A new cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT  

Cruise four of the five Great Lakes, exploring the islands and coasts of Ontario and Michigan and discovering a wealth of natural wonders and historic sites from Mackinac Island to Georgian Bay.  

Starting at: $6,130 * Price includes special offer Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls  Horse-drawn transportation on Mackinac Island  <i>Valley Camp</i> Ship Museum, Sault Saint Marie  Entering the Welland Canal  Lock in the Welland Canal

A Voyage along the Great Lakes

From Toronto to Milwaukee Aboard the 184-guest Le Bellot

8 days from $6,130

A new cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT  

Cruise four of the five Great Lakes, exploring the islands and coasts of Ontario and Michigan and discovering a wealth of natural wonders and historic sites from Mackinac Island to Georgian Bay.  

or Call 855-330-1542

Overview

Straddling the shores of the United States and Canada, the Great Lakes are a freshwater treasure trove of wild islands, unusual geology, and legendary waterfalls. Their intriguing heritage is woven from American Indian culture, French colonists and the fur trade, and maritime traditions. Make your way through four of the five Great Lakes, discovering a wealth of natural wonders and historic sites from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Niagara Falls.  

The Smithsonian Journeys / PONANT Experience: Each cruise will be accompanied by two Smithsonian Journeys Experts. An excursion or activity is included in each port of call. You may have a choice of excursions in many ports, so that you can delve more deeply into subject areas of interest.  

Highlights Include

  • Niagara Falls: Cross Lake Ontario and travel to the Welland Canal, known for its 1,377-foot lock, one of the world's longest. At legendary Niagara Falls, ride a boat right up to the spray, then enjoy a leisurely cruise through Lake Erie.
  • Georgian Bay: Navigate “The Ten Thousand Islands” of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay on a local cruisw. Or venture into Killbear Provincial Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, to discover beaches, lush forests, and unusual geology. 
  • Manitoulin Island: On the world's largest freshwater island, hike the Cup and Saucer Trail for sweeping views at the height of autumn colors; kayak through wetlands on Kagawong River; or learn about the local First Nations traditions at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation.
  • Sault Ste. Marie: See the spectacular falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park and trace maritime history at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Or experience the engineering marvel of the Soo Locks at the Sault Lock Viewing Station and Interpretive Center, explore an authentic freighter at the Valley Camp Museum Ship, and navigate the locks on a local cruise.
  • Mackinac Island: Tour this timeless island in a horse-drawn carriage, visiting the iconic Grand Hotel and Fort Mackinac, a 19th-century army outpost; then cruise Lake Michigan to Milwaukee.
     

Itinerary

Day 1 — Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Arrive in cosmopolitan Toronto, Canada’s largest city, and settle into your cabin this afternoon. Set sail on Lake Ontario in the early evening. (D) 

Day 2 — Port Colborne and Niagara Falls

Transit the Welland Canal and arrive in the small port town of Port Colborne early this morning. From here, set out for one of the most famous sites in North America: Niagara Falls, a group of three waterfalls that straddle the border between Ontario and New York. Pass through Chippawa, site of an important battle in the War of 1812, on the drive to the falls. Then board a specially designed vessel for an exhilarating ride to within feet of Horseshoe Falls, the largest and most powerful of the three falls. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon cruising on Lake Erie. Relax with a book in the library, or find a spot on deck to admire the early autumn colors. At this time of year, a wide variety of migratory birds can be spotted along the banks, including warblers, flycatchers, and teals. (B,L,D) 

Day 3 — Sailing through Detroit and the St. Clair River

Sail right through Detroit as we navigate the Detroit River, an important commercial waterway linking Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair to Lake Huron. Enjoy panoramic views of the skyscrapers of the former Motor City, where Henry Ford revolutionized the automobile industry and Motown was born. Admire the Ambassador Bridge, which spans the river—and two countries. This steel suspension bridge, more than a mile long, was constructed in 1929 and today carries over 25% of trade between the United States and Canada. Cruise the St. Clair River, which was used by French fur traders in the 18th century to facilitate trade with American Indian tribes. More recently, it has served as integral part of the Great Lakes Waterway, a conduit for freighters transporting lumber, iron ore, and copper from the Great Lakes region to the cities of the Rust Belt. (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Lake Huron: Parry Sound and Georgian Bay

