Monday, Aug 15, 2022

The Hottest Destination for Cruise Travel in 2022 is Not Where You Think

Although you may not consider Duluth (Minnesota) and Chicago (or Toronto or Toronto) as hot cruise ports, they are this year. Green Bay, Wisconsin..


Although you may not consider Duluth (Minnesota) and Chicago (or Toronto or Toronto) as hot cruise ports, they are this year. Green Bay, Wisconsin hosted its first ever cruise ship visit in June. It was the American Queen Voyages' Ocean Navigator, a 202-passenger vessel.

The Ocean Navigator is just one of many vessels that sail what has quickly become a popular destination for cruising in 2022: The Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Cruise Season, which began in spring and continues into October, hosts the largest ever fleet of ships to sail the five lakes bordering the U.S. and Canada. Cruise the Great Lakes reports that nine ships will be on the lakes this year. This is a return to the sea after there were no cruises in 2020 or 2021 because of COVID-19 restrictions. According to the association, 2022 will see more passengers than in 2019.

Courtesy VikingA Viking Great Lakes Cruise itinerary.

According to Kyle Burleson (director of port operations at the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority), Detroit will see 50 cruise ship visits in 2015. The previous record was 25. The Great Lakes cruises will make 28 stops in 2022. This is a welcome boost for visitors to the American Midwest or Canada.

Torstein Hagen is the chairman of Viking. He has a 378-passenger, polar expedition ship called Viking Octantis. He has been summering in the region, and will return next year. He is so positive about the U.S.–Canada cruises, he refers to Milwaukee's embarkation port as "The Miami of the Great Lakes."

Paul Pepe, Tourism Thunder Bay manager, says that the growth in cruise shipping and the arrivals of vessels such as the Viking Octantis on Lake Superior and Ocean Navigator this year have elevated our communities and the whole Great Lakes region to reach global travel audiences and make it a top destination for tourists.

Photo by ShutterstockExploring Mackinac Island, a popular cruise stop on Lake Huron in Michigan.

Cruisers have access to wildlife, scenic landscapes, picturesque lakeside towns, as well as industrial history on the U.S. Midwest. Highlights on Canada's side include First Nations cultural experiences and more wildlife. Also, the Georgian Bay Biosphere, an Ontario biosphere, was UNESCO declared the largest freshwater archipelago in the world. Some cruise itineraries touch on all five lakes, while others include just three to four.

Viking has brought a polar-class expedition vessel to the Great Lakes. The Viking Octantis features a pair six-passenger yellow submarines. These submarines will be used to view the under-lake in Canadian waters. However, they cannot operate in American waters due the Jones Act. This maritime law prohibits foreign-flagged vessels from operating excursions craft like Zodiacs and kayaks in the U.S. Ponant, a French cruise line, is sailing the Great Lakes with luxury expedition ships equipped with underwater lounges.

Here are some cruise ships that sail the majestic Great Lakes if you are interested.

Great Lakes Cruises: The Best

Le Bellot

Ponant, a French luxury line, has its 184-passenger Le Bellot (built 2020) in the Great Lakes this autumn. It will be joined by Le Dumont d'Urville 2023. These six-deck expedition yachts offer the same international cuisine and complimentary wine pours that you would expect from French-operated vessels. They also have an outdoor swimming pool and a panoramic lounge. Blue Eye, an underwater sensory lounge with sub-marine views of Great Lakes marine life, is a cool feature. They have a sophisticated contemporary design, both formal and casual dining options, 188-seat theaters and spa areas. There is also a fleet nine Zodiacs for use in Canadian waters.

Great Lakes sailings: Seven-night cruises between Toronto, Milwaukee and New York take place in September this and October 2023. Prices starting at $5,170 Book at

Ocean Navigator, Ocean Voyager

The 202-passenger Ocean Voyager (formerly Victory1) and the sister ship Ocean Navigator, which are American Queen Voyages' Great Lakes coast ships, are American Queen Voyages’ two Great Lakes vessels. They were launched in 2016 and 2018. Notable is the fact that they are the only ships to dock at Chicago's Navy Pier. (In 2023, the only other cruise route on the Great Lakes that will visit Chicago is one hosted by Hapag-Lloyd.

