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.

Federal officials continue feedback sessions on Asian Carp

TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan — The federal government could more quickly implement a plan to keep the Great Lakes free of Asian carp if the region’s citizens and elected officials agreed on the best approach to take, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official said Thursday.

The Corps has been accused of dragging its feet since releasing a report this month listing eight options for preventing the voracious carp and other invasive species from moving between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River watershed through Chicago-area rivers and canals. Several of the alternatives carry price tags exceeding $15 billion and would require 25 years to complete.

Dozens of speakers, from U.S. senators to sport fishermen, endorsed that approach during a public meeting in Traverse City — the fifth of nine gatherings the Corps is hosting with the White House Council on Environmental Quality to explain the report and get feedback.

Corps project manager Dave Wethington said such a massive reworking of Chicago’s waterway network would take a long time and carry a hefty price tag, requiring the construction of extensive tunnels and reservoirs to prevent flooding.

But he said the pace would be determined partly by how soon the region settles on one alternative, which would enable the Corps to do further planning while supporters seek funding from Congress and the states.

“Our organization is looking to have … at least that consensus voice on the path forward prior to studying anything further, just to ensure that there is an interest in actually moving forward,” Wethington said in an interview.

Wethington said the agency has been meeting with state officials and members of Congress in addition to conducting the public meetings to get a feel for which option could gain the most backing.

The Corps has been impressed by the overwhelming support for physical separation and quick action at all the meetings, he said, although the first one in Chicago also featured impassioned pleas not to shut down waterways used by freight barges and tour boats. Illinois and Indiana business groups and elected officials also have spoken against physical separation and closing shipping locks, although Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn acknowledged last year that separation was “the ultimate solution.”

People who spoke in Traverse City were virtually unanimous in support of complete separation.

“These fish are terrorists,” said Charles Weaver, a river fishing guide. “They don’t wear ski masks and they don’t carry AK-47s, but they have just as much potential to disrupt our society, our culture, economy. When you have terrorists on the radar, you don’t study it for 18 months and you don’t come up with 25-year plans. You take care of the problem now.”

Warren Fuller of nearby Leelanau County added, “We’re in an emergency. Inaction is going to kill us.”