Since the dawn of time, man has been fascinated by the sea. “What lays beyond” has driven mankind to explore new horizons – literally and figuratively. With 71% of the earth’s surface covered by water is it any wonder humans are passionate about sailing.
The advent of organized tourism started in the late 1800s with Thomas Cook’s rail tours. It wasn’t long before transcontinental cruising on ships, a luxury affordable only to the affluent passenger was “de rigueur”. Now ocean and sea cruising has become the most popular form of travel for vacationing tourists with itineraries ranging from cheap and cheerful to all out luxury. Ships get bigger for the masses and smaller for the discriminating traveller who prefer a more exclusive experience.
North American travellers seeking new experiences were more than eager to jump on the early 21stst century’s newest craze of river cruising with itineraries primarily in Europe. The Brits knew about this kind of travel for decades. Now hundreds of small cruise vessels sail the rivers in exotic destinations around the world, including the Irrawaddy in Myanmar, Yangtze in China, the Nile in Egypt, the Ganges in India and the Amazon in South America. I’ll write more on these at a later date.
So where does the travel industry go from here in the development of new sailing frontiers – just ask the Europeans who lead the way in tourism trends outside Europe. They have discovered Lake Cruising! And where in the world are the biggest lakes – right here on our own doorstep in North America where we proudly co-share The Great Lakes. Yes, that’s right Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Superior are seeing new boutique cruise ships mingling with the tankers just off our own shores. Ships enter through the St. Lawrence Seaway, past the Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec City and through the Saguenay River to Ottawa. This fall you will see as many as four cruise ships in the port of Montreal. From there ships travel through the Thousand Islands, Kingston and Toronto on down to Niagara where they pass through the historic Welland Canal to Lake Erie. Goderich, Manitoulin, Perry Sound, Midland, Sault St. Marie, Tobermory, Detroit, Windsor and Chicago are the major ports of interest along the Great Lakes.
We have long taken for granted our own lakeshores but from a tourist’s perspective, they offer history, culture and unique experiences. Many of the well-known and reputable cruise companies are in the process of building boutique ships designed to travel the Great Lakes. Small enough to pass through the Welland Canal but luxurious enough to attract the affluent traveller.
Who knew that once again we would become the Next Frontier!