MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Three cruise ship operators have finalized 2020 itineraries for cruises on the Great Lakes, resulting in 35 stops in the port city of Muskegon. That’s twice as many stops as in 2019. In 2021 the number of stops is expected to grow to nearly 50 stops. All three cruise ships will enter the Muskegon Lake channel and eventually tie up at a dock at Muskegon County’s Heritage Landing Park.
“We have the perfect setup,” said Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Larsen.
Larsen says Heritage Landing is perfect in part because it’s close to the shops, breweries, and museums in Muskegon’s growing downtown.
The growing piece of the regions tourism economy can be traced back to one single cruise ship stop in 2015.
“On average we’ll have two cruise ships a week,” said Larsen. “But there are going to be a couple of times when we’ll have two cruise ships in the same day.”
Community leaders were initially concerned about the double booking for the Muskegon port. The dock at Heritage Landing can only accommodate one ship at a time. The neighboring Mart Dock is providing additional docking space during double bookings which should happen twice in 2020.
“We have got plenty of space here,” said Mart Dock President Max McKee. “When there will be two in town or maybe an event at Heritage Landing and they can’t accommodate the cruise ships, those ships have been here before, they’re welcome again.”
The growing cruise ship business is a sign of the city’s diverse economy. A one reason that lead Ashley Cooper to open her “Harris & Willow” store in downtown on Second Street.
“Just seeing the growth,” Cooper said. “It’s just fun to be a part of Muskegon and see the new things they’re offering and just to be a small part of that.”
Cooper started “Harris & Willow” inside one of the city’s mini retail chalets on Western Avenue. It’s a popular stop for cruise ship passengers.
“We’d see them drive by on the trolley, and then later on they would come and shop the shops,” Cooper said.
She hopes this summer they find her new location for clothing, gifts, and keepsakes.
Not only do passengers spend money in the city, but the ships operators do too. In 2019 one ship made a $14,000 alcohol purchase from a Muskegon area beer distributor before leaving town.
The first cruise ship of 2020 will arrive in Muskegon’s port on May 13, the last stop of the season is scheduled for October 16.
In 2001, Muskegon County made significant improvements to Heritage Landing including the construction of the dock where cruise ships could dock.
Source: WZZM 13