Great Lakes Cruise Ships

Great Lakes Cruise Ship

Great Lakes Cruise Ship

Each year, more than 20 million passengers take cruise vacations — nearly 60 percent of them choosing Caribbean or Mediterranean itineraries, according to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association.

The Great Lakes region doesn’t even appear on the organization’s list of cruise options, but perhaps it should. Everything travelers love about cruises — luxury amenities, great food and memorable ports of call — can be found right here in the Midwest.

The Great Lakes Cruise Company, for example, has a fleet of three luxury cruise ships and offers itineraries ranging from one to two weeks. Now in its 16th year, it bills itself as the world’s only travel company specializing in Great Lakes cruises.

Its eight-day Magical Lake Michigan itinerary starts and ends in Chicago and includes ports of call such as Beaver Island, Mackinac Island and Wisconsin’s picturesque Door County.

Its 16-day Great American Waterways cruise starts in Chicago and ends in Warren, R.I. Along the way, the ship travels through four of the Great Lakes, as well as the Erie Canal, the Hudson River and Narragansett Bay.

And its Great Lakes and Georgian Bay cruise, which tends to sell out months in advance, travels from Toronto to Chicago — with a stop at Niagara Falls along the way.

Prices range from $1,999 to $10,500 per person, depending on the ship, the type of room selected and the length of the trip.
The Tall Ship Manitou is also based in Traverse City, Mich., but it offers a very different experience. At 114 feet, it is one of the largest traditional sailing vessels on the Great Lakes, and it can accommodate nearly 60 passengers.

The Manitou is known primarily for its day trips and overnight “floating bed and breakfast” options — with the boat secured at the pier overnight.

But each September and October, the Manitou offers a handful of longer trips, such as a three-day fall foliage tour, a four-day astronomy cruise and a four-day wine cruise. Prices range from $529 to $889 per person.

Travelers who want to spend a night on Lake Michigan — despite a limited budget — can instead book a berth on the S.S. Badger. The car ferry shuttles across Lake Michigan between Ludington, Mich., and Manitowoc, Wisc.

From June to September, passengers traveling without cars can book an overnight, round-trip “mini cruise” for $89 — plus $49 each way for an optional private stateroom. The ferry leaves Ludington at 8:30 p.m., just in time for sunset, and returns in time for sunrise.