This New Great Lakes Cruise Will Sail From Niagara Falls to Some of the Most Exciting Islands in North America

It’s time to consider this close-to-home region for your next cruise.

The Le Dumont D'Urville by PONANT
Photo: Frédéric Michel/Courtesy of Studio PONANT

If you're thinking about cruising for your next vacation, you're probably considering the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, or maybe even a European river cruise. But have you ever thought about sticking a little closer to home and sailing the Great Lakes?

Raspberry Island Lighthouse in Wisconsin on Lake Superior
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A new itinerary by Smithsonian Journeys and luxury cruise line Ponant will bring guests on a tour of the Great Lakes — which are far more like inland seas than actual lakes.

Scenic View Of Niagara Falls Against Sky
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The adventure begins in Toronto on Lake Ontario and starts out with the Great Lakes' most famous attraction: Niagara Falls. Then, it sails across Lake Erie toward Detroit, and continues on to Lake Huron, where guests can explore the Thirty Thousand Islands, the world's largest freshwater archipelago. A further port of call is Manitoulin Island, the world's largest freshwater island, where programming includes in-depth cultural experiences with the Ojibwe people.

Bellevue park and St Marys river on Sault ste marie-Ontario/Canada
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Then, it's off to Sault Ste. Marie, where you can sail the Soo Locks to quickly venture up to Lake Superior before returning to the Ponant ship on Lake Huron. Up next on Lake Huron is Mackinac Island, a carless island home to the historic Fort Mackinac, the elegant Victorian-era Grand Hotel, and more than 70 miles of biking, hiking, and horseback riding trails. And finally, guests disembark in Milwaukee.

Aerial view of Thirty Thousand Islands, Georgian Bay with fall colors dotted islands from a plane
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The sailing will take place aboard Ponant's sister ships Le Dumont d'Urville and Le Bellot, 92-cabin, all-balcony expedition ships that launched in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The elegant, yacht-like vessels, which have a maximum passenger capacity of just 184 people, have a French fine dining restaurant, a casual grill, a spa and fitness center, a theater, and several lounges — including the innovative Blue Eye, an underwater lounge that broadcasts the sounds of the sea (or in this case, sounds of the lake). Smithsonian Journeys and Ponant are offering three Great Lakes sailings between August and October — each will host two Smithsonian Journeys experts on the region to enrich the trips. Rates start at $6,790 per person for an eight-night cruise, and you can book your cruise here.

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