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Are There Cruise Ships On The Great Lakes

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Lake Michigan Cruise Lines

Great Lakes cruise ships release 2021 itineraries including 20 stops in Muskegon

If you’re sailing Lake Michigan, chances are you’re on a Great Lakes cruise beginning or ending in Chicago or Milwaukee. Cruise lines boarding in Chicago include Victory Cruise Lines and Hapag-Lloyd. Cruise lines docking in Milwaukee are Pearl Seas Cruises and Ponant. Blount Small Ship Adventures offers a seven-night Lake Michigan cruise, round-trip from Chicago.

Great Lakes cruises are growing in popularity as Americans and Canadians choose easy-to-reach, close-to-home vacation destinations. Three cruise lines offer full summer seasons on the lakes: Victory Cruise Lines, Pearl Seas Cruises and Blount Small Ship Adventures. French cruise line Ponant visits the Great Lakes with fall color cruises between Quebec City and Milwaukee. In 2020, German-based Hapag-Lloyd joins lines cruising the lakes with two cruises between Chicago and Toronto.

The size of ships on Lake Michigan is limited by the locks along the St. Lawrence Seaway and those connecting the Great Lakes. Most ships carry roughly 80 to 200 passengers, and cruise season runs from mid-May through October.

Lake Michigan Ports Of Call

Chicago: During a Great Lakes itinerary, cruise ships usually call at two or three ports on Lake Michigan. Stops typically include Chicago, where you can drop by Millennium Park to marvel at its outdoor sculptures. Art-lovers will want to visit the Art Institute of Chicago, displaying one of the world’s most renowned art collections. Even though you’re already cruising, it’s well worth taking a 90-minute boat tour on the Chicago River to see the city’s amazing architecture. If you’re lucky, your ship will be docked at Navy Pier, an amusement park within walking distance of shops and tourist attractions. Note: Ships also dock about 15 miles south of downtown, in an industrial area.

Milwaukee: In Milwaukee, the largest city in Wisconsin, visit the Milwaukee Art Museum or head to Discovery World, a science and technology museum filled with an aquarium and interactive exhibits. Motorcycle fans will want to check out the Harley-Davidson Museum, perhaps before downing a beer in Brew City. Milwaukee, of course, is synonymous with Pabst, Miller and Schlitz beers.

Count yourself fortunate if your itinerary includes a northern Wisconsin stop in Door County’s Sturgeon Bay. Door County is an all-American, Norman Rockwell painting kind of place with cute shops and inviting waterfront cafes. It’s famous for growing cherries, and historic lighthouses seem to pop up everywhere along the coast.

About The Great Lakes

Great Lakes Cruise Options

The 5 Great Lakes MapGreat Lakes Elevation Profile Map

Great Lakes Cruise Lines
  • Pearl Seas Cruises – Pearl Mist
  • Victory Cruise Lines – Victory I & 2
  • Ponant Explorer Cruises – Le Bellot
  • Windstar Cruises – Star Pride
  • Viking Expeditions Cruises – Octantis
  • Hapag Lloyd Cruises – Hanseatic Inspiration
  • Blount Small Ship Adventures
Great Lakes Destinations

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Potential For A Large Cruise Ship On The Upper Great Lakes

PublishedMar 1, 2018 6:06 PM by Harry Valentine

While the ocean going cruise ship industry has undergone spectacular growth in recent years, the inland waterway cruise industry has undergone steady but less spectacular growth. The cruise vessels that sail the St Lawrence River and Great Lakes are comparatively small compared to ocean going cruise ships. However, there are prospects to develop a much larger cruise ship for operation on North Americas Upper Great Lakes.


The cruise ship industry has many different market aspects. Some tourists seek to experience a peaceful and leisurely cruise aboard a sailing vessel, perhaps enjoying the company of like-minded travelers in peaceful and serene surroundings. Other tourists seek spectacular scenery that is often available on river cruises and cruises that travel quiet waterways. The channel between Vancouver Island and British Columbia in Western Canada offers several hundred miles of breath taking and awe inspiring scenery. Many scheduled cruise vessels and coastal ferry vessels sail through this oceanic channel that has much in common with a river.

Upper Great Lakes

The Cruise Ship

Multi-Section Ship

Lake Ontario

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.


Lake Michigan: Adventure Sports

Cruise Ships on the Great Lakes !!!

