UK Cruise Market Stagnates, Ports Gain, Airports Lose – Lindblad Buys Orion Expeditions – Travel Dynamics Revives An Old Tradition


by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 11th March 2013

A Week's CruiseLast week, the Passenger Shipping Association delivered its final set of annual UK cruise statistics before becoming CLIA UK. The presentation confirmed that there had been essentially no growth in the market, while prices have been dropping. At the same time, the market is changing. While a planeload a day no longer fly to their ships, an extra shipload is sailing from the UK every week. In the expedition sector, Lindblad Expeditions announced the acquisiition of Orion Expedition Cruises of Australia. And New York-based small ship operator Travel Dynamics International is reviving the Great Lakes tradition of cruising to Mackinac Island, with a 4th of July cruise from Chicago in its 130-berth Yorktown. [brochure above, Goodrich Steamship Lines, cruising from Chicago to Mackinac Island in 1913].

                                                (See previous columns)

Great Video Shots of the Former Canadian Pacific Steamship Keewatin Being Towed Out of Saugatuck-Douglas, Michigan, Last Week

From the lens of Roger Lelievre, publisher of the Great Lakes shipping guide “Know Your Ships,” this video positively brings the 105-year-old s.s. Keewatin alive again.

For details of present-day Great Lakes cruising please feel free to contact The Cruise People Ltd on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail We are still very much involved with the Great Lakes, as European representative for the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition and also as general passenger agent for the Polish Steamship Company’s cargo-passenger service between Europe and the Great Lakes.

Plans for the s.s. Keewatin Come Together as She is Readied for Her June Tow to Become the Centrepiece of a New Resort Community at Port McNicoll on Canada’s Georgian Bay

Photograph of s.s. Keewatin and dredging equipment at Douglas, Michigan, courtesy of Eric Conroy at the s.s. Keewatin Project

And now for a happier story than the recent Costa cruise ship tragedy and tales of a Shakespearian captain.  What you are looking at here is the 105-year-old former Canadian Pacific Great Lakes passenger ship Keewatin.  At 3,856 gross tons and with dimensions of 350 x 44 feet, she has just been rescued from an uncertain future to become the centrepiece of a new resort development at her old Georgian Bay home port of Port McNicoll, Ontario.

The Keewatin is shown at Douglas, Michigan, near Saugatuck, where she has been used as a maritime museum for the past forty-five years. She has been shorn of her lifeboats in order to lighten ship for a scheduled June tow from Douglas to Port McNicoll. In the foreground is the dredging equipment that was hired to cut the channel from Douglas that will free her. The Edwardian steamship was lying in a bed of mud until December 2011, when she was finally floated again, and after inspection  was said to be in marvellous condition.

This dredging, which is being paid for by the ship’s new owners Skyline International Development Inc, will also open up the dock at Douglas to small cruise ships such as Travel Dynamics’ 2,354-ton Yorktown, 257 x 43 feet, which is scheduled to call at nearby Saugatuck several times this year on her cruises between Detroit and Chicago. The Yorktown has a passenger capacity of 138, compared to Keewatin‘s 288 when she was in service between 1908 and 1965.  For those wishing to cruise the Great Lakes in 2012, the Yorktown will be offering a total of thirteen 7, 10, 11 and 14-night cruises, with fares from $3,995 for seven nights, including the cruise, all port charges, lectures, shore excursions and wine with lunch and dinner.

When she returns, the Keewatin, shown here at Port McNicoll during her days of regular service between Georgian Bay and Lake Superior, will become a floating community centre and centrepiece for Port McNicoll’s renaissance. Plans are to build a new resort hotel and condominiums and rebuild the old dockside railway station to its original plans. On board, Keewatin will also feature a museum on her main deck and a kind of market in her old main cargo deck, which in her last years was used to carry about forty cars. This will also be made available for community functions. Berthed very near to her old berth, from which she used to sail from every Wednesday for Sault Ste Marie, Port Arthur and Fort William (the last two now called Thunder Bay), the ship will become the hub of what has until now been a sleepy Ontario town.

Just this month Skyline has also acquired a set of vintage railway rolling stock to become part of the scene. The port, with deep water, will naturally be seeking to attract a certain amount of cruise ship trade, and with an attraction such as the Keewatin will be well equipped to do so.

For more information on either the s.s. Keewatin or how to book a Great Lakes cruise in the m.v. Yorktown please contact The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail