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Expert expecting another big cruise ship season this summer

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Expect to see a lot of cruise ships once again on the Great Lakes this summer.

The Viking Octantis on its maiden stop to the Georgian Bay community of Killarney in 2022. (File photo/Image courtesy of Drone Malone)

That’s according to Stephen Burnett, executive director of the Great Lakes Cruise Association, who tells CTV News there should be some interesting traffic coming to ports around northeastern Ontario.

“The industry, as you know, is rather cyclical and we’ve lost three ships this year,” said Burnett.

“Certainly we’ll be seeing good cruise traffic through all three ports (Little Current, Killarney and Sault Ste. Marie) and I think given the quality of the shore experience, which is what people come for, you’re going to have some very satisfied customers on your hands.”

It is shore experiences, like the ones created in Killarney through the Killarney Mountain Lodge and Conference Centre that have many in the industry chatting.

“What’s interesting about the Killarney experience is the cruise industry tends to be an industry that has sort of a spyglass on each other and the fact that the cruise industry went to Killarney, you’re going to see more cruise ships going into Killarney,” said Burnett.

“First of all, it’s a stunningly beautiful place. It’s a little bit unusual with that marvelous narrow channel and dropping an anchor, going into Killarney Mountain Lodge by tender, is really an unforgettable experience and I think you’re going to see more of that happen.”

It is a similar deal on Little Current, which has made quite a name for itself, marketing the community alongside its Indigenous neighbours on Manitoulin Island.

“I think Little Current will see a little bit of a dip this year and that’s because two of the ships that we temporarily have lost,” said Burnett.

“But that will come screaming back pretty soon. One of the most significant positive things that we have is the quality of the shore experience. You know people go ashore to see what’s what and they want to see what the people look like, what they’re doing and how they’re living their lives and the quality of the shore experience in these three ports is really some of the finest that we have so that will all do well for the future.”

Burnett added the Great Lakes and northeastern Ontario, continue to be popular not only with American tourists, but the industry is seeing many from France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

“In terms of the demographic, the clientele is a somewhat more mature clientele, they’ve travelled far and wide around the world and the Great Lakes have been there but they didn’t get around to cruising them so now they’re doing that,” he said.

“And we’re now starting to see a slightly younger clientele on the more expedition-focused ships so it’s broadening out and we’re very happy to see that.”

In terms of companies, cruise lines like Viking, Hapag Lloyd and Ponant Explorers Cruises, all have plans to be back.

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