Sail into the sunset on the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry dinner cruise this season

Expositor staffer Robin Burridge enjoys an early Mother’s Day dinner with her mother Michelle Bannock aboard the MS Chi-Cheemaun this past weekend.

MANITOULIN—Since moving to Manitoulin Island four years ago, I’ve taken the MS Chi-Cheemaun to Tobermory and back several times, both travelling down south and for day trips to Tobermory, but I had yet to try the sunset dinner cruise until this past weekend.

With my mom visiting from Belleville for the week, I thought a shopping day trip to Tobermory, ending with the dinner cruise on the way back to the Island, would be the perfect opportunity to not only try the dinner cruise, but treat my mom to a great early Mother’s Day dinner.

A selfie captures the memory and the ferry’s new paint job.
A selfie captures the memory and the ferry’s new paint job.

I was pleasantly surprised when I called for reservations, not only with how friendly the staff was on the phone, but how reasonably priced the dinner was. A round trip dinner cruise ticket was $50 ($38.50 for one way), while simply a same day walk-on return ticket is $28, meaning that the all inclusive dinner (excluding drinks) was only $22.

After a long day of shopping in Tobermory, my mom and I boarded the Chi-Cheemaun to travel back to the Island. We headed into the cafeteria not sure of what to expect, but quickly saw that a portion of the cafeteria had been portioned off and that an elegantly decorated dining room had been set up. A server greeted us and asked for our reservation before seating us at a table near the windows.

It had been raining throughout the afternoon, and we were disappointed that we would miss out on the ‘sunset’ part of the dinner cruise. There wasn’t a lot of sun, but our view was still something magical. As we set sail, against a dark sky with a pink horizon, fog began to rise from the water, rolling over the calm, cold water and framing the islands and the Big Tub Lighthouse.

Our server poured us ice water and brought us fresh rolls as we reviewed the menu.

Our options for starters were a Caesar salad or Thai coconut curry soup. For entrees our options were prime rib au jus served with Yorkshire pudding, duckling in an orange-ginger sauce, the catch of the day (which was for our cruise was a lightly breaded fillet of whitefish) or the chef’s specialty, which last Friday evening was chicken parmesan. Other then the chef’s specialty, that came with penne pasta, all the entrees were served with Yukon potatoes and assorted vegetables.

Not only were we impressed with the delicious sounding options, but we were delighted with the quality and portions of the meal.

I had the Caesar salad while my mom ordered the Thai coconut curry soup. Both were incredible as was my chicken parmesan and my mom’s whitefish.

We spied the other entrees as they were served to the surrounding tables and heard comments about the beautiful presentation and quality of the meals.

Our wonderful meal was topped off with a large piece of turtle cheesecake and coffee. We headed to the top deck for a quick selfie with the ferry’s new paint job before arriving in South Baymouth.

Calm after the storm. The view from the dining room last Friday evening during the sunset dinner cruise as the ferry departs from Tobermory.
Calm after the storm. The view from the dining room last Friday evening during the sunset dinner cruise as the ferry departs from Tobermory.

As we exited the ship my mom noted what an amazing meal and experience the dinner cruise had been and how we will have to do it again with the rest of our family when they come to visit in the summer.

Though there were no children present for our cruise, we learned that there is a kid’s menu (children 5-11-years-old) featuring options like chicken fingers and fries, grilled cheese, hamburger, hot dog, pizza and fish and chips, at a cost of $36 for round trip and $30 for one way.

There was also a couple on our cruise who were planning their wedding on the Chi-Cheemaun. As they ate dinner, they debated over the seating chart. They explained that they had chosen to get married on the ferry, even though she was from Guelph and he was from near Ottawa, as Tobermory had become a special place for them as she had introduced him to scuba diving in the area.

We learned from our server that there were many weddings on the ferry, as the dining area was able to accommodate 90 people. Groups also book tables or the entire dining room for corporate events and fundraisers and there are special cruises throughout the season featuring book launches or live entertainment.

The sunset dinner cruise runs Friday evenings from May 1 to June 18 departing Tobermory at 6:10 pm (except May 15), Monday, Wednesday and Saturday evenings from June 19 to September 7 departing Tobermory at 8 pm (except August 3), Thursday evenings June 19 to September 7 departing South Baymouth at 5:50 pm and Friday evenings September 8 to October 18 departing Tobermory at 6:10 pm (except October 9).

Reservations are required as there is limited seating. For reservations or more information call 1-800-265-3163 or visit ontarioferries.com.