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Seattle: Pre- or Post-Cruise Mini Break



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Additionally, Cruise Critic's award-winning editorial staff keeps the following resources updated:


Seattle Port Profile


Seattle: Pre- or Post-Cruise Mini Break

I would start by updating these threads to eliminate references to the Pier 30 cruise terminal, which hasn't been in use for two years, and replacing them with information regarding the T91 terminal.

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Here's a link to the Seattle bus ( Metro Transit) web page. There are several drop downs for more info. It includes info on the West Seattle water taxi and Lake Union street car. http://metro.kingcounty.gov/


A handy feature is the Trip Planner. If you don't know an address, you can often use a popular destination name. IE if you want to go to the Ballard Locks from downtown Seattle, use a common location like 'Westlake Center' as your starting address. The Trip Planner will provide a couple of routes for you, and you can even print a map of the bus route.



The Ride Free area:


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I would start by updating these threads to eliminate references to the Pier 30 cruise terminal, which hasn't been in use for two years, and replacing them with information regarding the T91 terminal.



Whoops! You are 100% correct, and we will get right on that! Passed the info over to our editorial team just now.


Thank you,



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Seattle Light Rail This topic tends to get buried in the Seattle Q&A and seems to be coming up more and more.

The light rail runs from SeaTac Airport to downtown Seattle, ending at Westlake Center, taking about 40 minutes. There are about 12 stops in between. Schedule and map are in the link, fare $2.50. It's a bit of a walk from the airport to the station, 7-10 minutes so if you've overpacked this might not be a good option.



Info on cabs, shuttles, etc are on the SeaTac web site


Last edited by mapleleaves; January 20th, 2011 at 05:26 PM.


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Rugerdog, I don't know if this would work for you or if you think it's a good value, but the Hampton Inn Seattle Downtown has a Park & Cruise package for $239. Overnight stay, breakfast, and parking while you are on the cruise. They give you a discounted rate on a shuttle to/from the Pier (I think they said $5-7 pp each way depending on which pier). I don't think it's in the greatest area (although it gets pretty good reviews), but it is walking distance to the Space Needle, Experience Music Project, etc., so it's convenient if you want to do sightseeing there. Not sure how you'd get to Pike Place Market, etc.

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Just want to add that I found a Comfort Suites right near the Hampton Inn that offers the same type of Park & Cruise package for even less money...

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ok I called Stila which is based at Seatac airport. They are charging this yr $65 to pier 91 and can accomodate up to 9 pax. They have some suburban type vehicles so 5 shouldn't be a problem. You don't need to reserve in advance. Just contact ground transportation once your at the airport.


When I spoke with Yellow Cab last month they quoted me $41 for SeaTac Airport to the Westin Hotel. That was for 2 people.
And $51 from Airport to Pier 91 by Yellow Cab. Edited by mapleleaves

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Bus Service


King County Metro serves the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal at Pier 66 and Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91.

Bell Street Cruise Terminal at Pier 66


  • Ride Route #99 to the Bell Street Cruise Terminal stop located directly across the street from Pier 66. For bus schedules visit King County Metro.

Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91


  • Ride Routes #15, #19, #24, and #33 to the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91. The bus stop is located at the top of the Magnolia Bridge. To access the cruise terminal, passengers proceed down a steep staircase which connects to a catwalk underneath the bridge. Note: The staircase is directly adjacent to the bus stop on the same side of the roadway. The walkway leads to another staircase that descends to Pier 91. Once at ground level, passengers walk .4 miles to the cruise terminal building. The pier is an industrial setting with large trucks, buses and taxis. Access from bus stop to the pier is not ADA accessible. No elevator or shuttle is available from the bus stop to the cruise terminal. For bus schedules visit King County Metro.

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Seattle Hop on bus tours Grayline has apparently gone out of business in Seattle. They used to operate the Airporter bus but that is now run by Shuttleexpress.com


Hoho buses in some cities are very nice and a good value. This yr the Double Decker bus has become The Pink Bus. I have to be candid and warn you that in Seattle this simply is not a good deal. They are charging $35 per day and it makes only 4 stops. Compare that to the FREE Metro Bus route 99 called the Waterfront Trolley. It makes all the same stops and even though there won't be any commentary can take you from Pioneer Square, Chinatown, Pike Place Mkt, close to Space Needle, Sculpture Garden park and Seattle Waterfront and pier 66 (NCL and Celebrity)


Print the route and timetable at




your looking for route 99. Free is better than $35

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Seattle taxi fare estimator using Google Maps. Input your 'from' and 'to' information to get an estimated taxi fare. Fares estimated for light, medium, and heavy traffic. Also look for possible Flat Rates shown on left panel.




Information on the site suggests that the fare rates for Seattle were updated as of 1/4/2012.


Estimates that I have obtained using this site in the past have been close enough for me to use for my planning purposes.

