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Originally published Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Easy cruising from Seattle to Alaska

With 11 cruise ships based in Seattle, it's easy to set sail for Alaska — and numbers are up.

Seattle Times Travel staff

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Want to take a cruise? It's easy to set sail from Seattle where 11 ships will be based this year for cruises to Alaska.

Five major cruise lines will offer 211 sailings during the April-October cruise season. Almost all are weeklong cruises from Seattle to Southeast Alaska and back, although in the fall there are some shorter Pacific Northwest cruises.

To find a cruise, check the schedule at the Port of Seattle Web site, www.portseattle.org/seaport/cruise/. Book through a travel agent or the cruise line. Then head to one of Seattle's two downtown cruise docks — the Bell Street Pier on Alaskan Way, or Pier 91 near Magnolia, which opens for cruise ships this spring — and stroll aboard.

There is one complication for passengers: Starting June 1, when a new U.S. law on documents for international travel takes effect, passengers must have a passport or other approved ID such as the cheaper passport card or the Washington State enhanced driver's license. That's because the Seattle-Alaska cruises include a stop at a foreign port — usually Victoria, B.C. — so a federally approved citizenship document is required.

"If they don't have a passport (or other approved ID), we'll have to deny boarding," said Holland America Line spokesman Erik Elvejord.

Five major cruise lines will sail out of Seattle this year: Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Holland America. They're expected to carry more than 801,000 passengers, according to the Port of Seattle.

Last year was a banner year for Seattle cruises, with 886,039 passengers. For the first time, Seattle surpassed Vancouver, B.C., the other major port for Alaska cruises, in passenger numbers; Vancouver reported 854,453 passengers in 2008.

Kristin Jackson:

kjackson@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2271

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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