Make the most of your Alaska cruise from Seattle by pitching camp for a few days to explore the “Emerald City.”
ON A SUNNY SATURDAY IN AUGUST, a crowd gathers at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. The mood is festive, particularly at Pike Place Fish, where fishmongers, garbed in Grundens (the Swedish-stitched orange bib overalls) joke as they toss whole Sockeye Salmon, Alaskan Halibut and Yellow Fin Tuna over the counter to be packaged. “Want to see a flying fish?” says one, as he sends a salmon sailing to a co-worker. With cameras rolling and flashes sparkling, the tourists laugh.
Welcome to Seattle, the free-spirited Pacific Northwest city where water, majestic snow-capped mountains and a funky, yet sophisticated, downtown conspire to create one of America’s best cities and top travel destinations. And for cruise passengers, the former frontier town is equally as compelling to visit as it is to leave. Each summer, cruise ships often come and go in record numbers from Seattle’s downtown terminals — to and from Alaska.
There are many advantages in cruising from Seattle. For U.S. travelers, departing Seattle requires no passport or the tedium of passing through U.S. Customs (as do departures from Vancouver, Canada). Moreover, for pre- or post-cruise passengers, the “Emerald City” offers experiences that make a pre- or post-cruise visit worthwhile: Pike Place Market and the “historic” Starbucks that launched the chain; the nation’s largest ferry system, making it easy to visit the commuter islands of Bainbridge and the Olympic Peninsula; shopping from Pike Place to Pacific Place, and ranging from discount stores to flagship stores for Nordstrom and REI as well as high-end boutiques such as Escada and Coach.
Seattle also offers fine — and fun — dining (The Pink Door features a trapeze artist on Sundays); as well as wine country in nearby Woodinville (also home to the Redhook Ale Brewery); and apparently a law that requires a Starbucks to be every two city blocks (fueled by Starbucks, Seattleites are cheerful and easy-going people). All of this against a stunning city skyline, punctuated by the Space Needle and crowned by snow-capped Mount Rainier.
Put yourself in the center of it all by planting yourself in one of the hotels on the following pages. All but one will put you in the heart of the action, within walking distance of the major attractions (we also feature one hotel in wine country, 20 minutes from the city center). Any one of our Six Seattle Sleeps is the perfect base from which to explore Seattle. Contact your cruise seller for rates and booking information.
Facts — Welcome to the hotel of the future. Hotel 1000’s advanced high-tech amenities include a tub that fills from the ceiling (without splashing), an intelligent bar that knows when refreshments in your room need replenishing (and signals staff to do so when you’re away), an infrared occupancy sensor in your room as well as a 40-inch L.C.D. screen, VOIP phone (and free calls within the U.S.); free wired and wireless internet; “intelligent” artwork base on your preferences and more, including a fine restaurant and spa facilities.
Final word — Hotel 1000 has a lot going for it, but trust us, when you check out of this downtown hotel, it’s the tub you’ll tell your friends about. It’s a work of art. Moreover, Hotel 1000’s high-tech touches complement the beautiful guestrooms and public areas. Hotel 1000 is Penelope Cruz meets Seattle’s Bill Gates. It’s where beauty meets brains.
Facts — Directly across from Hotel 1000, the European-style six-story boutique Hotel Alexis is in a century-old building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The main attractions are the specialty suites, including the Miles Davis Suite, the John Lennon Suite and the Sleep Suite, which features a king size Pacific Coast Feather Bed, therapy spa eye mask, soothing rock garden fountain for peaceful ambiance, “Solitudes” bath music for relaxation, a wood-burning fireplace and much more. Ahh.
Final Word — Enjoy wine and art? The Alexis Hotel is committed to Seattle’s arts community, with displays of original pieces in guestrooms and public spaces that showcase the Pacific Northwest’s diversity and culture. Browse the exhibits during evening wine tastings, free of charge. Hotel Alexis also offers a special cruise package that includes accommodations and all transportation (with transfers to/from the ship and airport). (see related article on USA Today, Kimpton hotels in Seattle add ‘cruise concierge’ service)
Facts — Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure and other national publications heap praise and awards on Inn at the Market. Need we say more? Of course. The charming boutique hotel is located in (and yes, we mean “in”) Pike Place Market. Despite the bustle and excitement outside, however, guestrooms are cozy and quiet — a quiet refuge in the center of the action.
Final Word — If you want to feel like an Urban Seattleite, pitch camp here. You can’t find a hotel any closer to Pike Place Market. Walk out the front door and you’re in the heart of it all. Book a water-view guestroom featuring floor-to-ceiling bay windows for “to die for” views of Puget Sound. No water-view room at the Inn? Head out to the hotel’s expansive outdoor terrace on the fifth floor for breathtaking views and if you’re lucky, to watch your ship come in.
Facts — You’ll feel as though you’ve just crossed the Atlantic when you walk into Hotel Ändra, which reflects Scandinavian design mixed with elements of the Pacific Northwest. The hotel features rich, warm woods in dark pine, walnut and fir, complemented with Icelandic Blue, Kelp Green and Chocolate Brown. Get a good night’s rest under the 315 thread count Egyptian cotton linens and goose down comforters and pillows. Scandinvavian to the core, the hotel’s bath amenities are Stockholm’s “FACE” products.
Final Word — A Scandinavian sanctuary in the big city, Hotel Ändra is like having a mini-Stockholm in Seattle. Situated in Belltown, a neighborhood best known for its art, music and dining, the hotel is three blocks from Pike Place Market. Be sure to ask about the special cruise package that includes parking while you’re sailing to and from Alaska.
Facts — Recipient of AAA’s Five Diamond Award for 23 consecutive years, The Fairmont Olympic Hotel is the only hotel in the four-state Pacific Northwest to receive the prestigious award (the hotel also is only one of five in the U.S. to make the award list for 23 or more consecutive years). Since opening in 1924 (and operated by Fairmont since 2000), she has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a member of Historic Hotels of America. The Fairmont Olympic Hotel well deserves her reputation as Seattle’s Grand Dame hotel.
Final Word — If a boutique hotel just isn’t big enough for your tastes, and you desire the amenities of a large hotel, you can’t do better than The Fairmont Olympic. You’ll appreciate the hotel’s Italian Renaissance architecture as well as the grand style of this great hotel.
Facts — Gracing the entrance of the Willows Lodge is the burned-out shell of a 1,500-year-old cedar tree. Standing more than 10 feet tall and measuring more than several feet in diameter, the old cedar features a walkway through the middle. It’s the perfect threshold to cross into the sanctuary known as Willows Lodge, with a big fireplace in the lobby, beautiful exposed timbers, a spa and guestrooms that average 500 square feet and feature fireplaces, oversized soaking tubs and more.
Final Word — Situated in the heart of Woodinville Wine Country, the Willows Lodge is adjacent to the Redhook Ale Brewery, Chateau St. Michelle and Columbia wineries. Willows Lodge also features two award-winning restaurants: the Herbfarm, one of only 57 AAA Five Diamond Award winners, and the Barking Frog, a rustic bistro featuring country fresh Northwest cuisine. For food and wine lovers who seek serenity away from the city lights, the Willows Lodge tops our list.
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