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Savor a slice of Americana on this enriching small ship voyage while you explore the Great Lakes. Covering a fifth of the world’s freshwater, the Great Lakes are North America’s indisputable treasure at 95,000 square miles steeped in beauty and history. From major metropolises and pristine beaches to picturesque resort towns that seem conjured by Norman Rockwell, this storied region brims with iconic attractions in both the United States and Canada, with a diverse Native American heritage. On this 14-day journey, you’ll explore Ojibwe tradition with a smudging ceremony and powwow on Manitoulin Island, feel the force of nature in Niagara Falls, lunch at Mackinac Island’s illustrious Grand Hotel, prove once and for all why Cleveland rocks, and uncover hallmarks of American history at Detroit’s Henry Ford Museum.
Stays in culture-rich Toronto and Chicago bookend your adventure, and you’ll feel right at home aboard the intimate, four-star m/v Victory I or sister ship m/v Victory II. These vessels feature a bevy of restaurants, as well as observation and sun decks perfect for scenic viewing. We’ve also peppered this voyage with a series of illuminating presentations by our onboard historian, whose insights will enhance every discovery on land. Join Vantage on this charming exploration and see for yourself why the Great Lakes aren’t just great — they’re fabulous.
Arrive in Chicago, Illinois
Your Great Lake adventure begins when you arrive in Chicago, Illinois. Your afternoon and evening are at leisure, with time to explore your new surroundings.
Explore Chicago at your own pace
Enjoy a day of leisure exploring one of America's most beloved cities: Chicago. Host to the busiest airport on the planet, Chicago is considered one of the most walkable cities in the United States. This city is rich in culture and character, from its famous comedy scene and gorgeous waterfront to its spread of public artworks and robust nightlife. Take some time to admire the city's iconic skyscrapers, wander its renowned museums, or explore its pristine parks.
Take a city tour of Chicago, then embarkation
This morning we set out to explore the beautiful city of Chicago during a panoramic city tour, exploring highlights such as the lively waterfront district, the upscale shops along the Magnificent Mile, and famous public art of Millennium Park. Later, you'll embark your Great Lakes cruise ship from the pier in the Chicago, the City on the Lake. Be sure to admire the city's skyline before familiarizing yourself with the inviting spaces on board. Throughout your voyage, you'll enjoy a series of illuminating presentations from our onboard historian designed to enhance your discoveries. Tonight, enjoy a Welcome Dinner with your fellow travelers.
Spend a relaxing day cruising lovely Lake Michigan
Delight in a relaxing day cruising Lake Michigan today. The only Great Lake located entirely within the United States, Lake Michigan has a surface area of more than 22,000 square miles, making it the fifth-largest lake in the world. In fact, the name Michigan is believed to come from the native Ojibwe word mishigami, which translates to “great water.”
Step back in time with a visit to Revolutionary-era Mackinac Island
Explore the popular retreat of Mackinac Island today. Not only is Mackinac Island a Great Lakes highlight, but when you’re sailing in/out of this island you’ll also enjoy views of the 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge.
With its Revolutionary-era heritage and car-free streets, arriving on the island feels like a true step back in time. Revel in the feel of simpler times with a horse-drawn carriage ride through town. Your city tour includes a stop at Fort Mackinac, which was constructed by the British in 1780, taken by the Americans in 1796, and reclaimed by the British at the start of the War of 1812. Savor lunch at the historic Grand Hotel, which features the longest porch in the world and has hosted a roster of illustrious guests, including several U.S. presidents, Thomas Edison, and even Mark Twain.
Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the village on your own. This evening, you're invited to a delightful cocktail hour in the ship's lounge, where a captivating presentation by the ship’s historian rounds out another delightful day.
Choose your own adventure in Sault Ste. Marie
Today, we’ll transit the Soo Locks from Lake Huron into Lake Superior at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Located at the mouth of the St. Mary's River, these four parallel locks — MacArthur (constructed in 1943), Poe (1895), Davis (1914), and Sabin (1919) — pass an impressive 10,000 ships each year.
We’ll dock on the Canadian side of the river at Roberta Bondar Place, named for Canada’s first female astronaut, where you’ll join a hop-on, hop-off trolley tour featuring a visit to the unique Valley Camp Museum Ship, River of History Museum, Das Gift Haus, Historic Water St. Homes, the Soo Locks Visitors Center, and the Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church.
Scenic Sailing: Learn how the locks system works as you pass through them.
