Jeramey Jannene

Over 1,000 Cruise Ship Passengers Have Visited Milwaukee in 2019

Milwaukee is no Miami, but cruise ship strategy drawing increased hotel stays, flights.

By - Aug 8th, 2019 05:00 pm

Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada [CC BY-SA 2.0 (]

The Pearl Mist before placed into service. Photo by Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Port Milwaukee director Adam Schlicht‘s positioning of the port as a turnaround destination for cruise ships is beginning to pay dividends.

Through July 26th, 1,082 passengers have started or ended their Great Lakes journeys in Milwaukee as a Pearl Seas cruise ship has docked here three times.

Approximately 35 percent of those travelers have stayed in Milwaukee the night before or after their trip, and an additional 36 percent have flown out of Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.

“That’s what we were excited about booking the turn around service,” Schlicht told the Board of Harbor Commissioners Thursday morning. The turnaround service is seen as more economically valuable to the city as passengers spend more time in the city than a single-day stop in the middle of a cruise.

Cruise ships will dock in Milwaukee eight more times throughout the year, ending with the SS Hamburg in October. Only two of those trips will be for turnaround service though.

The port and its partners, through the Milwaukee Cruise Collaborative, are attempting to get every passenger to spend freely when they visit the city. “They are there to greet every passenger that comes off the ship with a little goodie package,” said Port Milwaukee trade development representative Jazmine Jurkiewicz regarding VISIT Milwaukee. The collaborative includes organizations ranging from the tourism bureau and Milwaukee Downtown to the airport and tour operators.

All but the Hamburg will dock at Pier Wisconsin next to Discovery World. The Hamburg, which has visited Milwaukee many times in the past, must dock at the port’s southern border because of its size.

Pearl Seas’ Pearl Mist cruise ship docked in Milwaukee on July 3rd, the night of the heavily-attended lakefront fireworks. “We did a lot of leg work ahead of time,” said Jurkiewicz. “There wasn’t a stone that went unturned,” added Schlicht. Unfortunately, the surreal experience of pulling up to Milwaukee hours before the sky explodes in color was dampened by the heavy fog that night.

And while Milwaukee can be happy to see over 1,000 new tourists a year, it has a long way to catch global leader Miami. The Port of Miami reported 4.98 million passengers in 2016. The Great Lakes cruising industry is expected to grow in the coming years, but still won’t catch the Caribbean ports that see thousands of passengers on a single ocean-going ship.

The growing industry faces a logistical challenge coming from the lakes’ role as the country’s northern border: customs. Many Great Lakes cruises include alternating stops at Canada and US ports, requiring repeat customs checks. The city mitigates the issue by having ships either come from other US ports or foreign passengers clear customs at the airport. Schlicht estimated that the direct flight on Air Canada between Toronto and Milwaukee sees a boost from cruise passengers.

If you see one of the cruise ships docked in Milwaukee, don’t think you’re going to be able to walk right up to it. Similar to airports, a security perimeter is established with a private security firm protecting the vessel.

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Categories: Transportation

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