Known as the gateway to Alaska, the Port of Seattle has a huge role to play in the #ArrivalRevival of cruise and wild exploration. The team has carefully navigated the storm, and is now ready to welcome guests back to this new age of travel. We caught up with Stephanie Jones Stebbins, the Managing Director of Maritime at the Port of Seattle to find out more.
As the Managing Director of Maritime at the Port of Seattle, Stephanie Jones Stebbins is responsible for directing the strategic and daily operations of Cruise Operations and has played a major role in welcoming the cruise season back to Seattle.
In her 22 years with the Port, Jones Stebbins has developed expertise across both policy and operational issues in the Maritime Industry.
We reached out to Stephanie to find out how the Port of Seattle has navigated the last 18 months and how they are planning to realise the potential of the next 18 months and beyond.
How’s everything going over in Seattle right now? Are you seeing a change in desires and needs for post pandemic travel?
I am excited to say that our Alaska cruise season is in full swing.
Eight ships are sailing 7- to 10-day Alaska cruises round trip from Seattle each week.
All of our cruise line partners have seen strong occupancy rates and, along with steady increases in airport traffic, we do see a pent-up desire to travel.
Even so, the Delta Variant has prompted cruise lines to include some additional protocols: requiring vaccines and a negative COVID-19 test for all adults as well as increased masking.
Running a major port during a pandemic must have been quite the challenge. How did you manage to keep your head above water through the storm?
It has been a challenging time!
While our cruise business was shut down, our airport, container operations, commercial fishing and marina facilities remained up and running as we figured out how to do that safely either on-site or remotely.
The whole Port team was incredibly focused on keeping our facilities operational.
For instance, as home to the North Pacific fishing fleet working the seasonal North Pacific Salmon Fishery, our team kept the terminals operational and assisted fishers to gather protocol information and access health expertise.
We also helped set up testing and vaccine clinics on our properties so mariners could be ready to go to sea. Lessons learned from those experiences helped in the successful restart of the cruise business.
How do you think the pandemic will lead to new trends amongst cruisers in the future?
We upgraded our facilities for a touchless journey through the embarkation and disembarking processes and I expect these technologies will be here to stay.
I know cruise lines have also implemented paperless and touchless processes for health safety and to improve customer service as well.
As cruisers become more accustomed to changes like these, ports and cruise lines anticipate they will become a normal part of travel.
What would you say to somebody who hasn’t yet experienced a cruise, or is perhaps a little wary of stepping back on board?
I would urge them to give it a try!
The Port, Cruise Lines and our public health agencies discussed every detail of health protocols for restarting.
The protocols to keep travellers, workers and the public safe are science-based, incredibly robust and continue to evolve.
I think this is about the safest vacation you can take!
Sustainability has emerged as a key factor for holiday preferences, what is the Port of Seattle doing in this space?
This is a critical issue for Seattle!
We were the first cruise home port to have two shore power berths and by the 2023 season, all of our cruise berths will be shore power capable.
Since 2005, we have reduced our Particulate emissions by 80% and our carbon emissions by 15% as a Maritime Port.
We have aggressive goals to achieve carbon neutrality as well.
We also have a voluntary Memorandum of Understanding between CLIA, the Port and the State of Washington to protect water quality in Puget Sound.
Travellers going to Alaska are going to see pristine wilderness and they care deeply about the environment.
The Port and our Cruise Line partners think it is good business to be a global leader in this area.
What is the future looking like for the Port of Seattle? What’s the next exciting step in its #ArrivalRevival?
Right now we are focused on successfully completing this season and preparing for a record-breaking cruise season in 2022.
In anticipation of a strong revival in cruise travel from Seattle, we’ll continue to focus on making customer experiences central to our operations while continuing to position ourselves as the greenest cruise home port in North America.
What are you most excited about for Australians when they can experience your incredible gateway once more?
That’s a hard question because there is so much to see.
I am most excited to welcome Australians to Seattle as their base to explore the magnificent beauty of Alaska.
I am especially excited about the surprises they will discover in Seattle and the state of Washington.
The greenery here is something to behold year-round and why explorers, artists and innovators are inspired by its urban natural spaces and proximity to breathtaking peaks and intricate waterways.
I think Australians will be delighted by Seattle’s top sights including the recently transformed Space Needle with two viewing levels, and the world’s first revolving glass floor.
The best people-watching is at Pike Place Market, the oldest farmers market in the country luring 10 million visitors each year to its more than 500 shops, vendors, restaurants, and bars.
Or to take a ferry ride from downtown to a nearby island, tour the Boeing airplane factory or drive 30 minutes to the 268′ Snoqualmie Falls.
For extreme vistas, visit Mt. Rainier, hop a seaplane to the San Juan Islands, hike in a rain forest or venture to the sun-soaked vineyards of the Yakima Valley – one of the world’s premier wine regions.
What message would you like to say to the travel trade right now?
First, I would like to thank them for recommending a Seattle home port Alaska cruise and I believe their customers will thank them, too, for a holiday experience they will never forget.
And when they arrive, the Port of Seattle and our Cruise Line partners will be ready to welcome them.
Also, stay current with all local health guidelines during your trip.
Keep your masks with you at all times and be safe. The safer you are, the more you will enjoy your journey.
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