Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive? (+ Tips To Save BIG)

Wondering why Great Lakes cruises have such a high cost?

With limited ships and a short season, the prices may seem steep, but the unique experience is worth every penny.

Let’s break down why the cruises cost a pretty penny and whether to not it’s worth it for you and your family….

Why Are Great Lakes Cruises So Expensive?

Great Lakes cruises tend to be more expensive than ocean cruises due to the limited number of ships designed for this region. The unique challenges of the Great Lakes require smaller ships, which means fewer passengers can be accommodated. Most of these cruises are also luxury and higher-end.

Additionally, the short season from late May to October results in a high concentration of sailings, further driving up the cost.

Luxury cruise ship at port: Featured in : Why Are great Lakes Cruises So Expensive

Demand and Limited Supply

The Great Lakes cruises are quite popular, attracting many tourists every year. However, the cruise season is relatively short, typically running from May to October.

This limitation contributes to the high demand for Great Lakes cruises since people want to take advantage of this amazing experience during the available timeframe.

Coupled with the limited supply of cruise ships that can fit through the locks and canals, the result is oftentimes expensive cruise fares.

Additionally, the size of the ships is a contributing factor to the high pricing.

Great Lakes cruise ships are required to be smaller to navigate the region’s waters, which also means they can accommodate fewer passengers.

This inherently drives up the price per guest, as cruise operators seek to cover their costs and make a profit.

But don’t let this discourage you, as there are practical reasons why these cruises may be worth their higher price tag.

Operating and Maintenance Costs

Operating a cruise ship in the Great Lakes comes with its own unique costs that might seem surprising at first.

These ships consume a considerable amount of fuel, and depending on the vessel size, their consumption rates can be quite high.

Add to that the continuous wear and tear on the ship’s parts from sailing such a vast and sometimes unforgiving environment, maintenance costs can also be quite steep.

Passenger ships operating in the Great Lakes must comply with specific safety and environmental regulations, which can add additional costs.

Crew members must be trained and certified to manage the potential risks of operating in the Great Lakes, which also contributes to the overall expenses.

Nevertheless, despite the hefty price tag, Great Lakes cruises offer unrivaled experiences, both in terms of natural beauty and cultural experiences, which could very well make it worth the cost in the end.

Just make sure to budget accordingly, and you’re all set for an unforgettable trip.

Factors Influencing Prices

Lake Huron Shoreline - Featured in : Why Are great Lakes Cruises So Expensive

Seasonal Trends

When planning a Great Lakes cruise, you’ll notice that prices fluctuate throughout the year. The reason for this is that the St. Lawrence Seaway, which connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, has opening and closing times.

The limited availability of these cruises during specific times of the year, such as the summer and fall months, results in higher prices than ocean cruises.

Keep in mind that during peak seasons, you may find it more challenging to get affordable deals.

Cruise Line and Itineraries

Another factor affecting the price of Great Lakes cruises is the choice of cruise line and itineraries available.

With only a select few operators having ships designed to navigate the intricate routes of the Great Lakes, you’ll find limited options at your disposal.

Since these cruises fill up quickly, the prices tend to be higher. Carefully planning your trip and comparing different itineraries can help you find a balance between your interests and budget.

Shore Excursions

You can expect a higher price for Great Lakes cruises due to the unique nature of the shore excursions offered.

As the lakes stop at fascinating port cities and natural attractions like Niagara Falls, these excursions tend to be more specialized and often require expert guides, which increases the cost of the overall trip.

To find the best deals on your cruise, research and book your excursions in advance for potentially lower prices.

Great Lakes Ships Are All High-Quality

Making your way through the Great Lakes requires vessels specifically designed for navigating these waterways.

This means that the ships used are of high quality and include luxurious amenities, leading to increased costs.

Additionally, these smaller ships typically offer a more intimate setting, making them perfect for a serene and immersive experience, but also pricier than their larger ocean-cruise counterparts.

Higher Quality of Food

During your cruise through the Great Lakes, you’ll have the opportunity to indulge in top-quality dining options.

Using locally-sourced ingredients and offering exquisite menus, these cruises pride themselves on their high culinary standards.

Consequently, the price of your cruise might be higher due to the impressive dining selections it provides.

