Banner cruise ship year heralds rebounding industry

LITTLE CURRENT— The Port of Little Current has not seen more cruise ship visits scheduled to visit in a single season since horse and buggies were a common sight on Manitoulin’s highways and the cruise ship industry is seeing a resurgence that harkens back to the days of coal and steam.

“Well, it is going very well,” admitted Great Lakes Cruising Coalition Executive Director Stephen Burnett. “We are all very happy with how 2015 has been shaping up.”

The Great Lakes Cruising Coalition is an organization which advocates passenger cruising on the Great Lakes, represents publicly-owned assets and is comprised of American and Canadian port cities and towns, various significant port authorities, several US states, as well as Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway. “We have been in existence since 1997 and our members represent important destinations around the Great Lakes,” noted Mr. Burnett.

The vessels that will be visiting Little Current this year include one that is relatively new to the Great Lakes and it is representative of the type of “sophisticated touring ship that caters to a discriminating style of clientele,” and he contributes that their continued success is that the cruise lines are run “by companies like Haimark Lines that are determined to get it right the first time.”

Modern cruise ship offerings offer a significant portion of enrichment, noted Mr. Burnett. “It is a trend in the cruise industry and tourism in general,” he said. “Haimark understands that.”

The two vessels that will be dropping by Little Current this season include the newly refurbished M.S. Saint Laurent, formerly the Cape May Light. Built in 2001 for the Delta Queen Coastal Voyages, it was purchased by Haimark who then poured $3.5 million into refurbishing the 210 passenger ship.

The 105-stateroom M.S. Saint Laurent is now billed as a “four-star, intimate and charming ocean-going coastal vessel.” The refurbished vessel sports spacious indoor and expansive outdoor public areas, but her light draft makes her the ideal vessel for exploring destinations larger vessels cannot reach.

The Saint Laurent is outfitted with elevators on decks one to four, as well as boasting an onboard full service salon, boutique and medical services, in fact spots “all the amenities you would expect to find on a deluxe ocean vessel.”

The Saint Laurent was especially designed for cruising the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway and coastal New England, along with somewhat “more esoteric Central and South America cruise programs.”

In the enrichment area, the Saint Laurent cruises feature afternoon tea with cake, a cocktail hour, cultural performances, educational talks, cooking classes and ship tours, complemented with 24-hour room service, welcome reception, farewell reception, theme dinners, indoor and outdoor lounges, observation deck with bar service and spacious sun deck area. All this catered to by an “expertly-trained culinary staff who provide seated breakfast, lunch and multiple course meals in the dining room, as well as casual outdoor cafe and grille offerings, buffet breakfast and buffet lunch.”

No stranger to Manitoulin Island and Little Current, the Pearl Mist will once again drop anchor at the Port of Little Current. With six decks, the Pearl Mist is the perfect size to “provide an exceptional luxury experience without feeling overwhelmed.” The ship is equipped with viewing balconies, a library, a fitness area, a spacious glass-enclosed dining room, and an elevator to all stateroom decks.

“The exceptionally large and gracefully appointed staterooms aboard the Pearl Mist surround you with a warm and inviting atmosphere,” notes its brochure. “The ship has been designed with a room for every preference, from our cozy private paradises to our massive luxury suites.  Every stateroom is fully-stocked with everything you’d need to relax in your home away from home, with plenty of extras as well.”

The Saint Laurent was to visit on July 10, although that arrival was cancelled following the ship’s accident in the St. Laurent locks, with further visits scheduled for July 18, August 6, 14 and 24 and a visit scheduled for September 1.

The Pearl Mist is scheduled to make its first arrival in Little Current for 2015 season on July 23, followed in August with visits on the 1, 13, 22 and 27 and a further visit on September 5.