Mackinac Island a popular port of call for growing Great Lakes cruise industry

Close your eyes and imagine yourself lounging on the deck of a cruise ship, favorite beverage in hand, your body warmed by the sun and your soul caressed by the gentle breeze.

You are relaxed. You are at peace. You are…view of Mackinac Island from boat

…on the Great Lakes!

Yep, open your eyes and look around. You are on one of the growing number of cruise ships sailing the world’s largest system of freshwater lakes.

The popularity of lake cruising has surged in recent years, with nearly 100,000 port visits by passengers in 2018. Last year eight ships cruised the Great Lakes and two more are expected to operate in the region by 2020.

Cruise itineraries on the lakes range from just a few nights to longer than two weeks, with some routes passing through all five Great Lakes. Cruise guests embark or disembark in a variety of places including Chicago and Milwaukee at the southern end of Lake Michigan, Thunder Bay, Ont. at the western edge of Lake Superior, Toronto on Lake Ontario or all the way east to Montreal on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Ports of call vary from one route to the next, but a popular attraction on many cruises is Mackinac Island. The summer vacation place is especially suited to cruise ships because it’s located right where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, at the tip of Michigan’s mitten between the state’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. Plus, cruisegoers love Mackinac’s Victorian charm and the fact that there are not motor vehicles on the island.

This Year, 29 Cruise Ships are Scheduled to Visit Mackinac.

Cruise ships that stop at Mackinac typically dock in the morning, enabling passengers to enjoy a day exploring the island’s delights before retiring to their stateroom at night. Cruise excursions on Mackinac include horse-drawn carriage tours of the island’s sites, buffet lunches at the iconic Grand Hotel and visits to historic Fort Mackinac. You can also rent a bike and pedal all the way around the island in only an hour or two, indulge in the diverse culinary scene – including world-famous Mackinac Island fudge – browse downtown’s quaint shops or just sit and listen to the clip-clop of horse hooves in a place unsullied by the automobile. There’s no shortage of things to do on Mackinac.

Interested in a Great Lakes cruise? Start thinking about it by taking a look at these options:

  • Pearl Seas Cruises operates 7-day and 11-day trips on the “Pearl Mist” between Chicago or Milwaukee and Toronto, with stops that include a visit to Mackinac Island.


  • The “Grand Mariner” and “Grand Caribe” from Blount Small Ship Adventures go on 16-day cruises around Lake Michigan with a stop on Mackinac Island and make their way through the lakes and the Erie Canal all the way to New York City.


  • Victory Cruise Lines runs 9-day cruises on the “Victory I” between Chicago and Toronto, and on the “Victory II” between Thunder Bay, Ont. and Detroit. Both ships make stops on Mackinac either before or after venturing through the Soo Locks into Lake Superior.

Find itineraries and booking information for all Great Lakes cruise ships through Great Lakes Cruise Co.

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