From wreck diving to parasailing and kayaking, there is no shortage of opportunities for adventure on Lake Michigan. Over thirty parks are located on the shores of this Great Lake and the islands that dot it. There are a number of stunning spots like Empire Beach, St Joseph and Grand Haven State Park for beach lovers.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore give rise to sandy dunes that reach a height of 450 feet above Lake Michigan. Here, you can swim in the lake, hike through the park or climb the dunes.

Great Lakes Cruises that visit Lake Michigan commonly stop in Chicago, Milwaukee and Mackinac Island in Michigan.

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Accommodations Aboard A Great Lakes Steamship

About fifty cruise steamers sailed on the Great Lakes before World War II. These large, luxurious ships have about eight elegant parlors or staterooms with double beds and private baths, all finished in paneling and gingerbread trim. The remaining seventy to one hundred rooms were like this cabin pictured above. Those with windows or portholes corresponded with the second class. Inside cabins without portholes might be described as third-class although these designations were not used. This reconstruction of the 1800s ship travel and cruising history is based on the accommodations in the Canadian steamer Keewatin.

Great Lakes Cruise Lines

Three companies cruise the Great Lakes from late May through October. Victory Cruise Lines is the newest entry with the 202-passenger Victory I and Victory II offering nine- and 10-night itineraries leaving from Chicago, Detroit, Toronto or Montreal. Pearl Seas Cruises operates the 210-passenger Pearl Mist on seven- or 11-night cruises between Milwaukee and Toronto. Blount Small Ship Adventures’ 83-passenger Grande Mariner and 84-passenger Grande Caribe sail a variety of Great Lakes itineraries, including seven-night round trips from Chicago, 13 nights between Chicago and Montreal, and a 15-night trip between Chicago and New York.

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Best Great Lakes Cruise Companies

A Great Lakes cruise is ideal if you want to see some of the United States and Canada and have time during late spring to early fall. These cruises are in the north, in areas like Michigan and Illinois, so take the weather into consideration when you book. With six cruise lines serving this region, this guide will assist in helping you make a call when deciding on the ships, itineraries and respective destinations to travel to.

Generally speaking, any cruise that sails within Michigan, or Illinois, or Wisconsin is sailing the Great Lakes. Many itineraries that go from Canada to New England, or the reverse, usually include Lake Ontario, which is to say the cruise itinerary includes at least one of the Great Lakes if not more.

If a cruise includes one of the Great Lakes, only, it most typically would be Lake Ontario, with a cruise starting or ending here, then sailing past the Thousand Islands in Canada, and onto the St. Lawrence River.

Viking Cruises Announces Georgian Bay As Part Of 2023 Great Lakes Itinerary

Great Lakes Cruise Ship – Ride the Saint Laurent from Montreal to Chicago | PowerBoat TV Destination

Theres plenty of time still to plan to avoid a fairly large cruise ship, but Viking Cruises has just announced a 15-day Great Lakes cruise from Toronto to Duluth that will include three days in Georgian Bay, with activities at Frazer Bay, Killarney, and Parry Sound. Prices start at $18,195. I dont know if those dollars are Canadian or American. Please cue in an orderly fashion to book your cabin. Or just use the money to buy a boat.

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Cruising The Great Lakes: Yes You Can Do That

Victory I docks near downtown Detroit. As on a European River cruise, Great Lakes ships often dock close to city centers.

Clevelands Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was designed by I. M. Pei.

  • Katherine Rodeghier

While Victory I goes through the locks of the Welland Canal, passengers take a boat excursion to Niagara Falls.

Passing under Mackinac Bridge at dawn aboard Victory I during a Great Lakes cruise.

Horse-drawn carriages transport travelers to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

Victory Cruise Lines Splendor of the Great Lakes itinerary travels between Chicago and Toronto.

Youre going where on your cruise? asked our incredulous rideshare driver, his eyes questioning me from the rearview mirror. Thinking he was driving my husband and me to an airport for a flight to an ocean port or European city for a river cruise, he couldnt believe our destination: the Chicago lakefront, departure point for a 10-day voyage on the Great Lakes.

I didnt know you could do that, he said, adding his family loves cruises takes two a year. Ive got to tell my wife.

