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The 6 Best Alaska Cruise Excursions in Seattle

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You’re planning an Alaska cruise in 2020, and part of the fun is choosing Alaska excursions, right? But – omigosh – there are too many choices, right? I definitely feel you, and I’m here to help. I’ve scoured all of the companies offering Alaska cruises in 2020, and have started this series on the best excursions in each major port. As I’ve lived in Seattle and know it well, I decided to start by suggesting the best Alaska cruise excursions in Seattle!

I’ll be honest: there wasn’t a ton of science behind these recommendations. I’m instead choosing them for you and put them in the order based on what I know Seattle visitors will love. I also keep in mind some of the other tips on choosing Alaska cruise excursions I’ve previously shared. These include uniqueness, cost, time, and cost-to-time ratio.

Read on to see who offers cruise excursions in Seattle, and which ones I recommend as the best – based on my local experience.

While I personally do not support the mega-ship cruise industry due to its negative impact on local economies, damage caused to the environment, and evasive tax practices, I created this resource to allow you to make your own choice. Please consider booking a small-ship cruise instead, carbon offsetting, and buying local souvenirs to help reduce the negative impact of your Alaska cruise.

Who Offers Alaska Cruise Excursions in Seattle?

In my research, I found that 9 of 19 cruise companies operating in Alaska offered a port stop in Seattle (for embarkation or disembarkation). Of those 9 companies, only 5 offered Alaska cruise excursions in Seattle for the 2020 season: CarnivalCelebrityHolland AmericaPrincess, and Royal Caribbean. It also seems that Oceania might offer excursions, but they don’t have any listed as of the time of writing this.

Princess Cruises offers the most number of Alaska cruise excursions in Seattle. They have 17 different excursions available – though most of these are variations to account for airport transfers and accessibility.

Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean have the most diverse offerings. Both companies offer 7 different excursion itineraries.

If you struggle with making decisions, Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line offer the fewest number of excursions and variations.

It’s tough to say which company has the best excursion options based on my list below… However, Princess Cruises is the only company that offers all of the excursions I consider the best. So if you want the greatest number of options, consider booking with them!

The Best Alaska Cruise Excursions in Seattle

In trying to choose the best Alaska cruise excursions in Seattle, there were some I didn’t include. These were ones I thought might not be the most cost-effective or time-effective ways to see what the Emerald City has to offer. After reviewing all of the Seattle cruise excursions, here are the ones I consider the best.

1. The “Grand City Tour”

If your Alaska cruise includes your first trip to Seattle, the “Grand City Tour” is a great add-on excursion before or after your time on the ship. Not all of the cruise companies call it by this name; some just mention the sights you’ll see or call it something like “The Best of Seattle.”

Which sights make the cut? On the 4-6 hour tour, you’ll visit and see:

  • Seattle Center
  • The Space Needle
  • Pike Place Market
  • Pioneer Square
  • The International District

The itineraries might vary a little from company to company. But they almost all include all of these sights as well as a short cruise along the Seattle Waterfront and into Lake Union. They also offer variations whether you need a transfer to the airport, your ship, or your hotel – and accessible options.

I assume that this is the most popular Alaska cruise excursion in Seattle – and for good reason. As you know, many of these made my list of Seattle bucket list experiences, so this tour is a great option to tick a few of those off!

Who Offers This Excursion?

CelebrityPrincess, and Royal Caribbean offer this excursion with a short cruise included. This is definitely a better option if it works for your schedule. They also all offer it as a land-only option for about 50% less per person, as do Carnival and Holland America.

2. Space Needle/Chihuly Garden & Glass Combo

If you have less time or just want a shorter excursion that still lets you see some of Seattle’s top sights, the Space Needle/Chihuly Garden & Glass Museum combo tour is a good choice. As it includes two of the city’s most popular attractions and maybe even have time to explore the Seattle Center a bit too during the 2.5-3 hour tour.

As you already know, I absolutely love the renovated Space Needle with all of the glass walls and rotating glass floor. Like with the ‘Grand City Tour’ above – and especially if you’re not doing that one –, this tour is a must-do on your first trip to Seattle – or if you’ve not been up the Space Needle since it re-opened in 2018.

Who Offers This Excursion?

CelebrityPrincess, and Royal Caribbean all offer this Alaska cruise excursion in Seattle. It’s also easy to visit these two sights on your own; you can snag a Seattle CityPass which offers discounts on these two experiences plus others.

3. Seattle Underground Tour

Curious about the history of Seattle? There’s no tour that teaches it to you in such an… interesting way as the Seattle Underground Tour. It’s by far the most unusual tour in town and still one of the most popular.

On a three-hour tour, you’ll descend beneath the streets of Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood. There you’ll learn about Seattle’s first urban core, the fire that destroyed it, how Seattle was rebuilt, and the characters that called this city home when it all was going on.