Edited by usviking

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Here's a link to the Seattle bus ( Metro Transit) web page. There are several drop downs for more info. It includes info on the West Seattle water taxi and Lake Union street car. http://metro.kingcounty.gov/


A handy feature is the Trip Planner. If you don't know an address, you can often use a popular destination name. IE if you want to go to the Ballard Locks from downtown Seattle, use a common location like 'Westlake Center' as your starting address. The Trip Planner will provide a couple of routes for you, and you can even print a map of the bus route.



The Ride Free area:



Please be aware that the ride free area is being eliminated in September, any many routes are being reduced/eliminated due to budget cuts. Be sure to check out the King County Metro Trip Planner to ensure that you will be able to get to wbete you want to go.

Edited by SeattleCruiselover

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icon1.gifSeattle cruise transfers and hotels with transfers

Here is a link for hotels served by Shuttle Express. This will prove handy even if the hotel doesn't have a 'cruise' pkg there is convenient transfers to dock for $10 pp. While a cab may be less with 3 or 4 people and luggage this will prove handy.



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Gonna be cruising from Seattle, so very helpful thread I have to say! Never been in Seattle before, so it's gonna be nice to see the city a few days before going on the cruise!

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Riding in the elevator up to the top of the Space Needle is $18 for adults, though if you make a reservation at the restaurant, you ride for free. It is a rotating restaurant, and makes one rotation an hour. Sat & Sun they serve brunch. You will want to make your reservation prior to coming to Seattle, pretty popular. http://www.spaceneedle.com/ After you eat, you can walk upstairs to the observation deck to use the complimentary Swarovski Telescopes.

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Seattle now has Uber, a town car service available via an app for your smart phone. It's also available in several other cities. The way it works is, you tell the app that you need a towncar and it dispatches the nearest one. In my experience, they arrive within 5-10 minutes. No need to tip, the fare/tip is all charged to the credit card you register with the app. Fares are fairly similar to a taxi, and you can see on the app where the car is, it's kinda cool. :) http://www.uber.com

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Riding in the elevator up to the top of the Space Needle is $18 for adults, though if you make a reservation at the restaurant, you ride for free. It is a rotating restaurant, and makes one rotation an hour. Sat & Sun they serve brunch. You will want to make your reservation prior to coming to Seattle, pretty popular. http://www.spaceneedle.com/ After you eat, you can walk upstairs to the observation deck to use the complimentary Swarovski Telescopes.



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Seattle may be the most perfect city in the country from July to October. It rains every July 4th but after that it's amazing. If you are leaving from the Port of Seattle downtown Pier the Edgewater hotel is the ideal place to stay. Northwest ambience and just a short walk to the pier it's filled with great history and one of a kind views. You can't beat it.

If you are leaving from Piers 90/91 stay anywhere because they are not near any hotels or the central part of downtown. Cabs are easy to get and not too expensive compared to some larger cities.


Everyone knows about the big sights like the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and Pioneer Square but here are some other choices you might like.


Argosy Locks Cruise- If your a boat nut and I'm guessing you are this 2 1/2 hour trip is the best all around tour from the water. The tour leaves from Pier 56 near the Seattle Aquarium. You travel thru Elliott Bay, the Hiram M Chittenden Locks, pass by Fisherman's Terminal, and the Sleepless in Seattle floating home. They provide a bus to return you to the central waterfront.


Boeing Mueseum of Flight- Often overlooked because of it's sort of out of the way location this may be the best air and space museum behind the Smithsonian. Great for kids but even better for adults. Located at Boeing Field it's about a fifteen minute cab ride from the downtown hotels.


The University of Washington- This campus is the perfect place for a stroll for architecture buffs. Great views of Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier surround campus buildings of all styles and sizes. Easy to acess by bus the school and the edgy University District give you a more complete picture of the younger Seattle lifestyle.


If your in a time crunch the Experience Music Project, Pacific Science Center, Safeco Field tour, Seattle Aquarium, and the Seattle Wheel, while fun in their own right, have similiar relatives in every touristy city in America.


If you have only one day for a day trip I think it has to be Mt. St. Helen's. Actually close to Portland than Seattle the roughly 2 1/2 hour trip from downtown proves there is no place in the US that better exemplifies the power of mother nature. Several visitor centers, great hiking trails, and even lava tube caves to explore make this National Park a must see.





Sent from my GT-P7510 using Forums mobile app

Edited by Seamaxwell

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For people on a budget, here are free or nearly free activities in Seattle.

Pike Place Market

Olympic Sculpture Garden

Frye Art Museum

Ballard Locks/Fish Ladder/Gardens

Hiking in Discovery Park

Washington Park Arboretum (Japanese Garden $7)

Pioneer Square Historic Area

Ferry Ride ($10 or less depending on route)

Center for Wooden Boats (occasional free boat rides)

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I have not seen this posted anywhere on here. Have any ships been delayed by fog in the Seattle port?

I am trying to book flights and was looking at taking the 11:15 AM flight home (ship to dock at 0700).

