Cruise ships return to the Great Lakes

Where Viking goes, so do many others, says Stephen Burnett, executive director of the Great Lakes Cruise Association.

This year, viking will bring its new 378-passenger Polar-class expedition ship octanti viking to the Great Lakes as cruise ships return after a two-year absence from the waterways.

“The Great Lakes is part of its planning,” Burnett said, adding that the company is doing its research and working to provide passengers with the best possible experience.

The Viking Octantis offers four cruises this year with calls in Canadian and American ports.

Next year it will add a 15-day cruise on the Great Lakes Collection and the polaris viking will join the growing number of inland sea cruise liners.

Burnett said people should see a dramatic increase in berths – the number of people booked on ships – in 2022 compared to 2019.

“In 2019, there were 15,200 places. In 2022, we expect 20,735, an increase of around 35%, but this number could change slightly.

Next year’s numbers are even better with at least 27,000 places expected.

“It demonstrates the enormous confidence they (the cruise lines) have in the Great Lakes. Not only because it’s a big region and one of the last cruise-free regions in the world, but there’s no other safer region right now.

Burnett is in talks to bring new cruise ships to the lakes next year and is working several years ahead.

The Great Lakes Cruise Association is a cooperative of ports on the lakes and along the St. Lawrence Seaway that emphasizes quality port facilities, memorable shore excursions, and a healthy and sustainable marine environment.

Joining the Viking ship will be vessels familiar to residents along the Welland Canal – Pearl Mist, Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator (formerly Victory I and II, respectively), and Hamburg (formerly C. Columbus). As C. Columbus, he first visited the city in the mid to late 1990s.

Two Ponant ships, Le Bellot and Le Dumont d’Urville, each carrying 180 passengers, will head for the lakes. In 2019, their sister ship Le Champlain docked in Port Colborne.

The 160 passengers ocean explorerthrough Vantage Cruises, will sail up the east coast of North America from Boston, Mass., to cruise the lakes.

When asked where the passengers were coming from, Burnett said with Ponant that they would be French on the outbound journeys, but then they would have people from all over North America, much like the other ships. booking for this season.

“The Great Lakes are a trip planner’s dream. People can visit two countries, and we have First Nations, which increases the mix. »

The lakes are bordered by Ontario in Canada and New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota in the United States.

This gives passengers a wide range of options, with a mix of growing cultural scenes, urban, rural and nature-focused stops.

“There are very few places in the world that have that kind of mix.”

With at least 61 stops planned in Port Colborne this season, Burnett said the city has a golden opportunity to show what it has and be incredibly creative in enticing passengers to visit.

He said the idea of ​​a cruise pier and visitor center at the end of King Street at the end of West Street is fantastic and a smart move.

Last year, the federal government, through the Canadian Community Revitalization Fund, provided the city with $750,000 in funding for the proposed 700 square meter mixed-use facility, which is expected to be open in by May 2023.

Two buildings in the area, one from the city’s former public works yard, have been demolished to make way for the facility and cruise ships are expected to dock at the end of West Street and further south at Piers 18A and 18B – these will be home to the largest cruise ships.

The city said that with between 180 and 500 passengers aboard the various ships, plus crew, it hopes to capture 10 to 15% of those numbers – around 2,000 people – and lure them ashore.

“Cruise ships can contribute to waterfront development. The Port Colborne waterfront is unique and historic. There’s a story there,” Burnett said.

That history can be capitalized with onboard cruise ship lectures about the story and what it meant and means to residents, Burnett said.

“People want to know why people live where they live.”

Developing Port Colborne as a destination is one direction the city can take.

“Not all cruise passengers want to go to the same places.”

Burnett said there are many opportunities for Port Colborne residents to do well and find ways to attract cruise passengers.

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You have to look deep into what others have done and see what the city has to offer that they don’t.

“Nothing happens overnight, however. The city and the people sometimes have to be a little bold, take risks and be willing to accept failure.

Burnett said it took him a long time to convince cruise ship companies that they should try the Great Lakes.

“I dated 22 years ago and people thought I was crazy. I couldn’t get a date with anyone.

As a sailor himself, he had to explain the geography and history of the lakes, the richness of what there is and what it took to navigate them.

It took about 10 years before things changed and cruise lines started heading in its direction, asking questions about the lakes and what they had to offer.

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