This is a excellent tour for families, as the guides offer a more kid-friendly version. There’s also an adult version too if it works for your schedule. I list the Underground Tour on my Seattle Bucket List too, so you know this is a good one!

Who Offers This Excursion?

Celebrity and Princess both offer this Alaska cruise excursion in Seattle. You can also book it independently on the Seattle Underground Tour website and use public transit (or your own two feet) to reach Pioneer Square for the tour.

4. Future of Flight & Boeing Factory Tour

Boeing Factory Tour - Roy Luck via Flickr
Photo credit: Roy Luck via Flickr

Would you believe that despite my space nerdery, I have actually never done the Future of Flight and Boeing Factory tour? This is a great tour for families, aviation history buffs, and aerospace geeks like me.

On this 4.5-hour tour, you’ll explore all things planes and other flying contraptions. While the Boeing Factory Tour focuses more on industry and assembly, the Future of Flight has interactive exhibits all about historic and future technology, and innovation in the aviation industry.

Who Offers This Excursion?

CelebrityHolland AmericaPrincess, and Royal Caribbean all offer this Alaska cruise excursion in Seattle. While it’s possible to do this tour on your own, you’ll need a rental car or to pay for a taxi/rideshare to get to and from the Future of Flight Museum and Boeing Factory – it’s just easier to book it through the cruise company!

5. Woodinville Wine Tasting

If you love wine and have the time before or after your Alaska cruise – you’ll need basically a whole day before or after embarkation – the Woodinville Wine Tasting tours that several cruise companies offer are a great option to escape the city and taste local flavors.

This tour ranks lower on the list than others because it’s not as great for those who are making their first trip to Seattle as part of their Alaska cruise – or who haven’t visited Seattle in 10 years or more since the city has substantially changed.

If you have visited Seattle recently and want to try something new, this wine tasting tour is a great option. You’ll visit two wine estates (Woodhouse Wine Estates and Chateau Ste Michelle), tour them both and try their wines. As Washington continues to gain prominence in the global wine industry, oenophiles will want to take this tour for sure! (Isn’t oenophiles just the greatest word?)

Who Offers This Excursion?

CelebrityPrincess, and Royal Caribbean all offer this Alaska cruise excursion in Seattle. Like the Future of Flight/Boeing Factory excursion, this one’s way easier to do as part of the cruise company tour than on your own.

6. Small Bites On The Bay – Pike Place Tasting Tour

I’m kind of surprised that only one cruise company offers this tour (listed below) because Pike Place Market is such a fantastic place for food tours, and there are plenty of tours available – they’re just not offered by the cruise companies. This particular tour is a three-hour guided tour of the Market, including stops at nine different vendors to taste and samples their wares.

Who Offers This Excursion?

Princess is the only company that offers this Alaska cruise excursion in Seattle – and it’s Bon Appétit recommended! I also found two Airbnb Experiences if you want to do this tour on your own: Food Tour and Chef Tour

Bonus! One Non-Cruise Excursion Worth Booking

If you have the budget, haven’t yet booked a flightseeing excursion on the rest of your Alaska cruise, or you just love to see the world from above, you should definitely consider booking a flight with Kenmore Air. I had the chance to do their Seattle Scenic Seaplane tour back in 2016 and it was the first time I had seen Seattle that way – despite having lived there for three years at that point!

Flightseeing tours are surprisingly affordable, starting at $99 per person, but you’ll need to arrange your own transport to/from the experience. Luckily, Kenmore takes off from Lake Union which is centrally located and an easy taxi or rideshare ride.

Doing Seattle On Your Own

3 Days in Seattle - Elliott Bay Sunset

If you want to break free from the crowds, no worries – I’ve got you covered. I recently wrote a post about two different ways to spend one day in Seattle – and one of them is for Alaska cruisers.

Briefly, here’s the itinerary I recommend if you’re coming off a cruise ship or planning to board one on the same day:

  • 10am – Breakfast at Pike Place Market
  • 11am – Coffee at the Original Starbucks
  • 12pm – Ride the Monorail
  • 12:30pm – Ascend the Space Needle
  • 1:30pm – Grab Lunch at the Seattle Center
  • 2pm – Catch a Ride to Your Ship/Head to the Airport

And you can read the full post with all my other tips here. I also have a guide on how to spend three days in Seattle if you have even more time before or after your Alaska cruise.

There you have it – my take on the best Alaska cruise excursions in Seattle. Have other questions about choosing Alaska cruise excursions in Seattle? Let me know in the comments or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!

Keep Planning Your Alaska Cruise!

My eBook, Alaska’s Best Cruise Excursions, will help you wade through all the excursions in each port to make the best choice for each stop on your Alaska cruise itinerary.

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

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