Great Lakes Cruises – Are They Worth $10K?

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック).

As the cold Michigan winter starts winding down, I start thinking about spring and summer, as many other people do.

I had another opportunity to write an article for the March issue of the ethnic local monthly newspaper for the Japanese community in Michigan (the Japan News Club).  This time I wrote about the lake ferry crossing Lake Michigan between Muskegon and Milwaukee. I wrote it based on my post, Crossing Lake Michigan by Ferry, Muskegon – Milwaukee. As I was writing, I remembered the Great Lakes cruise ship I saw last summer at the port of Detroit.

I never knew until last year that there are cruises in the Great Lakes.  Did you know it?

From Toronto to Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and then to Lake Superior

This is probably the most grand plan of all. The plan has two voyages scheduled this summer, and one of them seems already sold out.

Preview of “Great Lakes Cruise Company - Yorktown”

(This is the website of the cruise company)

There are many other plans. One goes from Toronto to Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan with Chicago as the final destination.  There is one that goes around only in Lake Michigan. Other go from NYC to Quebec and from Chicago to Rhode Island.

All the voyages take one to two weeks.

Many of them go through Detroit River which connects Lake Erie and Lake Huron, so they stop at the Detroit port.  Some stop at Cleveland and Saugatuck as well.


One Saturday last summer, I drove to Detroit to visit my friend’s art exhibition (without a special occasion like that, I do not go to Detroit…).  Coincidentally on the same day, one of the Great Lakes cruise ships, Yorktown, was staying at the port of Detroit.

So, after the visit to the art exhibition, I drove further to downtown Detroit. Some women I know are so afraid of Detroit that they never drive to Detroit – for good reasons.  I am not a fan of Detroit, either, but in a daytime on a early summer day, it’s not bad.


Almost no traffic. It’s like a ghost town.  I hear young people are now moving into Detroit, but that’s still not enough to make the downtown lively.


It’s only a river (Detroit River), so the port is very small.

The other side of the river is Windsor, Canada.  O Canada!  I’d rather not see the casino, but I can’t avoid seeing it.


Why did I want to come here bad enough to pay for parking?

I really wanted to see the cruise ship.

When I was young, I was a ferry travel lover. One time I took the ferry from Yokohama, Japan, to Nakhodka, Siberia. I wanted to ride more ferries to southeast Asia, etc., but I ran out of money, married, and started a family and that was the end of my travel era (and I was just as happy).

I also was curious what kind of people were the passengers of the cruise.


I walk along Detroit River.

I spot the cruise ship in the distance.  It’s pretty small.


I notice a group of young women in white dresse crossing the street. It’s a bride and her flower girls.


That’s a neat idea to have wedding photos taken on the river front like that.


Large cruise ships can accomodate as many as 3,000 people, but according to their website, this Yorktown can accommodate only 138 passengers. It’s small so that it can go through shallow waters and narrow channels and can visit small ports along the Great Lakes.


I can see inside the ship.  All rooms look vacant.  The passengers must be out on the land, touring Detroit or Detroit suburbs.


The website says this ship flies an Amerian flag, i.e. it’s an American ship with American officers and crews.  That’s unusual these days, isn’t it.  As far as I know, many (or most?) cruise ships nowadays are foreign and crews are from countries like Philippines.

I read somewhere that since the 9/11, the U.S. Homeland Security regulations became very stringent, which made it very costly for foreign cruise ships to tour in the Great Lakes.

I see – so here is a comeback of American cruise ships.



The Detroit Port building is on the right.

I wanted to see the inside of the building, so I walk towards the entrance of the building.

Then a big, tough-looking guy interrupts me.

“Are you going to be on board this ship?” “Oh, you are not?  Then this is the wrong way.” “Have you looked at the ship?  It’s a beautiful ship, isn’t it” “It’s a wonderful cruise.  I hope you will sign up sometime. I am sure you will have a great time!”

He keeps talking to me with a big smile. But I know underneath the smile, he is dead serious.  It’s his job to keep intruders from entering the lobby. He is a bouncer for the cruise company.

Then, a noble-looking middle-age lady arrives behind me with a suitcase.  She is going to be on board the ship. The guy becomes very busy with the lady and finally releases me.

