Cruise ships returning to west Michigan for busy travel season

Cruise ships will visit Muskegon again this summer, after stops were canceled for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Seventeen stops are planned for this summer, and more could be planned in coming years, the Muskegon Chronicle reported.

"It’s going to be a very, very busy summer," Muskegon County Community Development Director Robert Lukens said. "We’re looking forward to it."

Muskegon is located in western Michigan and has a port on Muskegon Lake, off Lake Michigan. It had busy cruise ship seasons scheduled before COVID-19 canceled plans. In 2020, 35 stops were planned, and there were 25 stops expected in 2021.

The cancelations had an impact on Muskegon County, where tourism is a more than $300 million industry, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The first cruise ship this season is scheduled to stop on June 7, Lukens said. The Pearl Mist, a 210-passenger, six-deck ship, is scheduled for 10 ports of call this summer. It will stay overnight in port on five stops.

Among the other ships scheduled to stop at the port at Heritage Landing on Muskegon Lake is one operated by the French company Ponant cruises, Lukens said. The ship was just built last year.

Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Larsen said many cruise ship passengers haven’t seen the Great Lakes before and are surprised by the beauty of Lake Michigan. She said Muskegon is becoming a popular stop because of amenities such as fine art, museums, breweries and natural resources, all located close to one another and the port.

"Once people start to see what we have here, it’s like ‘Wow,’" Larsen said.