Cruisin’ for a Reunion: High-End Great Lakes Cruises Return After Pandemic Break

By Isaac Constans

April 15, 2022

With special COVID-19 protocols and a sustainability pledge, cruise lines are back on the Great Lakes. If you want to go, get ready to pay a lot, and get in line.

Need to Know

  • Cruises that explore the Great Lakes haven’t set out since 2019 because of the pandemic.
  • Many Michigan towns are port cities for these cruise lines, which provide economic stimulus to local businesses.
  • If you want to go, it’s not cheap. Tickets cost thousands of dollars, and many more people are waiting for the chance to go. 

MUSKEGON, Mich.—High-end Great Lakes cruise lines are returning to the open waters for the first time since 2019, and judging from the prices, it’s safe to say they’re in high demand.

The cruise lines halted operation during COVID-19, but this summer, they’re back taking numerous jaunts along the Michigan shoreline, among neighboring Great Lakes communities, and even into Canada.

“There’s a huge pent-up demand for cruising,” David Lorenz, the vice president of Travel Michigan, told Capital News Service. “There’s a bigger pent-up demand for cruising travel than most categories of travel, and I think the reason for that is people want to be treated in a slightly different way after COVID-19.”

The cruise lines that operate on the Great Lakes aren’t the mammoths that hit the oceans; they’re comparatively smaller, with higher price points and deluxe amenities. Many cruises have been booked for months now, as people have anticipated climbing back onboard. Costs for remaining trips range from thousands to tens of thousands per person, depending on the journey.

There’s even a waitlist for wanderlust adventurers who have been cooped up onshore for too long, Lorenz said.

During the hiatus, the cruise lines spruced up their fleet. Some of the smaller new ships run using electric engines, which they can power off and recharge in port, as part of a larger sustainability pledge signed earlier this year. 

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In addition to giving Michiganders another option for exploring the Great Lakes, the cruise lines are an economic driver for local towns. 

Muskegon, a beach city whose harbor flows into Lake Michigan, was scheduled for 35 cruise stops in 2020 before the pandemic hit—a sharp uptick from when it got its first and only cruiseload of visitors in 2015. But because of the pandemic, the city has been without that source of income for several years.

Now in 2022, the tourists and their patronage will be back. Often, the chefs on board even stop by the local grocery or farmers’ market to resupply, said Bob Lukens, the community development director for Muskegon County, to Capital News Service.

“Every time they come to port here they like to stock up,” Lukens said. “They will go to some of our local stores to purchase food, vegetables, fruits and beverages. On occasion, some of the chefs have gone to our farmers’ market when the market is open and the ship is in port.” 

Port cities in Michigan are Detroit, Alpena, Mackinac Island, Sault Ste. Marie, Marquette and Muskegon, according to Lorenz. The cruises also stop in Canada, Ohio, and Wisconsin, among other locations.

All guests on board are required to have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test.

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