Olympia will be port of call for cruise ship, port says

About a year from now, a ship will sail into Olympia’s Budd Inlet carrying more than 100 tourists, instead of logs or a shipment of corn.

That’s because the Port of Olympia announced Wednesday that American Cruise Lines, a company known for its cruises on the Columbia and Mississippi rivers, will make Olympia a port of call for the American Constellation, a new 175-passenger ship.

The ship is expected to stop in Olympia as part of an 11-day Grand Puget Sound tour that will begin and end in Seattle, according to a spokeswoman for the Connecticut-based company.

The ship will berth at the Port Plaza dock between September and November 2018.

Wednesday’s announcement is the culmination of a three-year effort, according to the port. In addition to the port, the city of Olympia, Thurston Economic Development Council, Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau, Thurston Chamber of Commerce, and the Olympia Downtown Association also were involved in bringing the cruise line to Olympia.

The same group will be involved in shaping tour itineraries for each of the 24-hour to 36-hour visits, according to the port.

American Cruise Lines would have been here sooner, but needed to complete work on the ship to accommodate a longer cruise, port Executive Director Ed Galligan said Wednesday.

The American Constellation was just launched, he said. It will serve the East Coast, travel through the Panama Canal, then make its way up the West Coast for the Puget Sound tours.

Although the ship is 175 feet long, it has a shallow draft so Budd Inlet water depths will not be an issue, he said.

“We are set,” Galligan said. “We could have them here tomorrow.”

A spokeswoman for the company was not available Wednesday to answer detailed questions, but she did send The Olympian a fact sheet about the business.

▪ American Cruise Lines currently operate eight vessels, including four paddlewheelers.

▪ Cruise guests tend to be retired. Galligan added that their cruises draw people from throughout the United States.

▪ The company also offers cruises in Alaska, New England, the Southeast and on the Mississippi River.

▪ Ticket prices for the Grand Puget Sound tour, according to the company website, start at $5,890.

As part of the Puget Sound tour, the American Constellation will depart Seattle and head to Olympia. After Olympia, it makes stops in Tacoma, the San Juan Islands, Anacortes, Friday Harbor, Port Angeles, Victoria, B.C., Port Townsend, Poulsbo and then it’s back to Seattle, according to the company website.

“We’re really excited to bring tourists here,” Galligan said.