Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

Great Lakes Cruising Saw 25% Jump In Traffic; Vessel Sneak Peak

10/17/22 03:15 PM By Team MIRS

(Source: MIRS.news, Published 10/14/2022) Although the autumn chill hovered across the Detroit River Friday morning, the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority and "Cruise the Great Lakes" (the region's cruise marketing program) hosted a celebratory media briefing. With the last Great Lakes cruising season taking place in 2019, this year saw more than a 25% jump in cruise traffic with nearly 150,000 passenger visits arriving at Great Lakes ports.

Featured Michigan ports were in Detroit, Holland, Mackinac Island, Muskegon and Sault Ste. Marie. In Detroit specifically, where the aforementioned luxury cruise ship "Le Bellot" floated, dockings nearly doubled since 2019 and injected more than $1.2 million into the city's local economy.

The Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority is planning on potentially accommodating two to three cruise ships at a time next summer, and is presently exploring how to bring in additional docking locations.

"We handle a lot of different sorts of maritime activities. One is the cruise shipping industry, but we're laser-focused on maritime trade," said Executive Director Mark Schrupp of the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority to MIRS. "We've been focused on developing new kinds of imports, as well as exports. Looking at finished goods, containerization…there's a lot of former riverfront industry properties along the riverfront that could become terminal." 

When asked about how the two realms of industrial shipping and luxury voyages have combined in Detroit, Schrupp said he believes the two have operated a little bit independently. However, he said the port has benefited a lot from the promotional activities of Pure Michigan and Cruise the Great Lakes. 

"They were out there developing this industry," he said. 

Mackinac Island additionally had 80 cruise ship visits this year. 

"This has been a really exciting year and an exciting process that we've been waiting to happen for a very long time," said Dave Lorenz, the vice president of Travel Michigan and chair of Cruise the Great Lakes. "If you ever wonder why we're excited to have the ships come, there are multiple reasons. A part of it is kind of the glitz and glamour of knowing that your town is hosting a cruise ship."

Lorenz said while most economic developers don't talk about it, community pride builds a buy-in into a community and sustainable growth overtime. 

"It's also a big deal to realize the tremendous financial impact that happens when a cruise ship comes in," Lorenz said. "We're looking to the cruise line business just growing over time, welcoming people from all over the world (who are) getting to see the real story about places like Detroit." 

Cruising in the Great Lakes – which additionally includes stops in Buffalo, N.Y.; Kingston, Ontario; Duluth, Minn. and Milwaukee – generated more than $125 million in economic impact.

For 2023, Cruise the Great Lakes is forecasting 170,000 passenger visits to hit the regional ports as two new ships will be added to the currently nine-vessel fleet. The marketing program is projecting the economic impact to grow to $180 million – a 40% increase – next year as well. 

The price-tag for hopping onto "Le Bellot's" eight-day Great Lakes of North America trip in September 2023 starts at $5,790. The ship has a guest capacity of 184.

Friday's media briefing consisted of a tour of the "Le Bellot." Temporarily overlooking the Detroit riverwalk on one side, was a sauna and a massage room. Facing the Canadian city of Windsor on the other side, was an exercise space and a cushion-filled lounge, each one receiving a front-row seat to the Detroit River's ebbs and flows. 

Beneath the bow of the ship, however, was a cocktail lounge sitting beneath the surface of the water named the "Blue Eye." 

As the ship sat between Detroit and Windsor, Lorenz said "that's one of the great things I love about cruising." 

"This true demonstration of friendship at a time when people aren't being very friendly politically around the world," he said. "So we're going to continue to grow. Things are going to get better."