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What's the weather like in Seattle


Well, there's Autumn, that's cool and wet. There's Winter, that's cold and wet. There's Spring, that's warmer and wet. Then there's Summer.


That's a lot of wet. Is Summer wet, also?


Summer is our best kept secret in Seattle. If I tell you the truth, you have to promise that you're just visiting and not moving in.


Summer in Seattle tends to start late and end late. The month of May is typically warm and somewhat damp. The months of June, July are typically comfortably warm and mostly dry. August is hot and dry. In fact, Summer in Seattle there's typically very little rainfall; so little that we occasionally have to resort to water conservation measures. The month of September is a bit of a crap shoot but it's typically cool in the mornings and warm in the afternoons. The transition to Autumn typically begins around the last week of September but sometimes begins as late as the end of October.


Summer in Seattle is typically quite nice and it belies our normal reputation for grey skies and damp conditions (a reputation completely justified during the other seasons).


Why do you keep saying "typically"?


Seattle is a Pacific Rim city. Our climate is determined by events in the Pacific Ocean that are much less influential in other parts of the world, and by the proximity of the Cascade Mountain Range. There is no "standard" summer weather. This year, 2014, we're having record temperatures in August, nearing 100F in some inland places. Last year, 2013, we were wearing sweaters in June on some days and 2012 saw some mid-summer days in the fifties!


Seattle is weird!


You have no idea.


How can I tell what the weather will be like for the cruise I'm thinking about taking next year?


Northwest weather is strongly influenced by periodic changes in the Pacific Ocean currents, as well as many other factors. In particular, the so-called "El Nino/La Nina" events as well as something you've probably never heard of called PDO for short. These events cause significant changes in our winter weather that, in turn, affects our summer weather as well.


An El Nino winter generally results in a warm,dry summer. A La Nina winter generally results in a cool,damp summer.


Fortunately, you don't have to be a climatologist to make sense of it because the State of Washington employs a climatologist to do that for you. The Office of the Washington State Climatologist publishes a monthly climate outlook that tracks the chances of an El Nino/La Nina event and a 3-4 month weather outlook based upon current models.


If you book your cruise in December or January, then you can make a fair guess on the general upcoming summer conditions based on whether it's an El Nino year, a La Nina year, or a "neutral" year.


I'm flying in next week. What about the weather then?


The local television news programs pride themselves on their accuracy. Some of them predict the timing of daily weather changes to within a few minutes of an expected change. The weather forecast web pages for any of the main television stations in Seattle are a handy and accurate resource for predicting what you can expect if your visit is imminent (within the next seven days, anyway). The major network affiliates are:




If you prefer your weather to be "branding neutral", there's also the National Weather Service, which provides most of the forecasting data to the news stations, anyway.


What clothing should I pack


August is pretty reliably tee-shirt and shorts/skirt weather. May, I would recommend a jacket. June and July you should bring a pullover sweater or hoodie and have it handy. Even if it's a warm day, it can get cool in the evenings, especially on or near the water. Layers that you can put on or take off as needed are typically the best preparation.


Sandals are a personal choice. We invented "socks and sandals"; they aren't just summer gear around Seattle. ;)

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The walk from the pier to the nearest wine/liquor purveyor(s) are not well-handled by Google or Apple navigation.


Below, please find a marked-up photo that points out the various necessary landmarks to navigate from pier door to Whole Foods and the adjacent liquor store on foot or using the parking shuttle.


The walk is quite pleasant if it's sunny, and there are marked pedestrian walkways on the pier. If the weather is less pleasant or you're worried about the vehicle traffic, take the complimentary parking shuttle from the front door of the terminal and ask them to drop you like you're going to the bus stop. The stairs to the sidewalk on the bridge will be visible and there is usually a traffic director there to guide you. On the walk back, stand where you were dropped and they'll pick you up on the way by. This shuttle saves approximately a third of the walk distance.


16824433611_97836cd75e_o.pngWalk path from Pier91 to Whole Foods (and a liquor store, to my memory) by epthompson, on Flickr

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I didn't want people sailing from Pier 66 to have to sail sober.


There is less backtracking if you make the elevation change from the pier to Elliott then the north-south traverse, than going down the waterfront and ascending by the market. These same walking instructions are useful for visiting Pike Place Market, the original Starbucks and most downtown Seattle shopping.


16230846753_3812d59cd2_o.pngPier 66 to closest wine shop by epthompson, on Flickr

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Seattle has better-than-average mass transit -here's a few thoughts to make using our system simpler, from someone who sails frequently from this homeport and is a heavy multimode local transit user (95% of my commute days involve all three types of bus, ferry and water taxi):


1) What are our options?


Inside King County (encompassing the airport, Seattle itself and surrounding communities five miles south of the airport and roughly ten miles north of downtown) we have five transit options that tourists might reasonably use.


