Great Lakes Cruise Ships: Coming This Summer to a Michigan Port Near You!
Over the past few years, more and more new travelers have visited Michigan. While our beautiful state has long been a great destination for vehicle-based vacations, a new kind of tourist has started visiting in record numbers on cruise ships that travel the Great Lakes. These large vessels visit many different ports throughout the state each summer, allowing their guests to depart and check out what some of our best port cities have to offer. With another record summer expected in 2023, we thought we’d take a look at where you might see these boats, what companies run these cruises, and what attractions their guests might be checking out when they visit. Cruise ships start heading this way in June and will continue visiting until the fall.
Sault Ste. Marie – Cruise ships heading to or from Lake Superior have to transit the Soo Locks and some of them even dock to let visitors check out attractions like the museum ship Valley Camp, the Tower of History, historic Water Street, Soo Brewing, and more.
Mackinac Island – This vacation paradise has been loved by Michiganders for decades and it is frequently featured on lists of the best historic and romantic destinations in the country. This vehicle-free island has a downtown filled with shops, a historic fort, natural formations, scenic shoreline, and more.
Alpena – When ships make port in Alpena, visitors can check out the area’s plentiful lighthouses, outdoor recreation opportunities, and the NOAA Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Museum. Cruises on a smaller boat to check out shallow water shipwrecks in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and a small but vibrant downtown also offer hours of fun.
Detroit – Any cruise ships coming from the east will at least pass Detroit on their journey, taking in views of the skyline as they pass. Some boats will stop here and offer passengers to check out downtown, Motown, the Henry Ford Museum, and other attractions.
Escanaba – American Queen Voyages added Escanaba as a new port for 2023. We love the downtown area here with its shopping and dining opportunities. Museums like the Sand Point Lighthouse will help visitors learn about the area’s history as a lumber town and shipping port. Plentiful outdoor recreation opportunities can be found here as well, and we look forward to visitors getting a taste of U.P. hospitality (and maybe a fresh beer from Upper Hand Brewery)!
Houghton – After a few canceled trips, a few cruise boats visited Houghton last year and treated visitors to the rich history of Michigan’s Copper Country. Downtown’s restaurants and shops, local museums, the Quincy Mine, and more can all be added to day trips and one of the best places to view these ships when they anchor is from the Nara Nature Preserve boardwalk.
Traverse City – Another port that has seen more trips added recently is Traverse City, home to a downtown that frequently draws rave reviews for its shopping and dining options. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore can be reached in under an hour from here and the wineries found on the Leelanau and Mission Peninsulas are great highlights of what this region offers.
Muskegon – As freighter traffic in Muskegon has dipped in recent years, cruise ship traffic has continued to increase. Port stops here can include visits to downtown (where there is tons of art) or Muskegon State Park. Many museums (like the USS Silversides) and historic homes can be found here in this former lumber town, and there plenty of great options for food and drinks.
Grand Haven/Holland – Not many cruises stop in the Grand Haven and Holland area, but the ones that do will enjoy their stay. Grand Haven has an amazing downtown and the stunning Grand Haven State Park, while Holland offers a chance to look at the Dutch heritage of the area by visiting Windmill Gardens.
Fayette – It was great to see that Fayette was added to a few of this year’s cruises as it is one of our favorite historic destinations in the Upper Peninsula. This well-preserved and restored town was once home to an iron smelter and still contains 20 historic buildings. Visitors here will love learning about history and taking in all the scenic views, which include to towering limestone cliffs that surround Snail Shell Harbor.
**all cruise ships visiting from east of Detroit will have to pass by Port Huron on their journeys, and there are plenty of great viewing spots there like Vantage Point, Pine Grove Park, and Thomas Edison Park.
Viking Cruises offers a Toronto to Milwaukee trip that stops at Detroit, Alpena, and Mackinac Island as well as a Thunder Bay to Milwaukee trip that passes through Houghton, Sault Ste. Marie and stops at Mackinac Island. A new option this year is the “Great Lakes Collection, a trip with stops in Detroit, Alpena, Mackinac Island, and Sault Ste. Marie. Prices range from $6,000 to $14,000 for these trips. American Queen Voyages offers a Chicago to Niagara Falls trip that stops in Sault Ste. Marie and Mackinac Island, as well as a Montreal to Milwaukee trip that stops at Sault Ste. Marie, Mackinac Island, and Muskegon. These trips range from around $4,500 to $8,000.
Pearl Seas Cruises offer a cruise that stops in Muskegon/Holland, Mackinac Island, and Sault Ste. Marie. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises in 2023 include stops in Fayette, Sault Ste. Marie, Detroit, Mackinac Island, and more. Ponant Explorers Cruises will make port in Sault Ste. Marie and Mackinac Island. Great Lakes Cruise Company offers a stunning variety of trips with possible stops in Detroit, Mackinac Island, Sault Ste. Marie, Houghton, Muskegon, Grand Haven/Holland, Alpena, Detroit, Traverse City, and even Fayette.