Ojibwe tradition and a powwow on Manitoulin Island
Keep your cameras ready as we cruise through the rugged beauty of Georgian Bay, sometimes called the sixth Great Lake. Our destination is Manitoulin Island, the world’s largest freshwater island and home of the Ojibwe tribe. With native and non-native communities coexisting like nowhere else on the continent, Manitoulin has a history as colorful and diverse as any in Canada. Docking at Little Current, you’ll explore the area’s rich native and nautical history, and discover how the beliefs and customs of the Ojibwe intertwine with Catholicism during a visit to the Immaculate Conception Church. Unveil the intricacies of Ojibwe tradition with a smudging ceremony and powwow at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation. Back in Little Current, return to the ship or stay in town for further exploration.
Enjoy scenic sailing along Lake Huron
The second-largest of the Great Lakes, Lake Huron boasts a surface area of 23,000 square miles. Like the other Great Lakes, it was formed at the end of the last Ice Age as the glaciers retreated. With over 30,000 islands, Lake Huron has more shoreline than any of the other Great Lakes. After a scenic day of cruising, we’ll gather in the ship’s main dining room for a gourmet dinner.
Explore the history of the Henry Ford Museum and masterpieces at the Detroit Institute of the Arts
Sailing from Lake Erie to Lake Huron, the M/V Victory I will dock in Detroit, Michigan. Here, we’ll visit the Henry Ford Museum, home to an incredible collection of American history. We'll see highlights such as the limousine that carried President John F. Kennedy on that fateful day in Texas, the bus in which Rosa Parks stood her ground and sparked the Civil Rights Movement, and the chair from Ford's Theatre in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was shot.
Later, you'll also have the option to tour the Detroit Institute of Arts, featuring one of the most renowned art collections in the country. Some of its notable acquisitions include Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry Murals and Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait — the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum collection. We’ll have dinner on the ship as we set sail for Lake Huron.
Tour Cleveland’s iconic sites
Nestled on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland is one of Ohio's largest cities. We'll board Cleveland’s famous trolleys for a charming tour, the perfect way to get an in-depth look at the city. Stops may include the stately Museum of Art, the Tiffany-designed Wade Chapel at Lakeview Cemetery, and the bustling West Side Market, where you’ll find hundreds of vendors selling everything from fresh seafood to beautiful flowers. After returning to the ship for lunch, you’ll have the chance to discover Cleveland’s iconic Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, where you'll take a colorful tour through music history.
Please note: Some groups will experience today’s itinerary in reverse order. However, both groups will enjoy the same number of features.
Sail into the mists of Niagara Falls and visit a family-owned winery
Today the ship arrives at Port Colborne on the shores of Lake Erie. The original Welland Canal was opened on Lake Ontario in 1829, and was extended to reach Lake Erie in 1833. The current canal was completed in 1932 and boasts eight locks. As the M/V Victory I awaits its turn to transit the locks, we’ll disembark and drive along the rim for dramatic views of Horseshoe Falls before boarding the famous Hornblower “Voyage of the Falls,” where we'll cruise past the American and Bridal Veil Falls before heading into the misty spray of thunderous Horseshoe.
Back on shore, we’ll drive along scenic Niagara Parkway, spotting iconic Niagara sights such as the Floral Clock and the Whirlpool Rapids. Our destination this afternoon is a local winery, where we'll enjoy a tour and a special regional wine tasting with lunch. Then, it's on to the charming 19th century town of Niagara-on-the-Lake to peruse the various shops, gardens, and galleries before rejoining the ship at Port Weller this evening.
Please note: Timing and docking may vary due to ship's transit time through canal.
Disembark and tour the highlights of culturally rich Toronto
After breakfast on board, it's time to disembark the M/V Victory I in Toronto. On the way to our hotel, we'll take the scenic route and enjoy a panoramic tour of this fascinatingly diverse city. On this insightful tour, we’ll drive by City Hall, the Eaton Center, and the Royal Ontario Museum, as well as traveling through the Bloor/Yorkville district — an area known to draw a bohemian crowd in the 1960s, but now a tony shopping district. Our Adventure Leader will also point out the CN Tower, as well as making a stop at St. Lawrence Market before arriving at the Distillery Historic District. Here, you’ll have time to explore and enjoy lunch on your own. After checking into the hotel this afternoon, the remainder of the day is at your leisure.
Explore the gems of Toronto on your own
Explore the city further at your own pace with a day of leisure. Browse the exhibits at the Art Gallery of Ontario or the Royal Ontario Museum, taste your way through the famous St. Lawrence market, or enjoy stunning city views from the CN Tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the western hemisphere and one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World.
Board a return flight home
After breakfast at the hotel this morning, check out of the hotel and transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert. Vantage reserves the right to refuse compensation to any traveler due to itinerary changes not listed on our website.
Please Note: The hotels listed are preliminary and subject to change. Although we contract our hotels a year in advance, unforeseen situations do occasionally occur. Should it be necessary to change a hotel, one of equal quality and value will be substituted. You will receive verified hotel information with your final itinerary.