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Cruise ships on the Great Lakes are still quite a novelty, judging by the excited and friendly coastal residents who came out of their homes to wave at us and take pictures of our ship.
Our trip, Haimark Line’s The Historic St. Lawrence River and America’s Five Great Lakes, was a 10-day journey between Chicago and Montreal that combined big cities, small towns and impressive natural beauty. We sailed onboard Saint Laurent, Haimark’s first seagoing ship, which offers a selection of immersive itineraries in North, Central and South America.
The 210-passenger Saint Laurent is elegant and beautifully appointed, with spacious sundecks and outdoor lounges, perfect for enjoying the passing scenery or relaxing with a good book. Dining is open seating, and we took advantage of Shearwater Dining Room’s breakfast, lunch and dinner service, as well as casual outdoor dining for breakfast and lunch in Cliff Rock Grille & Bar, which requires reservations at night for specialty hot-rock cooking.
Drinks are included in the fare, with the exception of premium wines and spirits. English-style Seascape Tavern and Compass Lounge, furnished with iPads, are gathering places for chatting, lectures and live entertainment, and the ship also offers a spa and gift shop.
Our July cruise was delayed by ship repairs, and a Boeing 737 was chartered to bring guests from early ports to the ship. Every cabin received a $250 onboard credit, and every passenger was given a $2,500 voucher toward another cruise and a $1,500 refund on this cruise; a few guests took a full refund for the sailing. Despite this early setback, our onboard experience went smoothly.
Our AA-category suite provided plenty of drawers and closet space for our clothing and luggage. Our bathroom had ample space for our lotions and potions, as well as plush white towels, spa bathrobes and slippers, a hair dryer and — my favorite — bath amenities by L’Occitane. This category also includes complimentary laundering and butler services.
There are four interior accommodations, two of them wheelchair accessible; otherwise, every stateroom has large oceanview windows. Some of the aft cabins have extra windows and a larger bathroom, but they tend to be noisy due to their proximity to the engine. There is one connecting set of cabins, suitable for a family, and two Owner’s Suites.
All excursions are included in the fare, and itineraries were specially tailored to the active and curious senior traveler. Our excursions included visits to magical Mackinac Island, Niagara Falls, Sault Ste. Marie and Detroit’s Henry Ford Museum and a performance by the Ojibwe Tribe on Manitoulin Island. My favorite day of the cruise was sailing through the 1000 Islands corridor of the St. Lawrence Seaway; I spent four hours on the observation deck, mesmerized by the timeless beauty of the region.
Through the winter, Saint Laurent visits unusual Caribbean and mainland destinations on cruises such as the 13-day sailing between Trinidad and Cartagena. The ship will also offer people-to-people trips to Cuba starting next February.