COVID-19 and travel at SEA Airport
Health and safety of our community, employees, and passengers is paramount. We are actively working to coordinate components of a Healthy Cruise program, which includes:
We initiated a series of coordination briefings in November 2020 and continued that work as CDC and Congress finalized technical and policy guidance. We continue working with cruise lines, the Washington State Department of Health, and Public Health Seattle-King County on Port Agreements, which will outline protocols that will protect public safety during cruise operations. These agreements will cover things that both prevent the spread of COVID, as well as outlining response if there are COVID cases. Cruise lines will need to have the agreement in place with local providers for both treatment and quarantining passengers, if necessary. Agreements will cover things like vaccination, testing, mask requirements, including physical distancing.
CDC recommends that all eligible port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC gave cruise lines an option to either attest that 95 percent of staff and 95 percent of passengers are vaccinated, or to conduct simulated cruises that demonstrate COVID mitigation measures before resuming operations with passengers. Check with your cruise line on specific requirements.
Cruise lines have already begun vaccinating crew. The Port of Seattle also began coordinating vaccination resources for cruise lines in case it is helpful to provide a pre-season vaccination clinic in our harbor.
Fully vaccinated port personnel and travelers are still subject to all of the requirements of CDC’s Order requiring wearing of masks while entering, traveling within or leaving the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs (see maritime-specific Frequently Asked Questions).
Please check with your cruise line for specifics on requirements for embarkation and updated policies.
Cruise lines must meet extensive CDC requirements and recommendations before they can resume sailing. Requirements and recommendations include safety measures to limit COVID-19 transmission among passengers and crew, capability to assist ill passengers and crew, reporting and tracking COVID-19, and guidance for local port agreements which must be approved prior to restarting cruise service.
In order to obtain CDC approval, cruise lines must submit agreements with Port and Local Health Authorities. The CDC’s Technical Instructions to cruise lines for these agreements includes the following:
We continue to work with the cruise lines and public health officials on port agreements to ensure safety and health measures are in place and that visitors and community have confidence in those measures.
While the schedule is still being developed, we anticipate that approximately 80 vessels could sail a roundtrip itinerary from Seattle this year. In a normal year we would see just over 200 sailings.
Large cruise ships are still prohibited from operating in Canadian waters. On May 24, 2021, President Biden signed the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, which temporarily waives the Passenger Vessel Services Act regarding cruises until February 2022. This temporary change will allow for direct sailings of vessels between Seattle and Alaska without a stop in a Canadian port this season.
The Port of Seattle, the terminal manager, and the cruise lines have been working closely with the local health officials to incorporate layers of safety measures and an enhanced sanitation program at our terminals. These changes support the requirements of the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order. Check with your cruise line for specific requirements around check-in procedures. In the terminal, the port has installed touchless fixtures in the restrooms, water bottle filling stations, barriers to limit face-to-face contact, and physical distancing signage to limit crowding and contact.
The Washington State Department of Health and Public Health Seattle King County are reviewing the safety measures being implemented at the cruise terminals. In addition, the port has contracted with a University of Washington epidemiology expert to review our in-terminal safety measures. We also drew upon our experience operating Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to develop cruise terminal best practices.
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