Getting to the port: Seattle Terminal 91

Warning: If you have a friend who lives in Seattle, you might NOT want to ask her to drive you to the cruise port in Seattle. Unless she’s a good friend (fortunately, mine was!).

There are two ports in Seattle; Royal Caribbean and Celebrity both leave from Terminal 91. (We were in port along with the Celebrity Solstice.) You’ll use this port if you’re on any cruise line other than Norwegian Cruise Lines, which departs from the more centrally located Pier 66.

As I mentioned, my friend offered to drive us to the cruise port. After a quick stop to buy two bottles of wine to take on our cruise, we followed the fairly straightforward Google Maps directions to the port. That’s when it got a little…annoying.

We arrived a little before 1 pm for a 4 pm departure and frankly, I thought maybe we were late enough to avoid the majority of the day’s traffic. I was wrong, but not necessarily for the reason I expected. See, the person who designed the traffic flow at this terminal must not have been thinking about have two large cruise ships’ worth of passengers arriving at the same time: Right smack in the middle of the flow of traffic is a cross walk through which every arriving passenger must walk!

Yep, that’s right: The cars trying to enter to drop people off – taxis, Ubers, private cars, Lyfts – all have to stop for pedestrians to walk across the road. Unsurprisingly, this caused quite a backup, and the whole drop off process took a good 15-20 minutes, a lot of which was spent sitting around.

So my take away to you is this: When you arrive at the Terminal 91 drop off, expect that you’ll be slowed down, maybe to the tune of 15-30 minutes. And if you’re going to have someone drive you, maybe ask a person you don’t really like? 😉

Staying in an AirBnB in Ballard

I usually like to arrive a day or two early for cruises just in case of unexpected travel delays. For this cruise, we decided to stay a couple of nights in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard. I was familiar with the area from previous visits to Seattle, and I had a friend who lived in a neighborhood nearby, so staying in Ballard would make getting together with her easier.

But Ballard is a residential neighborhood, not really a touristy one. The sole hotel in the area was selling rooms for nearly $400 a night! So I turned to AirBnB for a place to stay.

I admit that as an overthinking traveler, I’m a little conflicted about AirBnB. There’s no doubt that the growth of AirBnB has wreaked havoc on some of my favorite cities to visit, such as Barcelona and New Orleans, because people buy properties solely to use them as vacation rentals. This drives up monthly rental prices to an often unbearable level, because daily rental rates are so much higher than their monthly equivalent.

So when I can, I try to find a rental that upholds the original spirit in which AirBnB was founded: People offering up spaces on their property to short-term renters. The trick is, I prefer to have some sort of private space. So I look for properties like Doug and Lori’s, with a private entrance and self-contained space. (Psst: If you’re looking for a place to stay in Seattle, I highly recommend this one!)

We had a blast during our two days in Ballard walking around the neighborhood, with an occasional Lyft to get us to nearby places. We had a delicious breakfast at Portage Bay Café and tried some great local beers at the Ballard Beer Company. When we took a car to the nearby Fremont neighborhood, we tried some excellent flights at Schilling Cider Tap Room and the Fremont Brewing Company.

Our two days went by too quickly, and soon enough it was time to get on the cruise ship. Seattle, we’ll be back!

Overview: Our 7-night Pacific Coast Cruise from Seattle

As a cruise nerd who likes to try new things, I’ve been wanting to try a Pacific Coastal cruise for years. It doesn’t hurt that I lived for four years in Eugene, OR attending grad school at the University of Oregon for my Ph.D. I love the Pacific Northwest, and these cruises primarily run during the month of September – after the Alaska cruise season ends and one of the most beautiful times of year in the PNW.

There was only one problem: In my (actual nerd) day job as a college professor, I was always teaching during the times that these cruises were offered. So when I decided to take a year off teaching to start this blog, the Pacific Coast cruise was on the top of my list.

For some reason, these cruises are often not quite as popular as those in areas such as Alaska and the Caribbean. As a result, you can often find fairly cheap cruise fares on these itineraries. If you’re living near to Seattle or can fly there relatively cheaply, this one might be a good cruise to book last-minute and get a deal. (If you’re doing this, I recommend that you keep an eye on the second week of these itineraries. In the week before our cruise, the ship had done its last Alaska route, and many of the people I had talked to did a back-to-back in order to get both itineraries. On another note, the next time I’m not teaching in September, I’m totally planning to do this back-to-back!)

Overall, I can’t recommend the Pacific Coastal cruise we took highly enough. Our itinerary featured 2 sea days, on days 3 and 6, which were perfectly spaced out. We had an overnight in San Francisco that was just fantastic, including one of the more memorable sail aways where we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. There were a couple of downsides to our itinerary – our ship seemed way too large for the small port of Astoria, and we hit some rough seas due to weather on our way back up the coast – but they were vastly overwhelmed by the advantages of this unusual itinerary.