The Birth Of Going Up North

One story of local lore involves the father of Michigan born author Ernest Hemingway. Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, or Ed, was a doctor with a practice located near Chicago. Each summer he would take the family to their cottage called Windemere located about 11 miles from Harbor Springs. The Hemingways would take ships such as the Manitou, Missouri, or Illinois along the Lake Michigan shore north to Harbor Springs. However, he had a busy practice, and Dr. Hemingway would commute via steamer from the Chicago docks to northern Michigan for a long weekend. It was a full day of travel.

Ship traffic was at its peak in the 1870s with what one historian described as a freeway of passenger and freighter traffic moving in and out of Saginaw Bay.

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Open For Ocean Cruises

The St. Lawrence Seaway, completed in 1959, connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, enabling oceangoing ships to reach major cities like Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland. Along the way, the Welland Canal enables ships to bypass the Niagara Falls, yet limits their width to 78 feet.

The St. Lawrence Seaway, completed in 1959, connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, enabling oceangoing ships to reach major cities like Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland. Along the way, the Welland Canal enables ships to bypass the Niagara Falls, yet limits their width to 78 feet.

The basic Great Lakes itinerary is a seven- or 11-day cruise that starts in Eastern Canada and sails west to Chicago or Milwaukee on the southern end of Lake Michigan.

Ships then turn around in Wisconsin or Illinois waters and reverse course to Canada.

Along the way, passengers stop in some big cities , some smaller towns , some quaint tourist spots and some nature attractions .

The Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto, a frequent port of call on Great Lakes cruises. TW photo by Thomas Stieghorst

The Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto, a frequent port of call on Great Lakes cruises. TW photo by Thomas Stieghorst

The cruises also pass through the locks of the Welland Canal, which bypasses Niagara Falls, to which they typically offer a day excursion.

Except for days of scenic sailing, cruising is generally done at night, with port calls and excursions during the day.

Great Lakes Grand Discovery

Great Lakes cruise ship season on hold ...

Nearly 15,000 years ago, the last of the great glaciers retreated, leaving us the five Great LakesSuperior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Together, they contain more than one fifth of the planets fresh surface water. On the M/V Victory I, delve into North Americas maritime history with a visit to all five of these natural wonders. Pay a visit to charming Mackinac Island and transit the Soo Locks into massive Lake Superior, the largest of the five lakes. Spend a fascinating morning with the Ojibwe people located within the serene Georgian Bay. Cruise for an entire day on scenic Lake Huron, home to more than 30,000 islands. Tour Detroits Henry Ford Museum and enjoy a thrilling visit to spectacular Niagara Falls

*Specials valid on new, paid-in-full bookings Not valid on group bookings or existing reservations.

Chicago to Montreal
Chicago to Montreal

Ocean view suite boasting sweeping views, interior and exterior entrances, a private terrace, one queen bed and one sofa bed, sitting area, armoire and chest of drawers, complimentary minibar , in-room safe, evening canapés, complimentary laundry service & fresh fruit daily

Ocean view stateroom, queen bed, armoire, chest of drawers.

+ Port Taxes + $559

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Lake Huron: Sand Dunes And Relaxation

Lake Huron is known for its sand dunes, wildlife and islands. Its extensive shoreline is rocky and the lake is home to over 30,000 islands. The Harrisville area may have a great stretch of sand beaches in the Michigan area , but St. Ignace serves as an ideal spot for a picnic or walk it has great views of Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge. Bruce Peninsula National Park in Canada, on the Georgian Bay shoreline, is also a popular destination with a grotto visitors enjoy.

It’s the second largest Great Lake and the fourth largest lake in the world. The Strait of Mackinac connects Lake Huron with Lake Michigan.

The most common area that Great Lakes Cruises stop in on Lake Huron is Mackinac Island.

Great Lakes Cruise Itineraries


Cruise Itinerary Name
11 Day CruiseItineraryMontreal, QC, Quebec City, QC, St. Lawrence, Thousand Islands, Toronto, ON, Niagara Falls , ON, Cleveland, OH, Detroit, MI 2022 Starting at USD $4,499.00 Per Person2023


Cruise Itinerary Name


Cruise Itinerary Name


are not included

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Lake Superior: Outdoor Activities

Lake Superior is the coldest and clearest of all the five lakes. This is perhaps because of its somewhat remote location in the north. It is known for its iconic rock formations, gorgeous agate gemstones and shipwrecks. Lake Superior shines like a beacon for outdoor explorers and nature buffs.

