9 Best Great Lakes Cruises for 2024-2025 (2024)

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A cruise of the Great Lakes may take you to Lake Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie,Ontario, or the Saint Lawrence Riverthat flows between the lakes into the Atlantic Ocean. All lakes are bordered by both the United States and Canada except Lake Michigan, which is only part of the United States. There are many things to do on the largest freshwater lake in the world, such as viewing landscapes of forests with sparkling colors, cliffs, golden sandy beaches, and dunes as far as the eye can see. These are just a few highlights along its 2,600 km of shoreline. Most Great Lakes cruises start in, finish in, or visit the great US or Canadian cities such as Chicago,Detroit, Cleveland, Niagara Falls,Toronto,Montreal,Quebec City,Mackinac Island,Sault Ste. Marie, andGreen Bay.Contact our Great Lakes cruise specialists for help planning your dream trip!

All Great Lakes Cruises

All Great Lakes Cruises

A Voyage Along the Great Lakes – with Smithsonian JourneysMilwaukee - Toronto8 Days from $6,980Discover the North American Great Lakes on an 8-day journey onboard the Le Champlain. Follow along the steps of the earliest settlers, trappers, and Native Americans as you take in the magnificent colors of early October from Milwaukee to Toronto. Take a trip to the beautiful harbor cities of Colborne, Parry Sound, Little Current, and others.
Great Lakes - Masterpieces of NatureMilwaukee to Toronto14 Days from $11,001Cruise across all five Great Lakes aboard the Hanseatic Inspiration, witnessing locks in action, exploring rich cultural stories, and experiencing the wild romance of North America's landscapes on this 14-day cruise.
Expedition in the heart of the American Great LakesMilwaukee - Toronto11 Days from $10,270Set out on Le Champlain's 11-day adventure voyage to discover the natural and cultural wonders of North America's Great Lakes, surrounded by flamboyant nature painted in the Indian summer's vibrant hues.
Lake Superior – a Life-sized ExpeditionMilwaukee - Thunder Bay11 Days from $8,930Prepare for an extraordinary 11-day expedition cruise aboard Le Champlain, set sail from Milwaukee to explore the majestic Lake Superior. Experience the beauty of Door County, the charm of Mackinac Island, and the biodiversity sanctuary of Apostle Islands. Discover the cultural riches and flamboyant nature of this incredible region.
Great Lakes - Wilderness and History on vast Lake BackdropsToronto to Milwaukee13 Days from $10,300Embark on a 13-day cruise from Toronto aboard Hanseatic Inspiration, navigating the Great Lakes and exploring picturesque towns like Tobermory, Parry Sound, and Mackinac Island. Experience the rich history and natural beauty of the region.
Great Lakes and St Lawrence River - Unlocking the American DreamMilwaukee to Halifax18 Days from $14,020Embark on an 18-day cruise from Milwaukee to Halifax, exploring iconic locations. Traverse tranquil Mackinac Island, witness Sault Ste. Marie's history, and enjoy water sports in Parry Sound. Encounter whales in Tadoussac and admire Gaspe's picturesque bays. Experience nature, history, and culture on this American-Canadian expedition.
Great Lakes of North America: Milwaukee to TorontoLake Huron to Great Lakes8 Days from $6,980Set sail on Le Bellot for an 8-day cruise through North America's Great Lakes, surrounded by nature's vibrant fall colors. Admire the splendor and breathtaking landscapes of the flamboyant's heart. From Milwaukee to Toronto, you can sail on Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, the St. Clair River, the Detroit River, and Niagara Falls.
Voyage Along the St. Lawrence: From Québec to the Canadian Maritimes – with Smithsonian JourneysToronto - Boston12 Days from $12,040Join a 12-day journey with Smithsonian Journeys aboard Le Champlain from Québec to the Canadian Maritimes. Explore Montréal, historic Québec City, and Tadoussac's whale-watching. Visit Percé's Bonaventure Island, Cap-aux-Meules in the Magdalen Islands, and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. After a day at sea, explore Eastport, Maine, and conclude in Boston.
St Lawrence River and Nova Scotia - Canada's lifeline amidst Indian summer colorsToronto to Boston17 Days from $12,312Sail from Toronto to Bar Harbor in a 17-day nautical adventure. Explore vibrant cities, witness breathtaking landscapes, and immerse in diverse cultures.
Top cruise ports in the Great LakesYour cruise of the Great Lakes takes you to some of the top destinations and cities in the mid-East of the United States and Canada. Learn about the history and culture of the Great Lakes region, sample the local cuisine, learn about the industrial past, marvel at mighty Niagara Falls and the beautiful landscapes that span this region, or simply relax on the serene blue waters of these expansive lakes under the warmth of the North American sun.

