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3 Day Great Lakes Cruise

When Do Cruises Go To The Great Lakes

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The Great Lakes cruise season is a short one, due mostly to the weather. With winters being cold and snowy in the region, cruise lines stick to the warmer months of May to September for Great Lakes sailings.

The weather isn’t the only limiting factor. The cruise season in the Great Lakes is also limited in its length by the opening and closing of the St. Lawrence Seaway the system of locks, canals and channels that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Cruise vessels that operate in the Great Lakes can’t access the region until the locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway open for the summer, something that typically happens the last week of March. They need to be out of the Great Lakes before the St. Lawrence Seaway closes for the winter .

Great Lakes cruise weather can be chilly at the start of the season, with low temperatures in the 40s in May in some areas and highs in the 60s. It warms up considerably by July and August, with high temperatures in the 70s and 80s.

When you want to go will depend on which activities you want to do, how you feel about cool weather and the price. Cruises at the beginning of the Great Lakes cruise season in May are generally a bit less expensive than those in June, July, August and September.

Great Lakes Grand Discovery

Nearly 15,000 years ago, the last of the great glaciers retreated, leaving us the five Great LakesSuperior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Together, they contain more than one fifth of the planets fresh surface water. On the Ocean Voyager, delve into North Americas maritime history with a visit to all five of these natural wonders. Pay a visit to charming Mackinac Island and transit the Soo Locks into massive Lake Superior, the largest of the five lakes. Spend a fascinating morning with the Ojibwe people located within the serene Georgian Bay. Cruise for an entire day on scenic Lake Huron, home to more than 30,000 islands. Tour Detroits Henry Ford Museum and enjoy a thrilling visit to spectacular Niagara Falls

*Specials valid on new, paid-in-full bookings Not valid on group bookings or existing reservations.

Chicago to Montreal
Chicago to Montreal

Ocean view suite boasting sweeping views, interior and exterior entrances, a private terrace, one queen bed and one sofa bed, sitting area, armoire and chest of drawers, complimentary minibar , in-room safe, evening canapés, complimentary laundry service & fresh fruit daily

Ocean view stateroom, queen bed, armoire, chest of drawers.

+ Port Taxes

Ocean view stateroom, queen bed, armoire, chest of drawers.

+ Port Taxes

The Emerald Isle Beaver Island

The ferry between Charlevoix and Beaver Island is a tourist attraction in itself for boat lovers who line the Pine River channel to watch the 130-foot-long beauty pass under the drawbridge. The ferry makes the 32-mile, two-hour trip daily to Beaver Island. Upon arrival, book a guided tour of the island, rent a bike, or charter a boat to reach outer islands or tour the shoreline. There are two lighthouses, seven inland lakes, campgrounds, hiking trails, hotels, restaurants and shops where you can rent kayaks, bikes or cars. The history is fascinating enough to make that a focal point, especially as it involves King James Jesse Strang, an American religious leader and politician who back in the mid-1800s formed a monarchy and declared himself the island king.

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Lake Huron: Sand Dunes And Relaxation

Lake Huron is known for its sand dunes, wildlife, and islands. Its extensive shoreline is rocky and the lake is home to over 30,000 islands. The Harrisville area may have a great stretch of sandy beaches in the Michigan area , but St. Ignace serves as an ideal spot for a picnic or walk it has great views of Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge. Bruce Peninsula National Park in Canada, on the Georgian Bay shoreline, is also a popular destination with a grotto visitors enjoy.

It’s the second-largest Great Lake and the fourth largest lake in the world. The Strait of Mackinac connects Lake Huron with Lake Michigan.

The most common area that Great Lakes Cruises stop in on Lake Huron is Mackinac Island.

Best Great Lakes Itineraries

Pearl Seas Cruises

A relatively small number of ships sail in the Great Lakes during any given year. But, even so, they offer a wide range of Great Lakes itineraries. Some of the ships that operate in the region will alternate between three or even four different routes during the short summer season, giving you lots of choices.

Lengthwise, you’ll find Great Lakes voyages ranging from seven to 15 nights. Some of the sailings travel across all five of the Great Lakes. Others focus on just three or four of the interconnected bodies of water. Some of the ships also offer sailings that combine travel on one or more of the Great Lakes with a passage through the St. Lawrence Seaway. In some cases, these latter trips include travel all the way to Montreal.

