MUSKEGON, Mich. — Over the next two years, Muskegon residents will be sharing their downtown with more and more cruise ship passengers.

Community leaders not only expect the number of ships to increase but also the number of times each year those ships dock at Muskegon County's Heritage Landing Park.

In 2001, the county made significant improvements to the park including the construction of a long dock where large ships could dock.

The investment in the park at that time was to host a group of tall ships on a tour of the Great Lakes.

In recent years the dock has been the primary site for luxury cruise ships to tie up.

"It was a great decision by county leadership at that time," said Bob Lukens, Director of Visit Muskegon.

The ships visiting Muskegon build their itineraries at least two years in advance. 

Lukens expects in 2020 four cruise ships will dock 35 times in Muskegon. In 2021, the number of visits will be nearly 50. And for the first time ever there will be a few summer days when two cruise ships are docked in Muskegon at the same time.

"We are just preparing," Lukens said. "It's going to be something we have to staff up on."

This summer three cruise ships made a total of 13 stops.

A French ship will dock in Muskegon on Sept. 23, and again on Oct. 5. To take part in that ship's Great Lakes cruise, passengers are paying more than $7,000.

"There was always a vision that someday Muskegon would be a cruise ship destination," said Cindy Larsen, President Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

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The cruise lines pay Muskegon County to use the dock at Heritage Landing, purchase fuel, water, and to unload sewage.

The ships also purchase other supplies in Muskegon. Lukens says earlier this summer one ship purchased $14,000 in alcohol supplies from a Muskegon area distributor.

The City of Muskegon just purchased a new people mover to shuttle passengers to museums, restaurants and shops.

Larsen says now the community is in need of more guides to show cruise ship visitors around town. 

"We're looking for individuals who would like to do such a thing," Larsen said. "Guides need to be familiar with Michigan and our Michigan history as well as Muskegon, and Muskegon's history."

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