Fast Facts about the Great Lakes

There are five lakes that collectively comprise the largest freshwater system on the planet, known as the Great Lakes. By volume from largest to smallest, the lakes are:

  • Lake Superior
  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake Huron
  • Lake Erie
  • Lake Ontario

Together, the Great Lakes store more than 20% of the world's freshwater, covering a surface area of 94,600 square miles; half of the water is in Lake Superior alone (or 3 quadrillion gallons!).

The Great Lakes split the border between Canada and the United States, but Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake that is entirely within the United States. Because of this, that means that the state of Michigan actually has the most coastline of freshwater of any state in the United States.

Best time to take a Great Lakes cruiseThe cruising season for the Great Lakes runs from late May through mid-September, from the end of the North American spring season through summer and into early autumn.

Best Cruise Ports in the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are home to big cities and small towns, and a cruise of the Great Lakes will acquaint you with both as you visit the most popular ports:

  • Chicago
  • Detroit
  • Cleveland
  • Niagara Falls (Port Colborne)
  • Toronto
  • Montreal
  • Quebec City(Quebec)
  • Mackinac Island
  • Sault Ste. Marie
  • Green Bay
  • Muskegon

Thousand Islands at a Glance

Adventure seekers rejoice at all that Thousand Islands archipelago has to offer those hoping for a more active tour. The name "Thousand Islands" underestimates the some 1,800 islands that make up this chain in the St. Lawrence River between the U.S. and Canadian borders.

What was once a getaway for the elite in the 19th century, is now a great place for avid fishers, boaters, and outdoor explorers.

This makes for an exciting day on a cruise of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

Tell Me More about Niagara Falls

Between Lakes Erie and Ontario on the Niagara River, Niagara Falls is one of the most impressive natural attractions in all of the Americas. Visitors are stunned at the size and power of these waterfalls thundering over the edge.

There are three waterfalls that make up this network - the Horseshoe Falls (aka the Canadian Falls), the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. Altogether, this is the largest waterfall by volume in all of North America and the strongest and most powerful waterfall in the entire world! Although not the tallest waterfall, a stunning every second, 3,160 tons of water flows over the falls: 75,750 gallons on the American side and 681,750 gallons per second over the Horseshoe Falls.

Because the water is eroding the rock behind it, Niagara Falls is actually the only world wonder that is moving slowly backwards every year.

Visitors can explore Niagara Falls by marveling at it from one of the many viewing decks over the Falls or even by taking a boat right into the mist beneath the Falls. Some tours go behind the Falls too!

The Best Great Lakes for CruisingAll five of the Great Lakes feature exciting cruise itineraries, so there’s no wrong choice when selecting your Great Lakes cruise - it’s just a matter of deciding what you’d most like to see and do on your luxury cruise of the Great Lakes.
Top things to see and do on a Great Lakes cruiseThe Great Lakes feature the best of both worlds - all the excitement of a bigger cruise on the open seas with the intimate atmosphere and familiar feeling of river cruises. As the most significant collective body of fresh water on the planet, the Great Lakes of North America stretch across the border between the northern United States and southern Canada, draining into Canada’s mighty Saint Lawrence River.

What are the Soo Locks?

A marvel of modern engineering, the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan connect Lake Superior to the Lower Great Lakes through a set of parallel locks.

The Locks are maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers, who have nicknamed them the "Linchpin of the Great Lakes."

Experience the Soo Locks on any of our cruises visiting Sault Ste. Marie.

Get to Know Mackinac Island

Tucked between the upper and lower peninsula of Michigan, tiny Mackinac Island State Park is a great stop on a cruise through Lake Huron.

