Seamlessly blending luxury small ship cruising and intimate cultural discovery, Vantage Deluxe World Travel is delighted to show you North America's rich natural beauty and buzzing metro hubs on this small ship ocean cruise through the Great Lakes and beyond!
Your journey begins in sophisticated Montréal, one of Canada's great cultural jewels. Discover more about Canada’s multicultural history before moving onto scenic Lake Ontario and the city of Kingston. Explore Niagara Falls on both the Canadian and American sides of the falls. Continue through the Great Lakes and the historic cities that border them, including rock-and-roll Cleveland and innovative Detroit.
Along the way, get in-depth cultural insights thanks to an onboard Resident Lecturer, who will lead riveting talks and discussions on your destinations. Your adventures along Lake Huron and Lake Michigan will conclude with visits to Manitoulin Island (where you’ll experience a traditional Ojibwe smudging ceremony), Mackinac Island, and a final stop in Chicago for a boat tour. If you fall in love with Chi-town, you can choose to stay on for our two-night extension.
North American Waterways will give you an unmatched sailing experience aboard the 5-star Ocean Explorer. This state-of-the-art small ship offers smoother navigation while pampering you with Deluxe amenities and a small passenger-to-crew ratio with just 77 cabins, including a landmark 15 solo cabins. While aboard, indulge in a massage at the spa, or try hot-rock cooking at the onboard restaurant. For lakeshore excursions during the course of your journey, you’ll be transported by bus, trolley, and even horse-drawn carriage. With 25 included features and Cultural Discoveries, each day will bring new wonders in some of the most intriguing destinations in North America.
Canada’s capital, stunning Ottawa is the nation’s most prosperous and educated city, a showcase of fine architecture, beautiful outdoor spaces, and a cultural hub that boasts seven national museums and a plethora of shops, restaurants, universities, theaters, and so much more. Set at the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau, and Rideau rivers, its setting is as gracious as its welcoming, easygoing vibe. The city invites outdoor exploration with its lovely parks and gardens, including the wildlife-rich Parc Omega, and the central Rideau Canal, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique design and cultural significance. Along the way to Ottawa, you’ll enjoy a delicious taste of Canada when you lunch at Fairmont Le Château Montebello for a true Quebecois feast.
Say hello to the Windy City on this fantastic extension that lets you explore the delicious food, stunning architecture and even local music scene on a deep level. Dubbed "a city in a garden," you will have the opportunity to not only enjoy Chicago's modern locations, but also admire it's impressive outdoor spaces and design. You'll see the greenery nestled among the great works of architect Frank Lloyd Wright on an interactive tour, complete with Chicago-style lunch. Then, take the rest of your time to check out Millennium Park, the scenic Navy Pier, or even just to grab a slice of deep-dish pizza. Whatever you choose, your thirst for Chicago will be quenched.
Arrive in Montréal, Canada
Arrive in Montréal for the first leg of your Great Lakes adventure! If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, you’ll be met at the airport by a representative who will assist you with your hotel transfer. Spend the afternoon and evening at leisure, with time to explore your new surroundings.
Discover the glory of Montréal on tour
Set out to explore this remarkable city, situated on an island in the St. Lawrence River. This UNESCO City of Design (one of only a few in the world), is home to more than 50 national historic sites, and it boasts a lively downtown arts and cultural scene. View many of its gems, including historic Old Montréal’s stunning architecture, and the magnificent neo-Gothic Notre Dame Basilica, one of the crown jewels in Québec's rich religious heritage. Depending on the day/time you visit, the cathedral may not be open to the public due to religious observances. If so, you can visit the next morning on your own free time.
At lunchtime, you'll feast on a traditional sugar shack meal, rich and laden with peak-season maple sweetness. Afterward, you'll have time to explore this magnificent city on your own.
Explore more of Montréal on your own, and embark the Ocean Explorer
Enjoy a full day of exploration on your own in the city of Montréal. Make sure you take advantage of its vibrant foodie scene, complete with fresh catch-of-the day, like Atlantic char, and poutine, which is a dish of French fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy.
This afternoon, embark the 5-star Ocean Explorer to take advantage of all its amenities, including ongoing educational and interesting lectures. As we depart, you'll be treated to some scenic views of the St. Lawrence River, island of Montréal, and Mont Royal in the distance.
Spend a day in a historic Canadian village
Travel back more than 150 years to see up close how rural life was lived in an English Canadian settlement. You'll spend a full day at the Upper Canada Village, recreated to mimic homes, activities, and even food from the 1860s. The property includes 40 historical buildings, costumed interpreters, and horse carriage rides (if you'd like an authentic experience exploring the grounds). This afternoon, enjoy an included lunch at the village.
Please note: Depending on the sailing date, not all historical buildings will be open and available to visit. Upper Canada Village may be closed, if so we will be visiting Brockville, Ontario, for a full-day tour with included lunch instead.
Tour Kingston by coach
Today we'll explore Kingston, known as the "Limestone City" for its historic architecture and charm. You'll experience this city in the best way, via a hop-on/hop-off narrated coach tour. The included stops will offer a look at all of the city's most well-known visitor destinations, including the Canadian Penitentiary Museum, Queen’s University's Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Pumphouse Museum, Bellevue House, Kingston City Hall, and Market Square. Later we'll visit the downtown shopping area for a brief stroll and finish our tour at Fort Henry. Fort Henry is a 19th century British military base complete with period equipment, museum, and even garrison parades. There will be an interactive tour and lunch at the fort before returning to the ship.