One of the biggest assets of Lake Superior is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Its multi-colored sandstone cliffs and formations attract nature-lovers on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The best way to enjoy the beauty of the towering rocks is by staring at them from the waterline. You can either kayak or take a Minising Bay lake cruise, departing several times a day.

Cities on Lake Superior cruise ships often visit include Duluth, Minnestora, and Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Best Time For Great Lakes Cruises

Viking to cruise Great Lakes beginning in 2022

The Great Lakes cruise season is a relatively short one, running from late May through mid-September. Beyond these months, the lakes freeze over, and most ports are covered in snow.

Generally, the best time to cruise is from July on, when the days are warmer and sunnier. Leaf-peepers may catch fall colors in late August or early September, especially in the most northern areas. Be prepared for thunderstorms at any time, and high winds have been known to delay departures from Chicago .

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Cleveland & Saginaw Transportation Co

Headquartered in East Saginaw this line offered transport of passengers and freight from Bay City/ Saginaw to Goodrich Ontario, Sand Beach, Port Hope, Grindstone City, Port Austin, Caseville, East Tawas, Tawas City, and Alabaster. The firm offered Great Lakes ship travel with modern ships with upper deck sleeper cabins.

Cleveland & Saginaw Transportation Ships

Great Lakes Cruise Ships Release 2021 Itineraries Including 20 Stops In Muskegon

MUSKEGON, Mich The summer of 2021 was going to be a record year for Muskegon’s port, with nearly 50 stops from cruise ships touring the Great Lakes.

That was pre-COVID-19, when the number of passengers cruising on the Great Lakes from Toronto to Chicago was showing steady year-over-year growth.

In 2020 all of the planned stops to Muskegon County’s cruise ship dock at Heritage Landing in downtown Muskegon were canceled. This summer, economic and tourism leaders are hoping for 20 visits now that the cruise ship operators have released their 2021 itineraries.

“We understand anything can happen,” said Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Larsen. “The plan right now is for the ships to start later in the season because by then most people will be vaccinated.”

Visit Muskegon is planning for the first cruise ship of 2021 to be the Pearl Mist on June 8. The Victory I, Victory II, and Le Champlain have also requested moorings at the cruise ship dock. The Le Champlain is scheduled to be the last ship of the season on Oct. 14.

“As of right now we have 20 reservations from cruise ships. They’re very prepared to take care of their passengers safely however they’ll have to get into the Great Lakes and that’s still questionable.”

Larsen worries about the impact of lingering travel restrictions in U.S. or Canada as June approaches, as well as the impact those restrictions could have on the 2021 Great Lakes cruise ship season.

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What Each Great Lake Has To Offer

Each Great Lake has its own strength that may impact your choice of which one to visit. Overall, however, keep in mind that most cruises offer shore excursions.

The Great Lakes are truly incredible. They serve as much more than simply bodies of water, providing millions of people with water to drink and nature to explore.

Great Lakes Cruise Port Highlights

More Options for the Best Great Lakes Cruises in Summer ...

Chicago, Illinois: Whether you stroll along the Lake Michigan waterfront, wonder at the paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago or shop ’til you drop in the Magnificent Mile’s upscale stores, Chicago offers plenty of reasons to stay a few days pre- or post-cruise. Don’t miss taking a sightseeing boat along the Chicago River for an eye-opening architectural tour. Navy Pier, where your cruise ship comes in, has a Ferris wheel, gardens, cafes and shops.

Holland, Michigan: Settled by Dutch immigrants in the mid-1800s, Holland happily shows off its roots with thousands of tulips. Windmill Island Gardens boasts an authentic working Dutch windmill, dikes and canals. Costumed guides demonstrate traditional crafts, including making wooden clogs, at Nelis’ Dutch Village.

Mackinac Island, Michigan: Step back in time to the Victorian era. Cars are banned from the island, so you tour in horse-drawn carriages . Two must-sees are the beautifully preserved 1700s Fort Mackinac and the opulent Grand Hotel. Built of lumber in 1887 for the summer resort crowd, it boasts the world’s longest hotel porch. The renowned luncheon buffet overlooking Lake Huron is grand indeed.

Manitoulin Island, Ontario: You dock at Little Current, a charming community known for delicious ice cream and set on the world’s largest freshwater island. Attend a pow-wow and colorful dance show performed by the native Ojibwe tribe. Learn about their customs and art at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation.

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