The Port of Seattle expects to retain its title as the largest cruise ship port on the U.S. West Coast this year with the port playing host to some 805,000 cruise passengers and 178 ship calls.
The first ships of the season, Holland America's ms Westerdam and Princess Cruises' Golden Princess, kicked off the summer cruise season over the weekend arriving at the port's Smith Cove Passenger Terminal.
Seattle has surpassed Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco and San Diego in recent years to become the cruise ship capital of the West Coast. A sharp reduction in cruises to Mexico from Southern California ports has left those ports in Seattle's shadow.
The Port of Los Angeles, for instance, in 2005 hosted 272 ship calls and 1.2 million passengers. That port last year saw ship calls fall to 128 and passenger numbers decline to 590,000.
San Diego peaked at 252 ship calls and 800,000 passengers in 2008, but has seen numbers decline steeply since then.
The upturn in drug and gang-related violence in Mexico has adversely affected cruise ship traffic in Southern California while traffic to Alaska has held steady.
Cruise lines are trying to compensate for the loss of passengers headed to Mexico by establishing new California coastal cruises and cruises to Hawaii from Southern California.
Ship calls are expected to be down slightly in Seattle this year with 178 calls compared with 187 last year.
In 2015, the Port of Seattle expects to see growth as larger vessels are substituted for ships now calling there. Holland America is adding the ms Statendam to its stable of ships at Seattle next year. Royal Caribbean is substituting the Jewel of the Seas for the smaller Rhapsody of the Seas. Princess Cruises will bring the Ruby Princess and the Crown Princess to Seattle in place of the Golden Princess and the Grand Princess.