September 26, 2023
Great Lakes Cruising

More Options for the Best Great Lakes Cruises in Summer 2020

Ed Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic many cruise lines have cancelled or curtailed their Great Lakes Cruises schedules and services. Check with the cruise company for latest updates. For many years the only way to cruise the Great Lakes was to have your own boat or tag along aboard a Laker Freighter. Now you can cruise along the Great Lakes in comfort without unloading tons of iron ore at the end of your excursion. 

Great Lakes Cruising
Victory I – Courtesy of Victory Cruises

Several cruise lines will be sailing the Great Lakes in the summer of 2020 with a smorisgborg of region-wide itineraries. The popularity of river cruising in Europe has focused new attention on the inland freshwater sea of the Great Lakes. Travelers can select from travel that includes north shore of Lake Superior all through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway and ending in the Canadian Maritimes or New England.

These excursions where typically reserved only for those with their own yachts or sailboats. Now the famous cruising grounds of the North Channel, Apostle Islands, Mackinac, Manitou and Georgian Bay are all accessible with these specially designed smaller cruise ships.

Victory Cruise Line On the Great Lakes

The Victory cruise line has two nearly identical 105-stateroom  ships, Victory I and Victory II. They will begin the second season of sailing adventures along with the highlighted larger ports of the Great Lakes. These two ships are considered ocean-going coastal vessels with a draft and waterline that makes them ideal craft for exploring destinations larger vessels cannot reach on the ports along the Great Lakes.

Multiple Great Lakes Cruising Itineraries Available

Great Lakes Cruising
Victory II – Courtesy of Victory Cruises

Cruising the Great Lakes over 10 days offers travelers a unique opportunity to see the best of the lakes.  The cruise is one way with stops in all the major Great Lakes ports. Here are select 2020 sailings (subject to change)

Chicago to Toronto Great Lakes Cruise

Great Lakes Cruising
The Grand Hotel from the Straits of Mackinac

This 11-day excursion starts from the largest city on the Great Lakes; Chicago. Then treks north on Lake Michigan and stops at the historic and picturesque Mackinac Island. Here you can step back in time before there were cars and enjoy catching a cool lake breeze at the Grand Hotel. For a small fee, you can wander the hotel and find a rocking chair on one of the world’s longest porch.

Great Lakes Cruising
Guardian Building Lobby Detroit

The ship sets sail for a short jaunt north to the Canadian side of Sault Saint Marie. The site of the famous Soo locks leading to Lake Superior.  Then turns south into Lake Huron to one of the largest islands in the Great Lakes, Little Current on with its large native population and cultural home of the Ojibwe.  The ship continues south to the motor city of Detroit then Cleveland before stopping at the spender of Niagara Falls and finishing in the youthful and vibrant Toronto.

Lake Superior, Northern Great Lakes & The Georgian Bay Archipelagos

This cruise offers a rare opportunity to explore beautiful Lake Superior starting in Thunder Bay Canada.  Head south and hope to catch a glimpse of one of the huge Laker Freighters coming into Duluth

Then it’s off to the Keweenaw Peninsula where you can visit the college town of Houghton and the birthplace of NHL hockey. Experience is a true Yooper for the day at Marquette where wilderness adventure is only minutes away from a vibrant downtown.  Then pass through the famous Soo Locks in Sault Saint Marie before heading to historic and picturesque Mackinac Island, home of the Grand Hotel and set of the movie Somewhere in Time.

Finish your adventure with a visit to Little Current on one of the largest islands in the Great Lakes before a final port of call in the motor city of Detroit.

French Canada and Great Lakes

Great Lakes Cruising
Habitat 67 in Montreal

Travel back in time to the site of some of the most critical conflicts the young United States had during the war of 1812. Starting in Detroit, you will glide down the Detroit River with Canada on your port side and amazingly to your south. Crossing Lake Erie to the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Cleveland. Then it’s off to the roaring Niagara Falls and through the Wellington Canal. On the other side of the falls is the metropolis of Toronto or “Tee-Oh” as the locals call it. Then you will make your way north to Kingston then on to the French-speaking ports of Montreal and witness the impressive old walled Quebec City.

Canadian Fall Foliage

Port of Halifax
Historic Port of Halifax

This is a one-way repositioning cruise. Starting from Canada’s largest city of Toronto, across Lake Ontario, entering the St. Lawrence Seaway to visit historic Quebec towns of  Montréal and Québec City. Then out to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. This tour from the Great Lakes to New England will give a colorful view of at the height of the fall season.

French Canadian Great Lakes, Nova Scotia & New England

Quebec City Notre Dame
Quebec City Notre Dame

Starting in the port city of Montreal, you glide up the St. Lawrence Seaway to majestic overlooks of Quebec City. Your adventure continues up the St. Lawrence River to Tadoussac, and Charlottetown PEI. Next is a port call at historic Halifax, a major port town in two world wars. Your adventure concludes with final stops in Portland and Boston.

St. Lawrence Seaway & Jewels of French Canada

Port of Sydney, Nova Scotia
Sydney, Nova Scotia

Enjoy the best of the borderlands between Canada and the USA. Start in the Ontario metropolis of Toronto. Test your French in two of the most European cities in North America, the Canadian ports of Montreal and Quebec. Finishing in the charming maritime towns of eastern Canada and Maine.

Victory I & II Specifically Designed for Great Lakes Cruising

Great Lakes Cruises
Victory I – Courtesy of Victory Cruises

The sister’s vessels were designed for the Great Lakes cruise ship service. The prior owner of the ships was the Haimark Line. “Operating a ship that is constructed for the Great Lakes will give our guests the experience of ports and destinations that can only be enjoyed by small cruise ship”. These itineraries are for discerning travelers who care about the distinctive aspects of unique ports we visit.

Blount Small Ship Adventures

Grand mariner
Grand Mariner- Courtesy of Blount Small Ship Adventures

The Great American Waterways tours offers 16 days from Chicago to New York via four of the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal. For Great Lakes cruising, the unique access to the Erie Canal gives one of a kind views of the natural landscape as you navigate through the man-made locks. The Erie Canal offered settlers a way to jumpstart their trip to the west and the upper Great Lakes. Being able to cruise through this historic wonder is a treat. The trip goes past West Point and down the Hudson river before ending in one of the largest ports in the United States; New York City, with the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Battery Park and the New York skyline.

Cruise Lines Competing in the Great Lakes

There are several cruise line operators plying the Great Lakes Cruising 2020 season. Besides Victory Cruise Lines and Blount Small Ship Adventures, there is also Pearl Seas Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. Each of these operators has made improvements to their fleet or expanded its itinerary. The Ponant Cruises is a French luxury line is coming back to the region. Ponant has a 10 day Québec – Milwaukee run in September.

Ed Note: ThumbWind has no affiliation with any cruise lines mentioned in this article, nor have we taken any advertising.

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Michael Hardy

Mike Hardy is the owner of Thumbwind Publications LLC. It started in 2009 as a fun-loving site covering Michigan's Upper Thumb. Since then, he has authored a vast range of content and established a loyal base of 60,000 visitors per month.

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