In 1997, the first foreign-flag cruise vessel in 22 years, Germany’s Hapag- Lloyd’s 400-passenger luxury cruise transited the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System and others have followed. Since 1997, the number of cruise passengers traveling the System has increased from 1,500 to 14,000 in 2000. The Great Lakes are an attractive cruise destination for small to mid-sized cruise ships, averaging 300 passengers, so expedition / soft adventure cruise brands dominate this region.
Since the Great Lakes region is the least developed cruise region in Canada there can be considerable variation in the number of cruise companies that operate from year to year. Some firms such as Great Lakes Cruise Company and the St. Lawrence Cruise Line are based in the region and operate each year. Other firms may include a Great Lakes excursion as part of a Saint Lawrence / Great Lakes itinerary, or return periodically to the destination rather than offer a cruise tourism product on an annual basis.
The relative small amount of cruise traffic will largely influence the extent of Indigenous tourism opportunities in this region. In addition, cruise companies that engage in excursion voyages often have longer itineraries with a limited number of repeat visits at any individual community. This suggests that the most promising Indigenous tourism opportunities may come from existing tour operators who are able to leverage and modify their current product to meet cruise industry needs.
Itineraries here are usually 3 to 4-nights or 7 to 8-night voyages, but there are also trips that extend up to two weeks and longer.
Some of the communities that cruise lines have visited in this region include: Toronto, Windsor, Prescott, Kingston, Niagara Falls, Thunder Bay, Parry Sound, Sault Ste., Marie and Little Current (Manitoulin Island). In 2006, when there were 37 total port visits some of these communities received up to 6 visits while some only received 1 visit.
Exploration / Soft Adventure cruise companies.
Average Vessel Size