After visiting Buffalo and Rochester, it headed to Cleveland before stopping in the Detroit suburb of Wyandotte. Many of the passengers got off the boat for an optional tour in Dearborn of The Henry Ford, which includes the Henry Ford Museum, a collection of auto-related and other technological and cultural artifacts.
Others, like Jan Musson, 69, of Goshen, Ky., stayed on board to read a book while her husband, Wick, 71, went on the tour. They took the cruise to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and enjoy the chance to relax.
“You don’t have to think. It’s just very comfortable,” she said.
Since the Grande Mariner is so small, it can squeeze through the Erie Canal and dock in smaller communities like Wyandotte, as well as bigger cities, letting passengers off right in downtown. Cost varies by cabin size, with prices for the 16-day trip ranging from $2,785 to $3,840.
The Grande Mariner spends the summer in Lake Michigan before returning to its home port for fall color tours on the Erie Canal.
Tour options on different lines vary widely. Smaller boats carry up to 18 passengers on cruises that skirt Lake Ontario. And the MV Columbus — a 423-passenger ship designed especially for the Great Lakes — offers 11-day cruises between Toronto and Chicago that spend time in all five Great Lakes during prime fall color season.
On the Columbus, prices range from $2,139 to $6,190 per person, depending on cabin size and trip.
The Great Lakes and their connecting channels form the largest fresh surface water system on the planet. Travel promoters say the Great Lakes region, well-known for its recreational boating, stunning beaches and summer vacation towns, has the potential to attract more cruise ships.
More than a half-dozen ships have cruises scheduled for this year. The Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, which since 1997 has worked to promote the industry, said it would like to see about 60 of the about 130 cruise boats that can get to the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway offering tours.