The diversity in Great Lakes itineraries extends to their start and end points. A large percentage of all Great Lakes cruises begin or end in Chicago, Milwaukee or Toronto. But there also are Great Lakes sailings that begin or end in Thunder Bay, Ontario Duluth, Minnesota Montreal and Detroit.

In most cases, Great Lakes sailings are one-way trips. You’ll start in, say, Toronto, and work your way west to Chicago or vice versa. But one line, American Queen Voyages, offers round-trip sailings from Chicago, in addition to multiple one-way itineraries. American Queen Voyages is, notably, the only cruise line that currently has the authority to begin and end voyages in downtown Chicago, with its ships operating from the city’s Navy Pier.

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Great Lakes Cruises That Will Inspire You To Explore North America

Five inland lakes make up the Great Lakes in North America, and one of the best ways to explore them is by signing up for Great Lakes Cruises. The lakes include Lake Superior, Michigan, Erie, Huron, and Ontario. They stretch across eight U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario, spanning over 745 miles. Together they supply an astonishing 20% of the freshwater of Earth, apart from providing a host of other uses like transportation and recreation.

The Great Lakes are truly beautiful and majestic. When considered as one vast body of water, the surface of the Great Lakes accounts for the largest body of fresh water on Earth. And cruises on the Great Lakes have extraordinary routes and stops on their journey.

What better way to explore the iconic cities, sites, and passageways of these legendary waters than with a scenic cruise? A thrilling expedition will not only uncover some enticing destinations along the five historic lakes but will aptly showcase the breathtaking splendors of its coastline and its spectacular wildlife.

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  • Lake Ontario: History Lovers
  • 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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    Day 1depart Home City/toronto Canada / Embark The Ship / Lake Ontario / Welland Canal

    Arrive in Toronto and cruise through eight locks of the Welland Canal, one of North Americas most important economic lifelines. Constructed in the early 19th century, the canal links Lake Ontario to Lake Erie and was instrumental in opening the Great Lakes to commerce and prosperity the canal carries nearly 40 million tons of cargo per year. Enjoy a Captains Welcome Reception this evening.

    Best Time For Great Lakes Cruises

    Thanksgiving Road Trip 2022-Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum-Day 3

    The Great Lakes cruise season is a relatively short one, running from late May through mid-September. Beyond these months, the lakes freeze over, and most ports are covered in snow.

    Generally, the best time to cruise is from July on, when the days are warmer and sunnier. Leaf-peepers may catch fall colors in late August or early September, especially in the most northern areas. Be prepared for thunderstorms at any time, and high winds have been known to delay departures from Chicago .

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    Traverse Tall Ship Company Traverse City

    You’ll ready, haul and heave away then watch the 300 feet of canvas catch the wind in Grand Traverse Bay when you book one of the largest ships sailing the Great Lakes. Day sales feature ice cream or the chance to catch the setting sun and bay’s fading light. On all, you’ll learn what life was like in the 19th century by living it. There’s even the chance to sleep on board through the regular Bed and Breakfast sails or themed windjammer cruises on which you can pick the theme from among wine, the night sky and more, but not the direction. The wind dictates whether the schooner will visit Omena Bay, Charlevoix, Beaver Island or several other options.

    Great Lakes Cruise Tips

    Prepare for lots of “sea” days. The long distances covered mean lots of time spent cruising. Bring a book or deck of cards. If you bring your laptop or iPad, be prepared for long periods without connections. Wi-Fi, when it’s available, is usually slow. Cell phone service generally works well, but be aware of your location — U.S. vs. Canada — and roaming fees.

    Beware of engine noise. Long distances between ports also mean cruising at night. Choose you cabin carefully if engine noise keeps you awake. On small ships, forward cabins tend to be quieter.

    Pack smart. What should you pack? Passports are required as you’ll be entering Canada. Flip-flops or sandals come in handy for the Niagara Falls boat tour. Yes, you can get seasick on the lakes. Bring your patches or pills in case of rough water.

    Consider a pre- or post-cruise stay. Most Great Lakes cruises travel one way. Think about spending time before or after your cruise in Chicago, Toronto or Montreal. You won’t have time to visit these great cities if you don’t book some hotel time. Check with your cruise line for package deals.

