What attracts folks who've cruised the world on ships the size of small cities to a small-boat cruise on the Great Lakes? We found out when we took the Great Lakes Grand Discovery cruise aboard the 138-passenger Yorktown. Owned by Travel Dynamics International, the four-level yacht, staffed by a friendly and attentive 40-person American crew, offers a main deck (including a large dining room), lounge deck (with observation, entertainment, lecture area), promenade deck and sun deck. Comfortably appointed, the two-bed cabins feature a large window, ample storage space, and a safe, desk and toiletries.
Our 11-day cruise begain in Duluth and ended in Detroit. Ports of call included Bayfield, Wisconsin, and Houghton, Whitefish Point, Sault Ste. Marie, Charlevoix, Saugatuck and Mackinac Island, Michigan. At each port, guests could disembark and take the offered tour (such as visiting a copper mine) or activity (like sea kayaking), or stay on board and relax. What really sets these cruises apart is the overall philosophy of catering to travelers seeking not only to see sites but also to learn about them. Guests attend presentations each evening by on-board lecturers. Lively conversations follow the well-attended presentations, enriching the overall experience.
So why did a majority of the 88 guests take this trip on a small boat? Two reasons stood out: 1) Many had never seen the Great Lakes and 2) the camaraderie. You meet as strangers, you depart as friends. That just doesn't happen on a large ship. But this all comes at a cost; prices for these 11-day journeys start at $4,995, including drinks and meals (the five-course dinners in particular are outstanding). It's truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, worth doing if you can.