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What Cruise Lines Cruise The Great Lakes

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Lake Erie: Fishing And Birdwatching

Great Lakes largest cruise welcomes hundreds of Germans to shore

This may be the smallest and shallowest of all the lakes but there is no shortage of natural beauty and wildlife in Lake Eerie. While all the lakes have adequate fishing, Lake Erie is the most productive, with Yellow Perch, Rainbow Trout and Walleye being some of the top species caught here.

The Crane Creek State Park, in Ohio, and adjacent Magee Marsh Wildlife Area are a paradise for birdwatchers. Viewing platforms allow enthusiasts to spot several species at this wildlife refuge.

Detroit and Cleveland are common stops along Lake Eerie during Great Lakes Cruises. Niagara Fall is between Lake Eerie and Lake Ontario, and is also popular on Great Lakes cruise itineraries.

Sailing America’s Inland Oceans

Great Lakes Cruise Company defines luxury adventure with enticing destinations, stunning scenery, and exquisitely designed maritime experiences. Aboard the fleet of ships you can expect personalized service, enriching activities, fine dining and a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. You will be immersed in the beauty of the Great Lakes, and experience the magic of the hand-picked destinations. From historic charm of Mackinac Island to breathtaking shorelines and French Canadian villages, you are sure to soak in every ounce of the fascinating local cultures and spectacular wildlife.

With many itineraries, you will find a cruise that will provide a life-changing experience. As the only travel company in the world to specialize in Great Lakes cruises, we offer unforgettable adventures on these legendary waters. Our team of experts is ready to plan your trip at a pace that suits your taste and needs.

Fly Over Georgian Bay By Helicopter Canada

You might think that you’re in the Mediterranean, but the coniferous forest edging the cliffs that fall into turquoise waters remind you that you’re in Canada. On the northeast branch of Lake Huron, Georgian Bay has the clearest waters of the Great Lakes. To admire these incredible landscapes, nothing is better than a helicopter tour. Isolated creeks with sheer drops, lush vegetation clothed with golden tones in autumn… the scenery is exceptional!

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Lake Ontario: History Lovers

Lake Ontario is the eastern most of the Great Lakes and attracts about 13 million visitors a year. It is the smallest on a map, but its water runs so deep it holds four times the volume than its neighbor, Lake Eerie. Historically, it has been used as a trading hub for centuries. Also, several Native American communities, including the Huron and Iroquois, still call the area home their history is displayed in many of the local museums.

Toronto is on Lake Ontario, as is the Thousand Islands, both popular places of interest on Great Lakes Cruise itineraries. Cruise ships often sail from Lake Ontario to the St. Lawrence River towards Quebec, or vice versa.

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post, which means we may earn a small commission if you click the link and proceed with a purchase, at no cost to you. We only recommend products and services we personally use.

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Horse Riding In Honora Bay Canada

Great Lakes cruise ship season on hold ...

At the north of Georgian Bay, in Honora Bay, Manitoulin Island is a real delight with its tree-filled landscapes, waterfalls, calm waters and houses edging the lake. Choosing to roam through this landscape on horseback is about getting off the beaten track, through forests, fields and over hills, meandering along the Niagara, with a stunning view over the La Cloche Mountains. It’s also the opportunity to see white-tailed deer, foxes, hares and even bald eagles.

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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.

A Marvel Of Engineering Two Centuries In The Making

Comprising eight locks that enable ship traffic to travel between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario by bypassing the Niagara River and Niagara Falls, the Welland Canal is a 200-year engineering marvel that actually represents four successive canals. Originally designed and built in the 1820s, a second canal replaced it in the late 1840s, and a third opened in 1887. The construction on the fourth and current Welland Canal which your ship on “Cruising the Great Lakes” will traverse in about 11 hours, accompanied by an expert guide began before World War I was not completed until 1932 and expanded some 40 years later.

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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.

