Beyond ocean cruising and river cruising lies a third form of maritime travel — lake cruising — and the Great Lakes of North America offer the largest freshwater ecosystem on Earth for just such pleasures. Bordering the Canadian province of Ontario and eight American states, from Minnesota to New York, the Great Lakes’ system of five interconnected, land-encased gargantuan bodies of water holds more than one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. The shoreline is gigantic, too, measuring some 10,000 miles, studded with world-class natural, cultural, historic and urban sites. Nevertheless, far fewer major cruise lines venture here than into other major North American waterways such as the Mississippi River and the Alaskan coast.
The handful of major operators who do cruise the Great Lakes are each worth considering. All are fairly new to these waters and come with recently launched, state-of-the-art expedition ships. Though luxurious to a point, these vessels all are on the small side, carrying a few hundred rather than a few thousand passengers. The Great Lakes’ cruising season, also diminutive, runs May through September, with July the warmest and sunniest month and late August through early September the choice for leaf-peepers.
Viking Expeditions, one of the newest lines, employs one of the Lakes’ largest cruise ships, the 378-passenger Viking Octantis, a year-old exploration vessel featuring Zodiacs, kayaks and working labs for research scientists. More than 20 eight-day sailings are scheduled for the full 2022 season. The Milwaukee-to-Thunder Bay sailings visit three of the Great Lakes’ premier cruising attractions. The first is Mackinac Island on Lake Michigan, a renowned Victorian-era lake port and resort. Next comes Georgian Bay, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve on Lake Huron, gilded with 30,000 islands. The third big stop is the Soo Locks at Sault Sainte Marie, a massive engineering feat that connects Lake Michigan to Lake Superior and serves thousands of international freighters yearly. In addition, Viking’s eight-day Toronto-to-Milwaukee trips visit Niagara Falls (Canadian side), Pointe Pelee National Parks (Ontario), Detroit and Traverse City/Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Another new operator in the Great Lakes, Victory Cruise Lines features premium exploration ships. Mississippi River maven American Queen Steamboat Co. recently purchased Victory, a good match since many a Mississippi traveler is eager to see what lies just to the north in America’s inland sea. Victory’s two 202-passenger vessels, Victory I and Victory II, promise mature passengers a relaxed, informative cruise and a free shore excursion in every port. Itineraries include an 11-day Detroit-to-Montréal voyage with stops at Niagara Falls, the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence Seaway, Cleveland and Detroit (home to the Ford Museum). Victory’s 11- and 13-day trips from Chicago to Toronto/Montréal add Mackinac Island and Georgian Bay (including Little Current and the world’s largest lake island, Manitoulin) to the mix, while a 16-day Chicago roundtrip (in June 2022 and 2023) explores the sights of Lake Michigan (the world’s largest lake in a single state) and Lake Superior (the world’s second-largest freshwater lake), along with port calls at Marquette, Mackinac Island, Duluth, Green Bay and Milwaukee.
Another top international cruise line, French-based Ponant, teamed with Smithsonian for a Great Lakes journey Sept. 8–15, 2022, aboard the 184-passenger Le Bellot, one of Ponant’s top exploration yachts. This Toronto-to-Milwaukee voyage, with Smithsonian experts on board, visits Niagara Falls, Georgian Bay (from Parry Sound to Little Current), Mackinac Island, Lake Superior and much of the length of Lake Michigan, the world’s largest lake within the borders of a single country. Plus, Ponant promises a free shore excursion at every port.
Want a taste of all the big sites in all five lakes? Try German-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and its 230-guest Hanseatic Inspiration, an expedition ship that features three gourmet restaurants; expert lecturers; an English-speaking crew; spa treatments; and in-cabin binoculars, coffeemakers and Nordic walking poles. The ship makes five interconnected voyages May through June, from Boston to Toronto to Chicago to Windsor (Detroit), capped off by a 14-day June 23–July 6, 2022, Chicago-to-Toronto cruise that takes in every last Great Lake.
A SIXTH GREAT LAKE
Georgian Bay, a large, lighthouse-dotted strait on the northeast side of Lake Huron, has been nicknamed The Sixth Great Lake — and for good reason, as it is 120 miles long, 50 miles wide and home to 30,000 islands — many enclosing their own lakes and islands within. Part of a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Georgian Bay is home to the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, containing the world’s largest freshwater beach and largest freshwater island, Manitoulin.
Hiking and horseback riding opportunities abound, but above all, Great Lakes passengers will be mesmerized by the massive granite formations and wind- swept eastern pine trees that rake across Georgian Bay’s prized landscape, lapped by lake waters so blue a major paint company named one of its brightest blues in honor of the bay.
Since Cheval Blanc, an extraordinary, newly designed and refurbished 72-room hotel owned by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey, launched in September 2021, it has been the talk of the town. Le Tout-Paris remarks about its WOW factor … and the hard-to-get reservations for the 30 seats at Plenitude, the intimate, first-floor gastronomic outlet headed by chef Arnaud Donckele, who earned three Michelin stars at Cheval Blanc Saint Tropez. Reservations are also recommended for Limbar, the ground-floor bakery/café/tea shop/bar where we watched Pastry Chef Maxime Frédéric preparing desserts and an absolute must-have for dinner at Le Tout-Paris, the 7th-floor, all-day brasserie. This brightly colored space, with its raised seating and Fauve-like floor tiles and the adjacent Milanese restaurant, Langosteria, both have access to terraces facing the Seine River, with amazing views encompassing Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower.
IHG® Business Edge: Working Together with SMEs for a smarter way to manage travel
Nevada-based The Spa at Green Valley by Well & Being and The Spa at Red Rock by Well & Being celebrate the start of 2022 with new health, wellness and spa treatments available through March 31. Both spas offer an array of treatments for guests wanting to relax and unwind before 2022 kicks into full gear.
To allow visitors to safely and responsibly enjoy their trip to Barbados, the island announced streamlined port entry protocols. Barbados’ Ministry of Health and Wellness released the following protocols for all travelers planning on coming to the island.
Go ahead, take a nice, deep breath. Because a Seabourn voyage is all about this moment you’ve come so far in life to embrace. It’s not an escape, it’s an arrival.
Mar Del Cabo launched a new luxury beach fishing experience with an interactive paella workshop for guests. The Los Cabos-based hotel offers guests an immersive experience that takes them through the journey of creating paella, starting with a fishing session.
It’s time to start dreaming of your next trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey through Santorini, Greece, with us.
Located in the South Pacific, The Islands of Tahiti are just eight hours by air from California. Surrounded by pristine, crystal-clear blue waters, the 118 islands and atolls offer natural beauty, authentic island culture and unique French Polynesian style. The Islands of Tahiti are world-renowned for white-sand beaches, stunning turquoise lagoons and varied landscapes ranging from coral atolls to volcanic mountain peaks. Privacy comes naturally in The Islands of Tahiti and offers visitors the space to relax and reconnect and to be Embraced By Mana. Mana is the life force and spirit that connects all things in The Islands of Tahiti.
COJE Management Group raised the bar when it comes to cuisine and cocktails. The Boston-based group, founded by Chris Jamison and Mark Malatesta, offers guests the ultimate dining experience with old-world hospitality and an array of cuisines for every guest to enjoy. With culinary director Tom Berry incorporating the cuisines he encountered during his travels to South America, Cuba, Japan, Southeast Asia and France, each restaurant has distinguished itself as a must for anyone visiting Boston and each is designed exclusively in-house using inspiration from different regions and countries around the world.