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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 worth traveling to.

    Generally speaking, any cruise that sails within Michigan, 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 only one of the Great Lakes, that lake is most typically Lake Ontario, with a cruise starting or ending here, then sailing past the Thousand Islands in Canada, and onto the St. Lawrence River.

    Great Lakes Cruise Highlights

    2022 &  2023 Victory Cruise Lines

    Visit the 5 Great LakesThe Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth and on a Great Lakes cruise you can explore their natural beauty. Created by receding glaciers and interconnected, the five great lakes can be visited on a variety of 7 to 14 day cruises with ease and comfort.

    Great Cities & TownsSome of the highlights of a Great Lakes cruise includes stops in Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, Duluth, Cleveland, and Montreal. Smaller towns such as Mackinac Island, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste.Marie, Georgian Bay can also be explored.

    Niagara FallsKnown for its jaw-dropping scenic beauty, thundering roars and shimmering rainbows, Niagara Falls has captivated millions of visitors. The raw power of six million cubic feet of water rushing over the Falls every minute of the day, is a genuine wonder of the world that can be experienced on a great Lakes cruise.

    Fall FoliageThe fall foliage is one of the highlights of a Great Lakes cruise when colors of autumn explode with vibrant colors. The best time to enjoy the fall colors in the Upper Peninsula is mid-September to mid-October, with the peaks in October.

    Special Cruise Offers

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    Day 6soo Locks / Lake Superior / Sault Ste Marie Michigan Us

    This morning, transit the Soo Locks from Lake Superior to Lake Huron and back. Arrive in Sault Ste. Marie and explore the SS Valley Camp, a retired lake freighter that is now a museum featuring exhibits of faithfully restored living quarters and the tragic loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Continue to the Soo Locks Interpretation Center and watch colossal freighters lower 21 feet from Lake Superior to enter Lake Huron. This evening, cruise Lake Huron.

    Why Is The Price Of Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive

    We can’t tell you exactly why the cruises on the Great Lakes usually cost a bit more than say a Danube River cruise, which you’d have to travel to Europe for yet could still cost less than a Great Lakes Cruise.

    But a few contributing factors may be the following:

    • Ships that are flagged as United States ships have a higher cost to build them in the United States and staff them with American crew, which costs a bit more than European crew members abroad.
    • There’s less competition in the United States, with less cruise lines sailing North American waters . Less supply but solid demand and interest drives the cost up.
    • Tours and excursions in the United States and Canada may cost more and that cost is charged back to the guests, within the price of the cruise.

    As with any cruise, you have to investigate what you’re getting for the cost. You may get sticker shock from an $8,000 cruise but then realize it’s 12 days. The more days, the more the price increases. Compare that with $4,600 for a 7-day river cruise, for example, and you realize it’s a similar per-day investment.

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    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 Michigan’s 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, Minnesota, and Thunder Bay, Ontario.

    Best Great Lakes Cruise Lines

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    Most of the world’s biggest cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line can’t operate in the Great Lakes because their ships are too big to enter the region through the St. Lawrence Seaway. This has turned the Great Lakes into an exclusive zone for a handful of smaller cruise operators that focus on very small vessels.

    The three main players in Great Lakes cruising are Viking , Pearl Seas Cruises and America Queen Voyages. The first two lines each have one vessel devoted to the region . The latter line has two Great Lakes vessels: Ocean Navigator and Ocean Voyager.

    All three of these lines cater to a generally older crowd, which is the main market for Great Lakes cruises. Viking’s itineraries have the most outdoorsy options mixed into its itineraries. Pearl Seas Cruises offers trips with a lot of small-town stops. American Queen Voyages weaves in more bigger city stops.

    Two more lines that occasionally operate sailings in the region are German line Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and France-based Ponant. Tour organizer Smithsonian Journeys also occasionally offers Great Lakes sailings using chartered Ponant vessels.

    All of the above lines operate ships in the Great Lakes that carry fewer than 400 passengers. Some carry as few as 202 passengers. In general, the vessels are intimate and relatively high-end, with pricing to match.

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    Lake Ontario: History Lovers

    Lake Ontario is the easternmost 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 of its neighbor, Lake Erie. 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.

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