  1. King County Metro (Metro Buses, RapidRide Buses and Water Taxis)
  2. Sound Transit (ST Express Buses and Central Link Light Rail)
  3. South Lake Union Streetcar (but Trolley makes a better acronym)
  4. Seattle Center Monorail - discussed at the end of this post
  5. Washington State Ferries - covered in detail in the next post



2) First things first: is Seattle-area transit safe/clean/accessible/safe/easy to do with kids/luggage?



I have absolutely no hesitation riding any part of the Central Link, ST Express, Metro Rapid Ride bus, Water Taxi, Ferry, Streetcar or Monorail systems during any operating hour. Central Link trains have live drivers in the lead car and they can be reached by emergency intercom. There is no cellular or WiFi coverage on Central Link between the Mount Baker and (just before) SODO stations, nor after International District station (at least for the 2015 cruise season), so plan accordingly.


If we're being perfectly candid, there are areas of the city where I wouldn't walk/wait alone at night, just like any other major metro area. This only affects where you might change or disembark Metro buses. None of these areas have anything of interest to visitors (other than dining) after dark and you are unlikely to encounter them (aside from one exception about very-late-night trains below). I would tend to avoid waiting around or walking in any area south of Safeco Field, west to the Sound and east to Lake Washington, roughly following Yesler Way, South to SR900, again, only after dark, waiting for transit or walking. I dine in and visit friends in these areas regularly, and wouldn't hesitate to ride through them on the train - I just wouldn't find reason to particularly linger on the street, especially with luggage. The Trip Planner (more below) will show you a map view of the route so you can decide if a routing is right for you.



The trains have some room for luggage, shared with bicycles. Some ST Express, Metro and RapidRide buses have overhead racks that will take briefcase/messenger-bag-sized items above the seats. Luggage space may be limited at peak hours, especially for boarding at Central Link Light Rail stations other than Westlake Center or the Airport.



All stations will have elevators and escalators (at least in the up direction - some stations like Westlake Center lack down escalators) and all buses and trains are equipped with lifts, kneeling features or low-floor/barrier-free entry. Some stops (especially in older residential neighborhoods like Queen Anne or Magnolia) may not have great access or have a long step from the bus to the ground. These are easily avoided by clicking the accessibility option in the Trip Planner. All Washington State Ferries and the Water Taxi have decent accessibility but be prepared for a long walk/roll down a wooden or paved pier at some terminals. (500 feet or more) - tide conditions can affect the grade. Walks inside stations can be substantial. Of a special note: the bus stop nearest Pier 91 requires a flight of stairs to reach the pier level. The trip planner will route you to a nearby stop with a longer but flatter walk if you request an accessible trip.



there are no public restrooms at the transit centers as a rule, aside from Washington State Ferry terminals. Water Taxi terminals tend to have portable facilities of typical quality.



3) OK, then. How do you get from the airport to downtown using transit?


Use Sound Transit Central Link light rail: http://www.soundtransit.org/Schedules/Central-Link-light-rail. To board the train, follow the signs to Ground Transportation, and cross over the airport drive to the parking garage using one of the six skybridges. Walk on this same level to the Link terminal. This is a substantial but flat walk on covered walkways that are well-lit and signed, but open to ambient environment, which can be chilly to those of you coming from warmer climates. This photo illustrates the scale of the walk.


16968719805_5007aebcb9_o.pngSeaTac Light Rail Station


If you're coming from an airport-area hotel, don't go all the way in to the terminal garage if possible - ask the shuttle driver to drop you at the station itself - there's a convenient drop-off zone located at the eastern corner of International Blvd and S 176th Street.


3a) How frequent are trains and long does it take?


The ride to downtown takes 35-40 minutes depending on the specific stop. There's a train at least every 15 minutes from 5AM to just after midnight from the airport. Weekdays during morning and evening commute, every 7-8 minutes and mid-day/evening non-commute, about every 10.


Important Note: There are three trains that leave the airport after 00:10 that do not go all the way to downtown. You will have to get off the train and catch a Metro bus to downtown. This is best avoided - there is limited luggage capacity on the bus and the safety point above is specific to this neighborhood. I would generally avoid this plan - either use an UberX directly from the airport or plan to get one as you exit the Beacon Hill terminus station rather than waiting for the bus. This will cut $10-15 off the UberX ride from the airport


3b) Where do I get off?


Ask your hotel which station stop to use or consult the map below - the downtown transit tunnel is only a few blocks' walk from most downtown properties, but the grade difference can be substantial - there are many east-west blocks with steep grades in Seattle (20% or more). Properties with especially steep walks no matter which stop you use would include the Sorrento, Renaissance and Crowne Plaza. The waterfront properties (Marriott and Edgewater) both have shuttles that will pick you up from a light rail stop, as will many properties around the Space Needle. Check with them for details.


This handy map illustrates the point nicely - in *general* the walk from the stop near 5th and Pike (Westlake Center) is an easier walk than from the station at 3rd and University, even if it is a couple of blocks longer on first glance.




4) What does transit cost?