My feelings are hurt – only just a little bit :). I start walking away. I feel – for a moment – as if I were at the bottom of the American society.

I can totally understand why they do that, especially in Detroit.

Since I have an Asian face, once in a while I get treated like a dirt poor recent immigrant from Asia who has no clue as to what to do and how to behave in this country.  And it does not help that I have accents with my English and I tend to wear cheap, casual clothes (lo).

But that guy at least asked me if I was a cruise passenger.  He probably just followed the company’s manual, but that’s OK!  (Hey, maybe I really looked like a passenger :))

The lady who arrived after me wore expensive things from head to toe. She was one of the people I do not encounter in my daily life. I have seen women like her in New York City. Her hairstyle and hair dye were expensive ones. I could tell.  When/if you are dressed expensively from head to toe, you will have a very distinctive atmosphere.  Ah, my husband will scold me again, “You women, why are you like that?  So petty”  (hehe) 🙂


I walk around to the other side of the building. There, the magnificent Renaissance Center!  The General Motors headquarters are in there. Pretty awesome. Detroit does not look bad in a sunny summer day 🙂

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Long time ago there were Great Lakes cruises, but as the automobiles became popular they were discontinued. Then in the 1990s, a German cruise line brought their cruise ship to the Great Lakes. Most of the passengers were Germans. Then they tied up with the American travel company, Conlin Travel, and the Great Lakes Cruise Company was formed.

It’s interesting that it was the Germans who rediscovered the charm of cruising the Great Lakes.

Sometimes, it’s more obvious to foreigners. You are more blind to the charm of the place you live. It certainly has often been the case in my home country, Japan. Like Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints) – Japanese were going to trash them but the Americans and Europeans saw the beauty and the values in them. Many were taken to the U.S. and they are now in Boston Museum, etc.

************************************************** ****

The cruises are not cheap: from around $5,000 to $10,000.

$10,000 (*o*) !!!!!    If I have that much disposable money, I will want to go on a grand Europe-Middle East-India- Southeast Asia cruise or something like that.

Maybe those passengers already experienced all those other grand cruises and they want to try something new.

Or some of them are so interested in the Great Lakes that they want to go on the Great Lakes cruise more than anything else.

************************************************** ****

Looking at the ship at the Detroit Port, I felt I was seeing the American society right there – a cruise ship full of well-to-do and successful passengers in the middle of Detroit plagued with poverty. (I am not saying it’s right or wrong or good or bad)


Website of the cruise company:

You can make reservations only on the phone. Yes, only on the phone – in this Internet age.


About tukusigal

もう長いことミシガンに住んでいる日本人オバさんの、自分なり、それなりのミシガン湖地方見聞記でーす。I am a long-time resident of Michigan. I am here forever. A middle-age Japanese woman. I love Imari porcelain, so my profile photo is an Imari vase which I bought in Imari, Saga, Kyushu, Japan. When I retire (when...?), I reveal my photo - but by then I may be too wrinkled (lo).
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3 Responses to Great Lakes Cruises – Are They Worth $10K?

  1. Pingback: 1万ドルの価値あり? 五大湖クルーズ Great Lakes Cruises – Are They Worth $10K? | ミシガン再発見の旅 See more Michigan – 口コミ情報発信ブログ

  2. angrygaijin says:

    Oh Canada!

    Oh no! Is that a Canadian casino across the water there? So tacky! lol

    I really want to go to the Great Lakes. I’ve heard that they are so big, it’s like looking at an ocean.

    Once I traveled on a ferry from Osaka to Beppu. That was a pretty good trip! I’ve traveled a lot on ferries on the West Coast of Canada, too. But I’ve never taken one to Russia! That must have been very fun!

  3. tukusigal says:

    Yes, that’s the casino in Windsor, Canada. It’s tacky but a pretty fun place. There are authentic Chinese restaurants near the casino. I have driven through Ontario from Detroit thru Niagara Falls to Boston, NYC, etc. so many times. Canada seems very close to us, and yet it seems a pretty different country from the U.S. Crossing Japan Sea to Siberia was a trip I will never forget. You can feel how close Russia is to Japan.

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