Great Lakes to welcome ocean liners

DETROIT (AP) — Auf Wiedersehen, Germany. Hello, Great Lakes states. That’s what hundreds of German tourists will be saying this fall when they set out on the maiden voyage of a Great Lakes cruise ship.
Three of the tour’s four cruises are booked said Felicia Fairchild, the state’s travel commissioner, on Monday.
“There’s been a push for this for a while,” she said.
The “Cruising the Great Lakes” initiative began in 1993. It is a coalition coordinated by the Mariport Group Ltd., of Cambridge, Ontario, and consists of public and private entities from the Great Lakes region that have an interest in re-establishing full-scale overnight cruising between Great Lakes ports.
The aim is to establish passenger cruising in ships ranging from ocean capable vessels — carrying several hundred passengers — to ones of less than a hundred passengers.
The cruises offer a chance to market the Great Lakes states’ attractions, Fairchild said.
“There’s a new focus on state woods and water of Michigan as a tourist product,” she said. “Part of that mission is to try to develop a new product with that theme.”
During its visits to the Great Lakes, the ship will call at ports in every lake as well as the North Channel and Georgian Bay. The three cruises were sold out primarily in Europe by special arrangement with Germany-based Hapag-Lloyd Tours. Another overnight trip, geared toward North American travelers, will be available from Port Colborne, Ontario, to Toledo, Ohio.
Sam Browman of the Seaway Port Authority of Duluth previously said that Hapag-Lloyd is talking about using Duluth as a jump-off point for cruises in 1998.
The Columbus — a brand new 420 passenger luxury cruise ship which was completed last week — has been designed especially for cruising the Great Lakes.
The ship is expected to arrive in Montreal in September for the first tour, which will be a nine-day cruise to Chicago. A second cruise will depart Chicago Sept. 29 for a 10-day voyage to Port Colborne. The third cruise, departing Oct. 11, will originate in Toledo and head back down the Great Lakes to Montreal.
Christopher Wright, the president of Mariport, has pushed for more than five years to bring large oceangoing cruise ships into the Great Lakes.
“The coalition is absolutely delighted that, after a lot of hard work and a couple of false starts, we will be able to welcome such a magnificent vessel to the Great Lakes.”