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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Experiencing The Thunder Of Niagara Falls On The Us

North America’s most powerful waterfall and one of its most famous and often-visited natural treasures Niagara Falls actually comprises three distinctive waterfalls on the Niagara River, perched on the border of Ontario, Canada and New York. Every minute, some six million cubic feet of water plunges over the crests of the Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil Falls and tumbles down nearly 200 feet into the rocky gorge below into a thundering cauldron of water and mist. Experiencing the raw power of Niagara Falls firsthand is something you’ll never forget… and just what you’ll do as you first view the falls from a panoramic spot high above… then don a hooded raincoat and board a private boat for an up-close and very wet encounter with this iconic “wonder of the natural world.”Journey to Niagara Falls today, three distinctive waterfalls perched on the border of Ontario, Canada and New York. View the falls from high above as the water plunges, thenas you board the Maid of the Mist for

The Next Cruising Hot Spot Is Closer Than You Think: Get Ready For More Ships On The Great Lakes

When it comes to hot new cruise destinations, the Great Lakes are living up to their name.

This veritable freshwater ocean boasting 11,000 miles of shoreline, including islands is attracting a lot of attention lately from cruise ship companies wanting alternatives for passengers who may be tired of pingponging around the Caribbean or who loathe to make a long flight across the ocean for a European voyage.

Great Lakes cruise operators are bulking up their brochures with additional trips this season, and lines that bailed on the area years ago are headed back. Industry experts expect companies that have never plied Great Lakes waters to come on board in the near future.

Im extremely excited about whats happening, said Dave Lorenz, chair of Cruise the Great Lakes, a new international partnership aimed at bringing more cruise passengers to the region. The initiative was announced last summer on Michigans Mackinac Island, a popular port of call on Great Lakes itineraries.

The best thing about it is that these are not 4,000-passenger ships that destroy the experience for people who live there, said Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, the states tourism arm. You look at places like Venice or Barcelona, and theyre actively fighting to keep out the huge cruise ships. In our case, youre talking a couple hundred people per ship. They get to see this is a pretty stunningly beautiful area, and it opens the door for them to come back later on.

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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.

Chicago To New York City Great Lakes Cruise

Victory Cruise Lines cancels all Great Lakes sailings for ...

Our Great American Waterways: Chicago to NYC trip is a case in point. Onboard the Grand Caribe, which was refurbished in 2009 and carries 84 passengers, youll have a grand time cruising across several great lakes. Starting in the Windy City, youll traverse Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. Youll even get a taste of life on the famous Erie Canal and the Hudson River as you wind your way toward the Atlantic Ocean.

This cruise takes its time: 16 days and 15 nights, to be exact. With scenery that rivals any in North America, youll see vast cityscapes and picturesque villages in abundance.

Stops include Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Mackinac Island, Michigan, where horse-drawn carriages are likely the only traffic youll see, and Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The itinerary also includes Buffalo, New York, Rochester, New York, and finally New York City. We promise youll be a changed person once you disembark in the Big Apple. Seeing the country from a USA River Cruise is a special kind of experience, after all.

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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

Multi-Section Ship

Lake Ontario

The opinions expressed herein are the authors and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.


Cross The Welland Canal And The Port Colborne Lock

Less well-known than Panama, Suez and Corinth Canals, the Welland Canal is no less than a jewel of engineering. 42-km long and punctuated by eight locks, it links Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Sailing down this canal takes an even more impressive turn at Port Colborne where there is one of the longest locks in the world at 420 metres.

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Top At Flowerpot Island Canada

Among the 30,000 islands making up Georgian Bay, Flowerpot Island is certainly one of the most extraordinary. It is part of the Fathom Five National Marine Park. The island gets its name and its reputation from two rock formations in the shape of a flower pot that stand over the crystal clear waters. However, people come here more for hiking trails leading to the lighthouse, allowing them to discover rare flora, and for swimming. The water is cold, the bed rocky and steep.

Great Lakes Cruise Port Highlights

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

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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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.

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 Michigans 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.

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