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Updated: Apr 22, 2023


Seattle Skyline Panoramic View From Elliott Bay Harbor Cruise With CityPass Argosy Review In The Great Wide Travel Blog

Argosy Cruises


There’s a number of harbor cruises in Seattle, but Argosy Cruises is the only one included with the CityPass, which is our recommendation for your first time in the city!


CONTENTS



Where is it?

Argosy Cruises takes you for a tour around Elliott Bay, departing from Seattle’s popular Waterfront, which also houses the Seattle Aquarium, the Seattle Great Wheel, and the Bainbridge Island Ferry. It’s on the outskirts of downtown Seattle, just south of Pike Place Market.


The physical address is: 1101 Alaskan Way Pier 55, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98101.



How to Get There

It’s sad to say, but the public transportation system in Seattle isn’t that great. Ever since a federal light rail funding package was voted down in the early ‘90s, the city has been struggling to create more public transportation infrastructure. They did pass some funding in the last few years, so expansion is (theoretically) on the way.


The 1 Line light rail route runs through Seattle, with four stops in the Downtown Area, including the International District/Chinatown station, which was nearest to our hostel and connects to the Amtrak King Street Station, the Pioneer Square station and University Street station, which both have access to car and passenger ferries, and the Westlake Center station, that connects to the Seattle Center Monorail.


It connects as far south as Angle Lake, even stopping at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport in SeaTac (a suburb of Seattle), and as far north as Northgate, with a stop at the University of Washington.



The University Street station on the 1 Line is technically the closest to where you’ll board Argosy Cruises, but we just walked there from Chinatown. If you do want to take the 1 Line to get there, be aware that you’ll still have to walk the last half-mile to get to the waterfront, although going towards the water, it should be mostly downhill. The lack of public transportation along the waterfront is baffling, but for now, that’s just the way it is.


If you’d prefer to drive in that case (because Seattle is VERY hilly), there are a number of parking lots and garages around the waterfront district, but be aware that people have gotten confused in the past about who they were supposed to pay for the parking - the city or a private business - which can lead to tickets from either entity. Make sure you’re paying the correct meter and fare before leaving your car to avoid a nasty surprise when you return. Most parking in the area will cost you $30 for the day though, so it’s definitely worth considering strapping on your comfy walking shoes and getting some exercise on the hills while walking there.


Downtown Seattle Waterfront Ferris Wheel Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour Review With CityPass In The Great Wide Travel Blog

Our Experience

We obviously did some research into Seattle before arriving via the Empire Builder during our month-long Amtrak USA Rail Pass adventure, and we settled on using the Seattle CityPass because it would be the best deal to visit the Space Needle and have other stuff to do during our short 2 days in the city. We thought a harbor tour sounded lovely and so chose to do that as well as visit the Chihuly Garden & Glass, Museum of Pop Culture, and Seattle Aquarium, ALL INCLUDED with our passes.


We arrived in Seattle mid-morning, tired and in need of a shower, but our room wasn’t going to be available until later in the day, so we dropped off our bags and forged ahead to visit the Seattle Aquarium and check out a haunted Irish pub before our scheduled cruise at 4:05pm.



The Argosy Cruises dock and the boat were not hard to find, with big signs and friendly employees eager to point out which way to go. They recommend getting there a half-hour early so you don’t miss the cruise (they leave on time, with or without you), but it also helps to ensure you get a good seat, as the covered deck fills up fairly quickly on dreary days. We opted to head up to the open-air top deck to ensure the best views, but the best seats along the side railings of the boat were already full there too.


We won’t lie; the chairs on the boat are cheap. It’s the biggest thing that they could improve upon. Those on the top deck are made of plastic, all facing forward to the tour guide instead of outward towards the views. Either get there either, or better yet pay extra to board first, or you’ll likely have to deal with the heads of strangers in all of the photos you take from the boat.


Argosy Boat Tour Review Harbor Tour On Open Air Boat Seattle Washington Downtown Skyline In The Great Wide Travel Blog

Something else to bear in mind: when slowed down or docked, the boat is very wobbly. Seasickness is a real thing, so if you suffer from any motion sickness, make sure you have some non-drowsy Dramamine so you aren’t spending your entire cruise in the bathrooms. The boat travels around Elliott Bay at a leisurely pace, so when we were moving, it was much less noticeable.


The tour guide was knowledgeable and friendly, joking around with the cruisers. He was a young man who had grown up in Seattle, so he was happy to offer up restaurant recommendations too. He narrated our tour on the top deck into a microphone so the audio would also play on the lower deck for those not willing to deal with the weather, even though the views from the lower deck are far inferior. It was pretty chilly up on the open-air top deck and quite a few people couldn’t hack it for the entire hour-long cruise, so even though the best seats were taken when we initially boarded, we were able to get up and move around for better views later on as fellow passengers gave up to go inside.


Pro Tip: Bundle up for this cruise! The temperature drops dramatically as the sun goes down and it can get windy out on the water but the best views are on the open-air top deck of the boat.


