Cruise Ship to Visit Traverse City Eight Times in 2022


This artist’s rendering depicts a Viking expedition ship.
Special to the Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY — A 378-passenger cruise ship now being built in Norway is scheduled to stop at Traverse City eight times in 2022.

The 665-foot-long Viking Octantis will make its maiden voyage in January 2022, according to the Viking cruise line. The ship will visit both the Great Lakes and Antarctica at different times of the year. A sister ship, the Viking Polaris, is scheduled to launch in August 2022 and will cruise both polar regions.

Viking is offering four different itineraries in the Great Lakes, including one that will visit Traverse City.

That itinerary, “Niagara & the Great Lakes,” will shuttle between Toronto and Milwaukee, with stops at Niagara Falls, Point Pelee (on Lake Erie in Ontario just east of Detroit), Detroit, Alpena, Mackinac Island and Traverse City. The first cruise with that itinerary will leave Toronto on April 30, 2022. The last will leave Milwaukee on Sept. 24.

Prices for the eight-day cruise range from $5,995 to $17,695, depending on accommodation level and date.

Staterooms range from 222 square feet to 1,223-square-feet. The largest room includes a private “garden.” All cabins feature king-size beds, heated bathroom floors and floor-to-ceiling glass walls that can be lowered to elbow level for fresh air.

The Discovery Center & Pier launched efforts just over a year ago to attract more cruise ship traffic to Grand Traverse Bay. That’s when it announced plans to transform the former coal dock in Greilickville into a resource that ships could use to land passengers and provide a water-to-land connection for services. Plans call for improvements that will allow vessels up to 250 feet long to tie up at the pier. The Viking Octantis, at 665 feet long, will need to shuttle passengers to and from shore.

“This is all happening a little faster than we expected,” said Discovery Center & Pier CEO Matt McDonough. “We didn’t expect to have eight ships come to call from one company in two years.”

But they’re engaged.

“We’re in conversations with them,” he said. “We’re weighing all the options. We haven’t made a commitment yet.”

Looking Forward

Seven of the proposed arrival dates in Traverse City should work, said McDonough. But Viking may need to shift its schedule in midsummer.

“One coincides with Cherry Festival and the Fourth of July, and that’s just not going to work,” he said. “We’re still working out logistics.”

The presence of a cruise ship in West Bay could be a problem that weekend because of traffic in general, the air show and the fireworks.

“The Cherry Festival, historically, has used the pier to stage their barge for the fireworks displays,” McDonough said.

Landing nearly 400 passengers at the same facility could present security issues, particularly in the middle of that busy weekend. So Discovery Pier officials have suggested Viking may want to adjust its schedule to avoid that weekend in Traverse City.

“That’s what we told them: We said that’s a non-starter, we can’t accommodate you during Cherry Festival,” McDonough said. “They’re still trying to work around that.”

Discovery Pier officials, though, are excited about the scientific bent of Viking’s planned cruises and the passenger demographic the company is marketing toward.

“They’re interested in learning about science, and the natural resources of the Great Lakes,” he said. “We’re talking with our partners, like Inland Seas, on developing programming for them.”

Local officials who want to grab a piece of growing Great Lakes cruise ship activity have organized as the Traverse City Cruise Ship Consortium.

Consortium members include the Discovery Center — Great Lakes (on behalf of Discovery Pier), Traverse City Tourism, Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Traverse City Association, Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

Viking says its other three Great Lakes cruise itineraries in 2022 will be:

  • “Undiscovered Great Lakes:” Eight days at various times between May and September; Thunder Bay, Ontario, to Milwaukee. This voyage features a trip through the Soo Locks. Stops include Houghton, Duluth, the Apostle Islands and Mackinac Island.
  • “Great Lakes Explorer:” Eight days at various times between May and September; Milwaukee to Thunder Bay. This voyage features three stops in Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, plus a stop at Mackinac Island.
  • “Canadian Discovery:” 13 days, April and October; New York to Toronto — or Toronto to New York. It runs through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the North Atlantic.

Both the new Viking ships are designed as Polar Class 6, the company says, which will allow them to operate during summer and autumn in medium first-year ice.

Viking, based in Switzerland, launched in 1997 as Viking River Cruises. It now operates 62 river vessels and six ocean ships. The two new vessels will boost its ocean fleet to eight.

Viking offers cruises on rivers including the Danube in Europe, the Nile in Egypt and the Yangtze in China.

It offers ocean cruises to destinations including the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Alaska, Africa and New Zealand.


SOURCE: Record-Eagle