JUST AS GUILTY!! They want “other” people to do what they won’t. 

  • anonyme July 20, 2021 (7:28 am)

    Yes, we are all complicit, and yes, we should all be working to change our habits.  It is nonsensical to say that only certain polluters should be held accountable, or only the single major polluter.  They all should, and that includes cruise ships.  It includes rubber tires.  It includes all commercial and pleasure boating and fishing.  It includes ferries.  The focus on cruise ships is because a) that’s what the article is about and b) probably the fact that they are so unnecessary. The attempt to divert responsibility to a single culprit is misguided and self-defeating.  Nor does any human life depend upon tourist dollars; humans can change jobs far more easily than orcas can change habitat. That which endangers orcas endangers us all, including humans.  Every species that goes extinct due to our actions brings our own species that much closer to the top of the extinction list – and rightfully so.

  • Jim July 20, 2021 (9:49 am)

    Since Canadian Ports of call are still highly restricted as it pertains to Covid, How are the cruise ships getting around the Jones Act?

    • WSB July 20, 2021 (10:43 am)

      Federal waiver.

  • J L July 20, 2021 (1:48 pm)

    Seattle Cruise Control is an organization that opposes the Port of Seattle’s plans to develop a new cruise ship terminal at pier 46 (Pioneeer Square) due to environmental concerns. Their website offers details on the environmental impact. They advise concerned citizens to testify at a Port of Seattle twice monthly meeting. 

    • Rhonda July 21, 2021 (2:15 am)

      I’m 100% for the new cruise ship terminal and will gladly testify in favor of it.

    • For orca mammas July 21, 2021 (7:20 am)

      Thank you 👍

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