As you explore the winding trails, enjoy the pristine nature made up of virgin woods and limestone, including the Arch Rock limestone formation. The small island is also home to Fort Mackinac on the coast, dating back to 1780, and the Mackinac Art Museum. From cute shops to cozy cafes, Mackinac Island makes for a great day on any Great Lakes cruise.

Which ships and cruise lines cruise the Great Lakes?

Our Great Lakes cruises are aboard one of the finest vessels navigating the region - the luxurious and innovative Le Bellot. This exquisite ship features comfortable and spacious cabins, excellent onboard amenities, exciting itineraries, and gourmet cuisine.

How much do Great Lakes cruises cost?

Most Great Lakes cruises range from 8-13 days and cost between $4,000 and $6,000 per person. Considering the many different destinations and sites you will visit - both natural and manmade - these cruises are definitely worth it!

When is the best time to go on a Great Lakes cruise?

The cruising season for the Great Lakes runs from late May through mid-September, from the end of the North American spring season through summer and into early autumn.The most popular time to cruise the Great Lakes is during the generally sunny summer months of July and August when temperatures can reach into the 90s F during the day.

What are the five Great Lakes?

An easy way to remember the names of the five Great Lakes is to think of the acronym HOMES: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. You might be interested to know that together, the Great Lakes is the largest freshwater system on earth and accounts for more than 20% of the surface freshwater in the world. So how much water is in the Great Lakes? About 6 quadrillion gallons!

Is Niagara Falls part of the Great Lakes?

Niagara Falls is right between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario on the Niagara River and makes for an exciting day on almost all of our Great Lakes cruises.

Are Great Lakes cruises good for kids and families?

Great Lakes cruises are ideally suited for adults, but inquisitive youngsters and teens might enjoy these cruises too, if they like to stroll through museums, enjoy nature tours (like Niagara Falls) and like urban exploration like walking tours of cities.

Where do Great Lakes cruises visit?

Cruises on the Great Lakes visit popular Midwest towns and cities like Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Niagara Falls, in addition to some Canadian destinations like Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City, via the St. Lawrence River.

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I served as the person responsible for planning a trip to Galapagos and Machu Picchu for a group of 14 people. Jane with Adventure Life was very helpful throughout the process. Making suggestions, offering insight, and in the end helped me overhaul an initial plan into something even better. Also, Jane makes all the plans including the flights within and between Peru and Ecuador. Thanks to her this is going to be a stress-free adventure. After making the final decision about the trip, Jane gathered the contact information for all the travelers and sent out the details to each traveler individually with links to pay deposits, upload passport info, and personal preferences. She also ensured a group email was sent out to the entire group welcoming us to the trip preparation process. Our trip is a year from now and we are excited to make this once in a life time trek. I am happy to have organized things through Adventure Life. However, two small issues came up that were a little off putting. First, Adventure Life adds $50 per person to the cost for each traveler as a donation to a Galapagos conservation fund. I think this should he offered as something that can be added at each traveler’s discretion. Instead, it is automatically added, and each person must ask to have it removed if they do not want it included. Second, although the trip deposit may be paid with a credit card without incurring an additional fee, the balance must be paid in another way to avoid a 3% credit card fee. Maybe this is standard with all travel agencies. In the end I would definitely go through Adventure Life for the next big trip.

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Top Great Lakes Travel Destinations

  • Lake Erie
  • Lake Huron
  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake Ontario
  • Lake Superior
  • Minnesota
  • North America

Great Lakes Trips by Activity

  • Great Lakes hiking (5)
  • Great Lakes village visits (4)
  • Great Lakes small ship cruises (4)
  • Great Lakes urban exploration (4)
  • Great Lakes kayaking (3)

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9 Best Great Lakes Cruises for 2024-2025 (2024)

FAQs

How much does it cost to go on a cruise to the Great Lakes? ›

How much do Great Lakes cruises cost? Most Great Lakes cruises range from 8-13 days and cost between $4,000 and $6,000 per person. Considering the many different destinations and sites you will visit - both natural and manmade - these cruises are definitely worth it!