Light Rail:

The maximum distance-based one-way adult fare (like from the airport to downtown) is $3. Kids ride free before their sixth birthday, and for $1.50 between 6-18.


The Central Link Light Rail system does not have turnstiles, but do not mistake this for "free" - random fare enforcement checks by uniformed security occur during all operating hours and the ticket is $124 - I have seen them issued to visitors.


Tickets or pass products must be purchased prior to boarding at one of the Ticket Vending Machines on the platform or at the station entry. TVMs take cash, coin and Visa/MasterCard. TVMs also dispense ORCA prepaid cards - more on these down-post



Most bus trips are $2.50-$3.50 depending on time of day and whether or not the bus crosses a county line (ST Express) or city limits (Metro Transit). Same breaks for kids as the Central Link Light Rail. ORCA, cash or coin only, no change is given, but you can pay for your entire party in one fell swoop. Tickets from the TVMs also work on the bus.


Water Taxi:

$4.75-5.50 depending on the route, kids under 6 free, youth do not get a discount. ORCA or cash at the gangway - a ticket dispenser that takes Visa and MasterCard is available midway down the piers



$2.25 for adults, $1.50 for youth 6-18, free for the under-6 set. Pay before you board with ORCA or tickets available from (different) TVMs that take cash, coin or cards.



Being privately owned, none of the stored value products apply. Adults are $2.25 each way, 5-12 year olds, seniors, the disabled and active duty military are $1. All fares are cash-only



Washington State Ferries:

All of the money in your pocket and then some. We'll discuss it in the next post.



There are no complimentary transfers to/from light rail, water taxi, streetcar or ST Express buses - unless you use an ORCA stored value card (see below). Cash rides pay for each segment independently. This can really start to add up (it's intentional - they want people to use ORCA), especially when travelling as a family. Metro and Metro Rapid Ride buses do offer paper transfers good for two hours regardless of direction of travel.


Seattle Center Monorail and Washington State Ferries do not offer transfers of any kind regardless of method of payment.


ORCA Cards:

ORCA (One Regional Card for All) is a cross-system electronic stored value card. I HIGHLY suggest buying one to enable cross-product transfers, like from Light Rail to Metro Bus or ST Express Bus to Streetcar. Because transfer credit is good for two hours after the initial purchase, many roundtrip or complex itineraries save $3-5 each way with ORCA.


How much and where to buy:

ORCA are $5 and available from ticket vending machines, online before your trip or select drug and grocery retailers in the area.


How to use:

If you've used Oyster, Octopus, MetroCard or other products, you'll instantly get how this works. Tap on and off light rail, tap on to buses, water taxis and streetcars, tap at ferry turnstiles.
You only need one card per group travelling together.
If you are travelling as a group, tell the operator before tapping (bus/water taxi), see a ticket seller (Washington State Ferries) or use the TVM (streetcar, Central Link Light Rail) to purchase tickets using the stored value.


More information about ORCA is found at


5) How do I get to the cruise terminals?

Pier 66 (Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Pearl, Oceania Regatta): give up now. The pier is not readily accessible by any form of public transit without a walk of approximately 1/2 mile. It's a perfectly nice walk, but there are substantial changes of grade between 1st Avenue (the westernmost street in downtown with bus service) and Pier 66. The best advice I have is to try to find routes that get you close to the corner of Bell Street and Elliott Avenue - all nearby stops will involve a substantial change of grade. Did I mention the substantial change of grade? Walk across the skybridge to the port, where an elevator will take you to the check-in level. Otherwise, get a UberX or cab to take you to that intersection.


Pier 91 (Carnival Legend, Celebrity Solstice, Crown Princess, Amsterdam, Statendam, Westerdam, Jewel of the Seas, Ruby Princess): the news is better here.


There are two options: try to get directly to/from "Magnolia Brdg & Pier 91 (WB)", stop ID 20860, or the more frequently served Elliott Ave W & W Galer St (NB) (stop ID 14090). If you're headed the other direction, the trip planner will direct you to the other side of the street quite handily.


The Magnolia Bridge and Pier 91 stop puts you right where the parking lot shuttle will take you down the pier to the terminal; there are stairs to navigate if you make this choice, but practically no walk otherwise. See my posting above about the wine shop for a diagram. Service is every half hour or so from downtown on Metro Bus routes 24 or 33.


Running every 10-20 minutes, depending on time of day, the Metro RapidRide D Line and the less-frequent Metro Bus #32 serve a stop about a quarter of a mile away. The trip planner will direct you to walk to the stop on the bridge; I would tend to instead cross Elliott and walk across the flyover formed by Galer St. The risk you run is a total grump at the security gate at the pier, but using tact, charm and negotiating skills on said grump should let you proceed on flat ground to that same pickup spot, or continue on down the pier in the marked pedestrian path.


6) How do I get somewhere besides between the airport and downtown or to the cruise terminals?

Use the Trip Planner at tripplanner.kingcounty.gov or download one of the mobile apps - links are found at http://metro.kingcounty.gov/trip-planner/mobile-apps/ .