The Ocean Voyager as well as the Ocean Navigator have been updated with traditional decor. The accommodation options include small, 146-square foot cabins as well as deluxe staterooms that have a shared outdoor deck. Owner's suites are 335 square feet and come with a private veranda or living area. You can enjoy unlimited open bar or use of the bikes for shoreside excursions.

The ships also have a casual buffet restaurant. Port talks and entertainment are held in the Compass Lounge. The Compass Lounge also features a small tavern and a gym. There is also an outdoor hot tub. Local musicians perform onboard, including a Motown tribute in Detroit.

Great Lakes sailings: American Queen Voyages sails 10-night, 14-night cruises between Chicago & Toronto. Prices starting at $5,000 per person Book at

Pearl Mist

Pearl Seas Cruises, sister line to American Cruise Lines, has the Great Lakes-based, intimate, 210-passenger Pearl Mist. This 15-year-old coastal cruiser is decorated in crisp, traditional decor. A big plus: All cabins come with sliding glass doors that lead to balconies.

There are lounges and a library on the ship, as well as a low-key atmosphere. This ship is a great choice for those who enjoy reading, talking, and watching the sights. You can enjoy shore experiences like kayaking, fishing, and glass-bottom boat tours.

Great Lakes sailings: The line offers 7- to 11-night cruises along four Great Lakes (Ontario Huron, Erie and Michigan). Prices starting at $5,650 per person To book:

VikingCruise Great Lakes comfort on the "Viking Octantis"

Viking Octantis

This state-of the-art, long, narrow, expedition ship was designed for Southern Hemisphere summers at Antarctica. It is now spending Northern Hemisphere Summers at the Great Lakes. The ship's design and amenities are unmatched for cruises within the region. Although it's the largest ship in Great Lakes, it is small enough to pass (by just one foot) the 27-mile Welland Canal connecting Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

Viking's Scandinavian-inspired decor and Nordic accents will be familiar to Viking fans. There are many dining options (including Manfredi’s Italian restaurant), as well as a variety of accommodations that replicate the interiors of Viking's river and ocean ships. Staterooms have windows that let in the breeze and don't have balconies.

img alt="Viking brought expedition-style cruising into the region complete with submarines." class="lazyStatic _1MwUyUNFpNtn27W7qYmqk0" data-reactroot="" data-srcset=",format&lossless=true&w=845&dpr=1 1x,,format&lossless=true&w=845&dpr=2 2x,,format&lossless=true&w=845&dpr=3 3x" loading="lazy" src=",format"/>
VikingViking brought expedition-style cruising and submarines to the region.

I was impressed by the variety of lounge spaces on the vessel's recent port tour in Milwaukee. These include a hidden speakeasy, the indoor/outdoor Nordic spa, an expansive Nordic spa, and a lecture hall with heated outdoor furniture and firepits. Another impressive feature is the onboard lab, where scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will conduct experiments and research. The 20-member expert expedition team is also onboard. The ship can carry Zodiacs, kayaks, and other equipment (for use in Canadian waters).

The Viking Polaris will be joining the Viking Octantis on the Great Lakes for 2023.

Great Lakes sailings: Viking offers a 8-day cruise between Toronto, Milwaukee and Duluth and a 15 day cruise between Toronto, Duluth and Toronto. All-inclusive rates starting at $5.995 per person. To book:

How to cruise between the U.S.A. and Canada

Your passport is required if you plan to cruise between the U.S.A. and Canada. At press time, Canada requires that cruise passengers aged 12 or older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Some cruise lines also require that passengers 5 years and over have completed ArriveCAN forms before they arrive. Precruise testing is required for all Canadian cruise passengers. This is even though international arrivals to Canada have dropped prearrival COVID testing. As requirements change, make sure you check with your cruise line. For example, some ships require booster shots for passengers.