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Great Lakes cruise industry prepares for bounce back year

While the loss of income forced some of the companies to close for good, the ones that remain already look ahead to next year.

MICHIGAN, USA — Cruising on the Great Lakes is an industry that has been on the rise in Michigan.

"Great Lakes cruising has brought more than 100,000 port visits a year," says Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan. "And we've been growing for a while as well."

But not in 2020. The industry took a blow at the beginning of the pandemic when Canada closed its port visits.

"Right now it's extended through October so there goes the season," says Lorenz.

And while the loss of income forced some of the companies to close for good, the ones that remain already look ahead to next year.

Lorenz says safety measures are already being prepared for visitors. The biggest change will be requiring masks in all of the ship's common areas, something that he says will take an adjustment.

"At first when we started using seat belts long, long ago, people felt a little uncomfortable about them," he says. "After a while, when you don't wear a seat belt it feels really strange. That's how face masks are going to be."

Other safety protocols from before the pandemic will continue more vigilantly. Lorenz says places like the ship's buffet have always had employees walking around with hand sanitizer for guests.

"Travelers around the world have looked at that and kind of rolled their eyes a little bit in the past," says Lorenz. "The coronavirus has taught everybody that was a good idea then, it's a better idea now."

Lorenz hopes when the time comes to hit the open water, guests will take the safety measures seriously.

"Whether you're at a grocery store or on a cruise ship, it's your responsibility to be careful to make sure other people don't get sick," he says.

The Great Lakes cruising season typically begins in the spring and can last through September.

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