We want to mention, however, that there is also a small concession inside serving beer, wine, and some cocktails, as well as coffee and hot cocoa. The only problem you run into with that is that there is nowhere to put your drink down while you take pictures of the views unless you get there early and snag one of the small tables on the lower deck, but again, the views upstairs are far superior.


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The Cruise is really just a big hour-long lap of Elliot Bay in Puget Sound, narrated by a tour guide. We were able to see some amazing panoramic views of the downtown Seattle skyline, including the Space Needle, which gave us an idea of just how tall it actually is, but you still don’t really comprehend it until you’re standing on the glass floors in the observation deck there. Some other sight highlights include:

  • Seattle Great Wheel, which is the tallest ferris wheel on the west coast at 175-feet

  • Edgewater Hotel, which was the only hotel who would allow the Beatles to stay in 1964 during their first North American tour. They famously fished out the window and the city promptly banned fishing into the Bay from hotels.

  • Seattle cruise ship port, with incredibly large cruise ships mostly destined for Alaska

  • Smith Cove, a marina on Elliot Bay with hundreds of small boats

  • Lumen Field, where the Seahawks play



Also quite impressive was getting right up next to some really large cargo ships. Seattle is a major hub for receiving cargo ships from across the Pacific, so the industrial side of the Bay was on full display. It’s not something that we would’ve taken our time to do if it wasn’t on the cruise, but some of the cargo ships are upwards of a quarter-mile long and can hold 7500-8000 cargo containers. The sheer enormity of the ships and the idea that they carry so many shipping containers across the ocean is mind-boggling.


We also were able to see the Smith Tower, a 38-story tall building that was Seattle’s first skyscraper and the tallest building outside of New York City when it opened in 1914. It seems small in comparison now, but what sets it aside is the penthouse on top, a 3-story apartment with windows on each facade, creating a pointed top to the building and allowing fantastic views of the city. It was just recently renovated along with the rest of the building and offered up a 12-month lease to a lucky renter at $17,000 a month.


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Ticket Prices and Reservations at Argosy Cruises

The easiest way to acquire tickets for ONLY the harbor cruise is to book directly through the Argosy Cruises website, but we went with the CityPass (more on that in a second). The reservation system on their website is updated in real-time, so you’ll have the best chance of knowing if a specific cruise time is available.


During the winter, there are only three harbor cruise times (leaving between 12:05pm and 2:45pm), due to the colder weather and the sun going down much earlier. In the summer, there are 12 cruise times (leaving between 10:45am and 7:20pm).


Argosy Cruises also offers a ‘first to board’ ticket for an extra cost. The amenities for this higher priced ticket are:

  • First to board, first to the bar, first to find a seat (which could be very useful!)

  • 15% off all beverages during your Harbor Cruise

  • Access to an exclusive covered seating area

  • Dedicated concierge available prior to boarding to answer questions and provide tips for your Seattle adventure


Argosy is raising ticket fares in 2023, although it’s still fairly reasonable. The new price breakdown is:

2023 Harbor Cruise + First To Board

2023 Harbor Cruise (Jan 1 - May 28)

2023 Harbor Cruise (May 29 - Dec 31)

Adult (13+)

$52

$37

$39

Senior (65+)

$47

$32

$32

Youth (4-12)

$20

$20

$20

Kid (3 and under)

Free

Free

Free



Given the value of the cruise, these aren’t bad prices, but if you’re going to be spending 2 days or more in Seattle, we highly recommend the Seattle CityPass for $115. The CityPass grants you access to 5 attractions in Seattle for the price of 3, including a day/night pass at the Space Needle, admission to the Seattle Aquarium, and your choice of 3 more activities between a harbor tour with Argosy Cruises, admission to the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), the Chihuly Garden and Glass, or the Woodland Park Zoo. We chose to do all except the zoo, since it’s the furthest away while all the other attractions are so close together.


It’s also good to know that Argosy will allow you to upgrade your CityPass ticket to a ‘first-to-board’ ticket for the $15 extra charge. Check out this webpage for more info.


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Our Verdict

We love having local-guided tours of museums and cities, so this was high on our list of things to do for our first time in Seattle. The tour was informative, fun, and had some really great views of the city, even though it was a bit chilly. With such a great deal with the CityPass, we highly recommend checking it out!



Quick Reference Guide

What

Where

How to Get There

The 1 Line light rail has a stop about a half-mile from the Argosy Cruises harbor. Parking is available on the waterfront, but pay close attention to signs to make sure you’re paying for the right spot.

Time Commitment

The cruise itself lasts 1 hour, but you need to get to the cruise at least a half-hour early, so around 90 minutes - 2 hours in total.

Cost

Our Recommendation: the Seattle CityPass for $115, which gets you access to 4 other attractions around Seattle.

For just this tour: $39 for adults with cheaper tickets for kids and seniors.

An extra $15 for the ‘first-to-board’ pass, available also as an upgrade with the CityPass.

Reservation Info

Book via the CityPass if using that option or through their website for the most up to date information if you’re just doing this cruise (and not the CityPass).

Our Verdict

Definitely recommended! The views of the skyline are spectacular and the tour guides are very informative and friendly.


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Travel Blogger Adam Neubauer For In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog

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