The gems of the Emerald City are worth discovering ahead of an Alaska cruise, says Sam Ballard
There are few cities in the world that can offer as much as Seattle. From uber-cool hipster hangouts to nationally recognised cultural institutions – not to mention access to some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world – it’s got it all.
The city, which lies on the United States’ Pacific Northwest, has traditionally played second fiddle to the more northerly Vancouver when it comes to a departure port for Alaska cruises. However, things are changing. In 2019, 213 cruises will depart from Seattle, transporting about 1,204,170 passengers to Alaska. That compares to just 119,770 passengers across 36 vessels in 2000. It’s little wonder, therefore, that the city is doing everything it can to try and get cruise passengers to spend an extra day or two in town before or after their sailing.
The cruise season traditionally runs from April through to October, with seven major cruise lines offering seven to 14-day round-trip cruises: Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Oceania and Royal Caribbean International. This year both Norwegian Joy and Ovation of the Seas debuted in Seattle, adding more, newer tonnage to the city’s fleet.
But why should you book your clients in for a stay in Seattle?
For starters, Seattle has direct routes from a number of major carriers, including British Airways and Virgin. Its downtown is also one of the most walkable of any city in America. The historic Pike Place Market, where seafood vendors famously hurl fish at each other, is a short distance away from the more recognisable (and arguably less fun) boutiques. It’s also where you’ll find the world’s first Starbucks – you’ll know it by the queue snaking out of the door. If your client wants a more unique Starbucks experience, tell them to visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. It’s the first of its kind and includes lots of experimental Starbucks concepts – from a bar to a bakery.
The Space Needle, which dominates the city’s skyline, is another major attraction. Built for the 1962 World Fair, its observation deck offers unmatched views of the city below. The whole thing – including the famous revolving restaurant – is undergoing a much overdue renovation, which will include replacing the wire and steel that currently covers the viewing platform with more modern glass and steel. Everything, barring the restaurant, has remained open throughout the work.
If museums are your clients’ thing then Seattle has that covered, too. MoPop, the city’s museum of pop culture, offers a unique insight into two of the city’s most famous sons: Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, both of whom left their mark on the city – in the case of Hendrix, quite literally, as the Frank Gehry-designed museum has been created to look like one of his smashed guitars. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Hendrix memorabilia, as well as a huge tower of guitars and archival pieces from Star Trek and Star Wars.
The Chihuly Gardens are a great example of Seattle’s artist community. The magical area – which spans a gallery and its surrounding grounds – celebrates the work of Derek Chihuly, one of the world’s most foremost glass artists. His pieces of interconnected multicoloured glass can be found around the world – there’s a huge chandelier in the V&A in London – yet this is where you will find the bulk of his work. The psychedelic works are a mix of Alice in Wonderland and Dr Seuss: brilliantly bonkers.
Another popular tourist attraction, and a must for anyone with any interest in flight – is a tour of the Boeing factory, about 25 miles north of Seattle. The building, which is the largest in the world by volume, is where the company builds its wide-bodied 747, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliners.
During a tour of the factory – after you’re threatened not to take pictures by a man with a gun – guests are taken up to a series of viewing platforms to see the aircraft at various stages of construction. There are aircraft as far as the eye can see, bearing the logos of some of the world’s most famous airlines.
However, the allure of Seattle is down to more than what’s within the city borders.
Seattle sits within Washington – one of the most diverse states in the United States. There are glaciers in the Canadian-bordered north, deserts in the east, rainforests in the west and vineyards to the south. This makes for a big outdoors culture, and hiking and walking are popular among locals and tourists alike. The state boasts national parks, active volcanoes and towering mountains, the latter of which dominate the skyline.
Whatever it is your client is looking for, they can’t go too wrong with a couple of days in the Emerald City.