MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — The summer of 2021 was going to be the best year on record for Muskegon's port, with nearly 50 stops from cruise ships.
Those plans fell apart because of COVID-19, and because Canada banned cruises on the Great Lakes, essentially eliminating cruises in Lake Michigan, too.
Most of the passengers cruising on the Great Lakes are from Toronto to Chicago, and there was steady year-over-year growth.
Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce president Cindy Larsen says cruise ship operators are planning to offer cruises on the Great Lakes in 2022.
To date, the Pearl Mist and Victory cruise lines are both showing ports of call to Muskegon. Together the two ships are scheduled to make 12 stops.
"Maybe that's a good number to ramp up and put the systems back in place," Larsen said. "We want to make sure that they have a positive experience here in Muskegon and with COVID there's a lot more protocols and it would be important that it runs very smoothly."
The stops bring around 50 to 250 visitors to the city for day-long shore excursions. Larsen says the museums and specialty shops in Muskegon's downtown see the biggest economic impact.
"There is a pent-up demand. The ships will probably not be as full but the demand is there," Larsen said. "People want to get back out on the water."
According to Larsen, a third cruise ship operator has inquired about making stops in Muskegon, but those plans have not been finalized.
The Pearl Mist was the first cruise ship to stop in Muskegon in 2015.
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