2018-09-08 / News

‘Cruise the Great Lakes’ Advertising Campaign Unveiled at Mackinac Island

By Stephanie Fortino

An outdoor cafe on the 202-passenger Victory I offers sweeping views of the bay at Mackinac Island. An outdoor cafe on the 202-passenger Victory I offers sweeping views of the bay at Mackinac Island. Michigan’s promotional and advertising organization, Travel Michigan, is embarking on a new initiative to increase cruising on all of the Great Lakes, Governor Rick Snyder announced at a Mackinac Island press conference Thursday, August 30.

The state will partner with other states and Canadian provinces to promote the cruise ships, which resumed visits in 2015 to Mackinac Island and St. Ignace as part of their itinerary and have become a welcomed sight for Michiganders in other Great Lakes port cities, as well.

A small crowd gathered on Star Line’s mid-town dock to hear about the new initiative aimed at fostering tourism for port cities equipped to dock cruise ships such as the Victory I, which was on hand for the announcement. Victory Cruise Lines chairman and founder Bruce Nierenberg gave the governor and spectators tours of the 202-passenger vessel, which has stopped at Mackinac Island each summer since 2016. Next summer, the Victory II will make its Great Lakes debut.

Cruise passengers can enjoy this sundeck on Victory I, a frequent visitor to the Island. Cruise passengers can enjoy this sundeck on Victory I, a frequent visitor to the Island. Cruise the Great Lakes is the newest project of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers, which Mr. Snyder chairs.

“I am excited to bring more cruise ships to our wonderful Great Lakes so visitors can experience our fantastic shoreline communities,” he said in a prepared statement. “Cruising on the Great Lakes is poised for major growth in the coming years, with significant economic benefits for the entire region.”

Cruise ship voyages brought nearly 100,000 passengers to Michigan ports in 2018 and the new initiative aims to increase travel, including more passengers and more ports throughout the region.

Passengers enjoy cocktails Thursday, August 30, before the evening’s entertainment. Passengers enjoy cocktails Thursday, August 30, before the evening’s entertainment. “This is an exciting time for Victory Cruise Lines as we are in the midst of doubling our capacity on the Great Lakes within a very short period of time,” Mr. Nierenberg said.

Demand for cruising on all five Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway is increasing, he continued. Many of the passengers aboard Victory I are drawn to the voyages because they’re specifically interested in the Island. He said about 20 small cruise ships are under construction around the country, many of which are destined for cruises in Antarctica and could spend summers traveling the Great Lakes.

“Let’s enjoy this, but let’s grow this,” he said.

Travel Michigan Vice President Dave Lorenz, who serves as the chair of Cruise the Great Lakes, said the partnership will promote cruising in Wisconsin, Illinois, Canada, and other locations, not just Michigan.

“This is going to open up the Great Lakes to travelers who have never been here before,” Mr. Lorenz said.

A unique aspect of cruising is that passengers spend their nights on the vessels. When they make it to ports, they explore the towns, shop and spend money, adding to the local economies, Mr. Snyder said during the press conference.

“I view it as a win for everybody,” he said.

He noted that revived Great Lakes cruising harkens back to the era of steam-powered ships that visited the Island and other famous ports. As a resident of the Muskegon area, Mr. Lorenz said, seeing cruise ships return has renewed a sense of pride in the community, which is a perfect motivator for growth.

Cruise the Great Lakes will promote the pastime through a strategic branding and advertising campaign. Stevens Advertising of Grand Rapids has been selected to develop and implement the new campaign. First, the group will market to potential passengers and tour operators. Eventually, the initiative will expand to encourage more cruise operators to bring vessels to the Great Lakes.

The group also will work with local port communities, Mr. Lorenz told the Town Crier, noting cruise ship operators need certain amenities at their ports of call. The biggest need is waste disposal, he said, including trash and sewage removal. The ships are equipped with ballast water treatment technologies, he added, so while they also can travel on the ocean, there is little worry about the transportation of invasive species to the Great Lakes.

Eight cruise ships have operated on the Great Lakes this year, including the Victory I and Pearl Mist, which are frequent visitors to Mackinac Island. Blount Small Ship Adventures also hosts Great Lakes voyages, and two more cruise lines plan to offer Great Lakes excursions by 2020.

The State of Michigan will contribute $25,000 to the advertising campaign, which could continue for the foreseeable future, Mr. Lorenz told the Town Crier. Each member of Cruise the Great Lakes will contribute to the advertising campaign.

Other partners are Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ontario, Québec, Victory Cruise Lines, Visit Detroit, Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, Muskegon County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, Destination Cleveland, Port of Cleveland, St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, Blount Small Ship Adventures, Duluth Seaway Port Authority/Visit Duluth, Pearl Seas Cruises, Tourism Thunder Bay, and Visit Milwaukee/ Port of Milwaukee.

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