Is Cleveland the hottest new cruise destination in America?
Judging by the tremendous growth in cruise ship arrivals in the city, you could make this argument. C-Town, as some locals call it, is expecting 49 ship visits this year when all is said and done, a whopping 700% increase from just two years ago.
The arrivals mark the first visit by a ship sailing for luxury travel company Tauck in its 98-year history. The 184-passenger ship, chartered by the French line Ponant Cruises, named Le Dumont-d’Urville, visited for the first time on September 9.
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Viking Polaris also visited Cleveland for the first time this summer, the new expedition ship from luxury cruise giant Viking. The 378-passenger ship will call at Cleveland twice in September alone.
Both ships visit the port city along the shores of Lake Erie as part of broader cruises to the Great Lakes.
The two ships join frequent visitor from Cleveland, the Ocean Navigator, a 202-passenger ship operated by small ship specialist American Queen Voyages. Ocean Navigator sails regularly to the Great Lakes and also stops at several destinations in the region.
In one of the quirkiest ship arrivals Cleveland has seen in some time, a German cruise ship full of Germans will make a rare appearance in the city later this month and again in October. The 394-passenger Hamburg is operated by German cruise brand Plantours and is known for taking German travelers to far-flung places around the world.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Boating the Great Lakes
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Another small ship cruise line, Pearl Seas Cruises, also has Cleveland on its schedule this year.
Cleveland’s cruise boom is happening as the burgeoning cruise industry looks for new destinations for expansion.
Of all the world’s major waterways, the Great Lakes region, where Cleveland is located, has traditionally been one of the least visited by cruise ships. The summer season, when the Great Lakes are accessible to passenger ships, is typically a time when cruise lines send the bulk of their ships to Europe and Alaska, where demand for cruises is high.
However, as the cruise industry expands, it is turning to more off-the-beaten-path places like the Great Lakes – and ports like Cleveland – that can offer an alternative adventure for well-traveled cruisers.
For cruisers, such trips offer an easy way to see a wide range of the Great Lakes region’s sights, from vibrant cities to natural wonders, in a single trip. Cleveland, which has changed immensely since the famous river caught fire in the 1960s, is increasingly seen as a highlight of sailings.
As our sister publication Lonely Planet notes, the former Rust Belt factory town “still has an evocative industrial feel. Railroads, vertical lift bridges and grim warehouses adorn the shores of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River, only now stylish eateries, breweries and galleries fill the old factories and cycle paths have emerged along the waterways.”
When Tauck’s ship arrived earlier this month, passengers enjoyed a full day of guided explorations, including a visit to the city’s crown jewel, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a pub lunch and beer flight at a local craft brewery, according to the line.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Cruise Line for You
“Our cruises visit top destinations around the world, from Antarctica to Venice, Italy, to the Galapagos Islands, but we’re always happy to showcase world-class locations closer to home,” Tauck CEO Dan Mahar said this week in a statement. to TPG. “Cleveland has so much to offer.”
Will Friedman, CEO of the Port of Cleveland, said in a statement that the city expects even more cruise arrivals in the coming years.
The expanded arrivals include more ships chartered by Tauck. The tour company says it is planning nine more Great Lakes cruises between now and the end of 2024, including a visit to Cleveland.
The 12-Day Great Lakes Cruise: Travels from Chicago to Toronto with Tauck Markets also visiting Chicago; Detroit; Toronto; Niagara Falls, Ontario; and Mackinac Island, Michigan, as well as a passage through the narrow Welland Channel. Rates start at $10,290 per person.
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