Tag Archives: Great Lakes

A group of five freshwater lakes of central North America between the United States and Canada, including Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. The Great Lakes connect Midwestern ports with the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Great Lakes Cruising in Summer 2019

Great Lakes Cruising Now the Trend

Great Lakes Cruising
Victory I – Courtesy of Victory Cruises

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.  The many cruise lines  will be sailing the Great Lakes the summer of 2019 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. 

Victory Cruise Line Establishes Itself 

The Victory cruise line has two nearly identical 105-stateroom  ships, Victory I and Victory II. They will begin a second season of sailing adventures along 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 highlights of 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 the 2019 sailings (subject to change) 

Great Lakes Grand Discovery (3 sailings)

Great Lakes Cruising
The Grand Hotel from the Straits of Mackinac

This 10-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 wonder the hotel and rock 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 ( One Sailing)

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 youthful college town of Houghton and the birthplace of NHL hockey.  Experience being 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 (3 Sailings)

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 to 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 (One Sailing)

Great Lakes Crusing
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 seasonal tour from the Great Lakes to New England will give you a colorful view of this region at the height of the fall season.

French Canadian Great Lakes, Nova Scotia & New England (Three Sailings)

Great Lakes Crusing
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, Charlottetown PEI, with port call at historic Halifax who took a roll as 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 (3 Sailings)

Great Lakes Cruising
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 Designed for Great Lakes Cruising

Great Lakes Cruising
Victory I – Courtesy of Victory Cruises

The sister ships were designed for Great Lakes service. The prior owner of the ships was the Haimark Line. They noted that: “operating a ship that was specially constructed for the Great Lakes, Saint Lawrence Seaway and coastal New England along with a more ‘esoteric’ Central and South America cruise program 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.” 

Related Stories on Great Lakes Cruising

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

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History of Great Lakes Cruising

Cruise Lines are Back on the Great Lakes

I’ll admit that I’ve taken a liking to cruise. It must be the influence of having a sailboat that we have taken from port to port on Lake Huron.  Great Lakes Cruising is making a comeback. Recently several cruise ships have announced routes and stops throughout the Great Lakes region. Currently, there are three cruise lines that cover the Great Lakes. Victory Cruise Lines, Great Lakes Cruise Company and Blount Small Ship Adventures. The Great Lakes Cruise Company has four ships that cover a wide range of ports and destinations. One ship, the Pearl Mist is small enough to tackle the famous cruising grounds of Georgian Bay and the beautiful North Channel. 

Great Lakes Crusing

Cruising was the Primary Way to Travel in the 1800’s

In the days before the highway and autos, the only way to travel the vast distances for the Great Lakes was by sail and steamer. In the mid-1800’s until well into the 1950’s one could travel most of the lakes in style and comfort. One of the most famous and beloved ships was the SS South American. The SS South American was a Great Lakes overnight passage steamboat built by the Great Lakes Engineering Works at Ecorse, Michigan. It was built in 1913 for the Chicago, Duluth & Georgian Bay Transit Company. The vessel was launched on February 21, 1914, and was the newer of two sister ships, the older one being the SS North American. 

Great Lakes Cruising

Along with its sister ship, SS North American carried passengers between Chicago, Mackinac Island, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Duluth, Georgian Bay, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo. These were the heydays of the industry. A businessman could board a ship in Chicago for an overnight trip to northern Michigan. Spend the weekend with the family in the cool northern cabin in the woods and take the ship back to the city on Sunday night for work on Monday. It was noted that Hemingway’s father did just that early in the 1900’s. 

Great Lakes Cruising

Only the South American visited Lake Superior and made a short weekly stop in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula town of Houghton/Hancock. She carried over 450 passengers. The rare picture below hangs in the Rock Harbor Lodge on Isle Royal. It shows tourists being dropped off at the American Dock which still stands today. 

Great Lakes Crusing

The South American was well known for its High School trips in the 1950’s. Southeast Michigan high school seniors would take a small cruise from Detroit to Chicago. The last season for the South American was in 1967. Her final route was to offer trips to the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal. 

Great Lakes Cruising

Sadly, both ships are now part of history. The SS North American sunk on the Atlantic coast while being towed and the SS South American rotted away and was finally scrapped in 1992. However, with the rapid popularity of cruising now taking place, I expect to see more of these small cruising ships ply their way among the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes Cruising

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Great Lakes Cruise Ships

Cruising the Great Lakes in 2019

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