Higher Crew-to-Passenger Cost Ratio

Lastly, smaller passenger capacity on Great Lakes cruises leads to a higher crew-to-passenger cost ratio compared to bigger ocean cruise ships.

This results in personalized service and attentive crews eager to cater to your every need.

Although this aspect may contribute to the overall cost of the cruise, it allows for a more exclusive and enjoyable experience onboard.

In summary, a combination of factors – from seasonal trends to meal quality – contribute to the higher costs associated with Great Lakes cruises.

By understanding these factors and planning accordingly, you can make the most informed decision while pursuing a memorable adventure exploring the stunning Great Lakes region.

Comparing Costs with Other Cruises

Cruise at harbor - Featured in : Why Are great Lakes Cruises So Expensive

Ocean Cruises

When comparing the costs of Great Lakes cruises to ocean cruises, you’ll notice a difference in price. Ocean cruises typically offer more competitive pricing due to economies of scale.

With larger ships, often carrying thousands of passengers, they can reduce the per-person cost by spreading fixed costs, such as fuel and crew salaries, across many passengers.

Additionally, ocean cruise lines have an extensive network of routes, allowing them to optimize their operations and provide guests with various options, ultimately lowering the overall cost.

On the other hand, Great Lakes cruises must operate with smaller vessels due to regulations and the waterways’ physical limitations.

This creates a higher cost per passenger because of the limited number of people onboard.

You might find that the amenities and activities on Great Lakes cruises are more tailored and unique, which can be a part of the higher price tag.

River Cruises

Comparing Great Lakes cruises with river cruises, you’ll find they share some similarities, like the vessel size. River cruises are also limited by the size of their ships, so they have higher per-passenger costs.

However, river cruises often operate in remote areas with less tourism infrastructure, which might result in higher costs.

Therefore, the price difference between Great Lakes cruises and river cruises might not be as significant as with ocean cruises.

River cruises’ emphasis on the in-depth exploration of destinations, with included shore excursions and unique cultural experiences, makes them somewhat comparable to Great Lakes cruises.

Both types of cruises offer a more intimate experience than ocean cruises, allowing you to meet like-minded travelers and enjoy personalized attention from the staff.

As a result, you might be willing to pay a bit more for this intimate and unforgettable journey.

While comparing the costs of cruises, remember to account for what’s included in the price.

Great Lakes cruises often feature all-inclusive packages, encompassing on-board entertainment, fine dining, and scenic views.

River and ocean cruises can include similar offerings, so it’s essential to compare the full value of these options when determining which one fits your travel preferences and budget best.

Ways To Save On Great Lakes Cruises

Book Early or Last Minute

One effective way to save on your Great Lakes cruise is by booking either very early or last minute. Early birds often get the best deals, as cruise lines may offer discounts for those who reserve their spots well in advance.

By planning your trip ahead of time, you can capitalize on these offers and secure a better rate.

On the other hand, if you’re more spontaneous, cruise lines occasionally lower their fares in order to fill the remaining spaces just before departure.

This can help you save significantly, but keep in mind that availability could be limited.

Choose a Simple Itinerary

Another approach to saving on your Great Lakes cruise is opting for a simpler itinerary. Cruises with fewer stops or shorter durations are generally more cost-effective than those with an extensive list of destinations.

As you plan your cruise, consider which ports of call most interest you and prioritize accordingly. By focusing on a select few locations, you can reduce your overall expenses without sacrificing your travel experience.

Remember, quality often prevails over quantity, and a well-planned trip enables you to truly immerse yourself in the beauty and culture of the Great Lakes region.

How Much Do Great Lakes Cruises Cost?

When you start to look into Great Lakes cruises, you might be surprised by the price range. Typically, cruises on the Great Lakes cost around $5,000 to $10,000.

Even though this might seem higher than ocean cruises, there are some valid reasons for the difference in cost.

Viking Cruises offers 7-night Great Lakes cruises from $5,860 per person and has several itinerary options. For example, they provide 8-day trips from Milwaukee to either Toronto or Thunder Bay, as well as a 15-day route from Toronto to Duluth.

Ponant has 7-night cruises starting at $5,480 per person, while American Queen features 10-night Great Lakes cruises from $5,489 per person. Pearl Seas, on the other hand, has 7-night cruises starting at $5,350 per person.

