In 2016, Pearl Seas Cruises will expand its itineraries to include Great Lakes cruises from Chicago to Toronto. // © 2015 Pearl Seas Cruises
Feature image (above): Mackinac Island, located in Lake Huron // © 2015 Blount Small Ship Adventures
Increasingly popular with international visitors, Great Lakes cruises are eye-openers for North American travelers, as well. A growing number of ships sail the region from May into October, most concentrated in July, August and September.
The Great Lakes, which are actually inland seas, make up the Earth’s largest freshwater ecosystem. The 2,342-mile St. Lawrence Seaway connects the Atlantic Ocean to the western edge of Lake Superior in a system of locks, canals and channels. Retreating glaciers in the region leave waterfalls, dramatic rapids and unusual rock formations, and the shores hold interesting small towns and cities, from Montreal, which plans a spectacular celebration of its 375th anniversary next year, to Duluth, Mich., at the western edge of Lake Superior.
The area’s cruise pioneer, Blount Small Ship Adventures, recently celebrated its 50th birthday. Its Great Lakes cruises aboard the 100-guest Grande Caribe and Grande Mariner include 15-night sailings between Chicago and Rhode Island and itineraries that take cruisers along the St. Lawrence Seaway, such as the 14-day New York City to Montreal sailing.
Pearl Seas Cruises’ 210-passenger Pearl Mist sails the 14-night Canadian Maritimes & St. Lawrence Seaway Cruise that explores destinations such as Montreal and Baie-Comeau, known for its plethora of harbor seals. In 2017, the cruise line will offer sailings on the 10- or 11-night Great Lakes & Georgian Bay Cruise and the seven-night Great Lakes Cruise, both between Chicago and Toronto.
Victory Cruise Lines’ Victory 1, carrying 202 guests, sails two 10-day Great Lakes itineraries: Great Lakes Grand Discovery between Chicago and Toronto and Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River between Chicago and Montreal. Complimentary shore excursions include features like lunch at the iconic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.