When most cruise travelers think of an expedition sailing, they think of far distant, highly exotic destinations like Antarctica or the Galapagos. One closer-to-home expedition destination is gaining more popularity, however, and providing cruisers with unique opportunities to explore history, culture, and nature – all around the Great Lakes.
Expedition Cruises Making Waves in the Great Lakes
While expedition cruises traditionally visit the most remote, pristine, preserved destinations on earth, the Great Lakes is an increasingly popular option for these in-depth sailings. A new video released by The Great Lakes Cruise Association (GLCA) showcases all the region has to offer, including vibrant cities, relaxed lakeside villages, stunning natural beauty, and diverse cultures.
From Montreal and Toronto to Cornwall, Kingston, Windsor, Little Current, Killarney, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, and more, Great Lakes cruises offer a range of ports of call that can explore history, arts, architecture, native cultures, wine country, and many other enriching and engaging experiences.
Along the way, stunning natural beauty such as Niagara Falls, the Northshore Inside Passage of Lake Superior, and the largest freshwater island in the world, Manitoulin Island.
“This enormous eco-region hosts a variety of aquatic, wetland, forest and dune habitats,” said Stephen Burnett, executive director of The Great Lakes Cruise Association. “We invite cruise operators and their guests to explore the stunning, biodiverse Great Lakes region during an unforgettable journey aboard their expedition cruise ships.”
In addition, guests sailing through the Great Lakes region will also experience such unique nautical experiences as crossing through amazing locks and canals as well as passing beneath the stunning Mackinac Bridge connecting the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere, depending on the cruise itinerary and route.
About the Great Lakes
Accessed via the Saint Lawrence Seaway from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the north Atlantic Ocean, the Great Lakes includes lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, Superior, and Michigan, as well as the rivers, canals, and locks that interconnect what is the largest group of freshwater lakes on earth. Together, the lakes hold 21% of the planet’s surface fresh water, and create a vital shipping zone.
Because of their size, the Great Lakes are often subject to weather conditions similar to oceanic cruises, including rolling waves and strong winds. Their vastness gives these lakes extensive horizons and amazing views, with spectacular sunrises and sunsets to greet travelers.
Many cruises stay primarily on the eastern and northern portions of the Great Lakes region, often bypassing Lake Michigan, though that western lake provides even more amazing destinations such as Green Bay, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois.
Cruises to the Great Lakes
A variety of expedition and river cruise lines offer itineraries featuring the Great Lakes. Hapag Lloyd, Ponant Cruises, Plantours, Windstar, Silversea, and Viking are some of the most well known lines with a variety of sailing options, but other cruise operators are showing increased interest in this underserved region.
Pearl Seas Cruises, USA River Cruises, and American Queen Voyages all operate in the Great Lakes.
Interested travelers should carefully investigate which cruise line will best meet their expectations in the Great Lakes. Expedition ships are typically smaller and more intimate than typical ocean cruise ships, and while the ships can be quite luxurious and offer excellent service, their smaller size means fewer onboard spaces and options.
Most staterooms on expedition ships will offer superior views so guests do not miss any scenic vistas, and lounge areas also feature unparalleled views. The onboard experience is also likely to feature enrichment opportunities such as guest lecturers, naturalists, and local entertainers, truly giving guests an immersive getaway to connect to each region they explore.
Autumn cruises are especially popular in the region, when spectacular fall foliage creates even more amazing views along the Great Lakes’ coastlines.