7) When do I need a Water Taxi?


Use the water taxi in lieu of a harbor tour - same views, less schtick, way less money. The options are to West Seattle ($4.75, frequent service) or Vashon Island (5.75, commute-oriented service with limited options at the Vashon Island end of the crossing besides turning around and going back - Vashon is cute, but you need a bike or car when you get there). The West Seattle terminal hosts one of Seattle's most-talked-about restaurants (Marination Ma Kai) and is walkable to Sunfish (fish and chips) and Salty's (fine dining seafood and the best weekend brunch in Seattle, but I digress).


Crossing times are 12-22 minutes (W Seattle and Vashon, respectively)


ProTip: if the weather is good, head upstairs and sit outside on either route.


Info is available at http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/WaterTaxi.aspx



8) When do I need the South Lake Union Streetcar


Use the streetcar to get between downtown and the Pan Pacific Hotel, the Residence Inn South Lake Union or the Silver Cloud Inn South Lake Union. There are also lots of great dining options along the streetcar line, along with the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and the Center for Wooden Boats.


9) When should I use the Monorail?


The monorail is a quick and convenient way to turn a 20-minute walk into a 2 minute ride on a piece of Seattle's history. If you're going from downtown to the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, Opera House, Chihuly Garden and Glass or Experience Music Project, ride the Monorail.


10) What about the Washington State Ferries


Next post. I promise.

Edited by VibeGuy

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Our ferry system is the largest in the United States in terms of fleet size and capacity, and operates in some of the most beautiful waters of the region. Even on routine morning commutes it's possible to see whales, porpoise and other marine life from the decks, and you get unparalleled views of the mountains, Seattle skyline and the water.


On the flip side: the system is big and complex, carrying 22 million people and 10 million cars a year, and it's designed for transportation efficiency more than tourist charm. The system is fragile due to aging boats and terminals that are over their design capacities. You're also operating in a marine environment with unpredictable weather and large tidal swings. That said, it's a bigger tourist attraction than the Space Needle, so, y'know, best we know something about it.


There are four situations where visitors to Seattle might want to use the Washington State Ferries:


  1. A scenic ride back and forth, walking on to the boat
  2. An adventurous expedition by bike or foot
  3. An adventurous touristic jaunt by car
  4. Actually getting somewhere by a specific time by car


All are perfectly reasonable ways to enjoy the ferry and could use some local color beyond the information you'll find at the official website, http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/


A Scenic Ride Back And Forth


Most visitors to downtown Seattle who want an alternative to a harbor cruise will choose either the Seattle-Bremerton or Seattle-Bainbridge ferries. Which is best? Depends on the time you have available. Boats run all day, from roughly 5AM to 2AM. Please check the official schedules for details specific to your days of travel. Seating is at a premium on the Bainbridge boat on early morning sailings *to Seattle* and evening sailings *from* Seattle, but there is always enough space for walk-on passengers - in 15 years of heavy ferry use, I've been denied boarding due to capacity only once, on the day of the Super Bowl victory parade (GO HAWKS) - you will always get on board.


Seattle-Bremerton is definitely more scenic - the boat winds through a narrow passage between a tree-lined peninsula and an island, and arrives next to a naval base with aircraft carriers and other large ships. The sailing time is right at an hour each way and departures are roughly every 1:15 through the day. I'll cover what your options are for lingering in Bremerton in the "touristic jaunt" section below.


Seattle-Bainbridge is a quicker hit - approximately 35 minutes each way, open water across the bay, ending in a working harbor with moderate picturesque value. You get the same skyline, mountain and water views, but with a shorter trip you have less chance of seeing marine life.


Where: Both routes sail from Pier 52, which is at the west (water) end of Marion Street. You can approach the terminal from the waterfront level (Alaskan Way & Marion St, best if you're already on Alaskan) or via an elevated walkway from 1st and Marion (best if you're already in downtown).


When:Sailing schedules are on the website - walk-on passengers need to arrive at the terminal at least 5 minutes before sailing time to purchase a ticket and board.


How to pay and board: Automated kiosks sell full-price adult tickets by Visa, MasterCard or American Express - for senior or youth fares, or to pay with cash, see a ticket seller at the counter. If you're paying with an ORCA card and need more than one person paid per card, see the seller as well. If everyone is an adult with their own ORCA card, just tap at the turnstile and board.


Round Trip: Both routes require that you and everything you brought on briefly disembark the vessel to allow a security sweep - if your trip is westbound-eastbound, you can just remain in the covered walkway area. If your trip started from the west side and you're now headed back to Bremerton/Bainbridge, you'll need to enter the terminal building and pay, then board through the turnstiles.


How Much: $8 for adults, $4 for 6-18 and > 65, free before your sixth birthday. Fares for walk-on passengers are only collected westbound on these routes, so there's no need to ask for a "round trip" ticket and mark yourself as a tourist.


