Jeramey Jannene

1,000 Cruise Passengers Visited City On Weekend

Record tourism weekend for Milwaukee, with three cruise ships visiting city.

By - May 24th, 2022 12:19 pm
The Ocean Explorer arrives in Milwaukee. Photo from Port Milwaukee.

The Ocean Explorer arrives in Milwaukee. Photo from Port Milwaukee.

It was a record tourism weekend for Milwaukee. Three cruise ships visited the city, bringing more than 1,000 passengers with them.

It’s part of a record-breaking 33-visit cruising season that is expected to bring more than 10,000 passengers to town.

Vantage Deluxe World Travel’s 162-passenger, 342-foot Ocean Explorer made its first visit to the city. Launched in 2021, it was the Explorer’s first visit to Milwaukee. The city served as a turnaround port, where one voyage ended and a new set of passengers boarded the ship. The Explorer docked at the South Shore Cruise Dock near Bay View and was only in port on Friday.

The turnaround service is highly desirable because it yields twice the number of passengers and is estimated to generate a higher level of spending ($188 per turnaround passenger versus $111 for a traditional call).

American Queen Voyages‘ 202-passenger Ocean Voyager ship arrived early Saturday morning and departed later that day. Launched in 2001, the 300-foot-long ship was formerly known as M/V Victory I. Docking at Pier Wisconsin at Discovery World, it also used Milwaukee as a turnaround port.

The Viking Octantis, the biggest cruise ship on the Great Lakes, made its second visit to the city, arriving Friday and departing on Saturday. The Octantis is a Seawaymax-size vessel, which means it is the largest possible ship that can still fit through the St. Lawrence Seaway locks connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to accommodating 378 passengers, it is configured to hold up to 250 crew members.

Port Milwaukee has a $7 million project to expand and rebuild South Shore Cruise Dock to accommodate the larger vessels, but for each of the Octantis’ 10 visits this year it must dock at the inner harbor Heavy Lift Dock more commonly used by freighters.

Passengers visiting Milwaukee are treated to a variety of bus-based excursions. Those arriving on the Ocantatis’ first visit on May 6 had the options of the Pabst MansionMilwaukee Art Museum, hiking at the Urban Ecology Center or bird watching at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

Viking Cruises‘ Great Lakes offerings are heavily-focused on nature. Theresa Nemetz‘ Milwaukee Food & City Tours leads the excursions not just locally, but in Detroit, Duluth, Bayfield, WI and Alpena, MI.

Next year, the Viking Polaris — a sister ship still under construction — will join the Octantis on the Great Lakes. The Octantis was built in Norway and first sailed to Antarctica before sailing through the Caribbean and New York and entering the Great Lakes in April.

“Cruise activity in the Great Lakes is experiencing exponential growth,” said port director Adam Tindall-Schlicht at a May 6 press conference welcoming the Octantis to the city. When Tindall-Schlicht started in 2018, the city had approximately 1,000 cruise passengers a year.

All-inclusive, eight-day Great Lakes cruises with American Queen start at approximately $5,000. Viking’s Great Lakes eight-day cruises start at approximately $6,000. Fourteen-day Great Lakes cruises from Vantage start at approximately $9,000.

American Queen was formerly known as Victory Cruise Lines. Most of its Great Lakes cruises, based on an online schedule, turn around in Chicago and skip Milwaukee.

Great Lakes cruise operators, owing to the 1886 Passenger Vessel Services Act and the reliance on foreign-made vessels, transport passengers on one-way trips between American and Canadian ports. Only American-made vessels can transport passengers between U.S. ports, though the ships can stop in consecutive U.S. ports provided all passengers return to the vessel.

Milwaukee is next scheduled to host three cruise ships over the same weekend on Sep. 24 and 25.

Viking Octantis Tour Photos From May 6 Visit

May 20 Weekend Cruise Ship Photos

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