Various factors come into play when considering the cost of a Great Lakes cruise. For one, these cruises have limited availability due to the opening and closing times of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

This means that the number of sailings per season is significantly less than what you might find on ocean cruises.

Another factor is the type of vessel used on these cruises, as not all ships can pass through the Seaway. As such, Great Lakes cruise ships tend to be smaller and cater to a more intimate cruising experience.

This means that there may be fewer passengers, contributing to a higher price per person.

Finally, it’s important to consider what’s included in the cruise. Some Great Lakes cruises include excursions, onboard amenities, and even all-inclusive packages that cover additional expenses such as drinks, gratuities, and more.

Remember, when looking at the cost of these cruises, you’re not only paying for the voyage but also for an unforgettable experience in a unique part of the world.

While the prices of Great Lakes cruises can be a bit higher than ocean cruises, you could find that it’s worth the extra cost for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore this magnificent region.

Tips to Save Money On Your Great Lakes Cruise

Booking a cruise to explore the beautiful Great Lakes can be expensive, but don’t worry – there are ways to save money while still enjoying an incredible vacation.

Here are some of the best tips to help make your Great Lakes cruise more affordable:

Book Early: One of the best ways to secure a great deal is by booking your cruise early. Great Lakes cruises often sell out quickly, so by planning ahead, you’ll not only guarantee your spot but also take advantage of early bird discounts.

Travel During the Off-Season: In the cruise world, timing is crucial. If you’re willing to travel during the off-season, you’ll likely find that Great Lakes cruises are less expensive.

Typically, the region experiences cooler weather in May, with temperatures warming up by July and August. So, consider booking your cruise when it’s less busy, and you could save a significant amount.

Use a Travel Agent: Working with a travel agent who specializes in Great Lakes cruises can be beneficial. They may have access to exclusive deals that you cannot find on your own, and their expertise can help you choose the right cruise according to your budget.

Look for Package Deals: Some cruise lines offer package deals that include airfare, hotel stays, and other perks. By bundling these services together, you can save on the overall cost of your vacation. Keep an eye out for all-inclusive packages or promotions to maximize your savings.

Stay Flexible with Itineraries and Cabin Choices: Another way to save is by being flexible with your travel plans.

If you can adapt to different itineraries, sail dates, or cabin types, there may be more affordable options available.

Additionally, consider booking an inside cabin, as they are usually priced lower than balcony or suite cabins.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to an unforgettable and budget-friendly Great Lakes cruise. Happy cruising!

When To Book A Great Lakes Cruise

The cruise season in the Great Lakes is relatively short, due primarily to variations in the weather.

Running from May to September, you’ll want to choose the right time for your trip to avoid disappointments.

The warmer months of the year, particularly July and August, are considered the best time for cruising the Great Lakes.

With sunny days and pleasant temperatures, you’ll be able to enjoy the stunning landscapes and various outdoor activities available during the sailings.

However, some travelers might prefer the beauty of the fall season. Late August and early September can be an ideal time for leaf-peepers, as the autumn foliage starts to peak, offering vibrant colors and scenery across the region.

Keep in mind that fall cruises can vary depending on weather conditions, so flexibility is key.

With the limited sailing season in mind, booking your cruise early is highly recommended.

This strategy not only ensures you secure a spot on your desired sailing, but it can also help you access early-bird discounts and other promotions that might be available.

Some cruise lines might offer additional amenities, such as free Wi-Fi or beverage packages, as part of their early booking incentives.

When booking your Great Lakes cruise, consider the following factors to maximize your enjoyment:

  • Weather: Choose the season that best suits your preferences, whether you want the warmth of summer or the beauty of fall.
  • Expected Crowds: Cruises during peak travel seasons may attract more passengers, so booking early ensures you’ll have a spot on your preferred sailing.
  • Special Interest: If you have a specific focus, such as wildlife viewing or exploring historical sites, research the cruise itinerary to ensure it aligns with your interests.
  • Budget: Although Great Lakes cruises can be more expensive than ocean cruises, booking early and keeping an eye out for discounts can help you secure a better deal.

Booking a Great Lakes cruise is all about timing and knowing your preferences.

Considering these factors and booking early, you’re sure to have an unforgettable vacation experience and not break the bank (too much!)

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