Amenities: The terminal has decent washrooms, a newsstand, coffee, Subway, burritos and a small bar/bistro. There are no power outlets to charge phones/etc. Seating is somewhat limited and gets crowded just before boat departures.


Onboard, there are individual seats, booth-type seating with and without tables, and open decks with covered and uncovered seating. Power outlets can be found near selected indoor bench seats. There is no smoking on board (even in your car). Washington state's fine legal recreational marijuana is technically not legal on the ferry system, due to conflicts between state law and federal regulations, but there are not regular enforcement activities.


During commute hours until about 8:30 pm, there is a cafeteria serving second-rate hot-case burgers/premade sandwiches and surprisingly delicious clam chowder from Ivar's (legendary local seafood restaurants). There's also local beer and wine available, but you can't (officially) take adult beverages to the open decks for consumption. Vending is also available. It's perfectly fine to bring takeout onto the boat - you could pick up Ivar's fish and chips about a block north of the terminal on Alaskan Way, for example. And who *really* would know what's in your commuter mug? *cough*.


Accessibility: The boats on these routes are fully ADA compliant. There are elevators in the terminals and onboard. The walk from the street to the boat can be substantial and involve moderate grade (10%) - there are power chairs available from the terminal door to the boat - see any of the uniformed terminal staff for assistance.


ProTip: On the Bainbridge boats, there are two small seating salons accessed via stairs or elevators to the sun deck - these are traditionally quiet areas and are a great place to read and watch the scenery, but please be aware of the other passengers.


A bike or foot expedition


Bremerton has a really limited set of things to do for visitors walking or biking onboard (Naval Museum, park next to ferry terminal with water features, Anthony's Restaurant (highly reliable seafood adjacent to the ferry terminal)). My ONE exception to this is provided to fans of prolific romance author Debbie Macomber; Port Orchard is the prototype for Cedar Cove in the books (but not the Hallmark show, which is shot in nearby Gig Harbor). If you simply must experience the magic of Cedar Cove, use the Kitsap Transit Foot Ferry - just follow the signs as you offload the Washington State Ferry. A seven minute ride in an actual floating museum (really) will take you to "Cedar Cove". Don't say I didn't warn you.


Bainbridge Island, however, is a beautiful forest-and-fields island with a downtown village heavy on the charm and upscale boutique shopping, critically-acclaimed restaurants (Hitchcock and Marche being two favorites), excellent cycling routes, a new museum, a Saturday farmer's market, a picturesque small boat harbor - the places is just precious as all hell (I used to live in downtown Winslow - I may be a trifle biased - I now live near "Cedar Cove" and wonder what I was thinking moving, but I digress). It's a short, moderately level walk from the ferry terminal to downtown Winslow and the various activities. The wineries on the island are not really walkable and transit is pretty thin, but there is a tasting room in downtown. A plethora of information about things to do is available at http://visitbainbridge.com/.


A new enhancement to getting around Bainbridge is the open-to-anyone BI Ride dial-a-ride service - details at http://www.kitsaptransit.com/how-to-ride/dial-a-ride - it can get you to the wineries, the magnificent Bloedel Reserve gardens or pretty much anywhere. Hours and space are limited, but it's cheap. Cabs are also available on the island. Find one at the pedestrian exit of the ferry terminal - they are shared minivan service so you may meet a local or two or three!


A bike really opens up Bainbridge Island - http://www.kaidelsportswear.com/pages/biking-on-bainbridge-island-washington has specific routes and bike-centric information.


Bicycle boarding for the ferries takes place from the Alaskan Way level entrances. The situation is in flux due to construction on the waterfront and adjacent roadways. Follow the signage.


If you are a serious cyclist and would like to explore another island, I would also recommend considering Vashon Island. You can access the island via King County Water Taxi (previous post) but you'll need to get a pretty early start to the day. Alternatively, take Rapid Ride C to the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal (room for three bikes per bus, buses every 7-10 minutes during the day, about 30 minutes from downtown by bus) and sail to Vashon Island from there. There is extensive information about what you can find on Vashon at http://www.stov.us/activities/bikeMaps.html . I really can't recommend Vashon by foot/transit though - it's just too rural to make it work well. I also don't recommend Southworth (Kitsap Peninsula) as there is nothing of note within a 15-minute drive of the ferry terminal, and the riding is not great.


A Car Jaunt:


I beg you to reconsider if you're just doing an over-and-back or exploring Winslow; please don't drive onto the ferry unless you have severe mobility limitations. The summer season is wildly popular, boats commonly overload for cars during peak hours and we raise the fares 40% for people buying a ride at a time. There's scads of parking available in private garages and some street parking near the ferry terminals, so please, please, please consider walking on. It's HIGHLY UNLIKELY that you would be able to drive off the ferry, get turned around and pay again, and board the boat you just arrived on. It's just unpleasant as hell and sitting in a hot car waiting to load can make even the most cordial traveller lose their sanity.


