Although pleasure boating and shipping have held steady over the years another form of once popular vacation travel is making a regal comeback – seeing the Great Lakes by passenger ship. According to the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition it was 1865 when it first became established upon the founding of the company Anchor Line. The industry carried on albeit with it’s shares of ups and downs into the early 1970′s.
Cruisingâ€¦perhaps more accurately described as using the Great Lakes for transportation by indigenous North Americans, had been happening long before this. But in 1865 it took on a more formal aspect when Anchor Line, formerly Erie & Western Transportation co, was formed.
Their historical account of cruising the Great Lakes also takes note of Mark Twain’s famous 1895 world tour.
Later that century, on July 17, 1895 Mark Twain traveling on his â€œAt home around the worldâ€ tour, boards the S.S. Northland in Cleveland bound for Mackinac. Twain wrote â€œAll that has been said of this fine ocean ship on the Great Lakes is not exaggerated. Across Lake Erie to the Detroit River, Lake St Clair and the St Clair River is a most charming tripâ€.
The Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries has a brief but interesting glimpse into the history of recreational travel on the Great Lakes.
In spite of the hard times during the Great Depression, some people vacationed by taking a cruise of the Great Lakes on the S.S. South American or on the S.S. North American. The whole trip took one week and covered 2,200 miles. The ships made stops, and passengers had a few hours to sightsee and shop at each of the ports.
One of the stops was Mackinac Island, which was called the “Bermuda of the North.” Advertisements claimed that there were no mosquitoes or automobiles on the island and that people did not get hay fever.
You can see pictures and get information on passenger ships that once sailed the Great Lakes at the Marine Historical Society of Detroit website.
For more historical articles on cruising the Great Lakes check out this Google Timeline – 1800 – 2009.
The photo above is that of the City of Detroit III courtesy of the Marine Historical Society of Detroit.
This vessel was the most beautiful of all the ships in the D & C fleet. Her parlors, 21 in all, were exquisitely furnished and the 477 staterooms were fitted out with the latest equipment. For close to 40 years, this ship sailed between Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo.
There is currently a renewed public interest and resurgence of businesses offer cruises around the lakes and the port cities are eagerly anticipating revenues from this age old form of tourism. There are currently 23 port city members seeking ways to market themselves to cruise companies through the Port Cities Collaborative (pdf).
The Detroit Free Press recently ran an article this potential boost to the economies around the Great Lakes. They also focus on the new docking terminal in Detroit that should be completed in 2010. In “Detroit could cash in on cruise industry” it is stated that:
This summer, three cruise ships will glide through Michigan waters and stop at ports in Wyandotte, Mackinac Island, Manistee, Holland and Houghton.
But within two years, downtown Detroit hopes to get in on the Michigan cruising action.
The photo above is of the extensively refurbished, redecorated and improved Clelia II which will sail between Toronto and Duluth, Minn., this summer, stopping at Mackinac Island and Houghton. To be launched in early 2009 the all-suite Clelia II will offer the finest in small-ship cruise travel. Public facilities include a restaurant that accommodates guests at a single, unassigned seating, two lounges, expansive library with Internet access, state-of-the-art gym/spa, beauty salon, boutique, Jacuzzi, hospital, and ample deck areas for relaxing and sunbathing.
A New Breed of Luxury Small Ship
2010 will see the launch of a new style of luxury small ship the Pearl Mist. The interior of the ship offers luxury accommodations with oversized staterooms, all with private balconies. Exquisite cuisine will be enjoyed in the spacious, glass lined dining salon and relaxing time can be spent in one of the many comfortable lounges. The ship is also designed with latest in cruising comfort featuring fully stabilized hulls, and the ability to reach each port of call more quickly so there will be more time to explore each destination.