One of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, Lake Huron separates Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from Ontario. Comprising the main lake, Saginaw Bay, the North Channel, and Georgian Bay, Lake Huron offers a variety of coastal landscapes, from lush woodlands and rocky crags to the spectacular cliffs. Dock in Parry Sound and set out on the excursion of your choice. Cruise the specially designed Island Queen on Georgian Bay, home to The Thirty Thousand Islands—the largest freshwater archipelago in the world. Navigate this maze of bays, inlets, sounds, and shoals that lie along the southern edge of the Precambrian Canadian Shield. The captain will maneuver close to the islands, allowing for great views of their forests, wetlands, and rocks, as well as their abundant biodiversity. Alternatively, visit Killbear Provincial Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve on the eastern shores of Georgian Bay. On a nature walk here, learn about the unusual geology of the park and learn to read the signs of glacial scouring.  Discover beaches, rugged shoreline, windswept pines, and views of The Thirty Thousand Islands. Learn more about the area’s flora and fauna on a visit to the Visitor Center.  (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Little Current and Manitoulin Island

Little Current is the gateway to Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world. Get acquainted with the indigenous Ojibwe people, part of the M’Chigeeng First Nation. Visit the excellent exhibition and art gallery at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation and see traditional crafts like bead working and making dreamcatchers. Take part in a smudging ceremony (a cleansing and healing ritual) and a watch a demonstration of a traditional pow-wow. Then enjoy free time in Little Current to stroll the waterfront. Or hike the Cup and Saucer Trail to the highest point on the island—about 1,160 feet—and take in incredible views across forests and lakes. Your visit in late September should coincide with the peak of autumn colors. Then sample a selection of Canadian wines, beers, and cheeses, along with locally smoked rainbow trout and whitefish. Alternatively, head to the village of Kagawong for a kayaking expedition on the upper Kagawong River. Paddle calm waters through wetlands and keep your eye out for wildlife. Then walk the riverside trail to the viewing platform for Bridal Veil Falls. In late September, you may well witness a salmon run of thousands of fish. Stop at a family-owned chocolate business for a cup of hot cocoa or coffee and a chocolate tasting. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, U.S.

Located on the northern coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Sault Ste. Marie is one of the oldest cities in the United States. After passing through passport control, embark on one of two excursions. Take a scenic drive to Tahquamenon Falls State Park for a visit to the stunning Upper and Lower Falls and enjoy a leisurely forest walk. Continue to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum to learn about the maritime history of the area. Visit the lightkeeper's quarters Whitefish Point Light Station, and if you wish, climb the lighthouse tower, in continuous operation for 155 years. Or drive to the Sault Lock Viewing Station and Interpretive Center to experience the engineering marvel of the Soo Locks. Visit the Valley Camp Museum Ship, a freighter that served on the Great Lakes for almost 50 years. Its massive cargo holds now contain 20,000 square feet of exhibits, displaying artifacts, paintings, and other items related to the maritime history of Lake Superior. Then board a chartered SOO Locks boat for a cruise to the Soo Locks, where your boat is raised 21 feet to enable it to enter Lake Superior. Return to the harbor via the historic Canadian Lock, and sail past St. Mary’s rapids to Sault Ste. Marie. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Mackinac Island and Lake Michigan

Step back in time on tiny Mackinac Island, a former fur trading center located between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsula. Originally inhabited by American Indians, then occupied by French and British colonists, this island still retains an atmosphere of yesteryear, with Victorian-style buildings and elegant horse-drawn carriages. Climb aboard a horse-drawn carriage for a guided tour of the island. View the iconic Grand Hotel, which has hosted five U.S. presidents, Thomas Edison, and Mark Twain. Enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Huron from Arch Rock, and explore the Carriage Museum. Then venture into the living museum of Fort Mackinac, the site of an important battle during the War of 1812. See exhibits and re-enactments that illustrate what life was like for the families who lived in this army outpost — from military training and battles to medical treatments and the challenges of family life. You’ll have time at leisure to explore the town, and perhaps sample world-famous Mackinac Island fudge. This afternoon, sail Lake Michigan past forests bright with fall colors, cliffs, and beaches and dunes as far as the eye can see. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Milwaukee, Wisconsin/Return Home

Disembark in Milwaukee, nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, and transfer to airport for your flight home. (B) 

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)