If you want to explore beyond what foot, bike or shared ride options can reasonable offer, welcome onboard! The options for scenic day or multi-day trips are well beyond what I can provide here, but here is some general guidance:


1) Cars pay both directions. Fares range from $14 to $64 each way depending on the route - most leaving from the greater Seattle area are $15 or so. The walk-on fares apply for everyone else in the car, westbound only.


2) The boats overload. There is information on delays at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/schedule/bulletin.aspx - figure on arriving an hour before departure during commute periods, 20 minutes for mid-day sailings.


3) None of this logic applies on the weekends - the delays are random and can be MUCH WORSE (two to three hours is routine on sunny summer weekends, holiday or otherwise). Pack your patience or have an alternate plan.


Great day trips with the ferries include loops driving south to Tacoma and returning via Vashon Island (Pt Defiance/Talequah and Vashon-Fauntleroy boats), Seattle-Bremerton and then returning via Bainbridge Island or Kingston, or Mukilteo-Clinton to explore Whidbey Island and either return ferry or drive back via spectacular Deception Pass and Anacortes. All of these routes will really show you a side of the natural beauty of life on the water here in our area and let you reach places with interesting shopping, dining, parks, beaches, wineries and more. Vehicle reservations are available for some routes on the official website at http://wsdot.wa.gov/ferries - if you're pretty sure about your travel plans and a reservation is available, make use of them. Most of the "commuter" routes we've discussed in detail are not reservations routes.


Ferry service to Vancouver Island, BC (Victoria/Sidney) is available, but it's really not suited to a day trip and you'll probably be visiting Victoria when you sail round-trip to Alaska from Seattle. I'd allow at least an overnight. In general, Washington State Ferries is not the best way to go as a foot passenger either (use the Victoria Clipper from Seattle, the Black Ball ferry from Port Angeles or the BC ferries from Tsawwassen/Vancouver).


The area around Pier 52 (Colman Dock, AKA the Seattle terminal) is under construction and will be for the next several years. Please pay close attention to signage for how to approach the ferry terminal by car - GPS is likely to be dead wrong, phone apps a little better. Allow extra time on the Seattle side to get headed the right direction and watch out for pedestrians and construction equipment.


Simply getting from Point A to Point B via car and ferry:


When choosing a ferry to simply get across the water as quickly and efficiently as possible by car, the map and schedule don't tell the whole tale. Aside from the advice above, consider these points for pragmatic trips:


1) Routes across the Sound (excluding the San Juan Islands and BC) are mostly all the same price. Don't think that half the crossing time means half the money. Pick by where you are, where you want to end up, how busy the system is at the moment and your tolerance for delay risk.


2) The longest trip is from Bremerton to Seattle at just over an hour - other routes are 25-45 minute crossing times. The advantages to the Bremerton boat is that you generally face less risk of overload / can arrive closer to sailing time and that you end up smack dab in downtown Seattle.


3) The Bainbridge Island and Kingston boats run most frequently and have shortest crossing times, but are prone to the worst delays, including outside of commute hours.


3) Sometimes you don't want to end up smack in downtown Seattle - if you are touring on the west side of the water and are ending up back at the airport, take either the Southworth-Fauntleroy ferry to West Seattle or drive around via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and cut out the downtown-to-airport traffic. Conversely, if you want to end up north of downtown, consider Kingston-Edmonds.


4) When the system goes into chaos, and you're not on Whidbey Island (Clinton, Keystone, Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Penn Cove), either drive to a terminal with shorter wait time, or drive around via Hwys 3/16/I-5 and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. This applies to Kingston, Bainbridge Island, Bremerton or Southworth. If you're stuck on Vashon, and can't fend off the neohippies for one more minute, ask the dock personnel if you'd be better off to drive to the other end of the island and use the other ferry.


Drive times from Kingston or Bainbridge Island to downtown Seattle are a predictable 1:30 or less - the airport is a predictable 1:15 or less. Bremerton and Southworth drive times are about :15 shorter. The routes are very well signed and easy to follow. The bridge is a toll bridge ($5 eastbound or so) that takes cash or cards. If you are racing to make a flight, and the line for the tollbooth is long, stay on the main lanes of the highway and the video tolling system will send the rental car company the bill with a "convenience fee". Flights leaving Seattle during high season operate full and missing a flight here can be a major inconvenience, so that that five minutes saved could change the game.


I hope this is helpful.

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Well, I'll be darned.


There's a mechanism for mobility-impaired passengers to make use of the light rail without the EPIC WALK described above:


"If you need help between SeaTac/Airport Station and the terminal, call Huntleigh (206) 396-5275 four to six hours before your arrival to reserve a wheelchair or golf cart. If you have an early morning flight, call the night before. Let the dispatcher know what time to meet you, your airline and flight number, and the number of bags." - from the Sound Transit website.


Huntleigh provides these services inside the terminal, but I had no idea there was a way to contact them to have them meet you at the light rail platform.

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