Cruise the Great Lakes in style
By Kim Schneider

Savvy Midwestern travelers who have for years cruised the world's most exotic locales are increasingly turning to their own neighborhood, so to speak, for a luxury tour by water. A growing number live close enough to drive to their departure ports. And what they're experiencing in a growing number of Great Lakes cruises is something wholly different from the way they've traveled before to even popular tourist destinations like Holland, Sault Ste. Marie, Detroit and Mackinac Island, says Michigan-based maritime historian Frederick Stonehouse.

Secure a cabin on the elegant, traditional cruise liner Pearl Mist or the MV Victory 1 with its elegant look that replicates a coastal steamer, and you'll be treated to Stonehouse’s and others’ interpretations of life on the lakes, past and present. A Motown tribute band might follow a port outing to Detroit's Motown Museum, while a lecturer offers context to the views off luxurious decks.

“We literally follow the tracks of the old fur voyageurs, fur traders, explorers,” Stonehouse says. “You're seeing the same terrain features they would have seen, only in far more comfort. There's nothing wrong with having a good glass of wine in your hand as you're making your approach.”

For the 2017 May to October cruise season, seven vessels will sail the Great Lakes on a collective 107 voyages, making 900 stops at ports of call, says Stephen Burnett, executive director of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition (bit.ly/greatlakescruises).

“That's a significant amount, but a fraction of what we should be able to do in the future,” he said. “I've identified about 65 ships that can get through the St. Lawrence Seaway and cruise the Great Lakes.” 

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