Text and Photos
By Rod King
Editor’s Note: This piece on Cruising the Great Lakes will serve as an introduction to the places the ship stopped and for the next six months those destinations will be highlighted.
Cruising the Great Lakes is just as enjoyable as doing the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. In fact, it has some advantages that make it very attractive.
For starters, it’s closer to home. Then, it’s less crowded because ships only carry around 200 people. And, they stop at familiar places like Niagara Falls, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Detroit, Mackinac Island, the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and Holland, Mich.
Along the way, it docks in places most people have probably never heard of or would probably never go to, like the world’s deepest natural freshwater port at Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada, the 30,000 islands of Georgian Bay or Midland with more than 30 beautiful murals.
The Great Lakes are pretty much taken for granted by Midwesterners. On board the Pearl Seas Mist, passengers learn how important they are to the health and welfare of this area and the entire country. Eighty-four percent of North America’s fresh water comes from the Great Lakes, and they hold one-fifth of the world’s fresh water.
The 11-day cruise we took last August departed from Toronto, crossed Lake Ontario and passed through several canals and locks to Niagara Falls. There we donned red plastic ponchos and rode to within 30 yards of the base of Horseshoe Falls. Water crashing off the rocks filled the air with mist.
Cleveland was next on the itinerary and a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In addition to listening to classic performances by many of the hall’s inductees, passengers viewed memorabilia from the stars, including Prince’s famous purple coat and Elvis’s motorcycle.
One section highlighted the fact that when the rock ‘n’ roll revolution hit, parents were concerned it was corrupting their youngsters and actually petitioned to have it banned from the airwaves.
In Detroit, we visited Greenfield Village and rode the steam locomotive around the property before walking to specific buildings. Coal particles from the engine covered everyone in the open viewing cars. Station employees advised to shake rather than brush. Riding in a 1923 Model T Ford was the highlight.
At Sault Ste. Marie, the ship docked next to a 1917 freighter that is now a maritime museum. Passengers could take a narrated ride through the Soo Locks into Lake Superior and back. In town, a 210-foot tower afforded an overview of the locks, which control the world’s busiest inland shipping channel.
At Mackinac Island, the ship moored just a block from the center of town where horse-drawn wagons and carriages are available to take visitors past Victorian homes, 17 fudge shops, the historic fort and the Grand Hotel. Only people staying at the hotel are allowed to wander the grounds, enjoy the view from its long porch or enter the lobby.
Though tulips were not in season, the city of Holland, Mich., was festooned with flowers of all kinds. One stop was at Windmill Gardens to see a working mill purchased in the Netherlands, dismantled, shipped to Holland and reassembled.
A demonstration of an antique street organ donated by the people of Holland to honor the U.S. servicemen during World War II was a real treat.