If you have always dreamed of cruising the Great Lakes, this spring may be your chance. Depending on the U.S./Canada border situation and current COVID-19 travel restrictions, Victory Cruise Lines (VCL) will once again offer their 11-day Splendor of The Great Lakes from Toronto to Chicago from May 14. (please check current travel and safety restrictions as well as the VCL website prior to booking)
Aboard the well-appointed Victory l or Victory ll, this is small ship sailing at its best. Dive into North American’s maritime history as you explore the Great Lakes, cruising Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, a brief journey into Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior, then travelling the length of Lake Michigan to reach the destination city of Chicago.
Having enjoyed this trip in the fall a couple of years ago, what I love is the friendly small ship atmosphere, great food and service, nightly entertainment and highlights like Afternoon Tea and informative talks about the Great Lakes and each port. I also genuinely appreciate that non-premium wines, beer, and alcohol are included in the price of the cruise, as are the daily excursions at every port.
The highlight of the day excursions for me was a visit to Mackinac Island. Void of cars or any motorized vehicles (other than emergency vehicles), time seems to stand still on this scenic island. The excursion included an island tour by horse drawn carriage, a stop at a hilltop fort, followed by a sumptuous lunch at the stunningly beautiful Grand Hotel. Built in 1887, this historic hotel is one of the few remaining wooden hotels in America and boasts the longest “front porch” in the world!
Other stand out excursions include a city tour of Cleveland with entrance to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a visit to the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit. The excursions are specially selected to provide visitors with a glimpse into local culture. On Manitoulin Island, we were lucky enough to take part in a smudging ceremony and witness a ceremonial drum and dance performance of the Anishinaabe people.
In Niagara Falls, we slipped on bright red plastic rain capes to enjoy a wonderful wet and wild ride close to the falls on The Hornblower catamaran, followed by a shopping excursion to historic Niagara-on-the-Lake and a delicious lunch and wine pairing at a local winery.
Victory Cruise Lines (VCL) is owned and operated by the renowned American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC). Both VCL and AQSC were recently nominated in the Best Cruise category in the 2021 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards (voting continues until May 10, 2021 with results announced thereafter). AQSC has implemented new health and safety protocols in partnership with Ochsner Health and Vikand Medical, working with all levels of health agencies. The new protocols include 100% COVID-19 testing for all guests and crew prior to embarkation on every voyage, mandatory mask wearing in all venues, contactless facial recognition and temperature check at the gangway, reduced vessel capacity, mandatory social distancing in all pubic areas and more.
VCL also offers an 11-day cruise from Toronto to Portland, Maine (and reverse), a 13-day Provincial Passage to New England cruise from Niagara Falls to Boston, the 11-day Canadian Crown Jewels cruise from Montreal to Boston, and the 13-day Great Lakes Grand Discovery cruise from Montreal to Chicago.
This spring VCR lines will christen their new ship Ocean Victory™. The vessel features 93 suites, some of them with French balconies or panoramic windows, two restaurants, a piano bar, library, heated indoor pool, spa services and jacuzzi, observation deck and a dedicated expedition and outdoor adventure launch platform. The inaugural sailing of Ocean Victory™ is slated for late spring 2021 and will feature 12 or 13-day itineraries from Vancouver to Sitka, Alaska, with stunning views of Firodland Conservancy’s dramatic waterfalls dipping into deep fjords, Sawyer and Dawes Glaciers, expansive ice fields at LeConte and more.
For more information on Victory Cruise Lines and the Splendor of The Great Lakes cruise visit https://www.victorycruiselines.com/ or your local travel agency.
by Laurie Wallace-Lynch
2019 Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) Certificate of Excellence Third Place Best Food and Drink Feature