Enjoy a panoramic tour of Toronto
After breakfast, a panoramic tour of Toronto ensures you’ll see this wonderful metropolis and its skyline in full view. We’ll drive by Toronto City Hall, the Eaton Center, and more, before visiting the pedestrian-only Distillery Historic District, then drive by the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Sail into the mists of Niagara Falls, and visit a local winery
Excitement prevails today as we disembark in Port Colborne on the southern end of the Welland Canal and drive along the Niagara River for dramatic views of Horseshoe Falls. Then you’ll board the iconic Hornblower “Voyage to the Falls” for a cruise past the American and Bridal Veil Falls before heading into the misty spray of Niagara’s thunderous Horseshoe. This afternoon, enjoy a wine tasting and lunch at an estate in the Niagara Wine Region, home to over 50 wineries.
Back on shore, we’ll drive along picturesque Niagara Parkway, spotting famed Niagara sights including the Floral Clock and the Whirlpool Rapids.
Please note: Timing and docking may vary due to ship's transit time through canal.
Tour Cleveland’s iconic sites, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Depart for a charming coach tour of Cleveland, nestled along the banks of Lake Erie. Depending on the day of the week, our stops may include the stately Museum of Art, the Tiffany-designed Wade Chapel at Lakeview Cemetery, and the bustling West Side Market, where hundreds of vendors hawk everything from fresh seafood to flowers. You'll also have the opportunity to visit the iconic Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, spanning generations of incredible music history displayed in interactive, audibly-pleasing exhibits.
Please note: Some groups will experience today’s itinerary in reverse order. However, both groups will enjoy the same number of features.
Discover Detroit: From the Henry Ford Museum to the Institute of the Arts
Sailing from Lake Erie to Lake Huron, your ship, the 5-star Ocean Explorer, will arrive in Detroit, Michigan. Peruse artifacts from American history during a self-guided tour of the Henry Ford Museum, home to the limousine that carried President John F. Kennedy on that fateful day in Texas, the bus in which Rosa Parks stood her ground and sparked the Civil Rights Movement, and the chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated.
After lunch back on the ship, you’ll tour the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The DIA features one of the most renowned art collections in the country that include Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry Murals and Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait — the first Van Gogh painting to enter an American museum collection. Home to the Harriet Tubman Museum Collection, as well as other important offerings documenting the Detroit’s labor movement.
This evening, enjoy dinner and a Motown performance back on the ship as we set sail for Lake Huron.
Spend a day on Lake Huron
Spend the day enjoying incredible views of Lake Huron. The second largest of the Great Lakes, Lake Huron features more 30,000 islands and boasts more shoreline than any of the other Great Lakes. Head to the sun deck with a cocktail and a good book or with a good camera for some excellent photo opportunities.
Encounter Ojibwe tradition and a powwow on Manitoulin Island
Keep your cameras ready as we cruise through the rugged beauty of UNESCO-listed Georgian Bay, sometimes called the sixth Great Lake. Our destination is Manitoulin Island, the world’s largest freshwater island and home of the Ojibwe tribe. With native and non-native communities coexisting like nowhere else on the continent, Manitoulin has a history as colorful and diverse as any in Canada. Docking at Little Current, you’ll explore the area’s rich native and nautical history and discover how the beliefs and customs of the Ojibwe intertwine with Catholicism during a visit to the Immaculate Conception Church.
Choose your own adventure in Sault Ste. Marie
Today, we’ll transit the Soo Locks from Lake Huron into Lake Superior at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Located at the mouth of the St. Mary's River, these four parallel locks — MacArthur (constructed in 1943), Poe (1895), Davis (1914), and Sabin (1919) — pass an impressive 10,000 ships each year.
After docking, you’ll have your choice of adventures and attractions on the U.S. side of the locks: a hop-on/hop-off tour, Valley Camp Museum, River of History Museum, Das Gift Haus, Historic Water St. Homes, and the Soo Locks.
Step back in time on car-free Mackinac Island
Tour the popular retreat of Mackinac Island today via horse-drawn carriage. With its Revolutionary-era heritage and car-free streets, arriving on the island feels like a true step back in time.
Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the village on your own. This evening, you're invited to a delightful cocktail hour in the ship's lounge, where a captivating presentation by the ship’s historian rounds out another delightful day.
Sail along scenic Lake Michigan
The only Great Lake located entirely within the United States, Lake Michigan has a surface area of more than 22,000 square miles, making it the fifth largest lake in the world. The name Michigan is believed to come from the native Ojibwe word mishigami, which translates to “great water.” After a scenic day of cruising, we’ll gather for a festive Farewell Reception, followed by Dinner.
Disembark the Ocean Explorer, and tour the highlights of Chicago
This morning, you will disembark the ship in Milwaukee and board a private transfer to Chicago. Sit back and take in the sights as you enjoy a relaxing 2-hour drive to the "Windy City." Today will bring a new nautical adventure, as you see Chicago from the water on an architectural tour. More than 50 buildings line the Chicago River, a testament to how this metropolis has thrived over the past century to become one of the world’s largest cities.
Panoramic city tour of Chicago
We’ll take the scenic route today on a panoramic tour of this cultural capital. Your afternoon is at leisure if you'd like to explore more of Chicago on your own. Explore this beloved metropolis and its offerings. Chicago is also considered one of the country’s most walkable cities, so take some time to explore the city’s iconic skyscrapers, renowned museums, waterfront, and pristine parks.
Board a return flight home
After breakfast at the hotel this morning, check out of the hotel and transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Please Note: Ocean cruising is not the same experience as river cruising; as such, you may experience fluctuating tides and weather patterns that may involve some rocking of your vessel. Itineraries will include all activities as planned except in extreme cases that can’t be controlled by your shipboard crew. Day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Cruise Director or regional expert.