Should You Sail From Seattle or Vancouver?

One of the most frequently-asked questions we get deals with where you should embark your Alaska cruise: Seattle, Washington, or Vancouver, British Columbia? The short answer is that there’s no right or wrong decision; a voyage to Alaska is beautiful in its own right. Having said that, there are some pros and cons to each city that are worth taking into consideration.

Vancouver, BC

Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess docked at Canada Place in Vancouver.

Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess docked at Canada Place in Vancouver. Photo: Aaron Saunders

Being based in beautiful Vancouver, we’re understandably biased towards our gem of a hometown. Vancouver International Airport provides air connections from nearly every conceivable destination, and the Canada Line rapid transit train takes guests from YVR to the Canada Place Cruise Terminal in just 22 minutes. It’s faster than a taxi, and, in most cases, cheaper, too.

But the real reason we recommend sailing from Vancouver over Seattle – at least for first-time cruisers – is twofold.

Sailaway from Vancouver is a spectacular sight. Photo: Aaron Saunders

Sailaway from Vancouver is a spectacular sight. Photo: Aaron Saunders

To start, sailaway from Canada Place is one of the most beautiful departures we’ve experienced anywhere in the world. After departing Canada Place – with its iconic white sails – ships sail past the northern edge of Downtown Vancouver, known as Coal Harbor. Ships then pass Stanley Park before sailing under the iconic Lion’s Gate Bridge and out into the pristine (and narrow) confines of the Inside Passage and head north, to Alaska.

Most Vancouver itineraries include at least one day of sailing this beautiful stretch of water, and roundtrip voyages include two days of Inside Passage scenic cruising.

Sailing back into Vancouver, past Stanley Park, aboard Princess Cruises' Star Princess. Photo: Aaron Saunders

Sailing back into Vancouver, past Stanley Park, aboard Princess Cruises’ Star Princess. Photo: Aaron Saunders

There is no shortage of cruise lines to choose from in Vancouver. Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise LineOceania, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean all call Vancouver home, along with luxury operators Regent Seven Seas, and Silversea Cruises.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington - as seen from Pier 66 aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Pearl.

Seattle, Washington – as seen from Pier 66 aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl.

Located less than 150 miles to the south is the vibrant city of Seattle. Like Vancouver, it is graced with some of the most beautiful scenery in the Pacific Northwest, from Puget Sound to the San Juan Islands further upstate. With two cruise terminals (Pier 66 and Pier 91) and an airport (SeaTac) located conveniently in the heart of the city, Seattle is a particularly easy city to cruise to – especially if you’re travelling from within the United States and don’t relish the international flight into Vancouver.

Departure from Seattle aboard Norwegian Pearl. Photo: Aaron Saunders

Departure from Seattle aboard Norwegian Pearl. Photo: Aaron Saunders

Sailaway here is equally scenic, but for different reasons. Cruise ships calling on Seattle tend to leave at more or less the same time, which can result in an attractive procession of ships sailing out of the city. On a sunny day, it’s easy to see all of Seattle’s many attractions, including Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. On a misty day, the brooding beauty of the Pacific Northwest is on full display as you sail through Puget Sound and into the Juan de Fuca Strait, bound for the Pacific Ocean.

If there is a downside to sailing from Seattle, it is that most ships will swing out into the Pacific Ocean on the first and last day of the voyage, skipping much of the scenery found in the Inside Passage that so characterizes Vancouver sailings.

Even in the rain and mist, Alaska - and the Pacific Northwest - take on an almost ethereal tone. Photo: Aaron Saunders

Even in the rain and mist, Alaska – and the Pacific Northwest – take on an almost ethereal tone. Photo: Aaron Saunders

Still, chances are good that you’ll find a cruise to love departing from Seattle. Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, and Royal Caribbean all maintain an impressive presence here, with the latter bringing the gargantuan Explorer of the Seas to Alaska – and the West Coast – for the first time ever this year.

No matter which city you choose to sail from, Alaska is one of the most spectacular cruise destinations on the planet. You can’t go wrong with either but, depending on your preferences, you might favor one city over the other.

Give it a thought – and give us a call to book your very own Alaskan cruise adventure.

About Aaron

Aaron is Cruise Experts Travel’s Social Media Coordinator. A passionate world traveler and cruiser, he writes weekly for the Vancouver Province about cruises, maintains several websites, and has authored two books on ships and the sea.
This entry was posted in Alaska Cruises, Alaska Cruisetour, Cruise Tips & Advice, FAQ, For New Cruisers, Ports, Seattle, Vancouver. Bookmark the permalink.

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