When should you book a cruise 2024? ›

The best deals tend to crop up throughout the period between mid-November and Mid-March. That being said, if you don't want to monitor cruise deals for four months straight, the single best window of time to keep an eye on them may be from mid-November through mid-December.

Why are Great Lakes cruises so expensive in the USA? ›

Great Lakes cruises command higher prices due to their limited operating season, dictated by the seasonal accessibility of the St. Lawrence Seaway, open from late March to early December.

Are river cruises cheaper than ocean cruises? ›

River cruises tend to be a little more expensive than ocean cruising, but also offer more inclusions and other perks. Shore excursions are generally included on river cruises (with premium shore excursions for a fee), but often are not included with base-fare ocean cruise packages.

Do you need a passport to sail the Great Lakes? ›

Do I need a passport? On international itineraries, all passengers are required to carry valid passports. On domestic cruises, U.S. citizens must have a valid government-issued photo ID.

Will cruise prices drop in 2024? ›

Heidi Allison, president of CruiseCompete.com, a long-running site where experienced cruise travel agents bid for vacationers' business, says that in 2024, prices for cruises have seen an "increase of approximately 15 to 20 percent" over last year.

What is the cheapest month to cruise? ›

Prospective cruisers can usually find "a lot of good deals at the beginning of the year" during wave season, Goldberg-Glazer said. That period typically lasts from January until March. However, the optimal time to book may depend on when you plan to sail.

What day do cruise prices drop? ›

Beyond holiday periods such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Labor Day when there may be some flash sales, January and February are particularly good times to book a cruise, as the first two months of the year are considered “wave season” in the cruising industry.

What cruise line is worth the most? ›

  • #1. Virgin Voyages. #1 in Best Cruise Lines for the Money. ...
  • #2. Celebrity Cruises. #2 in Best Cruise Lines for the Money. ...
  • #3. Princess Cruises. #3 in Best Cruise Lines for the Money. ...
  • #4. Royal Caribbean International. ...
  • #5. Holland America Line. ...
  • #6. MSC Cruises. ...
  • #7. Carnival Cruise Line. ...
  • #8. Norwegian Cruise Line.

Which of the Great Lakes is best for boating? ›

1. Lake Superior, Michigan. Embarking on our boating journey, we start with Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. Known for its crystal-clear waters and rugged coastline, Lake Superior offers an unparalleled boating experience that combines awe-inspiring natural beauty with rich historical nuances.

Are the Great Lakes more like seas? ›

Because of their sea-like characteristics, such as rolling waves, sustained winds, strong currents, great depths, and distant horizons, the five Great Lakes have long been called inland seas.

What is the best month to cruise the Great Lakes? ›

The Great Lakes cruise season is a relatively short one, running from late May through mid-September. Beyond these months, the lakes freeze over. Generally, the best time for cruising the Great Lakes is from July on, when the days are warmer and sunnier.

What is the best month to visit the Great Lakes? ›

The autumn months of late August through September can be a great time to visit the Great Lakes for those who hope to see the trees in their complete colorful transition before dropping their leaves for the cold northern winters.

Does Viking do Great Lakes Cruises? ›

Legendary waters & scenic landscapes

Join Viking for a unique voyage across the historic waterways of all five of the majestic Great Lakes.

Why are US river cruises so expensive? ›

For river cruises inside the US its hard to meet the foreign port stop requirement. Thus they use US flagged vessels with US crews and the labor rates are higher and requirements sometimes more expensive.

Can you travel all the Great Lakes by boat? ›

Most of the waterway within the Great Lakes is navigable, except for the St. Mary's River, from which Lake Superior drains into Lake Huron, and the Niagara River, which connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. The St. Mary's Fall Canal and Soo Locks, located at Sault Ste.

What is included on a Pearl Seas cruise? ›

Pearl Seas Cruises' per person fares are shown in U.S. dollars and include passage, dining service, snacks, complimentary co*cktail parties and entertainment aboard the ship.

Can you take a boat from Cleveland to Niagara Falls? ›

​Lake Erie is home to a couple majestic ports of call for Great Lakes Cruises. The journey begins with the port of Cleveland, which features a handful of activities and entertainment for all kinds of travelers. Cruises often travel to the world-known Niagara Falls, which is the next port of call.

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